Hard disk is a storage device that resides inside a computer to read and write the data. Before the arrival of hard disk drive; paper was used as storage device; however the paper worked in a different way. Programs and data would be recorded using holes punched into paper where a special reader with a beam of light would scan the cards or tape. The paper-based computers were used by US Navy to store data during 1940s and 1950s. During 1950s, work began in IBM on experimental hard disks.
The researchers at IBM were working on various technologies to develop a disk drive that could not only store data easily, but also feasible commercially in consumer mass market. IBM developed the first hard disks in 1950s, but this disk technology was unlike today’s disk. It rotated on cylindrical drum; over which the magnetic patterns were stored. The early hard disk had heads of hard disk in contact with surface of disk; which was done to allow the low sensitivity to read the magnetic fields and pick up the data bits.
The early disk drive was huge in size mainly composed of huge vacuum tube. Its random access method occupied the space equal to two refrigerators with a weight of almost one ton. The disk huge magnetic drums were complex and hard to work with; and its manufacturing technique was also very cumbersome. For example, it was not possible to get the disk surface as smooth as possible to allow reading the data at high speed. The disk head would also easily worn out after little usage and the magnetic head would stop working.
It was in late 1950s that IBM engineers found a break through allowing them to create the modern day hard disk drive. The IBM engineer found the solution to the earlier problems; when they realized that with a proper design, the head of hard disk could be suspended over the disk surface to read the data beneath it. Working on this discovery in 1956, IBM first hard disk (IBM 305 RAMAC was introduced. This hard disk was able to store 5 millions characters; which was a huge amount in those days; while today’s hard disk densities are measured in billions of bits square per inch.
It was in 1961 that IBM invented separate head for each data surface in their hard drive. By 1973 IBM shipped hard disk 3model 340 that were the first sealed hard disk drive continues till today. This technology is used by almost all the hard disk manufacturers around the world. Further development took place in 1980s; when Seagate introduced the first hard disk for PC or microcomputers named as ST506. Even though it was much more smaller in size than the disks produced in that time; compared to modern hard disks, it was twice the size.
During the 1980s Philips also manufactured the optical laser drive. By 1981 Sony also started to ship floppy drive. In 1983 Rodime made the first 3. 5-inch floppy drive; and by 1985 first CD-ROM encyclopedia came into being. The modern 3 1/ 2 IDE drive arrived in the market in 1985. The technology used in IDE drive was not much different from the earlier disk drive technology; but ultimately it was added into the expansion board.
The hard card included the drive that finally evolved into IDE hard disk drive, where the controller was finally merged into the printed circuit. During 1980s the arrival of DOS made easy the selling of hard disk; as DOS made computing easy for normal users. However there was problem in DOS version 3. 31 and above. The new DOS 4. 0 did not support hard disk larger than 32 MB. The reason for this problem was the number of sectors that could not exceed 16-bit. This need pushed the programmers to come up with new software.
The solution was provided by Ontrack Disk Manager’ that allowed partition in hard disks. In 1986, the first 3-? hard disks that had voice coil actuator were introduced. By 1997 Seagate made big leap by introducing first 7200-RPM ATA hard disk drive for PC followed by 15000-RPM hard disk drive that allowed data reading and writing data much faster. The amazing thing about hard disk is that they haven’t changed that much compared to other PC related components in the past 40 years.
The figure below shows the changes taken place throughout the decades in hard disk technology. Even today’s hard disk basic design has remained the same, except the size, capacity and storage. Thus it can be said that 1980s and 1990s allowed the spread of hard disks due to the arrival of PC; which were available to the modern consumers. As the hard disk technology developed so does it capacity and size. The earliest computers normally had 20 MB drive. By 2007 desktop computers hard disks drives have reached 100 to 500 GB.