Happy Birthday: The Hard Drive turns 50

Blue Velvet

Moderator emeritus
Original poster
Jul 4, 2004
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The first hard drive (RAMAC) — delivered on Sept. 13, 1956 — weighed 2,140 lbs and stored 5 megabytes of data.

In 1956, the RAMAC cost $50,000, or $10,000 per MB. Today, a GB of storage on a 3.5-inch hard drive can cost less than 50 cents...

...According to Hitachi's Healy, the RAMAC weighed a ton, was the size of a double refrigerator, and relied on 50 spinning platters. It cost $50,000, and held 5 MB of information -- roughly the equivalent of one song on a modern iPod.
http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2006/09/11/BUGH3L23T01.DTL


"The hard disk! How many technologies ever last 50 years?" said Steve Wozniak, cofounder of Apple Computer, whose hometown of San Jose, Calif., is also the hometown of the disk drive. "It’s an amazing invention that changed the world."
http://www.cio.com/blog_view.html?CID=24745


:)
 

Zwhaler

macrumors demi-god
Jun 10, 2006
6,733
984
You know, whats amazing about those massive 2 ton hard drives, is that they use so many mechanical parts, rather than actual electronics. Think about how a bunch of metal wheels and such can recieve data. That's amazing.
 

Bibulous

macrumors 6502a
Jan 19, 2005
716
0
Reminds me of a photo of a table made from a old hard disk platter.

God bless Google Image
 

IJ Reilly

macrumors P6
Jul 16, 2002
17,892
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Palookaville
My own memories and experiences go back to Winchester drives, circa 1970, on Hewlett-Packard minicomputers. They were huge, and they'd "head crash" on a nearly weekly basis, requiring a complete restore from a half-inch mag tape backup. If you were smart, you'd back up all of your personal data on paper punch tape on a daily basis.
 

patrick0brien

macrumors 68040
Oct 24, 2002
3,238
0
The West Loop
I work for Hitachi GST and we have a few RAMACs sitting around - one in the museum. The press could go a bit further in the 'interesting facts' department. Like it has 50 24" platters, takes an entire minute to spool up (BTW, this is where the term 'spool' came from, the stack looks like a big copper spool) and sounds like Taz doing it.
 

Doctor Q

Administrator
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Sep 19, 2002
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Happy Birthday Mr. Winchester

I used to know somebody who worked for a disk manufacturer and she got me one of those large disk platters. It used to be cool to make clocks out of them, but I never got around to it. I'll look in the storage closet, ahem I mean computer museum, and see if I can find it.
 

Doctor Q

Administrator
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Sep 19, 2002
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I found it!

A photo taken today: me holding a 14" platter that once lived inside a disk drive (which meant a big cabinet of some kind).

This huge magnetic surface held a whopping 5MB of data, which is enough for one of the free iTunes that Apple gave away this week, but not quite enough for two iTunes.

I wonder what the disk drive cost when it was new, which was probably in the 1980s. Probably in the thousands of dollars.

So if you somebody gave you a free iTune, you'd have to spend thousands of dollars to store it!
 

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dukebound85

macrumors P6
Jul 17, 2005
18,105
1,281
5045 feet above sea level
technology is awesome wow.

Watch in 50 years everyone will not be able to understand how we ever had the tolerance for core2duos and macpros and all.

A quote from the future " you mean you guys hadnt sent man to mars whe you were young?????"

haha
 

RedTomato

macrumors 601
Mar 4, 2005
4,018
314
.. London ..
How big is that tableto HD platter?? Seems a lot bigger than 24''. I have a simialr round table in the kitchen , tho it's made out of solid beech wood, not exotic materials.

I used to have some platters from a standard 3.5 inch HD. Thought about making frisbees out of them, till I realised they'd go through nearly anything you threw them at. Lethal doesn't begin to describe it.

One other use for HD platters is in making wheels for high energy efficient robots / go-karts, as they make some of the most perfectly round and balanced wheels you can possibly obtain.
 

Doctor Q

Administrator
Staff member
Sep 19, 2002
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Disk storage prices for comparison:

1956: $10,000,000 per gigabyte
1992: $3,750 per gigabyte
2001: $5 per gigabyte
2006: $0.50 per gigabyte
 

IJ Reilly

macrumors P6
Jul 16, 2002
17,892
1,466
Palookaville
Doctor Q said:
A photo taken today: me holding a 14" platter that once lived inside a disk drive (which meant a big cabinet of some kind).
I happen to know, Dr. Q is 9'8" tall. Just a little more useful perspective.

;)
 

RedTomato

macrumors 601
Mar 4, 2005
4,018
314
.. London ..
I'm certain this question comes up every year, but why do we not still have the option of buying our storage space in the form factor of the old double height 5.25 inch HDs?

By now, they'd contain about 20 platters x 500 GB per double sided platter = about 10TB per drive with current technology, and possibly cost about £400 / $500 each.

With all these platters, output datarate would be good, but seektime / latency would be a bit rubbish - still good for large quantities of continuous data e.g. uncompressed HDTV.

I used to accept it was better to standardise on the 3.5 inch form factor and get mass-market efficiencies of scale, but now we have a plethora of new HD sizes

- laptop 2.5'' HD,
- mini 1.8'' HD,
- micro 1'' HD,
- and possibly 0.8'' HDs as well,

so why can't we have a couple of larger sizes as well for bulk storage?