In 1979, it looked like computer magnetic bubble memory might be the wave of the future. It was stable, and extremely durable--able to withstand extremes in temperature with ease. It didn’t require moving parts like magnetic tape memory did, and it held more information than the previous types of miniature wire grids that typified computer memory systems in the 1960s. But development of the technology was slow, and ultimately wasn’t scalable or cheap enough to produce in order to later compete with other kinds of random access memory. Once RAM and ROM improved, and flash memory was invented, magnetic bubble memory’s practical applications were severely reduced.
Before it faded from view, bubble memory spawned a mini-industry and even a videogame setup where the game cartridges used bubble memory: Konami’s “Bubble System”, introduced in 1984.
This promotional film represents a tangent in computer memory technologies and not part of memory’s popular history.
But Andrew Bobeck, the inventor of bubble memory, and the central figure in this film, still contributed massively to the technical history of Bell Labs. When he retired from the Labs in 1989, he held 120 patents--more than anyone else active at AT&T at the time. See all of Bobeck’s patents.
Footage Courtesy of AT&T Archives and History Center, Warren, NJ