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99 Notre Dame, San Jose

by Hu Yoshida on May 8, 2012

This morning I accompanied a young person to the Superior Court in San Jose. This Court is located at 99 Notre Dame in San Jose. Once we went through the metal detectors we joined a long line of people in a crowded waiting room. What surprised me was the display along the south wall, which reminded me that this location was the birthplace for magnetic disk recording. IBM established a research lab at this location in 1952. The first lab director was Reynold B. Johnson and the first Random Access Method of Accounting andControl, RAMAC, was announced here in 1955.

The display consisted of photographs and placards, which described the establishment of the first IBM storage lab and the development of the 305 RAMAC. RAMAC consisted of 50 disk platters, which were 24 inches in diameter. At first they were mounted on a horizontal spindle, then later they were mounted on a vertical spindle to make it easier to add disks. Each disk had a 5 inch recording bandwidth, with 20 tracks per inch which could store 100,000 characters (7 bit) per disk. With 50 disks, this totaled 5,000,000 characters per 305 RAMAC. The rotation time was 50 ms while the maximum seek time was 0.6 sec.

While I was fascinated by this display, and taking notes since my camera had to be checked in at security, everyone else in the waiting room paid no attention since they had other concerns or problems (you don’t go to Superior court unless you have a serious problem). I doubt if anyone else in the crowded room was even born in the 1950’s and most were born in other countries, all were struggling to find their place in society.

Since I am currently writing a blog series on Big Data, it was interesting for me to be standing in the place where it all began 60 years ago. Many things have changed since then, but it is good to remember what progress can be made when we are focused. IBM was focused on creating a lab for the sole purpose of developing a random access storage device and they accomplished it in a matter of a few years, from 1952 when the first specs were written until 1955 when the RAMAC was announced. A few years later a young President set a national goal to have a man on the moon by the end of the 1960’s, and that was accomplished.

As I looked around the waiting room of the old IBM Lab that is now a waiting area for Superior Court I wondered what we could accomplish if we could focus on solving the problems that brings so many of these young people to court. I know other young people at my work who are energized and focused on solving problems outside of their private lives. Hopefully the information systems we work on can lead to social innovations, which can help the young people around me in this room.

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Comments (1)

Sebastian Thaele on 13 May 2012 at 2:18 pm

Interesting Article. Nice!

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