Wednesday, January 18, 2017

#143) Stanford Destroys $300,000 Librascope Disc Memory


Photos of the large 4 foot diameter disc memories that Librascope designed and manufactured in the 1960’s have been published in the past (see photo), but the experiences of the customers for these large memories were not widely known. A January 28, 1977 Stanford University memo found on the Internet, however, describes their experience.

In 1967 the Stanford Artificial Intelligence Laboratory at Stanford University purchased their 4 foot diameter disc memory from Librascope for $300,000. A short time before, a similar, if not identical, 4 foot memory was sold to Lawrence Radiation Laboratory (LRL) in Livermore, CA. Then in 1973, LRL donated their memory to Utah State University. Click here to view a copy of the detailed (97 page) March 10, 1965 Librascope proposal to LRL. Note, according to this "Large Scale Disc File" proposal, LRL's memory was patterned after Librascope's 473-L.

About a year after Stanford acquired their expensive disc, it had a massive malfunction that permanently destroyed half its memory capacity. Note, the large memory had five 4 foot magnetic discs (see photo). Stanford then sued Librascope, and collected $50,000. Soon after, Librascope reportedly discontinued production.

Finally in 1976, after nine years of (limited) use, Stanford's laboratory disconnected their memory from its laboratory computer, and received permission from their management to destroy it. The controller portion was given to Utah State University. Some parts of the memory were sold for scrap, and one or more of the disks were relegated to become oversize coffee tables. The remaining parts were auctioned off.

Click here to view a copy of the original January 28, 1977 Stanford memo describing the above history in more detail.

1 comment:

  1. Comment from Lila Reynolds:

    Very interesting, thanks

    ReplyDelete