[SIGCIS-Members] Origins of "archive" in computer science

Martin Schmitt schmitt at zzf-potsdam.de
Thu Jul 26 12:09:03 PDT 2018


I was also surprised by the early usage of that word in the mainframe computer context. It was actually quite common in the area of economic computer usage in Germany in the 1950s and 1960s. The main point here is: Already the punch card world used the word „archive“ for storing the punched cards. Sometimes it was also called „library“. As the computer in companies and banks is rather a upgrade to punch card machines, it inherits the word from there. This continues with the magnetic tape archives. One early citation for that is the journal "Bauen + Wohnen = Construction + habitation = Building + home“, 13 (1959) about the German Weather Bureau: https://www.e-periodica.ch/cntmng?pid=buw-001:1959:13::1333

For banks in Eastern Germany for example, Jähn & Sinnig (1967) are talking about „program archives“ that are built up by machine producers like IBM. The usage of the tape archive then gets common in the 1970s with the construction of data centers for banks. I just wrote a small passage about these practices for my dissertation.
Martin Schmitt

Wissenschaftlicher Mitarbeiter | Doktorand | digital enthusiast

Mail: schmitt at zzf-potsdam.de <mailto:schmitt at zzf-pdm.de>
Tel: +49 331 - 74510-119
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Vice Chair of IFIP WG 9.7 „History of computing"

Neu erschienen: Martin Schmitt - Internet im Kalten Krieg.

> Am 26.07.2018 um 20:23 schrieb Matthew Kirschenbaum <mkirschenbaum at gmail.com>:
> Dear all,
> I'm trying to find early exemplars of the use of the word "archive" in computer systems contexts, whether as a noun to denote an element of computer  architecture (i.e., the archive disk or archive tape) or as a verb, i.e. "I've archived those files."
> Examples might include the TAR ("Tape ARchive") format, Wang's nomenclature of an "archive disk" in its systems, and Gmail's early mantra, "Archive, Don't Delete." 
> I'd love to run down some early instances of this sort of thing, which I assume goes back to the mainframe era.
> Thank you--
> -- 
> Matthew Kirschenbaum
> Professor of English and Digital Studies
> Director, Graduate Certificate in Digital Studies
> University of Maryland
> mkirschenbaum.net <http://mkirschenbaum.net/>
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