Magnetic tape filesystem

Chuck Guzis cclist at
Mon Feb 9 12:40:06 CST 2015

All this talk about magtapes brought some memories to the fore.

While a single tape drive was the rule for personal computers, it 
certainly wasn't that way for mainframes.  In particular, one very 
important aspect was sorting (and, by extension, merging).  The wonder 
of a polyphase (or better yet, oscillating) sort running on a bank of 8 
300 ips drives was mesmerizing.

The book by Ivan Flores on sorting was pretty much a bible until Don 
Knuth came out with his "Searching and Sorting" book, complete with 
fold-out charts.  That's the one out of the whole "Art" series that 
sticks in my mind.

Now, I suspect that the average programmer doesn't worry (or perhaps 
even know about) external sorting what with vast RAM and disk drives, 
but back in the day, it was fascinating.

Undoubtedly, the folks before me who spent their time shuttling trays of 
punched cards around an IBM 082 have a similar reaction to the 
"easiness" of tape sorts as compared to card sorts...


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