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Vol. 1 No. 6 August 2002

Where hard drives are headed

The first hard drive roared to life in 1956. Designed and built by IBM, it was as big as a refrigerator and loaded with 50 two-foot aluminum platters, each coated with an iron oxide paint that served as the magnetic storage medium. The 1200rpm drive - dubbed the 305 RAMAC - was accessed by a pneumatic read/write mechanism and provided a whopping 5MB of storage space. Flash to 2002, and the more things change, the more they stay the same. Millions of transistors have been added - the device itself has shrunk as dramatically as the hero of a grade-B science fiction movie - but the basic mechanics remain the same. Look ahead three to five years, and perhaps even more surprising is that no immediate successor for this amazingly durable technology seems close to realization. "I spent my early career looking for replacements for magnetic recording, and I think 10 years ago those replacements were closer than they are today," says Vic Jipson, an executive vice president for Maxtor, Milpitas, CA. "Call me skeptical, but I've been ...

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