The Worst Storage Mediums of All Time

Past 7 days, we rounded up the finest storage mediums of all time. This 7 days, we’re doing the worst. A couple of notes ahead of we get begun: The historical past of composing and symbolic conversation is a interesting and loaded topic — but not a straightforward just one. Different groups of individuals have made a large array of conversation approaches depending on where and how they lived. Moreover, it is not particularly reasonable to judge prehistoric artwork against a modern SSD in terms of data density. For this purpose, we have looked for mediums that were objectively negative at doing what they did — not to insult the individuals who invented them, but to illustrate that historic peoples still left these approaches powering for a purpose.

Cave Paintings and Petroglyphs

I come to feel a little negative picking on cave painting or petroglyphs. They are the oldest regarded varieties of symbolic conversation soon after all, and all people has to begin somewhere. The problem with cave paintings and petroglyphs as a storage medium is twofold:

A petroglyph of bighorn sheep from the American Southwest. Image by Jim Bouldin, CC BY-SA 3.

1). They incorporate little data modern students can use to put them in a historical or cultural context.
2). They are not particularly portable.

It is evident that petroglyphs and cave artwork had meaning to the individuals who designed them. Not numerous individuals are intrigued in discovering pitch-black caves with primitive torches to come across the finest put to paint ibex in just the ideal shade of ochre. The problem is that, in numerous conditions, we have no idea what individuals meanings really were.

As composing advanced, we received the capacity to report contextualizing data directly into the narrative, with visuals serving as illustrations of explained occasions instead than that contains the entirety of the function inside of them selves. We also figured out how to use significantly less resilient media. Edge? Composed conversation gets to be attainable with out hauling a 20-ton slab of granite about with you. Downside? Continue to keep reading through.

Scrolls (Especially in the Mediterranean)

Believe about the features of a good storage medium. It really should be physically rough, equipped to endure an indignity or two with out quickly collapsing. It ought to be successful and make it possible for for greatest use of the provided materials. It really should endure the ambient outcomes of the weather on its individual long-phrase storage. It really should facilitate simple copying and exploring of its individual contents.

Scrolls completely fall short at carrying out most of these items, especially outside the house Egypt and the Middle East. Confined to warm, dry, desert problems, scrolls can previous for 1000’s of many years, which is why we have artifacts like the Dead Sea Scrolls and Egyptian papyrus courting back again to the reign of Khufu some 4,600 many years ago. It is also why we don’t have everything equivalent from the time of the Romans or Greeks, who lived 1000’s of many years nearer to our individual era.

Scrolls are fragile. They can only be composed on a single side and were generally examine vertically, not horizontally. A single scroll could be up to 10 meters (33 toes) long, and mainly because they were rolled up, a scribe could not maintain the textual content and take notes or make copies simultaneously. They built no use of indents or page breaks, earning them difficult to bookmark. Ultimately, they rot around time thanks to ambient exposure to the humidity of Mediterranean climates. If you are heading to invent a storage medium that’s complicated to copy, it is finest to invent just one that does not need regular copying to retain the data inside of.

The only surviving library in all of antiquity to make it to the modern era was located at Herculaneum, soon after becoming buried by a volcanic eruption in 79 Ad. The scrolls — which now resemble carbonized puppy turds — were very first burned, thrown away, and ruined until an individual regarded a scrap of composing. We have recovered 1,826 papyri in overall, of which ~340 are “almost total,” 970 are “decayed and partly decipherable,” and more than 500 are simply charred fragments. There may perhaps nonetheless be more buried papyri on the web-site.

Herculaneum papyrus

The Herculaneum papyri look like this, when they are however intact at all.

Believe about that for a second. We have significantly less than 1 % of the writings of antiquity, and just one of the important factors we absence so significantly is mainly because, prior to getting the Villa of the Papyri, we had no surviving scrolls from this time time period at all.

Human beings moved on to codices (coated in the previous tale) practically quickly soon after they were invented, mainly because books — or even primitive, reserve-like objects — are so significantly far better than scrolls.

Just to be very clear: Paper, papyrus, and the like are just one of the all-time best storage mediums of all time, but not when stored as scrolls. We had to come across a distinctive process of collating data and binding it with each other ahead of we could make full use of this exceptional invention. Thus, paper is incredible, but scrolls — at least in the weather of the Mediterranean — are not.

Avco Cartrivision

It is common, in these sorts of articles, to recall the BetaMax-compared to-VHS structure war of the 1980s and declare that VHS “won” by sucking more and costing significantly less, thus earning it the both the more prosperous structure and objectively the even worse just one.


Let’s chat about the Avco Cartrivision, which sucked in means VHS could only desire about.

Picture by Retrosunshine2006, Imaginative Commons CC0 1.

Did it have a different equipment you could obtain and hook to a Tv? Nope. The only models commercially obtainable integrated an built-in television and the least expensive charge $1350 in 1972 ($8,537 these days). Cartrivision utilized a “skip field” technique in which only just one field (fifty percent a body) of information was recorded to help save area. This field was then repeated 3x. The conclusion result of this technique was blurry, jumpy video… and you could only enjoy each motion picture after.

Remember, this is 1972. There is no house video market. There are no tapes for sale. Avco partnered with shops to provide movies from a 200-motion picture catalog. As soon as you bought the motion picture, you could enjoy it after. Avco customer players, you see, lacked a rewind functionality. The motion picture could only be rewound by a distinctive equipment owned by the shops.

You have to give Avco some credit rating, below. The enterprise mainly invented DIVX and Netflix even though it was hectic making an attempt to invent the VCR. Sadly, the total experience charge virtually $10K in today’s income and buyers weren’t wild about the idea of only becoming equipped to enjoy a film after. The endeavor lasted 13 months ahead of heading out of business. Just after this, it was located that storing Cartrivision movies in ambient humidity can lead them to decay and rot to uselessness in a matter of months.

Zip Disks

The 3.5-inch floppy was wildly prosperous through the 80s and 90s, and numerous makes an attempt were built to substitute the structure. The Floptical, HiFD, SuperDisk, and the UHD144 were all higher-capability diskettes in around the similar type factor as the 3.5-inch floppy, but Iomega’s Zip disk was by significantly the most very well-regarded competitor.


The preliminary operate of Zip disks could retail store around 100MB of information — virtually 70x the capability of the regular 1.44MB floppy disk. That was absolutely nothing to sneeze at in the mid-90s, but at $20 per disk, the charge-per-megabyte just wasn’t compact plenty of to get good traction throughout the total tech sector.

Earlier “Zip-100” drives were incompatible with larger sized capability disks, and the functionality of more mature disks was spotty on more recent hardware. Even even worse, Zip drives weren’t even suitable with 3.5-inch disks, so compatibility issues finished up bogging down the structure for its total existence. Regardless of competitors from other mediums, the market fragmentation inside of the structure by itself built Zip disks a tough market to shoppers.

Zip drives did have the reward of somewhat rapid (around 1MB/s) transfer fee, but the slipping selling price of tough drives and writeable CDs in the late 1990s built the “superfloppy” structure war out of date. On prime of that, Iomega was slapped with a course-action lawsuit in 1998 in response to prevalent failures — the dreaded “click of demise,” signaling that the drive’s examine/publish actuator could no more time examine disks and would regularly return to its preliminary position to test again. Iomega sooner or later tried using to revive the model by releasing Zip-branded CD drives, but the enterprise never entirely recovered.

Most Sony Proprietary Specifications

Sony has traditionally designed a number of proprietary standards aside from Betamax, most of which have existed for the sole purpose of creating more earnings for Sony instead than contributing to any helpful technological progress. Sony Memory Stick, for case in point, debuted in 1998 and may perhaps have been sector-top at announcement — I am not specified on this position — but just a couple of many years afterwards, CompactFlash and afterwards SD Cards were doing anything that Memory Sticks could do.

For many years, Sony would not budge. Units like the PlayStation Portable and PlayStation Vita both utilized costly media formats that raised the selling price of owning these items for no purpose. Sony Memory Stick’s primary purpose was to seize more income for Sony, which is why the enterprise ongoing to use it in lieu of much less expensive, customer-friendly standards. The structure had no distinct purpose to exist and available no reward around other formats like SD Card. Sony’s proprietary structure insistence is not *the* purpose that the Vita unsuccessful in-market, but it did not do the enterprise any favors, possibly.

Dishonorable Mention: LaserDisc

LaserDiscs have earned them selves a capable point out below. What distinguishes LD from other standards on the listing is that it was usually the finest way to perspective a film in the many years ahead of DVD, inspite of the downsides. It also launched a number of features that VHS players lacked. With a horizontal resolution of 425 strains as opposed with 240 strains for VHS, LaserDisc players shipped virtually DVD top quality virtually 20 many years ahead of DVDs were extensively obtainable. They could retail store several audio tracks and dealt with both electronic and analog formats, and not like VHS, LDs would not degrade with use and available immediate rewind and rapid ahead, identical to CDs. The Wikipedia entry for LaserDisc notes that it took DVDs quite a few many years to actually exceed LD top quality, inspite of becoming far better on paper from the begin.

Picture by Wendell Oskay, Flickr, CC-BY 2.

The purpose LaserDisc is on this listing at all is mainly because of all the other sacrifices that had to be built to support chopping-edge impression top quality circa 1978. The discs them selves were the sizing of 33 RPM information (12 inches / ~300mm). They spun at 1800 RPM, which built playback slightly noiser than your common report. Discs weighed around a fifty percent-pound each and only held, at most, 64 minutes of recording per side. Some players could flip discs mechanically, but for many years budget-priced styles did not and some films shipped on several discs anyway, necessitating a mid-perform shift no matter.

What will save LaserDisc from becoming a straightforwardly “worst” engineering is that if you were ready to pony up income for the player and the media, you really did get a far better experience than you could have everywhere else outside the house a motion picture theater. My family members did not individual a LaserDisc player, but a longtime family members pal did, and I was blessed plenty of to capture a couple of films that way in the late 1990s. The top quality, even on an common Tv set of the era, was vastly far better than VHS.

LaserDisc was significantly less a awful structure than a deliberate preference some videophiles built, accepting inconvenience for a far better top quality at-house film than you could get through any other process at the time.

Characteristic impression by KMJ, printed under the GNU Cost-free Documentation License.

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