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"I've been very obsessive about writing science fiction for far too many years. Anyone with an ounce of sense would have given up years ago."
- Charles Stross

Selector Card  
  Pneumatic delivery of book films by using a mechanical form of data storage; selector cards - probably punch cards.  

This story was written just at the dawn of computing. This very modern (for 1940!) library distributed books on microfilm based on punched cards turned in as requests. For those who don't recall, "punch cards" are a form of data storage. Each card has a set of areas for punched holes. Each area represents a bit of data.

I had a handful of selector cards. I handed them to the vestal virgin at the desk and waited while she fed them into the hopper.
From The Puppet Masters, by Robert Heinlein.
Published by Doubleday in 1951
Additional resources -

It is interesting that computers were already seen as a mystical device in a holy place, which ordinary mortals could not approach - hence the "vestal virgin" at the front desk to mediate for the computer system.

Today, of course, we have a wide variety of options for data storage. But even today, there are glitches. Back in the day, the big disaster was dropping all your punch cards and mixing them up (you not only needed to keep them safe, they had to be in the right order!). These days, the biggest problems are incompatibility (this computer can't read that data storage unit) or static discharges wiping out your data.

Fans of retro computing should certainly check out the Punch Card Gallery. Other forms of data storage are shown in the Information Technology History - Data Storage and Elaboration page.

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Additional resources:
  More Ideas and Technology from The Puppet Masters
  More Ideas and Technology by Robert Heinlein
  Tech news articles related to The Puppet Masters
  Tech news articles related to works by Robert Heinlein

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