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My Tech History in a Museum

A person can start to feel old when seeing what used to be cutting edge technology ensconced in a museum display case. I used an 8” floppy disk (80-256k of storage) to write the business plan for my first company on a Bain & Company IBM Displaywriter word processing workstation. Then, after we got some seed money, my Compaq luggable had a 5.25” floppy drive (360-720k), alongside its very cool 20Mb hard drive. (I didn’t get the 40Mb drive because, after all, who would ever need so much disk space, and besides, it added $1,000 to the cost of the $4,500 machine — that’s 1985 dollars, folks). And finally, the disk at the bottom of Paris’ Musée des Arts et Métiers display window is a 3.5” rigid floppy (720-1400k), a feature of my first Compaq laptop in the late 1980’s.


Apple pioneered the 3.5” disk, and, in a bit of Jobsian hubris, one day announced that it would no longer sell machines using 5.25” floppies. People screamed for a few months, as they are doing now while Apple transitions to the Lightning connector for the iPhone 5 and the latest iPad, but the new product was so clearly superior to the old one that after a brief while, the old disks were consigned to, well, museums.

Message to the young out there: You are not immune to the above. In three or four years, people will be asking you if, when you were a student, the hard drive in your computer really had spinning disks in it.


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