The original vision was a big UNIX box sitting in the middle of a living room, like an Onyx 2. Some of the early UNIX boxes might have been designed as pieces of furniture. It would contain all the media the lion kingdom ever had, on some kind of 200GB internal disk. Optical storage became cheaper & more reliable than hard drives in the late 1990's, so the plan shifted to a giant robot which would make thousands of disks behave like a slow hard drive.
The robot was originally supposed to load the disks into a desktop drive. Commercially produced robots of the time did it for a lot more money & much less capacity. The lion kingdom thought it could save money by relying more on machine vision & wood. As the problem grew in complexity, the robot was pared down to just an organizer.
The robot was built twice. The 1st one was made of balsa.
The 1st tower had 1 disk per row & took an eternity to fabricate. 3 more towers were built with 2 disks per row & a low density loading tower. It was fully functional, by this point. It would transfer disks from high density towers to a loading tower closer to the computer, where a lion could swap them in the drive. Various attempts to move the disks into the drive by suction proved too bulky & slow.
They still had no caddies & risked getting scratched. After discovering the weight of the disks was greatly underestimated & ambient light could erase them, it was rebuilt out of MDF with caddies. 3 high density towers & a low density loading tower were built. The 1st tower was discarded, after finding problems.
The amount of sawdust from fabricating those was quite disastrous. This worked as designed for many years, until the capacity was used up.
After encountering the need to build another tower, a very high error rate for optical storage, very high tweeking required to keep the robot running, exploding rent prices, & magnetic storage improving, the last optical disk was burned in 2011. By then, the robot wasn't running anymore because there wasn't enough room for the crane to move around. Most of it was dismantled for spare parts. The towers may eventually be sold.
Detailed video of Heroine2200 when it was new, showing some of the problems it had to overcome. Based on later videos, it needed a lot of manetenance. Lions don't remember most of how it worked. It clearly could have been much better with modern methods, but there would be no point.
The error rate grew as these disks aged, manely in the outer tracks. They were damaged by ambient light & oxygen getting into the laminations. The oxygen leakage became famous, but was never fully solved. Considering how sloppy the tracking of a removable disk like this is, how the disk flops up & down while its diameter oscillates in & out, how it gets scratched, it's amazing optical disks stored as much as they did.
A very useful utility in those days was
Since most of the data was multimedia & most of it can now be gotten from the goo tubes, errors are tolerable, but there was no way to preserve the block order in a file copy. Without preserving the block order, the quicktime/mp4 files couldn't be played. The mighty dd command
dd if=/cdrom/janet1/track01.wav of=janet1/track01.wav bs=4096 conv=noerror
would shift the blocks when it encountered an error. badfile.c would pad the bad sectors with 0. The lion kingdom went through many DVD drives. The best one was a 2013 Macbook Pro. They all eventually died.
THE DESTINATION DRIVE
The dream of a single UNIX box storing an entire life's media finally became attainable, though still requiring...Read more »