From Paper Tape to Data Sticks: The Evolution of Removable Storage

Over the years, people have tried to transfer information from one computer to another in a dizzying number of ways. Here's a look at some of the best, along with others that time forgot

Tape Cartridges

In the 1960s, computer makers began placing spools of miniature magnetic tape into hard plastic cartridges. These cartridges were more durable, portable, and convenient than the larger open reels of magnetic tape, and their popularity as a backup medium for ever-growing hard disks increased in the 1970s and 1980s. Like earlier open-reel systems, the capacity of tape-cartridge systems had the advantage of flexible capacity. When storage needs increased, tape manufacturers simply created cartridges that held more tape. More tape meant more space.

Today, tape cartridges like the 800GB LTO Ultrium (lower left) remain in use for large-scale server backups, though their popularity has diminished over the last decade as hard-drive-to-hard-drive transfers have gained favor.

Photos: IBM/Digital/3M

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