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Saturday, 06 January 2007 13:52

Hitachi 1TB drive brings back the memories

We now know both Seagate and Hitachi plan to bring 1TB drives to market in the first half of 2006, and whichever one actually manages to do it first now that the challenge is out, this 50 year milestone is one that brings back the memories of the fist gigabyte hard drive after years of living in a world of megabytes.

For kids today, hard drives are tens and hundreds of gigabytes in size, with some already used to home storage networks of well over a terabyte and more. But in the late 80s and 90s, we all lived in a megabyte world. One of the first hard drives was the size of a washing machine and stored a whopping 5mb. Well, whopping in those days.

My first hard drive when I was a kid was 30mb in size and cost AUD $800. But using a special RLL card, which was sold to us with the drive, it could double the size of the hard drive though some kind of special hardware based compression – and so I had 60mb at my disposal.

It was connected to an IBM XT clone. 30mb was for me – and the other 30mb was for my BBS (a kind of Internet for one person at a time in one city (although some of the biggest BBS’s in the US had 50 dial in lines at the same time, they were the early Internet of the 80s and early 90s before the Internet itself really started taking off in 94-95).

My BBS was called Percom BBS (the brand name of the clone I was using at the time!) running on BBS software Opus 1.0. I somehow managed to convince my parents to let me run a BBS from our phone line at home (as second phone lines were very expensive in the 80s, there was no VoIP back then!) with the BBS running from 9pm to 7am. Every day.

I can’t remember exactly how long it ran for. From memory, at least a year. I even got my first taste of online gaming, getting semi-addicted to a text based space trading and fighting game called TradeWars. It cost AUD $20 per month to belong to this BBS, which was a lot of money in those days, but I joined and played this game for at least a couple of months throughout the week at night time for an hour or two.

Quite amazing to think that you could do online gaming back then, albeit in a text based world. Today’s World of Warcraft, Unreal Tournaments, online games of Halo and much more provide all the visuals you could ever desire – and they’ll only get better and more realistic as technology improves and the size of hard drives gets bigger.

Anyway, when I was using this 30mb drive, the dream was for a 1 gigabyte hard drive. That seemed amazing enough in itself to achieve, as a kid, even though I knew there’d eventually be much bigger drives.

Of course, once we reached 1GB, it wasn’t long before that grew in size, too. Remember 10Gb hard drives? There’s one in the original Xbox. They don’t sell them that small anymore, at least not in 3.5-inch sizes. Probably 1-inch hard drives sell at this size, although I’m aware they already have units holding 12Gb, 1.8-inch hard drives have reached 100Gb, 2.5-inch hard drives already store 200Gb, with more storage capacity on the way.

The 1TB drive will soon end up in your TV... read on to page 2 for the conclusion... 

Now Seagate will bring us a 1TB hard drive with 4 platters holding 250Gb each, and Hitachi bringing one with 5 platters holding 200Gb each. Either way, you’re going to have access to 1TB in a single drive, and if you have two, that’s 2TB. Building your own home storage network, while initially expensive, will become ever more common.

Already today, tech savvy people are building digitally connected homes piece by piece across the world. I’d wager many of you reading this article have hundreds of gigabtyes of storage space at your disposal, if not already in the terabyte club.

Dreaming about getting to 1Gb was one thing, but once we passed it, it was only a question of time before 1TB would be breached. Now the question for the hard disk industry is how quickly then can increase the size.

Seagate could conceivably create a hard drive with 5 250Gb platters and launch a 1.25TB model, and package two of them together to offer a 2.5TB package.

Whatever ends up actually happening we’re all yet to see. But it was only 51 years ago that television launched, and it’s taken us 50 years to get to a 1TB hard drive. In 2004, Samsung launched a standard definition rear-projection flat screen TV with a 40Gb hard drive built-in.

Then late last year LG launched a plasma and LCD HDTV with 250Gb hard drive within – capable of recording in HD, too! The screens were only 720p, with 1080p due in February 2007, and had no Blu-ray or HD DVD recorder within to transfer recordings across, something also promised for future models.

But it’s a long way from wanting a 1Gb drive as a teen. Now that LG have launched the combo Blu-ray/HD DVD player, it’s easy to foresee that every high end HDTV we buy will come standard with at least a 1TB hard drive within, full wireless capabilities using 802.11n or better, Gigabit Ethernet port, an inbuilt BitTorrent client, compatibility with the Mac iTV and Windows Media Center extenders, the option of having a x86 based computer inside running Vista or another operating system, a Blu-ray/HD DVD recorder to make backups on universal removable media and a raft of inputs from multiple HDMI sockets to all our analogue favourites from composite upwards throughout the years.

It’s more than technically possible today, it’s already being done at lower specifications to different degrees today. We could see a display model with most of the features above from Sony, LG, Samsung, Panasonic and other companies by CES 2008, if only they wanted to make one!

Sony’s model could even have a PS3 built-in…

Well… I’ve speculated long and far enough. Hurrah to Hitachi and Seagate for bringing the  1TB hard drive to market within the next 3 to 6 months. As I’ve said before, our quest for more space is never ending, for space is the final frontier, after all… isn’t it? :-)

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Alex Zaharov-Reutt

Alex Zaharov-Reutt is iTWire's Technology Editor is one of Australia’s best-known technology journalists and consumer tech experts, Alex has appeared in his capacity as technology expert on all of Australia’s free-to-air and pay TV networks on all the major news and current affairs programs, on commercial and public radio, and technology, lifestyle and reality TV shows. Visit Alex at Twitter here.

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