Hard drives have been around for a long time and will probably continue to do so. They first landed on the storage scene in 1956 with the IBM 350 Disk File. It stored up to 5 million characters of data (that’s 5MB, costing $10000 a megabyte) on 50 spinning disks and was designed for the IBM 305 RAMAC mainframe computer.
In 1973 the IBM 3340 was released, the first drive that had lubricated disks, sealed assembly and low-mass heads. Only a year later did mass producing begin with the IBM 62GB, a device that initially included a 14-inch disk with a 5MB capacity. It was later expanded to 10MB and 14MB and was the first hard drive to ship over 100000 units.
Things took a step up in storage capabilities when IBM introduced their new 3380 model in 1980. It had a 2.5GB capacity, making it the first consumer product that offered such space. The drive weighed about 550 pounds; it certainly wasn’t small, either in price or physical size, looking like a fridge and costing $40000.
PraireTek released the first 2.5 inch hard drive in 1988. It was designed for the laptop market and used two platters to store 20MB of data. This size is still a standard form for hard drives. Things weren’t so bright for PraireTek, though, as they shut down in 1991.
As the years went on, the amount of data you could store on the hard drives increased, as did the speed that they ran at. In 1991, IBM brought out the 0663 Corsair. This drive had eight 3.5 inch platters and stored 1GB. A year later, Seagate released a 2.1GB drive that was the first to spin at 7200 revolutions per minute. Skip ahead to 2000 and they produce the first 15000 rpm drive, the Cheetah X15.
2007 brings about the Deskstar 7K1000, Hitachi’s hard drive that was the first to have a huge capacity of 1TB. It was a 3.5 inch drive that had five platters. The company has since been bought out by Western Digital. Over the years many hard drive manufacturers have had a shot, but in 2012 there were only three main producers: Seagate (who acquired Samsung’s hard drives), Western Digital and Toshiba (who acquired Fujitsu’s hard drives). All manufacturers were producing 4TB drives by 2012.
Hard drives are looking to stick around. HGST (part of Western Digital) has plans to ship a helium filled drive. By replacing the air inside with helium, the friction is removed and the platters don’t flutter when they spin at high speeds. This means drives can have more platters than if they were filled with air. However, helium supplies on Earth are limited, so it’s questionable how long this type of drive will be produced for.
Hopefully now you are more clued up on how the hard drive first came to be. Although lots of different storage methods have come and gone, hard drives are still sticking around for the foreseeable future thanks to their low cost and ease of use. Solid state drives are most likely to take the crown as they drop in price, but hard drives will reign for a little while longer.