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New The 2321 Data Cell Drive
Alex's post in Linux the other day led me to spending a good number of hours looking up IBM mainframe history sites - seeing what I missed as the mainframe years speed by. The more I surfed, the more respect I gained for IBM's hardware engineering.

The partcular item that caught my eye (and my interest) was this: The [link|http://www.columbia.edu/acis/history/datacell.html|IBM 2321 Data Cell]. An amazing contraption, circa 1967, it was a curious mixture of tape and random-accessability. This was basically achieved by splitting tape into hundreds of little slivers, putting them in boxes, then grabbing the slivers and whizzing them around read/write heads as and when required. Sure, ultimately it proved to be a folly - plagued by reliability issues (mostly caused by difficulty getting the slivers of tape back into their holders), but back in the day, it was a noble effort - giving (up to) gigs of random-access storage when hard-drives only offered a few MB.

Another link and bit of history [link|http://members.optushome.com.au/intaretro/2321DCD.htm|here].

Ah, the good old days - when innovation didn't have inverted commas...
Two out of three people wonder where the other one is.
New We had a couple in Sydney - 1 at Circular Quay

We use to call it the "washing machine". Had a ring of 'data cells', and the ring rotated back and forward like a washing machine tub.

Rotation was to bring a particular data cell to the one read head. The data cells were removeable and IIRC each was about 12-18 ins long & 3-4 ins wide & 2-3 ins deep.

Each data cell held a number of mag strips slightly smaller than the above dimesions. When at the read head, the top of the data cell was opened & some 'fingers' would grab one of the mag strips (each mag strip had a tab at the top) and as a read-load mechanism pulled the strip out the fingers would hold the other strips apart ready for dumping the mag strip back into the data cell when no longer needed.

The read-load mechanism wrapped the mag strip around a small drum frame and read/wrote it like a mag drum. When finished it would unwrap the strip from the drum while sliding it back into its correct position in the data cell. The data cell got closed then the washing machine rotated to the next cell to be accessed.

This device plus the 1419 bank-cheque sorter, were devices to behold & marvel at.




"Blinding ignorance does mislead us. O! Wretched mortals, open your eyes!".

-- Leonardo Da Vinci
New Another link.
[link|http://www.science.uva.nl/faculteit/museum/remarkable.html|IBM 2321 Data Cell].

Some close-up photos at the link. On a "field trip" for IBM in late 1960's, I did get to see some units at Northwestern Life Insurance Co. in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. As I recall, the IBM CE (customer engineer, i.e. service guy) told me he had job security keeping the units going.

Honor has not to be won; it must only not be lost. -- Arthur Schopenhauer (1788-1860), German philosopher
New Thanks guys, interesting stuff!
Two out of three people wonder where the other one is.
     The 2321 Data Cell Drive - (Meerkat) - (3)
         We had a couple in Sydney - 1 at Circular Quay - (dmarker)
         Another link. - (a6l6e6x) - (1)
             Thanks guys, interesting stuff! -NT - (Meerkat)

It's like an alien game of "keep-away."
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