Who Used RAMAC?
Who used RAMAC?
RAMAC benefited anyone needing swift, random access to large amounts of information. It enabled a new era of “transaction processing,” updating data immediately rather than off-line in “batch mode.”
Crown-Zellerbach Paper Company bought the first RAMAC. Ironically, Crown was a leading supplier of stock for punched cards…which RAMAC helped replace. Other users included the 1960 Winter Olympics. Business Week noted, “Within moments, twin RAMACs will compute and print…results that would otherwise require hours of human calculation.”
Over 1,000 RAMAC systems sold to government, businesses, universities, and the military.
The IBM 305 RAMAC was a vacuum-tube computer that processed business transactions in real time. RAMAC’s disk drive was also available for the IBM 650 computer.View Artifact Detail
Wonders of RAMAC
“The secret of Professor Ramac’s remarkable ‘memory’ is a stack of 50 fast spinning disks….Stored on these disks by means of magnetism are the principal historical events of the world….”
So proclaimed an IBM press release accompanying a RAMAC at the U.S. Pavilion at the 1958 World’s Fair in Brussels.
Two years later, the Winter Olympics used another RAMAC system to calculate game scores in real time for the first time.
IBM was eager to find ways to excite the general public—not just engineers—by RAMAC’s potential.
Why San Jose?
There’s often tension between, “we’ve always done it this way,” and the need for original thinking to create breakthroughs.
Recognizing this, IBM in 1951 established a research lab in San Jose, California. The distance from New York—a 12-hour plane ride—gave the lab independence to pursue fresh ideas, such as RAMAC.
Companies besides IBM explored new storage ideas. Bryant Chucking Grinder Company, a computer drum manufacturer, began developing a disk drive in 1959—a horizontal shaft with eight or more 39” magnesium disks. Few sold.