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History of the Hard Drive

Hard Drive types and solid-state drive types are explained in plain English.

For the sake of this topic, when I refer to a hard drive, I am referring to a data storage unit with a hard physically spinning platter.

When I refer to a solid-state drive, I am referring to a drive that has no physical moving parts – it’s all on chips.

We’ll cover the history and also explain the technology surrounding the different types of drives from hard drives to solid state drives to PCEi or NVMe drives.

The first commercially used hard drive was used in 1956 and it was the Model 350, manufactured by IBM.

The IBM Model 350 was the size of two refrigerators, and stored 3.75MB of data on a stack of 52 24″ disks.

There were several iterations of hard drive types in between, but let’s fast-forward to 1983 – the year the 3.5″ hard drive was created by a guy named Finis Connor, the founder of Seagate. It came in 2 sizes, 10MB and 20MB.

In 1988, the first 2.5″ laptop-sized hard drive was created with a capacity of 20MB.

In 1960, it cost around $10,000,000 to get a gigabyte of storage. By 1980, it was approximately $200,000, in 1990, it was $8,000. By 2005, one gigabyte of storage was less than a dollar. And by 2014 it was 3 cents per gigabyte.

The modern era of hard drives in personal computers came in 1986 with the introduction of hard drives equipped with an IDE interface. IDE stands for Integrated Drive Electronics. It had data transfer speeds starting at around 5MBPS.

In 2007, the SATA interface was introduced. It incorporated the same size – 3.5″ and 2.5″. but had a much faster data transfer interface known as the Serial Advanced Technology Attachment or SATA. It transferred data at 150MBPS, making it much faster than the older IDE drives. It also contained its own electronic green board that helped with getting the data transferred faster from the spinning platter to the computer.

In 2007, SanDisk introduced the first SATA solid-state drive with 32GB of storage for around $500.

Manufacturers are still making the mechanical hard drive for personal computers because it is still cost-effective to do so. So yes, you can still buy a brand-new computer and it can come with a brand-new mechanical hard drive.

In 2012, the M.2 standard came out. One of the benefits of the M.2 is the faster connectivity to the motherboard. Most computers made today have an M.2 slot but may also have a 2.5″ SSD slot.

The M.2 slot is much smaller, 22mm wide, to be exact, a bit less than an inch wide. The length can vary from 30mm to 110mm but the most common size is known as the 2280, which is 22mm wide x 80mm long.

There are 2 types of M.2 drives – SATA and NVMe. By the way, NVMe stands for nonvolatile memory express.

The data transfer rate difference between a SATA M.2 and an NVMe M.2 is significant. 

A SATA M.2 can transfer data at a rate of up to 600MBPS, while an NVMe M.2 can transfer data up to 3500MBPs – with most NVMe’s today transferring at about 1200MBPS.

By the way, a data transfer rate of 3500MBPS is the same as transferring 111,875 pages in an average-sized book – every second. 

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