Talk:History of hard disk drives

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First 650 MB drive[edit]

Why is the Micropolis 5.25" 650MB drive listed in '93? DEC had a 5.25" 1.3GB drive (the RZ58) in early '92. 18:56, 18 November 2006 (UTC)

agreed, why don't u edit the page. It would be nice if you had a reference to the announcement/shipment Tom94022 20:00, 9 March 2007 (UTC)

No Such 300 Tb Seagate Drive?[edit]

"2007 - 300 terabit hard drives are said to come in 2010.[6]" was added to the chronology; however a search of the Seagate web site reveals no such announcement. Furthermore, the author of the underlying article has no apparent qualifications for his announcement nor does he cite his source. I have asked for a clarification and assuming I don't get one, will remove this citation in about a week. Any objections? Tom94022 20:00, 9 March 2007 (UTC)
After lack of objection and lack of attribution by source I deleted this as fictitious, see Tom94022 16:06, 19 March 2007 (UTC)

How are 2.5-inch hdd powered?[edit]

Do they use a dedicated power source like 3.5-inch hdd, or is the power supplied through the ide connection? Terranitup 18:33, 3 May 2007 (UTC)

It is a hybrid 44 pin connector[1] consisting of the 40 pin IDE connector plus 4 power pins, for example [Toshiba MK1233GAS]. The earliest 2.5" drives had a separate connector but it was a pin header type connector and not the washing machine connectors like the 3.5" and earlier drives. Tom94022 17:11, 4 May 2007 (UTC)

3.5" disks[edit]

When did these go into production? I have a 3.5" WD Caviar from 1992 (80MB!!!), and from experience they seem to be pretty commonplace in desktops by around then. --Zilog Jones 17:50, 19 June 2007 (UTC)

The first 3.5" HDD was the Rodime RO350 family which went into production in 1983; it was not very successful. The first really successful 3.5" HDD was the Conner CP340 family which went into production in 1987Tom94022 21:14, 20 June 2007 (UTC)

drive limitations[edit]

In the PC era section, there should be mention of the drive size limits, unless this is in another article? already.

  • 32MB FAT-12 limit / 128MB 4 entry Partition Table
  • 512MB CHS/DOS limit
  • 2GB 16bit limit
  • 8GB CHS/LBA mapping limit

etc... 21:54, 21 June 2007 (UTC)

See This should be integrated into the article. 22:02, 3 September 2007 (UTC)

Magnetic drums[edit]

What's this! Not a single word about the predecessor of the hard disk drive, the magnetic drum? It would appear from this article that IBM alone is to be credited for inventing the hard disk. As far as I can see, back in 1948 the foundations were laid by researchers at the Manchester university. - Onno Zweers 19:01, 27 June 2007 (UTC)

Since they coexisted for a long time, it is not clear that Magnetic drums are any more relevant than Tape Drives, Wire recorders or for that matter the discovery of magnetism, all of which already have Wiki pages. Therefore I suggest no addition is necessary. I do suggest u add yr link to the Drum memory page, it was interesting reading.
Tom94022 18:24, 28 June 2007 (UTC)


I reverted the page because it was not clear that the cites were in fact the first at a particular capacity AND because it is not clear that a first of any capacity is, per se, worthy of listing in this article. HDD density has been increasing annually at a rate generally exceeding 25%per year for over 50 years so that at least every year or so there is a new "first" in capacity per disk drive. This is then complicated by the differing sizes in disk diameter and differing number of disks in a stack, so that a first in capacity per drive may be an also run in areal density (e.g. the Hitachi 1 TByte). On the whole, I think we are better off in not producing a long list of "firsts" that are really just evolutionary but should only cite those that are associated with some revolutionary technology. Tom94022 18:48, 14 August 2007 (UTC)

I agree that in the long run the list needs to be better structured. But I thought some actual numbers would make sense and help give a feeling of the last 10 years of development, not just the last 2. I also agree that the information from manufacturers may be non neutral sales talk, but again, the idea was to give an overview picture here... If you have better sources, please add them. I'm sure there are more people that would like to see more actual capacities, the heading was after all known as "Timeline of capacity and....". It would be more helpful if you corrected any obvious errors and perhaps integrated this discussion into the article instead of just deleting additions that you don't feel fit in. RustyCale 20:30, 14 August 2007 (UTC)
Please see [HDD Roadmap], by Ed Growchowski, ex HGST. He does a pretty good job of showing IBM's product progress since the mid-1990's; every year or so there is a new higher capacity 3.5" HDD. His chart is likely biased towards IBM and may leave out the competitive products. His chart also leaves out the first 40 years of disk drive history. Typically, the highest capacity per box has been with the larger form factor until that form factor becomes obsolete. The first > 1 GByte drive was likely the IBM 14" 3380 E series circa 1985; this was then followed by 10.5" (maybe Fujitsu Eagle 1988), an 8" (unknown model, date), 5.25" (maybe Maxtor Panther 1 ESDI, circa 1989), 3.5" (maybe Seagate Wren 7, 1989), a 2.5" (unknown model, date), a 1.8" (unknown model, date), etc. So where do you start and end? The best source for the data are the Disk/Trend reports thru 1999 and then one of the other reporting servics, e.g. IDC, but it is a major data reduction task to figure out which was first at a capacity AND then so what - many times, the highest capacity per box is achieved by stuffing more disks into a form factor and not advancing technology. With regard to the 4 "firsts" I reverted:
1997 First 8 GB hard drive (IBM) - In 1996 Seagate shipped the Elite 23, a 23G 5.25" HDD and the Barracuda 8, a 9.1G 3.5" HDD. Not to say these were first, but just that the cite is wrong.
2001 - First 120 GB hard drive - This maybe correct but it needs attribution
The remaining 2 appeared not to be first, but instead first with qualification (e.g., "high performance desktop").
I think I will change the title of the section to just timeline :-) Tom94022 22:33, 14 August 2007 (UTC)

Winchester as an euphanism for hard disk drives[edit]

Yr edit to the HDD history page is incorrect in calling the use of Winchester "unsourced nonsense." The statement is not sourced but it is not nonsense. I refer you, for example, to "Winchester drives to be focus of attention over next two years," J Trifari, MiniMicro Systems, Februrary 1982, p 135-143, or the MiniMicro February 1981 edition which has eight articles regarding HDD's using "Winchester" generically and a cover that states, "Disk Drives: Diversification in Winchesters, Maturity in Floppies ...". A casual review on the technical and business literature of the early 1980's will find many instances of the use of Winchester drive as a generic for what we today most commonly call hard disk drive. Why it dropped from use in the late 1980's is an interesting question, but the statement is not nonsense. However, I don't think the statement adds much to the article so I didn't undo your reversion but I thought u might like to know of its factual basis. Tom94022 (talk) 05:13, 19 November 2007 (UTC)

Thanks for the references. Maybe nonsense was too strong a word, but I think we have be very careful with such statements, since people who were not around at the time may take them as gospel. The sentence I removed was "During the 1980s, the term "Winchester" became a common description for all hard disk drives, though generally falling out of use during the 1990s." That's not true. The term Winchester was used to distinguish disk drives where the heads and actuators were in a sealed assembly along with the platters. This was a novel notion at the time as removable platter hard drives, patterned after the IBM 1311, predominated. As this design came to be universal, there was no need for Winchester and it dropped out of use. --agr (talk) 16:02, 19 November 2007 (UTC)
IMO "sealed" is not a distinguishing characteristic. There were cartridge "Winchester" disk drives such as the SyQuest SQ306, DMA Systems MicroMagnum5, etc. There was even an ANSI standard cartridge using "Winchester" technology. Nor do I believe it to be true in the early 1980's that there were any drives announced using the older technology exemplified by 1311 descendants such as CDC's SMD. Finally, by the early 1980's Winchester was being used to describe drives with technology beyond Winchester such as Watrous flexures, smaller sliders, two rail sliders, etc. So I suggest in the early 1980's Winchester was universally used to describe any disk drive having low mass, low load heads on lubricated media, that is, all disk drives then being announced. My guess is the hard disk drive then came into use with the growth of PC's as a way of distinguishing them from the more universal flopppy disk drive. Tom94022 (talk) 17:39, 19 November 2007 (UTC)
I agree that Winchester describes a set of disk technologies. We can put aside the question of exactly what those technologies were. The term Winchester drive refers to a disk drive the embodies those technologies. It was mainly used to distinguish those disk drives from earlier, removable pack technologies. It wasn't a synonym for anything. Ultimately Winchester technology completely replaced the removable pack technology. Maybe that transition was over by 1980 as you say; I'd put it a couple of years later. I also agree that the term hard drive was introduced to distinguish them from floppy drives. I just did a search of Google Groups usenet archive. There is just one message referring to "hard drive" in 1983. Afterwards it becomes common. Prior to that the term used is simply disk drive. If anything, hard drive is a later synonym for Winchester disk drive.--agr (talk) 23:20, 19 November 2007 (UTC)
According to the 1984 Disk/Trend report (the earliest I have) 1983 unit shipments were 136.8 k removable media and 1,347.7 k "Fixed Disk Drives." Many, perhaps half, of those removable media products were "Winchester." FWIW, I did a Dialog search on Winchester from 1980-1985 and got 44 valid hits, in the early years, Winchester is in the articles title without qualification; however in the latter years the article titles use Rigid or Hard. My MiniMicro citations above are similar examples. In all of these cases, people are using the term Winchester as a synonym for what we now call Hard Disk Drive. I don't think that the fact that there were less than 10% obsolescent non-Winchester's around changes that Tom94022 (talk) 18:16, 20 November 2007 (UTC)
I don't think there is much disagreement here. From their inception through the early 1980s, storage devices with rigid, spinning platters were simply known as "disk drives." Wincheseter drives were a type of disk drive, based on technology introduced by IBM in the late 70s. That technology came to dominate the industry by 1983 or so. The term "hard disk drive" appears about 1984 in the personal computer market and is a reaction to "floppy disk drive" which is what the public was used to seeing. So, if anything, "hard drive" is a layer synonym for Winchester drive. --agr (talk) 15:35, 21 November 2007 (UTC)
The way I recall it, the term Winchester quickly fell out of fashion among early PC users because if you said that your new computer had a Winchester, you ran the risk of being asked "What's a Winchester?" and having to respond "well, uh, I don't really know, I guess it's just some fancy kind of disk drive". I knew plenty of people who could define RTL or ECL, but most of us were pretty vague on Winchester. Generally, we didn't know if it was a brand, a technology, an interface, a device class, or just a Shugart/IBM marketing conceit. Among the PC crowd I don't think Winchester was ever a conceptual synonym for anything. At best people were aping the term with no comprehension, perhaps from some early IBM PC marketing brochure. Within the crowd, the lingo tended to be "I just picked up a new five-and-a-quarter" or "dude, you need to junk that old full-height". While Byte would write articles about "new hard drive technologies" the actual devices were mostly referenced by form-factor, capacity, or interface (SCSI/ESDI/ATA). Sometimes it was more generic such as "Sounds like your hard drive is having a head crash" or more pompous "My new $5000 machine has a 10MB Winchester." If anything, Winchester was a functional synonym for unaffordable for as long as it persisted. MaxEnt (talk) 04:38, 27 November 2007 (UTC)
Apparently, the term is not as dead as I presumed. From MySQL Database Sensei Brian 'Krow' Aker "New media like this is all about caching. Winchester drives were brought in to speed up the data transfer for hot data. They acted as a caching layer between tape and main memory. Solid state drives will do the same for databases." Perhaps Winchester is making a comeback as an antonym for solid state. MaxEnt (talk) 20:34, 28 November 2007 (UTC)

Discussion at Wikipedia:External links/Noticeboard[edit]

Discussion was archived at Wikipedia:External links/Noticeboard/Archive 3#History of hard disk drives - 1950s through 1990sWbm1058 (talk) 13:58, 15 October 2012 (UTC)

Jim Porter, Disk/Trend, and the web page "Five decades of disk drive industry firsts"[edit]

  • James N. Porter died March 2, 2012. He was the first full time digital storage analyst and founded Disk/Trend in 1977, publisher of market studies of the disk drive and data storage industries, per Tom Coughlin, A Silent Voice: James Porter, Dean of Storage Analysts Dies, Forbes, 3/06/2012.
  • Perhaps the last conference that he was booked at was Storage Visions 2012 Conference, Jan. 8–9, 2012.
  • His website has gone, but thanks to, which last recorded a snapshot on July 26, 2011, we can still link to it. In my opinion, this is a reliable tertiary source, which ideally should be supported by additional references to contemporary news items reporting each industry first.

External links[edit]

Wbm1058 (talk) 18:34, 15 October 2012 (UTC)

Here's a similar hard disk list last edited by Tom94022 (User:Tom94022?) – Wbm1058 (talk) 20:53, 16 October 2012 (UTC)


I'll just leave this here... (talk) 13:04, 29 June 2010 (UTC)

HDDs Replacing Drums[edit]

At the time the HDD was invented, 1956, drums were used as main memory and not as storage. The IBM 305 RAMAC system used a drum for main memory and the IBM 350 RAMAC drive for storage. It is only later that as drums got displaced by core for main memory that some drums were used as storage but they were never able to establish more than a niche market. Prior to the invention of the HDD the primary storage device was the tape drive and I know of no system that used a drum for storage - memory yes, storage no. And I know of no system that ever used an HDD for memory. Absent any evidence to support Wtshymanski's contention that HDDs replaced drums, I am again removing this inaccurate statement. If there is any evidence to support this contention it should be discussed here and not by WP.EW Tom94022 (talk) 21:59, 28 August 2010 (UTC)

Drums are extinct, disks still exist. And any modern computer uses part of the very same disk used for storage as part of memory. What misunderstanding are you trying to prevent here? --Wtshymanski (talk) 14:09, 30 August 2010 (UTC)
Williams tubes are also extinct, what does extinction have to do with the fact that HDDs did not replace drums in any meaningful sense - drums were used for internal memory and were replaced by core. Likewise, while we are all aware of virtual memory, IMO it is TMI so as to be misleading to state that HDDs are "used both for file storage and memory." I will now flag the section added to see what other editors think. Tom94022 (talk) 18:06, 30 August 2010 (UTC)
So, how big is the swap file on your computer right now? I don't understand what difference you are tryign to preserve. --Wtshymanski (talk) 18:45, 30 August 2010 (UTC)
Actually my PC swap file is never used because memory is essentially free for any reasonable application. Likewise swap files on servers is a thing of the past - ever heard of the 5 second rule? But what does that have to do with the history of HDDs.
Your recent change is factual but a non-sequitor. You really should read Crichlow's 1973 study, "Proposal - Random Access File" to see the number of alternatives IBM considered before inventing the disk drive. Drums were just one of the many alternatives rejected in favor of their invention - the disk drive. I'm eliminating your addition, a non-sequitor, should be eliminated since it really mis-states the history and replacing it with a summary of the Critchlow study. Tom94022 (talk) 20:14, 30 August 2010 (UTC)
You do your Web surfing on a file server? How delightful. --Wtshymanski (talk) 20:21, 30 August 2010 (UTC)
And now we're actually concealing the reason a disk is cheaper than a drum. How nice. --Wtshymanski (talk) 20:36, 30 August 2010 (UTC)
Could we perhaps tell the unwary reader *WHY* IBM thought a disk was a preferred configuration, or are we going to use the usual Wiki copout and tell him to Google for it? --Wtshymanski (talk) 20:52, 30 August 2010 (UTC)

"Key Developments": Radial Armature Development[edit]

Been so long, the terminology is slipping from me, so, if I'm using the wrong terms anywhere, by all means, please apply the correct ones. I was a software guy, not a hardware one.
As I recall the transition of hard drives from using the early style "slider" (directly in and out on a line through the center of the spin axis) of the head actuator mechanism to the more modern "radial" armatures (in which the head moves on an arc across the disc surface roughly perpendicular to the spinning drive) was a major development. I seem to recall that this mechanism could be controlled much more accurately, allowing a substantial boost in track density, and thus a notable increase in drive capacity. I'd suggest this development is worth mentioning in the timeline of key events.
--OBloodyHell (talk) 18:22, 5 January 2011 (UTC)

It is called Rotary Actuator and is indeed worthy of mention, the first being probably the hydraulically actuated Bryant 320 circa 1960. Bryant's follow-on the model 4000 was definitely hydraulic. The first electronic rotary actuators shipped in 1975, they were the StorageTek Superdisk and the IBM 62GV (Gulliver), this is taken from IBM 62GV / STC 8800 Super Disk which I moderate. FWIW, this and many other significant technologies and products were referenced by a link in the History of hard disk drives Timeline section to Porter's Five decades of disk drive industry firsts but the Wiki thought police took out the reference on the theory that somehow the section would be better without the link. Beats me Tom94022 (talk) 20:12, 5 January 2011 (UTC)

Minicomputer Era[edit]

The article seems to jump from mainframes to PCs without discussion of the minicomputer era (late 70s to the early 90s or so). Very important for dic development with companies like DEC and HP dominating with the VAX series, HP3000/9000, etc. Any chance of us wedging this in-between? Mikebar (talk) 16:00, 27 June 2011 (UTC)

I think the sentence on SMD covers the dominant HDD of that era. Perhaps something about the earlier cartridge drives might add, but, of course, that started with IBM and the 2315. Tom94022 (talk) 19:46, 27 June 2011 (UTC)
I disagree. HP made significant contributions in this area with their 7920, 7925, 7933, 7935, and 7937 drives. I am inclined to state this article is very lopsided, going from the early IBM drives then focusing on PC drives when there is significant history between. Mikebar (talk) 01:37, 15 December 2011 (UTC)
You are entitled to your opinion but at this point it is not even WP:OR. Disk/Trend the recognized expert in the disk drive industry market lists no DEC or HP minicomputer drives in its Five Decades Of Industry Firsts. The Computer History Museum's more technical Main Timeline of (Hard Disk Drive) Significant Events and Products lists two DEC and two HP drives (none of the ones u list above). Between the two lists by my count there are 56 HDDs listed so I can find no evidence to support your statement that the HP models you list made any contribution whatsoever. This is a survey article which uses about 300 words to cover 20 to 25 years of history which means many fine products will not be listed. In my view and relying upon the two references cited herein, the next product I would add from the list of 56 would be the Diablo cartridge family which did dominate the low end of the minicomputer market in the early and middle 1970s. After that I might add the Maxtor family of the late 80s which killed the SMD. I don't think we should be adding anything to the text part of this article that has not been independently validated as significant as in the cited two lists. BTW in interest of full disclosure I am one member of the museum's Storage SIG and have edited or written some of its articles but the timeline is the consensus work of the group (about 10 members plus 20 observers). I know of but am not affiliated with Disk/Trend. Tom94022 (talk) 06:34, 15 December 2011 (UTC)

Article move??[edit]

Why was the article renamed? Mikebar (talk) 16:36, 30 October 2011 (UTC)

There is no justification and I am moving it back. No one used "hard-disk"!!!! Tom94022 (talk) 22:45, 30 October 2011 (UTC)

Lack of non-IBM coverage[edit]

Given that we also have an article on IBM drives alone, it's surprising to see how little coverage there is here for non-IBM work. Particularly non US work. IBM dominated in the early years, but through the '70s companies like DEC were just as important.

Although a dead end (as they couldn't use removable media), what about the giant platter drives? Some of these were around 4' wide. What about UK makers? Andy Dingley (talk) 09:04, 26 August 2016 (UTC)

First voice coil head actuator?[edit]

When did the voice coil actuator make its debut? How long did stepper motor driven heads hang on after? Bizzybody (talk) 11:16, 8 December 2016 (UTC)

A useful chart[edit]

How much $ per megabyte, when? More useful information in this chart. Bizzybody (talk) 11:20, 8 December 2016 (UTC)

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