Posts Tagged ‘USB’

Data Storage Devices – By The Ton

April 30, 2010

The last week of April 2010 marked the death knell of the 3.5-inch floppy disk, one of the mainstays of portable data storage since the early days of the personal computer in the early 1980s.  Advances in ever-smaller, more portable, and vastly capacious data storage devices, such as recordable CDs and DVDs, and solid state devices such as USB flash drives and flash memory cards, hastened the end of the floppy disk that can store just a tiny percentage of data compared to the devices in use today.  How far, then, has technology come regarding data storage devices?  Let’s example a relic from the 1950s.

“Introduced in 1956, the IBM 305 RAMAC (Random Access Memory Accounting System) was an electronic general purpose data processing machine that maintained business records on a real-time basis.”

The end of the 3.5-inch floppy disk has arrived. How much did the first data storage devices weigh? How much do current storage devices, such as the USB flash drive, weigh?

The 350 Disk Storage Unit, used by the IBM 305 RAMAC

The IBM introduced the 350 Disk Storage Unit, or what we would now regard as a “hard drive”.  The specifications, heady at the time, included the following:

  • 5 million 7-bit characters (not even 8-bit characters, or “bytes”)
  • 50 aluminum disks, coated with magnetic iron oxide
  • Random-access storage (vs. sequential storage)
  • Vacuum-tube control electronics (transistors come soon after)

The entire unit took up the space of two refrigerators and weighed one ton(!).  Available only for lease, clients spent $3,200 per month for the full setup.  The cost, as you can imagine, does not include the monthly electrical bill augmented by its use as well as the use of air conditioning to prevent it from overheating during operation.

The end of the 3.5-inch floppy disk has arrived. How much did the first data storage devices weigh? How much do current storage devices, such as the USB flash drive, weigh?

The once-common 3.5-inch floppy disk

When you hear five million characters, does that sound like very much to you?  It shouldn’t; that is equal to 4.4 megabytes (MB), or about four 3.5-inch floppy disks at 1.44 MB apiece.  So over 20 years after IBM introduced the enormous hard drive, the physical storage of 4.4 MB went from two refrigerators to the mere thickness of about two or three Post-it® pads and weighing well under one pound.

Go forward another 30 years to the present time and ubiquitous, very lightweight, ultra-high capacity storage devices has marked the end of the 3.5-inch floppy disks.  However, if you wanted to have a floppy disk backup of your one gigabyte USB flash drive, how many disks would that take?  Brace yourself: you would need about 700 floppy disks(!), weighing just over 30 pounds, a huge burden on your neck considering that a USB flash drive weighs 2.1 ounces.  How much smaller will data storage devices become in the future?  The 3.5-inch floppy disk, once the new benchmark in light storage devices, seems quite “heavy” in the face of much lighter solid state data storage devices available today.  Its end was only a matter of time.

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Francis M. Unson

MagicJack: How to Call Internationally for Free

March 22, 2010

Why didn’t I call this blog,

“MagicJack: How to Make International Calls for Free”?

I consider making an international call the following: picking up the phone, dialing 011, and then the rest of the phone number.  I have some bad news: it is nigh impossible to make free international calls this way, with any telephone device.

If you want to call your friends or family overseas for free, using a MagicJack can help you make calling internationally for free.However, there is a way to call internationally for free.  For example, if you’ve called customer service of, say, your cable or credit card company, some of those calls reached India, the Philippines, or even Argentina.  Even though your call to customer service started with a toll-free 800 number, the call to the call centers in different countries were, no doubt, international.

How do you call internationally for free?  First, a list of items you need:

  • MagicJack
  • Computer
  • Internet Connection, preferably high-speed or broadband
  • A regular phone

Here are the instructions for account setup:

  1. Purchase a MagicJack.  They are available in many places such as department stores, office supply stores, and even gas station mini marts.  Trust me, I saw the MagicJack being sold side-by-side with cigarettes at 7-11.  They retail between US$20-$40 but are worth the initial investment.
  2. Turn on your computer.  Install the MagicJack in an open USB port.  The device will connect to the company’s main server, download additional files and begin setup.  Do not install the regular phone into the MagicJack at this time.
  3. If you are so inclined during setup, you may choose to register a second MagicJack, opt to start with a five-year contract immediately for additional savings, or order vanity phone numbers.  For the sake of these instructions, decline these offers.  You will also be offered pre-paid minutes for international calls.  Decline this offer.
  4. When choosing a phone number, provide your city, state, and area code.  A phone number will be assigned and will become the phone number local to your area.
  5. Once setup is complete, plug the phone into the MagicJack.  Incoming calls test: Call the new phone number from your landline or cell phone.  Outgoing calls test: Call your landline or cell phone from the phone connected to the MagicJack.
  6. This is the most important stepMail the MagicJack and phone to your friend or family member overseas.  All they have to do is connect the MagicJack to a USB port in their computer.  Once the software is installed, they can make their own calls back home using the log in information you provided during setup, and all calls will appear local.

The MagicJack can save you a lot of money, especially if you call friends or relatives in different countries very frequently.  You must setup MagicJack correctly, however, so that you and your friends and relatives can call and receive calls internationally for free.  The MagicJack may even provide you with new ways to connect with parts of the world where the cost of telecommunications is very high.  Calling internationally for free with the MagicJack couldn’t be more simple.

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Francis M. Unson