The Humble Hard Drive Reaches Its 50th Birthday

hard driveIt’s hard to believe that the hard drive is actually 50 years old. If you were to ask a teenager how old the hard drive is they would not guess 50 years. I was a little surprised myself!

Elvis Presley was just starting his singing career in 1956, and the humble hard drive was also beginning its incredible journey. The first hard drive was introduced by IBM in the RAMAC 305 system. It had a capacity of 5Mb costing $10,000 a megabyte. The system itself was a little on the large side compared to what we see today. It was the size of 2 refrigerators and used 50 24 inch platters.

The ridiculously miniscule storage capacities of the first hard drives were nothing less than amazing at the time. Just shows how the human race is carried away when it invents something new, making it bigger, better, faster. When you look at storage available to the home user today, it seems ludicrous.

The average home pc user can buy 500 Gb hard drives for quite reasonable pricing and store masses of information, most of it completely unnecessary and useless. That is a matter of opinion I suppose.

It wasn’t until 1963 that the first removable hard drive was introduced by IBM. It had six 14 inch platters and a capacity of 2.6 Mb. Seagate was founded in 1979 and IBM raised the bar on storage capacity with the 3370 hard drive boasting an impressive 571 Mb.

The amount of cash used for research and development of hard drive technology must have been, and probably still remains, immense. Hard drive capacity continued to increase steadily with the introduction of the first gigabyte hard drive introduced by IBM in 1980. It was the size of a fridge, weighed 550 pounds and cost about $40,000. Bargain!

The 3.5 inch size format we all know and recognise today, was not introduced until 1983 when Rodime released the RO352 with a capacity of 10 Mb. What could you achieve with only 10 Mb of storage today? I’m sure this question may bring some interesting comments.

1985 brings the 40-pin IDE interface. IDE stands for Intelligent Drive Electronics, more commonly known as Integrated Drive Electronics. Control Data, Compaq Computer, and Western Digital collaborated to develop the new standard. 80 pin has largely superseded this standard now. Some older desktops still have the 40 pin in use for cd drives and the like but are fading.

A jump forward to 1997 and capacities have climbed to 16.8 Gb with the IBM Titan drives. IBM announced the worlds smallest hard drive in 1998 with a capacity of 340 Mb on a one inch single platter. From here technology has progressed, bringing us larger and faster hard drives with 10, 000 rpm spin speeds. The introduction of Serial ATA transfer technology has increased transfer speeds again.

2006 brings us 750 Gb hard drives and also expected are 1 inch 12 Gb capacity hard drives. With larger capacity drives available software has increased in size and many are now referred to as “bloatware”. Software standards are pretty good as far as user friendliness and the user experience are concerned but could we still have the same features with greatly reduced sizes. I would think the answer is yes but it would take longer to write the software. I am only guessing here as I am not a programmer.

I love the advancing technology and wish for unlimited funds to keep upgrading my pc and gadgets, but where will this ever advancing technology take us?

We all possess the best storage facility ever created but how long will it take for the capacity of the human brain to seem very small

Happy 50th Birthday to the hard drive!



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