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

Punched Paper Tape

Most of the earliest computers used spools of paper tape, which stored information via punch holes. Some early machines, like the Colossus Mark 1 (1944), operated entirely on the data fed in by the tape in real time. Later computers, like the Manchester Mark 1 (1949), read in programming from tape and stored it in a primitive type of electronic memory for later execution.

Various computers during the next three decades continued to use paper tape for both input and output, and the medium experienced a brief renaissance in the mid-1970s among personal computer hackers who were attracted to its low cost.

Photos: Ed Bilodeau (L) / Chris Pheiffer (R)

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