Inside Adam Savage’s Cave: Geeking Out about Bits and Bytes

Tested returns to Adam’s workshop to geek out about his collection of arcane computer technology. Adam shows off an old IBM bit, byte, and even a massive one gigabyte hard drive from 1981–which weighs 75 pounds.

Comments (39)

39 thoughts on “Inside Adam Savage’s Cave: Geeking Out about Bits and Bytes

  1. That was so awesome. I love these videos from Adams cave. Keep it up!

    That is really annoying. Also some people using commas for decimal points and others using periods.

  2. maybe i’m getting my tech history all wrong but i’m pretty sure there’s no transistors on that 1bit vacuum tube as Will said. transistors only were invented years later and they are the direct evolution of this.

  3. There are very few things I love more than the history of computing. The start of the movie Pirates of Silicon Valley sort of triggered it for me. Extremely fascinating stuff. Glad I got to take part in at least some of it. Early/mid 80s and onward. Will be exciting to see what happens next.

  4. The advancements made in (computer)technology in the last decades is staggering. This video showed just that. Brilliant!

  5. Man, Bender should have gotten fucking humongous in “Teenage Mutant Leela’s Hurdles” when the crew gets thrown into that whirlpool of chronitons instead of progressively smaller.

  6. I will literally watch any video you guys do with Adam. He’s so passionate and energetic about things that he’s incredibly engaging.

  7. Once again, excellent vid!

    I started my computer life with my old XT (8088) in the late 80s. I remember it having a 360k Double sided double density floppy drive and a 20mb Hard drive. I copied every single game I had on to the hard drive so they would load faster, and I still had loads of space.

    It still amazes me that I just purchased a 64Gb MicroSD from my phone, that holds a Bazillion more times data than my first hard drive, and it is so small if wasn’t careful ejecting it could shoot across the room and I could loose it.

  8. To be honest the well staffed, well funded projects always seem to flounder and become white elephants, well in my experience. Its a real testament that your team could write a compiler with just five people, The company I work for requires that many people just to provision a desk phone for me.

    I would hire guys fresh out of college if I could, unfortunately they mostly seem to be arts majors, which is little to no use when tasked with reviewing the security of a power station. Tho I am sure they could probably write a good report.

    Im not sure that you need a carrot when your young, idealistic and have stuff to prove… you need an idea that you can buy into and follow to the end. I remember when I was younger these were big deals, you worked the extra hours because you wanted to see your idea or your teams ideas work.

    IBM really did lose their way in the 90’s but seem to have their game on track now, tho some of their offerings are held together with hope and string. I can see how it looks like micros are being pushed out at the top by cloud, but really the cloud offerings are mostly on x86 hardware, sure redundant ECC RAM, CPU’s. PCI cards etc make them more like mainframes than 8086 but they are still just PC’s under the hood. As for the tablets im sure they will capture a large portion of the market, but I hope people will still have access to standards complaint hardware so they can learn. It would be a sad day if we lose the ability for people to tinker with their kit.


  9. I wonder which server would cover the Earth in this old bytes?!? Got to get the volume(or dimensions) of one byte to crush the numbers!

  10. Probably my favourite video so far.

    I did catch myself converting units a lot during this video. American billions are not the same as normal billions.

    Man, brits invent the metric system then ignore it. Us Canadians are the only ones who have it right.

  11. I wish there were more of these kinds of stored data components left over, instead of being thrown out as waste, so my computer repair teacher could have used them as a better visual recourse for explaining how computers stored data.

  12. I am pretty sure that in Canada the French provinces use the long scale, where a billion means a million millions and a thousand millions is a milliard. While the english speaking ones use the short scale, as is most common in the respective langauges.

    Neither one has anything to do with the metric system, which only applies to distance, nor with the International System of Units (SI) which is the actual standard used globally with the exception of the US, Liberia and Burma.

    Like you say, units are now officially measured using the SI system in the UK, though I believe geographic distances are to remain imperial. They cannot force people to suddenly stop using feet and inches, or stone, in everyday discussion, but officially, everything but road signs and maps is measured in metres, litres and grams. Oh, and pints are still pints. =p

  13. That harddrive is fantastic! Personally I’ve always wanted to get my hands on a big stack of magnetic core-planes.

    Also, congrats on finding the only thing that could make the bay area more appealing, turning it into a giant tube computer.

  14. You guy’s are confusing early tube on-line (RAM) vs the later off-line storage (DISK). The volume of later off-line disk storage capacity should be correctly compared with the volume of early off-line storage … namely COMPUTER CARDS. IBM became big BEFORE computers with their punch-card systems. Each punch card would hold a line of text, which represented 80 characters, or 80 bytes. I’ll leave it to you to compute the volume of the typical punch card in your comparison.

    Also, “Soul of a new machine” was about the creation of the Data General mini, IIRC.

  15. You think you have any idea how awesome that Gigabyte drive is?

    My father used to develop optical devices when he was in the military. He told me how once he built a storage device for an intelligence collection vehicle that was supposed to go in the field, and when they tested the vehicle eventually they blew it up (I always said Adam reminded me of my dad) and he says that even though the vehicle was completely obliterated, the drive was still there – and still bloody spinning!!!

  16. This is great. Two notes:

    1) The Soul of a New Machine was about the Data General MV/8000 superminicomputer. It was a competitor to the VAX 11/780.

    2) The disk drive he shows is an IBM 3380 single-density head and disk assembly (HDA). There were two of them mounted in a box that was about three feet long, two feet wide, and six feet high. The rest of the space was taken up by control electronics and power supplies.

  17. Just a couple of things, the vacuum tube in the ‘bit’ was probably like a 12AU7 dual triode and was the flip-flop device. The rack with the ‘byte’ is probably a 6 bit BCD character with a separate tube for the parity bit. It was not until the 360 series machine that IBM used the 8 bit EBCDIC character encoding – which is different than the 8 bit ACSII codes.
    Love this and Mythbusters!

  18. Pretty sure that hard drive was or is worth about $100,000.

    Also it’s bad ass and I wouldn’t sell it for twice that if I owned it.

  19. Last year at work I had to destroy an old seagate hard drive that the hospital I work at had in their possession. I would have liked to keep it but had to send it to a massive shredder as part of some security policy that was in effect. We shredded around 1500 old HDDs that day.

    it was an ST-506 and I felt really shitty when I threw it in the pile of hard drives that were destined to be destroyed. I really like archaic technology.

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