From the beginning of mankind, man tried to find a way to store information for the following generations. When people nowadays hear the word storage or computer storage they normally think about CD Rom, USB key or DVD. Things like the floppy disk or the punch card are nearly forgotten. In fact, the history of information storage goes back to pre-historic times where mankind used red and yellow ochre, hematite, manganese oxide and charcoal to paint information about their life on rock walls, caves and ceilings.
In Ancient Egypt Papyrus, which is an early form of paper, was used to store information. It remained in use until about 800 AD, when it was replaced by cheaper paper. Before then, however, the use of parchment and vellum had replaced papyrus in many areas as they are much more durable.
The Chinese ordinarily wrote documents on bamboo. Also silk, bones, shells and ivory were used, later bronze, iron, gold, silver, tin, jade, stone and clay. In India palm leaves served for storing information.
In the late 4th millennium BC Sumerians created the cuneiform script that was drawn on clay tablets. Finally, sometime between 150 BC and 105 AD paper was invented.
In medieval England the so called tally stick was a wide spread mnemonic device of the Exchequer for the collection of taxes by local sheriffs. Its origins go back to the Stone Age.
Also the Incas (ca. 1400-1632 AD) had a kind of “memory aid” which was the Quipu and consisted of knots.
In 1440 AD the invention of printing by Gutenberg was really a milestone in the history of information storage.
After the 17th century inventions that usually need some kind of aid to read the information from a particular storage were made. Examples of that are the punch card, punched tape, Phonograph, magnetic tape, magnetic drum, Telegraphon and the selectron tube.
In 1956 IBM invented the hard disk with a size of 5 MB, what was really fantastic for this time. In the years between 1950 and 1980 some storage devices where build that nowadays hardly anyone would remember, for example the bubble memory or the twistor memory. On the other hand there were some technologies introduced that were very important for the development of the computer industry and some of these technologies are still in use today. One of these technologies was the first memory disk, called the floppy disk, invented by Alan Shugart at IBM in 1971. It was considered as a revolutionary device for transporting data from one computer to another. Floppy disks were not able to store as much data as hard disks, but they were much cheaper and more flexible. This invention was also the end for punch cards.
Between 1980 and 2000 there were two new techniques of digital data storing introduced.
At the beginning of the 1980s the first optical devices, the CD and the CD-ROM were released. In the middle of the 1990s these and several other optical devices started to get more and more important and nowadays they are widely used. Exactly at that time the first electronic devices were developed. These devices, e.g. Compact Flash Cards, Memory Sticks etc., are very small but they can store a lot of data and so they find their use in digital cameras, PDAs etc. But nevertheless the development of the magnetic devices did not stop, several new technologies like the Advanced Intelligent Tape were introduced and the main hard disc in a pc is still based on magnetic technology.
In the 21st century the development of the technologies will lead us from the now widely used optical devices to the laser device up to holographic memories. In 2003 the first blue-laser based disc, the Blue-ray disc, was released and the first PC drives are to be expected in 2006. Several other “versions” of the DVD, e.g. HD-DVD have been released or are planned to, all modified to store more and more data and to gain faster access. The real next generation of data storage will be holographic memories, but this is yet to come.