When the Space Shuttle Columbia crashed back on February 01, 2003, most experts believed that little computer data could be salvaged because of the fiery crash and the miles of free fall from space such computer hard drives would be required to survive. In the end, the one piece of computer equipment that survived the the Columbia tragedy was a science experiment that used the old DOS operating system to store information onto a hard drive. Modern computer operating system scatter saved data all over the hard drive, but back in the beginning days of computer technology, DOS started from the beginning of the hard drive and worked outward. The reason this story is making news is because the huge hard drive that was storing research experiment information was damaged on it outer edges, but since the hard drive was only half full - 99% of the data was recoverable by some really smart people at NASA.
My first computer had an MS-DOS operating system. Thinking back it was much different in many ways to the current Microsoft operating systems of Windows XP and Vista. While I still remember many of the older commands it took to make MS-DOS work properly, most of my once huge amount of knowledge about that operating system has been forgotten by my mind. In fact, I did not know until reading this story today that the MS-DOS operating system started at the first part of the hard drive and worked it's way to the end, instead of scattering data onto all portions of the drive. In the case of this one science experiment, the choice to use MS-DOS to store the data of this experiment turned out to be a smart decision, indeed.
For those of you that are too young to remember what kind of computer operating system MS-DOS was, here are a few details that will most likely cause you to rejoice the fact that it is no longer around. Most computer software programs that ran on the MS-DOS format were started by entering a 'run' command from a blank, black screen. Along with the run commands, there were many other functions that are done easily and sometimes automatically today by more modern Windows operating systems. There were word or initial commands that had to be typed into the infamous blank black screen with the blinking white dot in order to do almost anything. Rather than clicking on an icon, like millions of people do today with XP and Vista to rename a file, delete or move it - in MS-DOS a computer operator had to use command prompts in order to delete files, rename then or move them to another sub-directory.
With all the massive advancement in computer hardware, software and operating systems over the past 10 to 15 years, it does the heart of an old guy like me good to know that something that I used in the past turned out to be better in a modern space shuttle than the newest and most modern software, operating systems and hard drives. To be honest, I have always had concerns about how modern computer operating systems store data in small bits and pieces all over the hard drive. More than likely this type of storage system is the reason why hard drives operate much faster today than in the past. That said, reading this story tonight about how an MS-DOS hard drive outperformed more modern computer systems in the doom flight of the Space Shuttle Columbia did bring back many memories of the early days of the personal computer.
Title: DOS Operating System Saves Space Shuttle Data
Written: May 09 2008
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