History of Hard Drives
(Bill Healy, executive vice president at Hitachi, holds up a platter from a 1-inch microdrive in his right hand. In his left is a 24-inch platter from IBM's RAMAC (Random Access Method of Accounting and Control), which came out 50 years ago. A 1-inch 8GB platter holds more than 80,000 times as much data as a single 24-inch RAMAC platter. An 8GB 1-inch drive holds 1,600 times as much data as RAMAC, which had 50 platters.)
IBM 350. Consists of 50 disks, each 24 inches in diameter.
IBM creates a storage system based on packs of six 14-inch disks. Each pack holds 2MB. Commercially, this is when hard drives take off.
IBM develops an 8-inch drive.
The 5.25-inch 'Winchester' drive makes its debut. Its design plays a key role in the development of the PC market.
Rodine releases a 10MB 3.25-inch drive. It's still the standard form factor for desktops.
PrairieTek releases its 2.5-inch 20MB drive; this size remains the standard for notebooks.
Integrated Peripherals debuts its 1.8-inch drive. Drives this size aren't destined to go mainstream until the debut of Apple's first iPod, more than 10 years later.
Hewlett-Packard produces a 1.3-inch drive. It doesn't make a major impact, although drive manufacturers are now thinking about bringing it back.
IBM releases a 1-inch microdrive with 340MB of capacity. That capacity has since expanded to 8GB.
Toshiba shrinks the microdrive to 0.85 inches in diameter. Many believe that this is the smallest size of drive that will be mass-produced.
(This 1957 prototype demonstrated a new technology using disk drive heads and tracks rather than magnetic tape. The first commercial use of the technology was IBM's 3330, in 1971.)
The hard disk drive, invented by IBM 50 years ago, underpins modern computing and will continue to do so for a while yet. But how did today's data storage technology evolve, and what does the future hold?
Yesterday, Apple launched its most capacious iPod ever. Its 80GB Toshiba hard disk has room for 40,000 songs or 100 hours of video; it weighs 59 grams, takes a watt of power and transfers data at 100MB a second.
The iPod that would have housed the world's first hard disk -- announced fifty years ago today -- would have been a much less attractive proposition. Weighing in at over a ton and bigger than two coffins, IBM's RAMAC took several thousand times more power, transferred data eleven thousand times slower, and had room for just the two songs (probably by the Seekers and the Platters). It's difficult to directly compare prices, due to IBM's habit back then of only renting equipment, but the iPod disk costs roughly a thousand times less. That's a twenty million-fold increase in storage capacity per penny.
The hard disk's future looks secure -- for now. It still costs hundreds of times less per bit than flash memory, which has frequently been touted as the hard disk's successor, although a combination of flash memory and hard disk in the same device may become popular as a way to speed up boot times and reduce power consumption in portable computers. Future improvements in disk technology include heat-assisted recording and patterned material. Both of these techniques address the problem of adjacent bits affecting each other because they're so small that virtually no energy is required to flip them from one state to another. Seagate says this will help to push densities up to between fifty and a hundred terabits per square inch, or around five hundred times that of today's iPod disk.
After that, new technologies that combine magnetic recording with solid-state devices are likely to appear, with the state of single atoms set by direct control of electron spin. This is predicted to reach to four petabits per square inch, perhaps even beyond. At that point, the hard disk revolution will have spun its last, making it unlikely that it will equal the CRT's record of a hundred years as a viable component. Between then and now, however, there's a lot more data to be stored on one of the most ubiquitous, useful and underappreciated pillars of the digital age.
Labels: Hard Drive