Thursday, July 21, 2016

When online resources were not online

Throwback Thursday:  Data Storage

Before the Cloud, before remote servers, before log-in authentication, the beginning of all digital data storage was the Floppy Disc.  These allowed data to be digitized and stored and retrieved via PC. Many digital library resources initially relied on series of floppy discs, usually run on or loaded on a dedicated computer or sometimes kiosk.

These are 5 1/4 and 3 1/2 discs that supported the Library's Subscription to Westlaw, which supported the College's Legal Studies programs.  These discs would be dispatched to the Library in the mail and made available to eligible students in the Library on a dedicated computer.  Additional discs would be send periodically with updates.

The 5 1/4 inch disc was introduced in 1976 to replace the even larger 8 inch floppy.  The original discs (circular magnetic storage mediums) did not have the plastic sleeve seen here, but dust and dirt impaired performance.

Game-boys of a certain age will remember the first computer games were also delivered in this format (like Zork).

In 1980, the 3 1/2  was introduced to address durability problems with the 5 1/4 disc, including insoluble problems with dirt.  

And the rest of the story?  

"By the early 1990s, the increasing size of software meant that many programs were distributed on sets of floppies. Toward the end of the 1990s, software distribution gradually switched to CD-ROM, and higher-density backup formats were introduced (e.g. the Iomega Zip disk). With the arrival of mass Internet access, cheap Ethernet and USB keys, the floppy was no longer necessary for data transfer either, and the floppy disk was essentially superseded."

The Library's online resources for legal research (and all other research) is now available completely online, accessible from on- or off-campus, 24-7-325.  

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