From a floppy disk to HDD and SSD / SurprizingFacts

On one processor, computers would not go far, as on one RAM or tape drives. Several companies were at the source of modern types of drives – HDD and SSD, which survived flexible magnetic disks and punch cards. Today we will talk about the history of Seagate, which introduced in 1980 the first hard disk with a capacity of 5 megabytes.


From the History of Storage Devices

In the 1920s-1950s punch cards and punched tapes were used as a way of storing and transmitting information for computers. They came to the computer industry from looms. With the help of perforation, the machines made a certain amount of lowering and lifting the threads to display the pattern on the fabric. The speed of working with this medium was not high, it took a lot of time to perforate the data deduced in the calculation process and to insert new punched cards into the machine for further calculations. The inventors at that time were working on relatively new ways of entering and storing data – over magnetic tapes and wires.

The method of magnetic recording was patented in 1898 by the Danish physicist and engineer Valdemar Poulsen. As a carrier, he used not a tape, but a wire. From the amplifier the signal was fed to the recording head, along which the wire moved at a constant speed and was magnetized according to the signal. In 1927, the German engineer Fritz Pfleimer sprayed iron oxide powder onto thin paper and patented the method, but the patent was canceled because of an invention of thirty years ago. Both of these ideas were used by AEG, which in 1935 presented "Magnetofon-K1" on the magnetic tape produced by the chemical concern BASF.


In 1950, the National Bureau of Standards of the United States built the computer SEAC. In it, metal wires were used as storage rings in cassettes.

Cassette with magnetic wire for the computer SEAC

In 1951 for the first time a magnetic tape was used in the computer – in UNIVAC. The computer was built for the needs of the Air Force and the topographic service of the US Army. The storage medium UNISERVO with tapes of nickel-plated bronze with a width of 13 millimeters and a length of up to 450 meters was used as a carrier. One tape contained 1,440,000 six-bit characters.

UNISERVO tape drives for UNIVAC

Magnetic tape in household computers in the 1970s was used in the form of cassettes. The programs were reproduced either with the help of special storage devices or with the help of usual home audio tape recorders. Magnetic tapes are still used – for example, they store the results of the work of the Large Hadron Collider in CERN, NASA and some large corporations with huge archives are working with them. They make backups when you need to store large amounts of data.

The advantage of this storage method is its price. IBM believes that up to 80% of corporate data can be written to the tape. But for a low price you have to pay low speed – access is carried out sequentially, so you will have to wait from several tens of seconds to a minute to get the desired file.

The problem of access speed in the 1960s was solved by Alan Shugart's team at IBM. Instead of tape engineers proposed a flexible magnetic disk with a casing. In 1971, IBM introduced the first 8-inch floppy disk with 80 kilobytes and a floppy drive.

The computer operator uses an 8-inch floppy disk

Founding of Seagate Technology

After leaving IBM, Alan Shugart continued to work with floppy disks. In 1973, he founded the Shugart Associates with money from investors, who soon introduced a 5, 25-inch mini-diskette as a replacement for the cumbersome 8-inch older brother. In September 1976, Shugart Associates offered the drive for $ 390 and ten floppy disks for $ 45. In 1977, the company bought Xerox, and in 1986 sold the business to the Narlinger Group.

The company developed the SCSI (Small Computer System Interface) interface, which was originally unofficially called the Shugart Associates System Interface.

It is symbolic that in Computerworld's 1976 edition, a note on the funeral of IBM punch cards and on the launch of sales of mini-floppy drives from Shugart Associates fit on one page

Computerworld, 1976

5 1/4 inch floppy disk drive Shugart SA400

] In 1979, Alan Shugart founded a new company – Shugart Technology. The purpose of the enterprise was to create a hard drive the size of a floppy drive for 5.25-inch floppy disks, but ten times faster and 15 times more capacity. The name could not be saved, since there already existed Shugart Associates, who worked in the same industry, created by the same person, but owned by another company. Therefore, Shugart Technology was renamed into Seagate Technology.

Race for capacity and speed

A year after the founding of Seagate Technology, the company introduced the ST 506 hard drive with a capacity of 5 megabytes. Sales were successful due to two factors: a number of companies took Seagate drives as the standard, and IBM chose this drive for their IBM PC / XT computer.

In 1981, a turning point occurred: the company released ST-412 – a hard disk that could hold 10 MB, in which the method RLL was used for recording. The method added to the disk up to 50% of the data transfer rate due to the denser data packing.


IBM introduced the PC / XT personal computer family on March 8, New models of PCs received 5.25-inch hard disks with a capacity of 10 or 20 megabytes.

In 1982, Seagate seized half of the market with sales of more than 40 million US dollars, and in 1984 became the largest manufacturer, selling hard disks On 344 million dollars. In 1986, the company produced 200,000 disks a month, in 1988 it shipped more than five million hard drives – including thanks to the successful sales of the Commodore 64 PC.


In the early 1980s, the first commercially successful portable computer appeared – the 11-kilogram Osborne- 1 with floppy drives. A little later, Compaq PORTABLE appeared with a similar design. Commodore SX-64 was the first laptop with a color display.

In the 1990s, the devices became much lighter and more compact, NEC UltraLite came out on the market, which for the first time received the designation "laptop", Apple PowerBook 100 and IBM ThinkPad. Compact models needed a suitable size storage device. In 1990, Seagate offered a 2.5-inch hard drive.

In 1992, the Barracuda disks appeared on the arena – the first HDD with a spindle rotating at a speed of 7200 rpm. Their capacity was 6.8 gigabytes – this was enough to store almost one and a half hundred music albums. Four years later, a new line came out – Cheetah with a spindle rotation speed of 10,000 rpm.

In 1993, when the World Wide Web consisted of 130 sites, Seagate became the first company to sell 50 million HDD. A couple of years in the United States, the number of households with one computer or more exceeded 36 million.

For 20 years, the capacity of hard drives has increased thousands of times. In 2005, there was a 500 gigabyte disk in my computer. By March 2012, Seagate was able to achieve a recording density of 1 terabit per square inch.

It was not without problems. In 2009, Barracuda 7200.11 found an error that led to the locking of the hard drive and the inability to access data without special equipment. Some users managed to recover data independently, with the help of information from friends and on forums.

In December 2014 Seagate began selling 8 terabyte hard drives. A single magnetic disk inside the HDD accommodated 1.33 TB of data with SMR technology, when recording is very close to each other, practically without the interval between tracks, as when recording with the usual method.


Solid State Drives and Hybrids

In 1978, the American StorageTek developed on the basis of RAM-memory the first semiconductor drive of the modern type. In 1982, such drives made Cray for supercomputers Cray-1 and Cray X-MP. These drives worked at a speed of 100 MBit / s and 320 MBit / s, respectively.

Disks on flash-memory appeared in 1995, they were presented by the Israeli company M-Systems. They were intended for the needs of the military and designed to work at high temperatures and strong vibrations, in which conventional technology broke down.

Only in 2006, Samsung announced the world's first laptop with NAND-memory instead of HDD. It was the Samsung Q30, a notebook with a 12.1-inch display and 32 gigabytes of SSD memory. It was sold only in the Korean market at a price of 3,700 dollars. At the same time, the processor was not the smartest – the 1.2 GHz Celeron M753. For comparison: ThinkPad X60 with 12-inch display resolution of 1400×1050, HDD for 80 gigabytes and Intel Core 2 Duo L7400 processor with a clock speed of 1.5 GHz cost in Russia $ 2,500. For 3,500 dollars it was possible to buy ASUS Lamborghini VX2 with Intel Core 2 Duo T7400 with a clock speed of 2.1 GHz and video card NVIDIA GeForce Go 7700 for 512 megabytes, at that time the most powerful among laptops.


Seagate connected to the production of SSD-drives in 2007, releasing a hybrid. A couple of years later, the first SSD from the company was released.

In 2016, ten years later, Seagate announced a 3.5-inch SSD with a capacity of 60 terabytes. Such devices are considered as a product for highly loaded scientific and / or meteorological systems that produce complex calculations.

In March 2016, Seagate introduced the fastest PCI Express SSD in the world with a bandwidth of 10 GB / s. The nearest competitor from Samsung showed the result only in 5,6 GB / s.


Mergers and Acquisitions

In 2006, Seagate, chosen by Forbes as the company of the year, absorbed its rival, Maxtor Corporation. Maxtor before the deal was the third largest manufacturer of hard drives in the world, it was founded in 1982 by three former employees of IBM. The deal amounted to $ 1.9 billion. Samsung HDD cost the company cheaper – in 1.4 billion dollars.

In 2011, Western Digital, Hitachi, Seagate, Samsung HDD and Toshiba experienced problems with the production of disks. Enterprises in Thailand, where they made some important parts for the discs, flooded. Then Seagate completed the purchase of Samsung HDD. Under the terms of the deal Seagate received all assets of the Samsung HDD unit, including most of the enterprises, technologies, patents and employees. Together with the division in Seagate, several senior managers of Samsung have moved.

A year later, Seagate acquired a 64.5% stake in the French company LaCie, with which it cooperated for a long time and produced some models of hard drives. The price of a controlling stake was estimated at 186 million dollars, which is quite a lot, even for large companies.

The largest HDD market players at the moment are Western Digital, Seagate and Toshiba. Shares remain virtually unchanged from 2012: WD has taken 43-44%, Seagate – 39-40%, and Toshiba has slowly grown from 13.35% in 2012 to 17% in 2016.


Projections for the future

In Wikipedia, a solid state drive was defined as a "computer non-mechanical storage device based on memory chips, which replaced the HDD." We already have an SSD in both 500 GB and 1 TB, but we continue to use hard disks hard.

It's worth remembering The history of "soft" (flexible) drives: CERN uses the magnetic tape to store the results of the work of the Large Hadron Collider, besides them they combine clouds with NASA magnetic tapes and the Discovery channel. A magnetic tape – a much more archaic, at first glance, a tool for data storage.

In 2015, corporations collected less than 30% of all information, and by 2025, according to IDC forecasts, they will create about 60% of the world's data. Over the past ten years, data was created mainly through entertainment content, now the volume of data will grow due to automation and inter-machine interaction. "Classic" hard drives will continue to prevail in the market due to the ratio of price, speed and quality. While the prices for HDD and SSD do not equal, it is unlikely to change.