The History of the Floppy and Hard Disk Drive

Way back in the day, before computer data recovery was ever a major concern, floppy disk drives were introduced as a read-only device for large IBM mainframes. They were very large, used 8 inch diskettes recorded on only one side, and had a storage capacity of less than 100 kilobytes. In 1973, they had a capacity of 250 kilobytes and became read/write capable. These disc drives became a model for many years to come.

Eventually, more data could fit on the discs and you could reliably record on both sides. In 1976, Shugart and Wang Laboratories cooperated on a new design for the floppy disk and drive. With a 65% reduction in size, the 5 1/4″ drive could feasibly be used in desktop computers and even portable computers. After a few years of improvement and development, they became the well known, double-sided, “double density” formatted capacity of about 1.2 megabytes that most of us were familiar with.

The 3.5 inch floppy drive and diskette was introduced by Sony in 1980. Although there were many other types, sizes and competitors, the industry settled on the 3.5 inch format which is now standardized and manufactured by many companies. Today’s standard 3.5 inch diskettes hold a formatted capacity of 1.44 megabytes. They still use the same basic technology of the second generation 8 inch drives.

The personal computer of course, was the reason designers had to reduce the size and cost of floppies. For the personal computer market, low cost and mass production were the orders of the day. The floppy disc became the standard method of exchanging data between personal computers and storing small amounts of data outside of the computer’s hard drive.

Today, CD’s, DVD’s, removable USB sticks, and portable hard drives have taken over in terms of data storage, transfer and exchange. Some computers don’t even have drives for floppy discs anymore. Plus, the fact that only small amounts of data could fit on a floppy also has played a role in their demise. Today, people exchange large amounts of data and need the means to do so. Hopefully, future means of data exchange will lessen the incidents of computer data recovery as well.

History of the Hard Disk Drive:

The following is a timeline of the hard disk drive’s history from 1956 to 2007. Different versions of this timeline exist. They are all generally accurate.

1956: IBM ships the first hard drive, the RAMAC 305, which holds 5MB of data at $ 10,000 a megabyte. It is as big as two refrigerators and uses 50 24-inch platters. (For the full story and interviews with key players, read “The Hard Drive Turns 50”)

1961: IBM invents heads for disk drives that “fly” on a cushion of air or on “air bearings.” This becomes the standard for all disk drives.

1963: IBM comes up with the first removable hard drive which has six 14-inch platters and holds 2.6MB. It is known as the model 1311.

1966: IBM introduces the first drive using a wound-coil ferrite recording head.

1970: Pertec Computer Corporation (PCC), formerly Peripheral Equipment Corporation (PEC) was founded. This was a computer company based in Chatsworth, California that manufactured disk and tape drives. It’s PERTEC disk interface was an industry standard for pre-winchester disk drives of 1970s.

1970: General Digital Corporation (renamed Western Digital Corp. in 1971) is founded in California.

1973: The first modern “Winchester” hard drive, which has a sealed assembly, lubricated spindles, and low-mass heads, is announced by IBM. It is known as the Model 3340.

1975: : Pertec Computer Corporation starts manufacturing the D3000 series 14 front- and top-loading disk drives with capacities of 5mb, 10mb and 20mb.

1979: Al Shugart the founder of Shugat Associates founds disk-drive manufacturer Seagate Technology with a group of engineers.

1979: Seagate introduces the ST-506 drive and interface, which is then used in all early microcomputer implementations. The ST506 had a capacity of 5mb.

1980: IBM introduces the first gigabyte hard drive. It is the size of a refrigerator, weighs about 550 pounds, and costs $ 40,000.

1981: Shugart Associates joins NCR to develop an intelligent disk drive interface called the Shugart Associates Systems Interface (SASI), a predecessor to SCSI (Small Computer System Interface).

1982: Western Digital announces the first single-chip Winchester hard drive controller (WD1010) which helps it to become the dominate hard drive controller manufacturer 2 years later.

1983: Rodime releases the first 3.5-inch hard drive; the RO352 includes two platters and stores 10MB.

1984: Western Digital makes the first Winchester hard drive controller card for the IBM PC/AT–and sets an industry standard.

1985: Control Data, Compaq Computer, and Western Digital collaborate to develop the 40-pin IDE interface. IDE stands for Intelligent Drive Electronics, more commonly known as Integrated Drive Electronics.

1985: Western Digital produces the first ESDI (Enhanced Small Device Interface) controller board, which allows larger capacity and faster hard drives to be used in PCs.

1986: The official SCSI spec is released; Apple Computer’s Mac Plus is one of the first computers to use it.

1988: Connor introduces the first 1-inch-high 3.5-inch hard drive, which is still the common form factor. Before this, hard drives were either full height or half-height.

1988: Western Digital buys the disk-drive assets of Tandon Corporation with an eye to manufacturing IDE drives.

1990: Western Digital introduces its first 3.5-inch Caviar IDE hard drive.

1991: IBM introduces the 0663 Corsair, the first disk drive with thin film magnetoresistive (MR) heads. It has eight 3.5-inch platters and stores 1GB. (The MR head was first introduced on an IBM tape drive in 1984.)

1991: Integral Peripherals’ 1820 Mustang uses one 1.8-inch platter to store 21MB.

1992: Seagate is first to market with a 7200-revolutions-per-minute hard drive, the 2.1GB Barracuda.

1994: Western Digital develops Enhanced IDE, an improved hard drive interface that breaks the 528MB-throughput barrier. EIDE also allows for attachment of optical and tape drives.

1996: IBM stores 1 billion bits per square inch on a platter.

1996: Seagate introduces its Cheetah family, the first 10,000-rpm hard drives.

1997: IBM introduces the first drive using giant magneto resistive (GMR) heads, the 16.8GB Deskstar 16GP Titan, which stores 16.8GB on five 3.5-inch platters.

1998: IBM announces its Microdrive , the smallest hard drive to date. It fits 340MB on a single 1-inch platter.

2000: Maxtor buys competitor Quantum’s hard drive business. At the time, Quantum is the number-two drive maker, behind Seagate; this acquisition makes Maxtor the world’s largest hard drive manufacturer.

2000: Seagate produces the first 15,000-rpm hard drive, the Cheetah X15.

2002: Seagate scores another first with the Barracuda ATA V Serial ATA hard drive.

2002: Among its many 2002 technology accomplishments, Seagate successfully demos Heat-Assisted Magnetic Recording. HAMR records magnetically using laser-thermal assistance and ultimately aims to increase areal density by more than 100 times over 2002 levels.

2003: IBM sells its Data Storage Division to Hitachi, ending its involvement in developing and marketing disk drive technology.

2003: Western Digital introduces the first 10,000-rpm SATA hard drive, the 37GB Raptor, which is designed for the enterprise, but which gamers quickly learn is a hot desktop performer in dual-drive RAID setups.

2004: The first 0.85-inch hard drive, Toshiba’s MK2001MTN, debuts. It stores 2GB on a single platter.

2005: Toshiba introduces its MK4007 GAL, which stores 40GB on one 1.8-inch platter, fielding the first hard drive using perpendicular magnetic recording.

2005: Seagate announces the $ 1.9 billion acquisition of rival HDD firm Maxtor.

2006: Seagate’s Momentus 5400.3 notebook hard drive is the first 2.5-inch model to use perpendicular magnetic recording, which boosts its capacity up to 160GB.

2006: Seagate releases a 750GB hard disk, the first 3.5″ consumer hard disk to utilize perpendicular recording.

2006: Western Digital launches its 10,000-rpm Raptor X SATA hard drive, boosting its capacity to 150GB and placing a flashy transparent window that allows specially designed computer cases to showcase its inner workings.

2006: Seagate announces a 1-inch hard drive that holds 12GB. The drives are slated to ship in the third quarter of 2006.

2006: Alan Shugart, co-founder of Seagate Technology, dies at the age of 76, several weeks after undergoing open-heart surgery.

2007: In January of 2007 Seagate announced the world’s first real 1TB hard disk drive.