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Tech Time Warp of the Week: The World’s First Hard Drive, 1956

•, By Daniela Hernandez
 It was bigger than a refrigerator. It weighed more than a ton. And it looked kinda like one of those massive cylindrical air conditioning units that used to sit outside your grade school cafeteria.

This seminal hard drive was part of a larger machine known as the IBM 305 RAMAC, short for “Random Access Method of Accounting and Control,” and in the classic promotional video below, you can see the thing in action during its glory days. Better yet, if you ever happen to be in Mountain View, California, you can see one in the flesh. In 2002, two engineers named Dave Bennet and Joe Feng helped restore an old RAMAC at the Computer History Museum in Mountain View, where it’s now on display. And yes, the thing still works.

As we’re told in IBM’s 1956 film — which chronicles the five years of research and development that culminated in the RAMAC — Big Blue built the system “to keep business accounts up to date and make them available, not monthly or even daily, but immediately.” It was meant to rescue companies from a veritable blizzard of paper records, so adorably demonstrated in the film by a toy penguin trapped in a faux snow storm.

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