Data Storage: IBM Marks 60 Years of Magnetic Tape Innovation

By Darryl K. Taft  |  Posted 2012-05-16 Print this article Print
IBM 726 (1952)

IBM 726 (1952)

In 1952, Big Blue introduced the IBM 726 as a new way to store computer-generated data. The system solved a key challenge of tape at the time—breakage—through the use of a "vacuum column" that created a buffer of loose tape. As a result, the relatively brittle magnetic tape could withstand the system's fast starts and stops without snapping. Tape storage has evolved in many ways since the 726 was introduced with the 701 and it remains the most cost-effective, flexible and scalable medium for high-capacity storage backup today.
This year marks the 60th anniversary of IBM's magnetic tape innovation that solved the brittle tape dilemma and catapulted data storage from paper punch cards into the era of modern computing. On May 15, IBM announced that AlphaTV, a leading television network in Greece, has overhauled its storage infrastructure with IBM high-performance, high-capacity tape solutions for greater efficiencies, faster access to video and the ability to store more video in dramatically less space. AlphaTV has been broadcasting since 1996, creating and storing all forms of video entertainment, from soap operas and documentaries, to movies and sporting events, and creating a vast video archive along the way. Initially, AlphaTV archived its programming on Sony Beta SP format video cassettes that stored up to 90 minutes of content. Not long after, in need of storage that offered greater density, it turned to DVCPRO format videos that stored up to 120 minutes. But even that format was not allowing the network to keep pace with its ballooning archive, a storage infrastructure that by 2011 spanned more than 1,507 square feet. To get greater control of this infrastructure, AlphaTV turned to IBM and its Linear Tape File System (LTFS) and IBM Linear Tape-Open (LTO) Ultrium 5 tape drives, which can store up to 3 terabytes, with 2:1 compression in a single cartridge. With this solution, AlphaTV has been able to store more content in far less space. Greece's AlphaTV is but one example of the many organizations that use IBM's storage tape technology. However, it took six decades to get to this point. To chronicle how IBM developed and then refined its tape storage technology, eWEEK first turns the clock back to 1952, when Big Blue developed the IBM 726, which solved several problems businesses faced when storing their data.
Darryl K. Taft covers the development tools and developer-related issues beat from his office in Baltimore. He has more than 10 years of experience in the business and is always looking for the next scoop. Taft is a member of the Association for Computing Machinery (ACM) and was named 'one of the most active middleware reporters in the world' by The Middleware Co. He also has his own card in the 'Who's Who in Enterprise Java' deck.

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