Two decades later..

The year is 1992 and the hard drive in your 386DX computer case may well have been a Western Digital Caviar 1170. That’s a whole 170mb less the space after formatting and what was taken up by Windows 3.1. It’s a pity that we had nothing to fill them.

The photos below show a pair of 3.5” mechanical hard drives. The view is of the top cover, not the usual interior view of platters, magnets and heads which is why they look rather dull. The one on the left is the 170mb WD IDE drive, and the one on the right is the 4Tb WD SATA drive which will fit in exactly the same space as its predecessor. Amazing, yes? Technology has come a long way.

You would be hard pressed to save two 5 minute music videos on the older of the two, and yet with all of the content available on the Internet and the move to digital cameras, some users are seeing the drive on the right fill up now.

Caviar 170


Removable drives have come a long way too. The 3.5” floppy disk on the left which is not even remotely floppy, replaced the 5.25” diskette which was most decidedly floppy. CDs and DVDs followed quite quickly, but even they were outpaced by the odd looking device on the right. This is what a flash drive looks like when you strip away the casing, and is NOT shown to the same scale as the floppy diskette

Storage space on the floppy was 1.44mb and can be as much as 64gb on the flash drive. The drive shown is actually a Sandisk 4gb unit, but just like the mechanical drives above, size per Mb is misleading..

floppy disk



In between, IBM produced a 2.88 Mb diskette drive, and Iomega produced their own ‘Zip’ drives which would handle a 100 MB and subsequently 250 Mb diskette. Access was still quite slow though.

CDs would hold almost 700 Mb, DVDs would almost hold 4.7 Gb, and were six times faster than a floppy diskette.

So what is next?

Well, we have solid state drives already. Flash drives are still very much in use, and SSD drives are taking up the slack re fixed drives. SSDs are the same size as  a mechanical laptop drive, 2.5” mini versions of the drives at the top of this post.

Solid state drives have no moving parts, so access to data on them is way faster than heads which are continually flicking across spinning platters. They haven’t achieved the amount of storage space set by the mechanical drives, but they are getting there slowly. Reliability is an issue though. When they work, they work well, but where a mechanical drive shows signs of eventual failure by slowing down, solid state drives fail in the same way as a ‘quick blow’ fuse does. Now you see it, now you don’t..

And twenty years on?

I have a feeling that the hard drive will still be alive and well, despite the ‘cloud’, and it will probably be a 2.5” laptop style drive.. Smile

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