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Icons of Progress

Magnetic Tape Storage


In 1952, IBM introduced the magnetic tape drive vacuum column, making it possible for fragile magnetic tape to become a viable data storage medium. The use of the vacuum column in the IBM ® 701 Electronic Data Processing System signaled the beginning of the era of magnetic storage, as the technology became widely adopted throughout the industry. It marked the transition from punched card calculators to electronic computers.

Magnetic tape storage introduced the world to the idea of digital storage. Before tape, information was saved on punched cards—the data was tangible. But with magnetic tape, you could no longer see the data on the storage medium. This was a whole new concept. As customers got used to the idea, it opened the path for the IBM RAMAC disk drive and every data storage device since then.

Tape storage has evolved in many ways since the IBM 726 Tape Unit was introduced with the 701. But tape remains the most cost-effective, flexible and scalable medium for high-capacity storage backup today—more than 50 years after it was first introduced as a storage medium.