In college, around 1982, I was taking a graduate-level computer graphics software programming class, and we were using an expensive minicomputer that was considered advanced for its time (I don’t remember the brand or model though). The system had a large cabinet on the side for the hard disk system, and there were removable packs that had multiple large platters in them, about the size of an LP record. I recall that each pack had about a 5 MB capacity.
A few years later I purchased an original Macintosh, with the single internal floppy disk drive. Within a few minutes of setting it up at home, I realized that I’d need either a second floppy disk, or some sort of hard disk. Back then, Apple didn’t think users would need a hard disk, so didn’t offer one. But a company named IOmega had a product technology which was a hybrid of floppy and hard disk, called a Bernoulli Box. They had one which worked with the Mac, and the cartridges had a whopping 5 MB capacity. As a friend told me at the time, that is “way more than you’ll ever need.”
These memories came to mind after reading an interesting photo essay on CNET documenting major milestones in hard disk technology.
Compare the first entry against the ninth:
The IBM System 305, the world’s first hard drive, debuted in 1956 and relied on the random access method of accounting and control (RAMAC) to store data. This is a side view. The entire device required 50 24-inch diameter platters coated with iron oxide paint mounted on a rotating spindle. It held 5MB, or about 1/100th of the amount in flash cards for cameras today.
The microdrives from Hitachi, seen here, contain platters that measure 1-inch across, while Toshiba has shrunk this to 0.85 inches. But neither company says it has plans to shrink platters further. Instead, they will work on reliability and increasing density through technologies such as perpendicular recording.
One inch in diameter, up to 60 GB. Absolutely incredible.