In Pictures: Of punchcards, platters, and wooden mice. The PC's origin story

Technology marches relentlessly onward, discarding the old to make way for the new. Today’s heroes quickly becomes yesterday’s news.

RAMming speed Long before the RAMAC introduced storing data on spinning platters, engineers were working hard at perfecting random access memory, or RAM. The first RAM implementation came out of England’s University of Manchester, where inventors Freddie Williams and Tom Kilburn successfully used the “Williams tube” in 1948. The Williams tube tracked dots flashing on a CRT screen, serving as a primitive form of RAM.

Unfortunately, the Williams tube was unreliable and prone to failure. Magnetic-core memory (pictured) debuted shortly thereafter and became the go-to standard for decades. Magnetic-core memory utilized a tic-tac-toe-like array of wires, each section of which could be magnetized either clockwise or counterclockwise, which created basic “one” and “zero” states.

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