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Evolution of Data Storage From Punch Cards to the Cloud


Punch Cards (1837 to mid-1980s)

A 12-row/80-column IBM punch card from the mid-twentieth century

A 12-row/80-column IBM punch card from the mid-twentieth century

The Punch Card is a card with holes punched into it. To most people, the holes are arranged in a random manner and does not display any information to the naked eye. In fact, the holes punched in the card signify a sequence of instructions and stored information that a machine could read. Users of such cards were often reminded not to fold, write on or tear the card as this would render the punch card ineffective in transmitting or storing any data. The punch card system was first widely used in the US Census in 1890. By 1950, the US government as well as industries in the United States had become very accustomed to using the punch card.

Floppy Disks (1967 to mid-1980s)

8-inch, 5 1⁄4-inch, and 3 1⁄2-inch floppy disks

8-inch, 5 1⁄4-inch, and 3 1⁄2-inch floppy disks

Floppy Disks are storage devices which are very easily transported from one place to another and are light-weight. The first floppy disks were 8 inches in diameter and were known to be floppy because they were soft and delicate. They could even be folded or bent if not handled properly. Of course, bending or folding a floppy disk would destroy its ability to record any information and data stored in such a disk may be unreadable. The later version of the floppy disk was a 5 14-inch one and you had to paste a small silver sticker (which came with the floppy disk) on the top right side of the disk to prevent any data from being over-written. Sometimes, the sticker comes off and may get stuck inside the disk drive. Because of all these inconveniences, a sturdier version of the floppy disk was created which was 3 12-inch in diameter and had a durable outer casing made of plastic. This latest version comes in many colours and some even have translucent casings.

Flash Drives (1999)

A SanDisk-brand USB thumb drive, SanDisk Cruzer Micro, 4GB.

A SanDisk-brand USB thumb drive, SanDisk Cruzer Micro, 4GB.

This useful thumb drive comes in handy!

Compared to the earlier storage devices, the Flash Drive is a smaller and easier-to-handle version which has a hard exterior casing with a small hole at the end that allows you to hang it to your lanyard to prevent accidental loss by dropping. It is plugged into the computer via a USB plug (built into the device). Flash Drives have no moving parts and are sometimes called Pen Drives or Thumb Drives. They were created to replace floppy disks because of their sturdy exterior and portability. They are so small that they can be easily carried around and transported effortlessly anywhere. Many people use them and because of the affordable price, most own multiple flash drives.

Secure Digital (SD) Cards (1999)

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Secure Digital or SD cards were created to expand the storage capacity of digital gadgets like digital cameras. They have a sturdy front and can be conveniently kept in a small casing for transportation. Because of the inexpensive price, many people buy numerous SD cards to store important data. As shown in the photo, the largest one is called an SD card followed by MiniSD and MicroSD. It is common for one to use a MicroSD card in their phone.

Cloud Storage (1983)

Cloud storage gives the impression that the amount of data you can store is limitless. In a way, it is correct because the amount of storage you would like to have depends on whether you are willing to pay for it. Cloud storage allows you (the user) to connect to a data server via the internet and this is where you can store valuable information or data. Using cloud storage means that you are not storing the data in your home computer but somewhere else (offsite). Storing information offsite also allows you to have access to it when you are not at home. For example, when you are travelling in a train, you can login to the data server using your phone and retrieve the information needed. You do not need to wait till you get home to access the data.

Last Word

This is indeed an amazing and convenient digital world that we live in whereby tools to help us work better and faster are easily made available to us.

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