THROWBACK THURSDAY: Funny old storage

I’m loving this gallery of obsolete storage technologies from the 1970s and 1980s. It’s not new, having been on the web for about seven years. But then again, it’s not like anyone is making new stuff from the 1970s, right?

Chances are you’ll recognize quite a few of these things. The weird thing is just how many of them hold personal significance to me, being something I touched or wondered about or something that disappointed me at some point in my past.

Technologies that aren’t on the list

There are quite a few technologies that didn’t make that list. Some of them still cause me to wince when thinking about them. Here are a few I thought of.

Zip disks

You probably remember these bad boys. They were everywhere in the late 1990s and early 2000s. As a replacement for floppy disks, they seemed like a dream come true. Compact storage that you could write over anytime you wanted to, but with about 75 times the storage space of a floppy disk.

The problem was that they were about as reliable as floppy disks, meaning not very reliable. In those days, 100MB could be 300 files, and you could lose all of them unexpectedly. The disks were fairly expensive, and so when CD-ROM writers came in, holding 6 times more for 1/10th the price, Zip drives went away. No one missed them.

Syquest Drives

Most folks never use Syquest disks. They were about the size of 5 1/4″ floppy disks, and held somewhere between 44MB and 200MB. They were hideously expensive. The disks cost north of $100 per when they were common in the 1990s. This meant they only appealed to creatives and other folks who needed more storage than floppy disks.

Syquest disks were phenomenally unreliable. Anyone who used them for even a little while remembers the sickening feeling when they failed. You heard a particular “click” and by the time you heard that, it was all over.

I have never met anyone who genuinely liked Syquest disks. They were a necessary and painful part of the process and as soon as Zip disks and their higher-capacity cousin the Jaz disk came out, people abandoned them. I know I did.

What artifacts are out there for today’s younger folks?

And it gets you to thinking… unless you’re really young you have real artifacts from your past. Toys, games, photos, there’s real stuff that you can touch that can connect you to the way you used to be. Today, we’re definitely creating more historical documentation than ever before, but none of it is real. All our information, all our entertainment, everything is stored in the cloud now. That’s great but it means 20 years from now, there won’t be photo galleries full of meaningful memories. There won’t be memorabilia stores. There will just be this persistent screen in front of us, or whatever it is we use to interact, and it won’t have any real emotional connection for us.

Sort of makes you feel bad for today’s kids, right?

About the Author

Stuart Sweet
Stuart Sweet is the editor-in-chief of The Solid Signal Blog and a "master plumber" at Signal Group, LLC. He is the author of over 8,000 articles and longform tutorials including many posted here. Reach him by clicking on "Contact the Editor" at the bottom of this page.