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Did you know that in the 1950s, storing a mere 3.75 megabytes needed a hard drive that weighed over a ton and stood 16 feet tall? Well, that sounds barbaric to the modern person living in this century. But that is the truth about what our grandparents and parents experienced in their sweet old school days. Unfortunately, such storage devices were not available for mass usage.

But today, you only need a tiny piece of gadget in the form of a memory card to store chunks of information tens of thousands of times more. So, what does this fascinating historical fact tell us? It means data backup has multiplied in the last seventy years.

Here we give you an educative historical view of this technology—hardware and software. Stick with this post as we walk you down the memory lane of data backup.

Introduction to Data Backup

In a nutshell, backup stands for the reserve copying of all data an individual or business produces and stores for the sake of its recovery in case of any emergency or collapse. With the growing masses of data people produce and with the increasing magnitude of cyber-crime, the need for data backup and replication grows day by day. Thus, in the context of discussing data backup evolution, we take a closer look at the data storage media used for backing data up – what first media were invented by humanity, how they evolved, and what options the computer user community has at hand today.

The Pre-1950s’ Era

The first type of media that can only roughly be called a data backup solution was developed in the 1950s by Mauchly and Eckert; these were the punch cards.  Punch cards were sheets of paper lined with dots that were punched out to back up computer data for running processes. These tools, unlike Office 365 backup, were too slow and limited in storage space. Click here to find out more.

These cards served as the primary means of inputting data into the first modern computer UNIVAC I; they were also the only media on which the computer output could be stored. Thus, though with some reservations, punch cards still deserve the title of the earliest data backup tools as they could be replicated for reserve storage of UNIVAC data, thus performing the backup function as it is understood today.

1. The ’50s and ’60s

These two decades of the 20th century witnessed a revolution of data backup technology. IBM, an iconic American corporation, led the park in many vital ways. During this epoch, we saw the transitioning from punch cards to magnetic tapes.

IBM stepped onto the scene and wiped them away with magnetic tapes. One tape could hold up to 10,000 punch cards. These tapes saved businesses billions of money spent on data storage and processing. Also, they revolutionized how people stored and read data. This “breakthrough” technology also allowed small businesses to start taking charge of their business data. The comparative benefit of magnetic tapes was so evident that they managed to maintain leadership in the data backup market for several decades, up until the next wave of technological innovation in the 1980s.

2. The ’70s and ’80s

After the introduction of tapes, floppy disks or diskettes took over the marketplace in the early ’70s. Initially, they were exclusively dedicated to IBM machines before other players started selling them. The original diskettes we giants of sorts, but progressively, they reduced from 8 to 3.5 inches before dying out. Initially, they could hold a mere 80kb, while their storage capacity increased to 250MB before they transitioned to obsoleteness.

Notably, floppy disks were a revolution in data storage technology, but because of their small memory capacity, they never made it to the list of preferred, reliable data backup solutions. The choice of floppy disks was more common among individuals and small companies, while big corporations relied on more powerful and robust tools, such as hard disks.

It’s worth noting that during their heyday, viruses were already working. Therefore, data backup and recovery solutions were here by 1978, following the first worm attacks. For example, in the late ’80s, the notorious Morris worm infected 10% of all internet-connected computers within 24 hours.

3. The ’90s

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Sony and Philips invented CDs in the ’70s, but they didn’t replace floppy disks because of their high initial price. Only large businesses used them, but ordinary people couldn’t afford regular CD usage in their daily data management routines. However, the ’90s marked a new epoch when the prices tumbled, and the technology improved. For instance, we saw the rise of recordable and rewritable CDs. These changes accelerated the death of floppies as CDs became more affordable for everyone. Besides, the market of CD products diversified, with the recordable (CD-R) and rewritable (CD-RW) options giving more flexibility to users.

However, their heyday didn’t last because the emergency of flash disks overshadowed them. Flash disks became better options since they were immune to simple scratch damage that used to destroy CDs. Moreover, they could hold more data safely.

4. The 21st Century

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The beginning of this century saw the rise of USB devices and external hard drives overtaking the market. They became better alternatives since their predecessors could hold even a few MBs. Now, these devices can hold up to several GBs and TBs. Also, they are cheaper.

Later on, cloud technology entered the tech market and became the preferred storage medium for businesses and individuals. It’s no wonder that this technology determines the future, with research suggesting that in 2024, the data universe hit a mind-boggling of 44 zettabytes—a ridiculous 44 trillion gigabytes! Can you figure out how big that backup universe is? We can only expect it to grow even more as cloud technology becomes more affordable.

So, here we are after a 70-year journey of progress and innovation, seeing what we have come from and where we are. Hopefully, these historical facts will make you appreciate the journey and optimize what you have in your hands to optimize your data backup efforts.