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.

Printed on Paper

In the 1970s, the relatively low cost of personal computers attracted home computer hobbyists to the then-new category of machines, but many forms of electronic data storage were too expensive for these users. One of the first PCs, the MITS Altair (among our choices for the most collectible PCs of all time), shipped with no storage media whatsoever; instead, users had to input programs via switches on the front panel of the computer (a program for which is shown at far upper-left). Throughout the early PC days, users often wrote programs down by hand and then toggled them in. Later still, national magazines printed and distributed program listings (right) for users to type into the inexpensive home computers of the 1980s.

Photos: MITS/Compute/Garrett Birkel

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