Author Topic: Bubble memory  (Read 2337 times)

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Offline pamperchu

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Bubble memory
« on: October 07, 2018, 08:29:23 pm »
I got a device that has a bubble memory cassette. I made a video and thought some of you might enjoy watching

 
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Offline abraxa

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Re: Bubble memory
« Reply #1 on: October 08, 2018, 01:55:46 am »
Thanks for the video! If I could ask for one thing, though, it would be that you keep the camera more stable in future videos. It's kind of nauseating, I'm afraid.
 
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Offline CatalinaWOW

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Re: Bubble memory
« Reply #2 on: October 08, 2018, 03:40:27 am »
Bubble memory is an instructive tale of the woes of competing with a really large and vibrant infrastructure.  I watched this stuff try to launch as a young engineer.  A fascinating technology, with some real potential.  But it was fighting two already existing technologies that had the whole background infrastructure in place - EEPROM and rotating hard drives.  It had advantages over both, but those advantages were lost as the inherent technologies behind the others pushed them ahead.  Density in both cases.  As cell size dropped in EEPROM, bubbles lost their capacity edge, and as platter speed and areal density increased in hard drives the speed edge was lost.  The same kind of thing is playing out today as the EEPROM technologies are starting to take over from rotating hard drives, with the silicon industries push to smaller feature size being the fundamental driver. 
 
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Offline TheEPROM9

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Re: Bubble memory
« Reply #3 on: October 08, 2018, 04:28:08 am »
That scope would make a very intresting teardown.
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Offline rrinker

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Re: Bubble memory
« Reply #4 on: October 11, 2018, 03:21:48 am »
 I remember reading my issue of Popular Electronics that featured bubble memory as the cover story. Fascinating stuff.
 

Offline Alex Eisenhut

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Re: Bubble memory
« Reply #5 on: October 11, 2018, 01:21:53 pm »
I have a Intel devkit somewhere with the megabit memory module. It looks like a beast to get working. It's the model pictured in the wikipedia article. I love that period in history were all kinds of whacko physics was explored for any and all ways to get bits stored and read.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bubble_memory

I shouldn't really say devkit, it's not like I have it in a shiny Intel box or anything, it's the module and the supporting chips with a bunch of photocopied datasheets. It's missing a socket for the memory.

Sadly, some people can't tell an empty socket from the module

https://www.ebay.ca/itm/Intel-Magnetics-1Mbit-Bubble-Memory-7110-1-NEW-FACTORY-SEALED/223172259048?hash=item33f61a6ce8:g:4y0AAOSwT2NatTi3:rk:1:pf:0
 

Offline rrinker

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Re: Bubble memory
« Reply #6 on: October 12, 2018, 05:14:55 am »
 And some people are just insane. Related listings shows some yahoo wanting $500USD for an Intel marked CRYSTAL for a 4004.

Though there is what appears to be a complete developer kit for bubble memory, including the memory and support chips, if anyone really wants to play around

 

Offline Alex Eisenhut

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Re: Bubble memory
« Reply #7 on: October 12, 2018, 08:39:28 am »
Turns out the module is in the grey foam thingy behind the socket. Not too clear in the description.
 

Offline pamperchu

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Re: Bubble memory
« Reply #8 on: October 13, 2018, 01:23:43 pm »
I wish I could figure out what Marley was describing in the video, .. maybe prototype or something else. he worked at storage tek ~1985 so maybe someone might know more.
 

Offline Beamin

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Re: Bubble memory
« Reply #9 on: October 14, 2018, 10:12:11 pm »
That's a really cool video reminds me of VWestlife on YouTube. But as other have mentioned the camera was bouncing around so much I could only watch half because I was getting motion sick. Maybe you can make your next video and just set up the camera on a cheap tripod or even just duct tape it to a stand then do everything with the camera zoomed in. There was another awesome channel called extractions and ire but his camera work was so shaky and moving around I couldn't watch the videos.

Also I like the pink sleeves you are wearing. ;)

For my own selfish reasons and since you are new to youtube maybe do a reupload A LOT of people will just shut off videos and thumbs down as soon as they see portrait mode(they should) or shaky bouncy cameras. Your first videos make or break the youtube algorithm.

I'm going to let my brain settle down and try the second half.
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Offline barbeque

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Re: Bubble memory
« Reply #10 on: March 05, 2019, 03:29:09 pm »
Like a lot of other dead ends, bubble memory had some commercial applications in Japan.

Konami had a whole arcade PCB series called the "Bubble System," and Fujitsu offered 32-128KB bubble cassettes on some of their early home microcomputers (FM-8, FM-7). It sounds like there aren't a lot of working examples of either left out there, though.
 

Offline nad007007

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Re: Bubble memory
« Reply #11 on: March 08, 2019, 08:02:39 pm »
Interesting bubble memory
 

Offline Beamin

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Re: Bubble memory
« Reply #12 on: March 10, 2019, 08:41:02 am »
I just made it to the end; it's like a drunk 4 year old with Parkinson's and three fingers trying to do face time. What the hell was that? Who was that? Are you in some dudes house just filming random people about memory? WTF?
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Offline ruffy91

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Re: Bubble memory
« Reply #13 on: March 10, 2019, 08:56:00 am »
I worked on a Japanese Okuma CNC Lathe (built 1986/1987) using bubble memory for the G Code. The OS itself was also on a paper punch/hole strip (wathever it is called) in the back of the machine so you could re-upload it to the memory in case it was shut of for too long.
Really cool technology but cheap SRAM/FLASH made it obsolete before it was released.
 

Offline Beamin

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Re: Bubble memory
« Reply #14 on: March 10, 2019, 11:05:44 am »
I worked on a Japanese Okuma CNC Lathe (built 1986/1987) using bubble memory for the G Code. The OS itself was also on a paper punch/hole strip (wathever it is called) in the back of the machine so you could re-upload it to the memory in case it was shut of for too long.
Really cool technology but cheap SRAM/FLASH made it obsolete before it was released.


Why would they use punch cards in the 80's when consumers had 5" and even 3 1/4 floppies? If you can afford a CNC you can afford a disk drive. Was trump in charge of that company? Use 30 year old tech in a new product; stupid.
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Offline CatalinaWOW

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Re: Bubble memory
« Reply #15 on: March 10, 2019, 04:08:44 pm »

Why would they use punch cards in the 80's when consumers had 5" and even 3 1/4 floppies? If you can afford a CNC you can afford a disk drive. Was trump in charge of that company? Use 30 year old tech in a new product; stupid.

Some reasons they may have chosen this.

Machine tools have very long lives.  Tape readers had demonstrated that they worked after 20 or more years.  Floppy disks were already showing life issues by this time and a very great many have not made it to twenty years.  I am not sure I have any functioning drives even though I saved several to be able to read old files if required (admittedly it is now 40 years).

Machine tools operate in a very non-surgical environment.  It would be very reasonable to fear the compatibility of floppy disks with coolant fluids, grinding dust and metal chips. 

Data requirements were low.  Why provide for a megabyte of storage when only a few hundred bytes are required.


Newest and shiniest isn't always the best answer. 
 
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Offline james_s

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Re: Bubble memory
« Reply #16 on: March 10, 2019, 05:03:08 pm »
It's largely exactly this, machine shops are dirty environments, prior to the modern fully enclosed machines that have fancy mist extraction systems the cooler would form a haze in the room that resulted in a sticky film all over everything. It's very hard on things like disk drives and disks. It's also not common for a machine to be run for 30 or 40 years so a shop operating in the 80s would likely have a bunch of equipment from the 60s and 70s. Machinists are typically not computer enthusiasts, particularly decades ago. If you had a bunch of guys who knew how set up and run paper tape driven machines and the machines got the job done there was no reason to change. My friend's shop was in its earlier days running a lot of 1970s machines which by the mid 90s had been updated to modern controls using PCs mounted in filtered cabinets but they still had the paper tape readers intact when acquired. Even the fairly modern 5 axis machines that sell for >$100k still have floppy drives and run WinXP embedded. Like aviation it's a conservative industry, shops have millions of dollars tied up in equipment that has a long payback period, change happens slowly.
 

Offline barbeque

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Re: Bubble memory
« Reply #17 on: March 15, 2019, 02:19:17 am »
Not quite old enough to have used a paper tape in anything other than a hobby capacity; how did they keep the tape and its reader sealed from the dirt and grime from a factory environment?
 

Offline CatalinaWOW

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Re: Bubble memory
« Reply #18 on: March 15, 2019, 10:02:09 am »
Nothing special.  Tapes we're keep in boxes or drawers.  Readers often had a cover over them, and sometimes a brush to wipe of the tape as it entered the machine.  But remember, a bit was a hole about 2 mm in diameter, with comparable spacing to adjacent bits.  Older readers literally poked a contact finger through the holes.  Newer ones used optical sensors but with so much area in the hole it took big dirt to make a difference.  The trade for this robustness was storage density, which was a few bytes/sq cm. 
 

Offline Beamin

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Re: Bubble memory
« Reply #19 on: March 15, 2019, 10:06:14 am »
Not quite old enough to have used a paper tape in anything other than a hobby capacity; how did they keep the tape and its reader sealed from the dirt and grime from a factory environment?


That's what I was thinking; a floppy drive could be sealed off easily especially if you have access to a machine shop where you can fabricate virtually anything. Why not make one? Vibration might be an issue but that can be mitigated too with a cover.


8bit guy has a video where he takes apart a commodore 64 that was used in a shop and its full of oil and rust, but still worked. Maybe the oil preserved it from corrosion of the copper?  :-// 
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Offline james_s

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Re: Bubble memory
« Reply #20 on: March 16, 2019, 05:22:26 pm »
Newer machines still have floppy drives, or in some cases now a USB socket for thumb drives. Like has been mentioned already though, like aviation it's a conservative industry and change happens slowly rather than chasing fads. Machines have a typical operating life of decades so if you have a shop full of hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of machines all set up to use tape readers because that was high tech when the machines were made in the mid 70s and your operators are all trained to work with the tape readers, then you typically keep running the tape readers long past when they have been superseded in other industries.

Likewise if you bought machines in the 90s when floppy drives were high tech, you might still be using the floppy drives today because the machines are still serviceable, they represent a major investment and any time the machines aren't running that's money not being made. There's no business value in upgrading something that works just because something more high tech is available. The G-code to make a complex part is a few dozen kB of plaintext, a floppy disk is still perfectly adequate for transferring that from the CAD station to the machine.
 

Offline CatalinaWOW

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Re: Bubble memory
« Reply #21 on: March 17, 2019, 06:23:44 am »
Newer machines still have floppy drives, or in some cases now a USB socket for thumb drives. Like has been mentioned already though, like aviation it's a conservative industry and change happens slowly rather than chasing fads. Machines have a typical operating life of decades so if you have a shop full of hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of machines all set up to use tape readers because that was high tech when the machines were made in the mid 70s and your operators are all trained to work with the tape readers, then you typically keep running the tape readers long past when they have been superseded in other industries.

Likewise if you bought machines in the 90s when floppy drives were high tech, you might still be using the floppy drives today because the machines are still serviceable, they represent a major investment and any time the machines aren't running that's money not being made. There's no business value in upgrading something that works just because something more high tech is available. The G-code to make a complex part is a few dozen kB of plaintext, a floppy disk is still perfectly adequate for transferring that from the CAD station to the machine.

Interesting comparison.  I just read an article on the only remaining purveyor of floppy disks.  They are no longer made by anyone, but still widely used in a variety of applications as you describe.  He made end of run buys as vendors of the disks went out of business and at one point had millions in stock.  He is currently buying small lots of remaindered drives and collects used floppies in small quantities and thinks he will run out before the market dries up.  (floppydisk.com)

Paper tape has the advantage that if you really need to you can make the reader and blank tapes in a small shop.  Even the punch wouldn't be that hard to do.  But a floppy drive and the disks to go with them requires some pretty significant tooling to manufacture.  Not really practical.
 

Offline Beamin

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Re: Bubble memory
« Reply #22 on: March 17, 2019, 08:28:24 pm »
Newer machines still have floppy drives, or in some cases now a USB socket for thumb drives. Like has been mentioned already though, like aviation it's a conservative industry and change happens slowly rather than chasing fads. Machines have a typical operating life of decades so if you have a shop full of hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of machines all set up to use tape readers because that was high tech when the machines were made in the mid 70s and your operators are all trained to work with the tape readers, then you typically keep running the tape readers long past when they have been superseded in other industries.

Likewise if you bought machines in the 90s when floppy drives were high tech, you might still be using the floppy drives today because the machines are still serviceable, they represent a major investment and any time the machines aren't running that's money not being made. There's no business value in upgrading something that works just because something more high tech is available. The G-code to make a complex part is a few dozen kB of plaintext, a floppy disk is still perfectly adequate for transferring that from the CAD station to the machine.

Interesting comparison.  I just read an article on the only remaining purveyor of floppy disks.  They are no longer made by anyone, but still widely used in a variety of applications as you describe.  He made end of run buys as vendors of the disks went out of business and at one point had millions in stock.  He is currently buying small lots of remaindered drives and collects used floppies in small quantities and thinks he will run out before the market dries up.  (floppydisk.com)

Paper tape has the advantage that if you really need to you can make the reader and blank tapes in a small shop.  Even the punch wouldn't be that hard to do.  But a floppy drive and the disks to go with them requires some pretty significant tooling to manufacture.  Not really practical.


For the longest time on days the mailman had AOL disks I would go to every mail box and grab them. Thought I would never run out of disks until they started mailing CD's. "You've got mail". The CDs were good for throwing at friends I remember that actually we used to throw the floppies in a way you could get them to some times stick into the drywall.  Like buying a printer just for the ink and taking the printer back or keeping it since it was cheaper then just buying ink. Now you over pay for both printer and ink.
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Offline james_s

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Re: Bubble memory
« Reply #23 on: March 18, 2019, 05:28:58 am »
What do you mean overpay for the printer? Printers are absurdly cheap. I recently replaced mine, got a brand new HP color laserjet for under $300 and you can buy inkjet printers for under $40. My old printer was a Xerox Phaser that I bought used at a time when a new one was almost $2k, my first color inkjet printer was over $300 and before that I had a dot matrix that my dad paid $600 for in the 80s. OEM toner and ink are still overpriced but aftermarket cartridges are reasonable, the printers themselves cost peanuts. It amazes me how cheap they are when you consider the sort of precision even a basic printer needs in order to produce reasonable output.
 


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