Computer Hard Drives Term Paper

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Computer Hard Drives

The globalization of computer technology offers a vast number of remarkable tools, devices, applications, and advanced equipments that brings comfort in our daily work and activities. New features, designs, and capabilities of various computer peripherals and hardware are continuously being developed and brought out to market for better performance of the current technology. One very important part of a computer that experiences the trend of up-to-date improvement is the Hard Drive.

This paper aims to provide information on the evolution of computer hard drives. Included in this paper is the history of hard drive, from the time it was developed as computer hardware up to the continuous production of new and upgraded performance of data storage mediums. The various types of this technology, its changing features, and the companies who provide us with this dependable hardware are also discussed in this paper.


Of the diverse parts of a computer, the hard drive perhaps is the most fast changing component that experiences constant improvement and upgrade. Only a few years back, the capacity of a hard drive as data storage amounts to some megabytes of data or sometimes one gigabyte at the most. Before, this amount of space was considered large enough to completely fill with data by a computer user. It was believed that there is not enough need to fill such large amount of hard disk space. However, as new applications and software are being developed, the need for larger data storage became necessary in order to accommodate the processing requirements of new software. Production of higher capacity hard drives, hence, comes along with the movement of new developed software to meet system requirements and data needs.

Storage technology keeps us in the pace of storing, accessing, and managing fast multiplying tons of data that dramatically grows everyday. The ability to access data through storage technology in the rapid pace of computer development keeps the vast world of information in our fingertips.

During the past few years, the demand for a higher capacity of hard drives grows because of the tremendous increase of data made available to computer users. Areas such as the Internet, information database used in business, and networking, triggered the demand for a larger space of storage needed for access and retrieval of a vast range of data.

The development of new technologies caused the production of better storage mediums. The rise of consumer applications that require greater capacity drives manufacturers to release better and more satisfactory hard disk products. In turn, due to a constant production and release of improved storage mediums, the market cost of hard drives dropped while the storage capacity increases.

The First Hard Disk Drive

Even before the introduction of the first commercial computer, storage of data already exists and was already a necessity. In 1800's, the medium used for data storage was the punch cards. In 1940s, vacuum tubes were used, then came the tape drives in 1950s that replaced the use of punch cards. Later, magnetic drums were invented.

Magnetic drums storage was built in 1950 by the Engineering Research Associates of Minneapolis for the U.S. Navy, the ERA 110.

The first magnetic hard drive, the IBM 305 RAMAC (Random Access Method of Accounting and Control, was introduced by IBM in 1956. It is a storage that consists of 50 24-inch diameter disks to store a capacity of 5MB amount of data. It has an areal density of about 2000 bits per square inch. Today's disk drives measures a density of billions of bits per square inch.

Evolution of Hard Disk Drive

The introduction of IBM 305 RAMAC became a success in the industry of data storage. It had been useful specifically to the tasks of storing information in a variety of business fields and industries.

The succeeding years after the introduction of the first hard drive witnessed the improvement of storage technology in terms of capacity and performance. In 1961, IBM introduced the first disk drive with air bearing heads. It was followed by the invention of removable disk pack in 1962, also by IBM. A removable disk was already popular during the 1960s and 1970s and has been in the computing industry for decades now.

In 1973, IBM introduced the 3340 Winchester hard disk drive, the father and predecessor of the modern hard drives that we have today. It was one of IBM's greatest breakthroughs. 3340 was the first disk drive to use low-mass heads, lubricated disks, and a sealed assembly[1]. It had 2 separate spindles, one permanent and one removable, each with a 30MB capacity. This is the reason why it was referred to as "30-30." It was named "Winchester" because of the famous "30-30" Winchester Rifle. IBM 3340 was so popular that time that Winchester became the generic name of fixed disks.

In 1979, the film heads of hard drives were improved. IBM released its model 3370 with thin film heads. Also, in the same year, the size of platters was reduced from 14" into just a mere 8." IBM's model 3310 features this improvement, making it the standard size of disk platters for over a decade.

During the 1960's, a handful of engineers at left IBM and started Information Storage Systems (ISS) manufacturing storage products. These engineers were known at the IBM as the "Dirty Dozen." One of them was Al Shugart. He left IBM to join Memorex, but soon after, he left Memorex and formed Shugart Associates whose major product is the 5.25 floppy drive. By 1979, Shugart founded Seagate Technology that, in 1980, manufactured the first hard drive that uses the 5.25" factor in personal computers - the Seagate ST-506.

ST-506 is a 5.25" hard disk drive that stores 5MB of data space, the equivalent of 2500 pages of double-spaced information. Its height is about twice as of the current 5.25" hard drives we have today. IBM, however, outmoded Seagate's ST-506 with its own ST-412 having a 10MB of disk space with the same form factor. It then became the widely used hard disk for IBM PC/XT and for PC and PC-Compatibles.

In 1983, Rodime introduced the first 3.5" form factor disk drive, the RO352, which was recognized as one of the most important standards in the industry of hard drives. By 1985, Hardcard, the first expansion card disk drive, was introduced by Quantum. It is a hard disk built for PCs that originally has no hard drive. Hardcard has a capacity of 10.5MB and is mounted on an ISA expansion card.

In 1986, Conner Peripherals introduced the first voice coil actuator disk drive, the CP340. Since then, Conner Peripherals had been working on the improvement of hard disk drives and in 1988, they introduced another development in its industry. It was the first "low-profile" 3.5" disk drive, the CP3022, which has a height of 1" (the reason why it is called "low-profile") and has been the standard height of modern 3.5" drives. In the same year, the first 2.5" form factor disk drive was introduced by PrairieTek that later became the standard size for portable computing.

The PC-Card disk drives that we have today are descendants of the first 1.8" form factor disk drives that was released by Integral Peripherals' 1820 in 1991. A year after, in 1992, Hewlett Packard's C3013A is the first 1.3" form factor disk drive.

The read and write speed performance of a hard disk drive is very important in terms of a hard disk's reliability and efficiency. In 1997, the 7200 RPM speed of a hard disk was introduced by Seagate Technology. Currently, 7200 RPM is still the fastest hard drive speed among average computer user while the amount of data space has now reached to 300GB, about 61000 times larger in capacity than the first hard disk of IBM.

Hard Drives…[continue]

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