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Historic internal storage media


In the following some types of memory are described which are found in the computers on display at the technikum29. These devices may be classified as either RAM (random access memory) or ROM (read only memory).Duetotheirrespectivesizetheseareverydemonstrativeexamples. Theproblemofstoringinformationisofcentralimportancefordigitalcomputersandwasadifficultareaduringthe early days of computing. In these times building a fast processor was considerably more easy than building an equally fast and large memory system for this processor. This led to some rather arcane solutions which are completelyextincttoday. Nowadaysaswellas50yearsago,thesecharacteristicalattributesareimportant: cycletime packingdensity costs/bit (thermal)powerloss Storagesareclassifiedgeometrically: onedimensionalalignment(e.g.thedelaylinememory) twodimensionalalignment(e.g.dromstorage,diskstorage) threedimensionalalignment(e.g.corememory,thenumberoflayersisthewordlength) Thesephysicalprincipleshasbeenused:electrostaticcharge(storagetube),propagationofacousticwaves(delay line memories), ferromagnetism (core memory, plated wire memory, drum/disk memory), holography (optical memories).Themostimportantandmostspreadmemoriesaretheferromagneticmemories.

Delay line memory from the BULL GAMMA 3 tube calculator

Delaylinememory

Oneofthesesolutionsisthesocalleddelaylinememory.ItconsistsofseveralchainedLCoscillatorsthatareset upaslowpassfilters.Inthiscircuitthepulsesarecarriedslowercomparedtoohmicconductors.Duetothehigh damping the pulses must be amplified again. Therefore the memory is equipped with 12 tube amplifiers. After amplificationattheendoftheLCchain,theinformationisreadinatthebeginningofthechainagain.Inthiswayit runspermanentelythroughtthedelaylinememory. The pictures show a memory unit which is capable of storing a decimal integer with only 12 digits. Obviously storagewasveryexpensiveintheearlytimesofcomputing.

Magnetostrictive memory

1kBmagnetostrictivedelaylinememory

Anotherkindof"delayline"memoryisthesocalledmagnetostrictivememory.Thistechniqueisbasedontheidea ofthepropagationofultrasonicwavesthroughathinwire.Theinformationtobestoredisfedintoalongwireby theeffectofmagnetostricion(thewirecontractswhenexposedtoastrongmagneticfieldthisinturnyieldsan acousticwavetravelingacrossthewire).Abitpatterncreatedbythiseffecttravelsalongthewiretoitsendwhere theinformationispickedupbyapiezoelectricelement.Theoutputofthispickupwillbeamplifiedandfedback intothebeginningofthewireloop. Thisbasicallyyieldsasequentialstoragecircuitanimpulsepatternwillruninanendlessloopthroughthewire. Toinsertinformationintotheloopsome(simple)additionalcircuitryisnecessary.Todeletebits,thefeedbackloop willbeopenedwhilesettingbitsrequiresanORgateattheinputofthewireloop. Thistypeofmemoryisvolatileandhasaratherlongaccesstimeontheotherhand,itscapacitydependsmainly onthelengthofthewireandthebasicclockofthesurroundingcircuitrysoitmayeasilyexpanded.Inadditionto thisitisrelativelyinexpensiveandruggedmakingitsuitableforapplicationslikedesktopcalculatorsandthelike.

Core memory

Triumphcorememory

The company "Triumph" created a very demonstrative core memory about 1961). The circuitcard,measuring16cmby20cm,canstore144bitwhichequals12machinewords of12bitseach(whichwasacommonwordlengthinthistime).Thusasinglebitoccupiesan areaofabout2.2squarecentimeters.

The Triump core memory was still threaded manually, in contrast to the memory shown below.

Anothercorememorymadein1969isshownhere.Itisusedinthehigh speed printer (/en/devices/univac9400/highspeedprinter.php) of the UNIVACmainframe(univac9400.php)and stores a single line of text to beprinted(132characters).Theindividualcorescanstillbeseenbythe nakedeye.

Storagelayerwithacapacityof16.000bit

Duringtheyearsthecapacityofcorememorydeviceswasincreasedmoreandmorewhilethedimensionswere

shrinked accordingly. This picture shows a core memory plane made in the time frame 1975 1978. The area shownequalsthatofthe144bitmemorybyTriumphshownearlier.Nowtherearemorethan16000coresonthe samearea.Theindividualcorescanonlybeseenwiththeaidofamagnifyingglass.Thewholecorememoryblock contains 16 planes like this containing more than 256000 single cores (this is equivalent to 32 kB of data) occupyingavolumeofabout2.5cubicdecimeters.Thisdevicemarkstheendoftheeraofcorememory. Thesmallertheindividualcoresthefastertheaccesstimethisdevicefeaturesanaccesstimeofonly200ns. Onedrawbackofcorememoryisthatreadingtheinformationstoredinarowofcoresdestroystheinformation.So every read access has to be followed by a write access to retain the information (reading from a core memory takesmoretimethanwritingtothememorywhichisaratherunique"feature"ofthistechnology). Amajoradvantageofcorememoryisitsnonvolatility.Theinformationstoredinacorememorywillberetained evenwhenpowerislost.Itispossibletoturnonamachineswitchedoffin1975andcontinueoperationatthe very same step where it ended in 1975. Even today main memory is sometimes called "core" which is a reminiscenceoftheearlydaysofcomputingwhenmemorywasinfactcorememory.Amemorydumpasaresult ofaprogramcrashisstillcalled"coredump"intheUNIXoperatingsystemsfamily,forexample.

Threaded ROM

(/en/devices/threadedrom.php) NixdorfthreadedROM

All of the memory devices shown before were capable of read and write operations. Sometimes a read only memory(ROMforshort)isneeded.ThepictureshowssuchaROMmadeinthemid1960swhichiscloselyrelated toacorememory. The device shown is from a NIXDORFWANDERER Logatronic system (made in 1966 approximately) which is a predecessorofthewellknownNIXDORF820system(seebelow).ThisROMcanstore2048wordsof18bitseach. Theimplementationisatruemasterpieceofitstime. Youcangetfurtherexplanationsanda moredetailedversion(/en/devices/threadedrom.php)byclickingonthe picture.

Magnetic stick memory

(/en/devices/magneticstickmemory.php) Nixdorfmagneticstickmemory

NIXDORF decided to implement a read only memory which could be easily modified by customers and did not requireaservicetechniciantomodifyitscontents.ThewholeoperatingsystemoftheNIXDORF820wasstoredin ROMslikethis(allinall3modulestype177werenecessaryforthis).EvenemptyROMsweremanufactured whichweresoldtocustomerswholikedtomodifytheir820system.Eachofthesemodulescouldhold4096word of18bitseach.OneoftheseROMsweighs2.4kg. Clickingonthepicturewillyielda moredetailedversion(/en/devices/magneticstickmemory.php)ofit.

Plated wire storage


(/en/devices/platedwirestorage.php) The plated wire storage was intended for replacing the core memory. Our UNIVAC 9300 (/en/devices/univac9400/univac_9300.php) is equipped with thistypeofmemorythatwasinitiallyannouncedbyUNIVACfor thenewUNIVAC9000seriesasa"technicalrevolution"intheir magazine"Thepunchcard"in1967. While research and development in the Goddard Space Flight Center of the US space program, NASA, the american government closed a deal with UNIVAC to develop a storage medium with a total input power less than 1 Watt, non destructive readout (that is, no more neccessarity to write the informations after reading them), high capacity, low cycle time and functionality in a temperature range from 20 C to +50C (4Fto122F). In this way the plated wire storage was developed, based on a couple of ingenious ideas. Unfortunately, nowadays it is very errorprone. Clicking on the photography will yield further designoftheplatedwirestorage(/en/devices/platedwirestorage.php). informations about the

Two channel punched tape


As already described before (section programmable 2nd generation desktop calculators (programmable.php)), the DIEHL Combitron calculator used a time delay memory (like the magnetostrictive memory described elsewhere).Sincethistypeofmemoryisvolatile,DIEHLneededanonvolatilememoryfortheoverallcontrolof themachine.Thishadbeenimplementedusingatwochannelpunchedtape.Thefirstchannelservesasaclock channelwhilethesecondchannelcontainstheactualcontroldata. During the startup of the calculator, the contents of this punched tape were copied to the time delay memory whichthentookovercontrolofthemachine.

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