|IBM have created many weird and wonderful
machines over the years, and the 2321 must rate as one of the most weird
and most wonderful of them. It was a high speed, high capacity, random
access, removable media mass storage device that stored 2000 short, wide
strips of magnetic tape in a rotating carousel.
To access the data on a strip, the carousel rotated to
bring the required strip under the access mechanism, which would then extract
the strip and wind it onto a small drum. The drum had 20 read/write heads
positioned next to it, which could record and access data on the magnetic
strip as the drum rotated. The set of heads could also move parallel to
the drums' axis to one of 5 positions. This then gave 5 sets of 20 tracks
on each strip, and each track held 2000 bytes.
And it was fast. It could whip the current strip off the drum, and replace it with any other one in the carousel in typically half a second! Must have been fascinating to watch.
It may seem that this contraption is overly complex, but
the only other random access, removable media device that IBM had at the
time was the 2311 disk storage drive, which stored only 7.25 million bytes
per disk pack. For 55 times the capacity, but only 7 times as slow, they
must have thought it worth the trouble.
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