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Hard Drive History – 50 years in the making

Today marks the 50th anniversary of hard drive storage. When IBM delivered its first hard drive on September 13th, 1956, few could have imagined the impact it would have on our everyday lives. The RAMAC (also known as ‘Random Access Method of Accounting and Control’) was the size of two refrigerators and weighed a ton. It required a separate air compressor to protect the heads, had pizza-sized platters and was able to store a then whopping 5 megabytes of data. Now you can do all that with a mere pocket drive! What’s more – the RAMAC was available to lease for $35,000 USD, the equivalent of $254,275 in today’s dollars.

25 years later, the first hard drive for personal computers was invented. Using the MFM encoding method, it held a 40MB capacity and 625 KBps data transfer rate. A later version of the ST506 interface switched to the RLL encoding method, allowing for increased storage capacity and processing speed.

IBM made technological history on August 12, 1981, with the launch of their first personal computer – the IBM 5150. At a cost of $1,565, the 5150 had just 16K of memory- just enough for a small amount of emails. It’s difficult to conceive that as recently as the late 1980s 100MB of hard disk space was considered ample. In today’s era, this would be totally insufficient, hardly enough to install the operating system, not to mention a large application such as Microsoft Office.

When asked about the limitations of the early PC, Tom Standage, the Economist magazine’s business editor says: “It’s hard to imagine what people used to do with computers in those days because by modern standards they really couldn’t do anything.”

As a result of these major breakthroughs, the industry has grown from several thousand disk drives per year in the 1950s to over 260 million drives per year in 2003. During this period, the cost of magnetic disk storage has decreased from $2,057 per megabyte in the 1960s to $.005 today.

The future is bright

At present, the standard 3.5 inch desktop drive can store up to 750 gigabytes (GB) in data. But disk drives are set to become even smaller, more powerful and less costly. According to Bill Healy, an executive at Hitachi, drives containing hundreds of gigabytes will be small enough to wear as jewelry. “You’ll have with you every album and tune you’ve ever bought, every picture you’ve ever taken, every tax record.”

Having five disk drives in your household is becoming increasingly commonplace: PCs, laptops, game systems, TiVo video recorders, iPod – just to mention a few. Experts believe that someday households will have up to 15 disk drives, some of which may appear in your TV set, cell phone or car.

In fact, the industry is expected to deliver as many drives in the next five years as it did in the last 50 years. Industry analysts such as Gartner, IDC and TrendFOCUS believe that the global hard drive market will continue to experience impressive unit and revenue growth.

Take the good with the bad

As new devices hit the market, and the amount of stored data escalates the potential for data loss is greater than ever. No matter how strict your back-up policy or how heavily you invest in data protection – somewhere along the line data loss will occur. With nearly 20 years of experience, Ontrack Data Recovery has certainly seen its fair share of data disasters. From the dog that ate one man’s memory stick, to the frustrated user so angry he shot his laptop with a gun, to the businesswoman who spilt coffee on her laptop to the father who accidentally deleted his child’s baby photos, Ontrack has truly seen it all.

Ontrack Data Recovery has the technical capability to recover data from any media, operating system or storage device – no matter how old or cumbersome! Preparation is the name of the game. By establishing a relationship with a reputable data recovery provider, you can reduce the stress surrounding data loss and relax with a ready-made action plan for data recovery and restoration.

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