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A Very Brief History of Hard Drives

For decades now hard disk drives have been the cheapest way to store large amount of data. Today hard disk drives can easily store terabytes of user data.

Believe it or not, the first data storage device appeared in the nineteenth century. In 1890 Herman Hollerith developed a method allowing a machine to enter data on punch cards that could later be re-read. If this man’s name doesn’t ring a bell, you may have heard of the company he founded, today’s IBM! His invention was improved upon and later emerged as the Punch Tape, improved with a higher capacity and faster ability to read larger amounts of data.

Brief History of Hard DrivesModern electronic data storage dates back to 1946. Then a company known as Selectron patented a cathode lamp able to store 256 bits of information. Four years later in 1950 the drum-memory computer was created. This machine was developed by the Engineering Research Associates of Minneapolis, for the U.S. Navy. In 1956 we were introduced to the first computer with a hard disk, the IBM 305 RAM. The hard disk had fifty 24-inch panels with a total capacity capacity of 5 MB (not an error). Hard disks carried the lions share of the the weight and it was as big as two refrigerators. 1961 IBM invented disk drives that “flew” on an air cushion. Making it a true forerunner to today’s drives.

RAID technology arrived in 1978. A year later, IBM made a hard with a disk capacity of 571 MB. It consisted of seven 14-inch plates and used a thin scanner. In 1979 IBM released the “Piccolo” hard drive which used six platters with an 8-inch diameter and a capacity of 64 MB.

In 1980 IBM gave us the first hard disk with a capacity of 1 GB. Smaller but still as big as a single refrigerator it weighed in at 300 pounds and cost 40,000 U.S. Dollars. That same year, Seagate released the first 5.25-inch drive (ST506). This drive marked the earliest arrival of hard drives for home or personal computers. Three years later, we had a 3.5-inch hard drive with two platters and a capacity of 10 MB. In 1984 the Western Digital HDD controller was developed for the IBM PC/AT, which became the industry standard. In 1985, Control Data, Compaq Computer and Western Digital joined forces to develop a 40-pin IDE interface.The official SCSI specification was presented in 1986. Apple Mac Plus was the first computer to use this technology.

The first 2.5-inch hard drive for notebook computers was developed in 1988. It had two platters and a capacity of 20 MB. The first disk with a magnetoresistive head was developed in 1991. It had eight 3.5-inch panels and a capacity of 1 GB. Seagate introduced the first hard disk with a platter rotation speed of 7200 rpm in 1992. This Barracuda drive had a capacity of 2.1 GB. This same manufacturer in 2000 introduced the first 15,000 rpm hard disk, the Cheetah X15.

In 2003 IBM left the industry and sold its Data Storage Division to Hitachi. That same year, Western Digital introduced the SATA Raptor hard disk with a capacity of 37 GB and a platter speed rotation of 10,000 rpm. In 2005 Toshiba released the MK4007 GAL hard disk drive with a capacity of 40 GB on a single 1.8-inch platter. This was the first hard disk to use perpendicular recording technology.

Hitachi was the first company to penetrate the 1 TB barrier with the Deskstar 7K1000 hard disk in 2007. Five years later, we had hard disks with a capacity of 4 TB.

Later, Hitachi sold it’s hard drive manufacturing business to Western Digital which is now HGST a WD company. Today there are only three hard disk drive manufacturers still in operatation: Seagate, Western Digital and Toshiba.

As this brief summary illustrates, hard disk drives continue to get smaller wth ever increasing capacity. What the future holds in terms of storage remains to be seen. However, we can be certain that capacity and speed will amaze us as it exceeds, exponentially.

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