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66

The main reason punched cards aren't used any longer is density. A one-inch stack of cards is only 142 80-byte records (assuming the usual practice of encoding one byte per column). So if you need to store 50,000 records that's a stack of cards 350 inches tall (over 29 feet). And 50,000 80-byte records isn't that much, just 4 megabytes of data. If you ...


37

Nice Question :)) Short answer: Density - It just takes way too much cards to store anything useful. (And no, there is no way back in the good old time of optimized data structures) When you think about it, punch cards are the safest way to backup data for long term storage. As usual that depends on your definition on 'safest way'. They are not ...


16

TL;DR: Backup (of local data) at the time the show is set was mostly done to floppy disks, and even when using a network, all was at the mercy of the user to remember doing it (some companies tied backup into system boot, but then there are zillions of stories about users disabling it, 'cause waiting sucks). Backup of centralized data was done independant ...


12

Your premise fails because it presumes higher density methods can't also be used. Back in the 1980s, the magazines that published code started using a barcode scheme so you could wand the program into your computer instead of keyboarding. It didn't take off, but the concept is sound. Scanning those magazine pages is trivial; Google Books has already done ...


10

When you used dd, did you capture it from the first physical sector? Or did you merely grab the volume of interest? If you did it on \\.\Volume{$$$$$$$$-$$$$-....}, then you only got C:, not the whole disk. You need to do it on \\.\PhysicalDrive# (whatever # it is) to get everything - including the Master Boot Record (MBR) which is in the first physical ...


8

Many years ago I worked in a shop that had desktop apps (VB6) and mainframes. I developed an app that replaced punch cards with ASCII text. This was in the 1998-1999 timeframe. The biggest reason given was the card reader was highly mechanical and broke down several times a week. Eventually, parts were difficult (if almost impossible) to obtain. The ...


7

There are also some failure modes you have overlooked. The GB academic community's copy of the 1966 census was stored on punch cards but when someone tried to reload it they discovered that a squirrel had nested in the punch cards and many were now unreadable.


6

It may not be ideal for graphics, but data - e.g. a family tree or government records - would be much safer if stored on punch cards in a fire-proof box. As already said, one card holds about 80 bytes of data, is made of paper, has the size of about, well, a postcard, and needs relatively low technology to read (or even, with some effort, you can train ...


6

The reason we don't use punch cards anymore is because literally every other data storage medium that's been invented since is vastly superior in every way imaginable. Let's compare them to the current media of choice for long-term data storage: magnetic tapes: The first is obviously density, as every other answer here reflects, so I won't get into that ...


5

Adding to Raffzhan's answer, many obscure, short lived and slightly crazy data storage systems were created during the 1980s due to the high cost of mass storage. For example, several systems were created to save data to video tape (usually VHS format), because tapes and VCRs were widely available and relatively cheap. They worked somewhat like audio ...


4

Unfortunately, as someone who was around in those days of punch cards, a major con was the sheer size and costs of the card puncher and the reader. And as they were paper cards there was always the issue of card-jams/ripped cards, not only possible in the card puncher, but in the reader as well. A punch machine and reader/sorter required an area of about 10'...


4

There are plenty of good reasons but to me the primary reason is the ease of copying. Two copies on bad mediums are more desirable than one copy on a good medium. I put a 4TB drive in a box and in less than a day have a complete copy on the medium of my choice. Don't try this with your box of punch cards at home. Punch cards are only as good as the staff ...


3

QICStream became Backup Exec, which is still available commercially although I don’t know whether the current versions can still read QICStream tapes (I doubt it). Conner Backup Exec for DOS was capable of reading most QICStream tapes, and it can still be found online. Some data conversion companies are still capable of dealing with such tapes too.


3

There is soft for archiving on paper (here). See a discussion about archiving on paper here. Even specialized soft for archival of cryptographic keys on paper exist (see here. Of course, this will nor survive a fire, but is much more reliable under the correct circumstances than magnetic tapes and even optic (printed paper can last centuries). Of course, ...


3

Other answers have focussed on data density and factors relating to the medium. However they are all missing one key element. Individually robust artifacts do not give robust data security. Data security does not come from having long-lived artifacts. We have a few scrolls which have survived from thousands of years ago - but most of them have long since ...


3

Using punchcard for long-term backup is a bad idea imho. density/storage space required - as pointed out in the other answers; 1 TB of data translate to 12.5 billion cards or (2.4 g per card?) 30,000 tons of cardboard sensitivity - paper easily gets moldy, brittle or warps; it's rather hard to store long term, especially in quantity pest - rats and mice eat ...


3

An additional reason, not previously covered: expense. The last anecdotally quoted price I can find for punch cards was from 1996, and was around USD 42 for a box of 2000 cards. That's a lot to pay for roughly 160 KB of storage.


2

If one wants to use paper as a backup medium, there is always the option of using an OCR friendly font and printing the data - in plaintext or using a binary-safe encoding like base64. You will still get much better density. Or even printing it in a non-character, more compressed format. Paper is not necessarily a more durable medium than eg a floppy disk ...


2

QIC drives for the 1980's PC were often incredibly slow, writing at speeds of approximately 250-500kb/sec. There was an adapter from a company called Colorado to plug them directly into a floppy cable, limiting its speed to that of the floppy controller. One of the main "features" of QIC was its notorious unreliability. Writing out a QIC backup was already ...


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