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1976 L.A. County computer tape storage

1976 L.A. County computer tape storage

Barbara Nichols, tape librarian for Los Angeles County, files tapes at the county’s computer center in Downey. The multimillion-dollar Univac system is being acquired through lease-purchase, an increasingly popular financing method.

This photo by former staff photographer Cal Montney accompanied a financial story in the Sep. 5, 1976, Los Angeles Times. Staff writer John Getze reported:

An increasing number of local governments are learning how to buy things they didn’t think they could afford.

Through a financing technique known as “lease-purchase,” states, counties and cities throughout the United States are acquiring computer systems, firetrucks and other equipment once thought to be beyond their budgets…

Corporations and individuals have been using lease-purchase for decades. Instead of buying something outright, a person or a business can lease (rent) a piece of equipment for several years, then, at the end of the rental period, exercise an option to buy the equipment with a major portion of the rental payments being applied to the purchase price.

A few local governments, including Los Angeles County, have made use of lease-purchase for many years…

To illustrate this story,  photographer Montney made good use of leading lines — the long racks of tapes.

My question for any computer historians reading this: Does my 16-gig smartphone have more memory than all these computer tapes?


  1. October 16, 2013, 9:14 am

    This photograph is 27 years old. The County no linger uses tapes. Tapes were eliminated years ago. The question the journalist asks at the end of the story is irrelevant. Is like asking, what is faster a T. Rex or an Arabian horse. Dta storage tapes and smartphones are not in the same era.

    By: none@yahoo.comya
  2. October 16, 2013, 10:19 am

    I'm not an expert, but I don't think your iPhone has surpassed the photo. I'm guessing that there are about 2,500 tapes in that photo (14 racks with 6 rows of about 30 tapes per row). I think that the max capacity of a 9-track reel back then was 160MB, for a total of about 400GB. So less than seven 64GB iPhones. And your iPhone is thousands of times faster, probably 0.5% the cost, uses virtually no power in comparison, and of course is so portable that it can be carried in one hand instead of filling a room. In less than 40 years – amazing.

    By: Bob Anderson
  3. September 2, 2015, 2:12 am

    Nice post.

    By: Driverpot

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