[ Retro Scan of the Week ] Peer Inside the Robot Brain

May 19th, 2008 by Benj Edwards

ERA Magnetic Drum Storage Systems - Computer Drum Memory Ad - 1953Click above to see the full ad.

In this week’s Retro Scan, we’re looking way back to 1953. Many computers in the 1950s used monster magnetic drum storage units, like the one you see above, as working memory — ala RAM — until the faster and more adept core memory came along. Using technology similar to a cylindrical hard disk, these beasts were understandably slow compared to their non-mechanical successors.

If anybody out there ever worked with one of these, we’d definitely love to hear from you.

[ From Scientific American, April 1953 ]

Discussion topic of the week: How much RAM did your first computer have?

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8 Responses to “[ Retro Scan of the Week ] Peer Inside the Robot Brain”

  1. Layne Says:

    Like a large number of others here, the Commodore 64 was my first. The other large (larger?) group is probably the Apple II group with the TI-99/4A group running in third…..that’s just my assessment based on memory of previous posts.

    My first “PC” had either 640K or 1MB (don’t remember now).


  2. Jarson Says:

    My first was a Vic-20, with the massive amount of memory of 2.5 Kilobytes!

  3. Ghazban Says:


  4. SirPaul Says:

    My first computer was a TRS-80 Color Computer. It was found in a dumpster, so it had somewhere between 4 and 64 kilobytes of memory… ah, memories…

  5. arlandi Says:

    my first?
    hmm… can’t remember the details. but its an Apple II clones. but the next one is easy. a 640KB IBM PC XT. Now i’m running at 3 GB ram. that’s an increase by more than 4000 times. i wonder what happens if everything advance as fast as computer, we all might be posting to VC&G from the edge of the galaxy!

  6. Brian Deuel Says:

    My first computer was an Atari 800 with 16K of memory. The first computer I ever WORKED on was a Commodore PET with, I think, 4k of memory.

    Now I’m running a Mac with 2gigs of memory 🙂

  7. Ralph Hyre Says:

    I owned a COSMAC Elf (homebuilt) with an 1802 processor and 256 bytes of RAM. I ordered the parts from Jameco.

    Yes, that’s bytes with no Kilo, Mega, or Giga in front. I quickly outgrew that little machine, and got an Apple ][+ for a graduation present.

    Now that I can get a PC with 4G of RAM, for half the price of that Apple ][+, and I don’t FEEL that it has made me any more productive. Code has expanded to fill available space.

  8. Ivan Says:

    My first computer was a Sinclair ZX81, it had 1Ko of RAM.
    One of my first app was intended to draw a rectangle : a line that would follow the screen’s borders. The app stopped before completing its goal with the error message : “out of memory” 😉

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