From Paper Tape to Data Sticks: The Evolution of Removable Storage

Over the years, people have tried to transfer information from one computer to another in a dizzying number of ways. Here's a look at some of the best, along with others that time forgot

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The Optical Disc

The compact disc, which originated as a digital audio storage medium, emerged from a joint Sony/Philips project and was first reached the market in 1982. The format stores digital data in the form of pits molded into the top of a plastic disc that has a reflective backing. A laser reads the pits. Because CDs are digital, they are perfect for storing computer data, and it wasn't long before Sony/Philips adapted the format to create computer CD-ROMs, producing the first commercial CD-ROM drive in 1985.

The 5cm optical disc has undergone further development during the past 25 years, resulting in higher-capacity discs such as DVD, HD-DVD, and Blu-ray. More significant was the introduction in 1988 of the CD-Recordable (CD-R), which let users write their own data to the disc. In the late 1990s, as optical media got cheaper, this form of storage supplanted floppies in handling most day-to-day data transfers.

Photos: Benj Edwards/Sony

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From Paper Tape to Data Sticks: The Evolution of Removable Storage

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