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5MB to 1TB in 50 Years

by Hu Yoshida on Aug 16, 2006

Bill Healy, senior vice president of product strategy and marketing at Hitachi Global Storage Technologies was recently interviewed on C/NET. In this interview, Bill predicted that we would see 1TB Desktop hard drives in 2006. This year also marks the 50th anniversary of the first disk drive which was introduced by IBM in 1956.

The first hard disk drive was the IBM 350 which was used in the RAMAC 305 system. This system held 5 MB on fifty 24 inch platters. The access arm was driven by hydraulics. When I started work for the IBM Storage Division, back in the 70′s, Bill Donnelly, who was on the original RAMAC team told me how they applied the magnetic coating on the first disks. He claimed they would pour the brown magnetic slurry from a Dixie cup on to the spinning platters. This would leave a very uniform coating on the disk but also left a brown streak across the waist of their lab coats from the excess slurry. That’s how they could tell which engineers were working on the 305.

I don’t know how true that story is. Maybe some of the engineers who were there can drop me a note.

At any rate, the past 50 years has seen a tremendous increase in data storage capacity and capability thanks to the engineering achievements of the hard disk engineers and researchers in so many companies. In the coming month, Hitachi Global Storage Technologies and IBM will be commerating the Hard Drive Golden Anniversary. Congratulations to all the engineers, researchers, and business visionaries in the hard drive industry that contributed to this achievement.

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Comments (4 )

Jeremiah Owyang on 17 Aug 2006 at 9:12 am


Thanks for sharing your history and insight, for younger folks like myself, we take for granted how storage is so widely available to us.

Out of curiosity, I found some additional information on Wikipedia on the 305

Mairead Burke on 18 Aug 2006 at 11:56 am

That’s a great story Hu. I agree with Jeremiah, I know I take storage for granted in my everyday life. I can’t even imagine where we’ll be in another 50 years!

Jeremiah Owyang on 18 Aug 2006 at 2:14 pm


I’m going to take a guess at what storage will look like in the next 5-10 years.

I’m guessing that things will continue to get smaller and cheaper. Then followed by a shift to an online ‘storage cloud’ an amorphous and distributed storage that many interfaces can access: browsers, mobile phones, satellite, TVs, etc.

Common protocols will be developed to access this data, and ‘like’ content will be centralized to reduce versioning. Tools to make the content easily accessible (mirrors, file reduction, or rich clients) will help.

Of course, I’m a bit biased being a web geek, love to hear what Hu thinks.

50 years? something organic (living tissue) or light based?

Hubert Yoshida on 31 Aug 2006 at 4:45 pm

When I was a student at Berkley, I worked as a lab assistant in the High Energy Physics lab doing data reduction using IBM 704 computers where the input was through punched cards and mag tape. Vietnam came along and I was in the military for 5 years. When I came out I went to interview for a job at IBM based on my experience on the 704. The first thing they asked me about was DASD. I had to ask what that was since the last thing I remembered was mag tape. I felt like Rip Van Wrinkle.

In those quiet moments in my life when I look up into the star filled heavens, I often ponder the question that you posed ” what will storage be in 50 years”

I’d like to hear other ideas.

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