The first PCs used Data cassette recorder the same
kind that you listen to music with, using a data cassette
for storage was very slow. Removable floppy disks as storage
devices did not become popular before 1978 when Apple introduced the disk
II. The term "floppy" accurately fit the earliest 8-inch PC diskettes and
the 5.25-inch diskettes that succeeded them. The inner disk that holds
the data usually is made of mylar and coated with a magnetic oxide, and
the outer, plastic cover, bends easily. The inner disk of today's smaller,
3.5-inch floppies are similarly constructed, but they are
housed in a rigid plastic case, which is much more durable than the flexible
covering on the larger diskettes.
The mid-1800's, punch cards are used to provide input
to early calculators and other machines.
1940 is the decade when vacuum tubes were used for
1950 finally, tape drives started to replace punch
cards. Only a couple of years later, magnetic drums appeared
on the scene.
1957, the first hard drive was introduced as a component
of IBM's RAMAC 350. It required 50 24-inch disks to store five megabytes
(million bytes, abbreviated MB) of data and cost roughly $35,000 a year
to lease - or $7,000 per megabyte per year. For years, hard
disk drives were confined to mainframe and minicomputer installations.
Vast "disk farms" of giant 14- and 8-inch drives costing tens of thousands
of dollars each whirred away in the air conditioned isolation of corporate
1962 - JUN. Teletype ships its Model 33 keyboard and punched-tape
terminal, used for input and output on many early microcomputers.
1967 - IBM builds the first floppy disk.
1971 - IBM introduces the "memory disk", or "floppy
disk", an 8-inch floppy plastic disk coated with iron oxide.
1973 - IBM introduces the IBM 3340 hard disk unit,
known as the Winchester, IBM's internal development code
name. The recording head rides on a layer of air 18 millionths of an inch
1976 - AUG. iCOM advertises their "Frugal Floppy"
in BYTE magazine, an 8-inch floppy drive, selling for US$1200.
1976 - AUG. Shugart announces its 5.25 inch "minifloppy"
disk drive for US$390.
1977 - DEC. At an executive board meeting at Apple Computer,
president Mike Markkula lists the floppy disk drive as the
company's top goal.
1978 - JUN. Apple Computer introduces the Disk II,
a 5.25 inch floppy disk drive linked to the Apple II by cable.
Price: US$495, including controller card.
The 1980's The introduction of the first small hard disk drives.
The first 5.25-inch hard disk drives packed 5 to 10
MB of storage - the equivalent of 2,500 to 5,000 pages of double-spaced
typed information - into a device the size of a small shoe box. At the
time, a storage capacity of 10 MB was considered too large for a so-called
1980 - Sony Electronics introduces the 3.5 inch floppy disk
drive, double-sided, double-density, holding up to 875KB unformatted.
1980 - JUN. Seagate Technologies announces the first Winchester
5.25-inch hard disk drive.
1980 - JUN. Shugart begins selling Winchester hard-disk
1982 - JUN. Sony Electronics demonstrates its 3.5 inch
microfloppy disk system.
1982 - SEP. Iomega begins production of the Alpha 10,
a 10MB 8-inch floppy-disk drive using Bernoulli
1982 - NOV. Drivetec announces the Drivetec 320 Superminifloppy,
offering 3.33MB unformatted capacity on a 5.25-inch drive.
1982 - DEC. Tabor demonstrates a 3.25-inch floppy disk
drive, the Model TC500 Drivette. Unformatted capacity is
up to 500KB on a single side.
1982 - DEC. Amdek releases the Amdisk-3 Micro-Floppy-disk
Cartridge system. It houses two 3-inch floppy drives designed
by Hitachi/Matsushita/Maxell. Price is US$800, without a controller card.
1982 - At the West Coast Computer Faire, Davong Systems introduces
its 5MB Winchester Disk Drive for the IBM PC, for US$2000.
1983 - MAY. Sony Electronics announces the 3.5 inch
floppy disk and drive, double-sided, double-density, holding up
1983 With the introduction of the IBM PC/XT hard disk drives
also became a standard component of most personal computers. The descriptor
"hard" is used because the inner disks that hold data in a hard drive
are made of a rigid aluminum alloy. These disks, called platters,
are coated with a much improved magnetic material and last much longer
than a plastic, floppy diskette. The longer life of a hard drive
is also a function of the disk drive's read/write head: in a hard
disk drive, the heads do not contact the storage media, whereas
in a floppy drive, the read/write head does contact the media,
1983 - Philips and Sony develop the CD-ROM, as an
extension of audio CD technology.
1984 - MAY - Apple Computer introduces the DuoDisk
dual 5.25-inch floppy disk drive unit for the Apple II line.
By the mid-1980's, 5.25-inch form factor hard drives
had shrunk considerably in terms of height. A standard hard drive
measured about three inches high and weighed only a few pounds, while lower
capacity "half-height" hard drives measured only 1.6 inches
1985 - JUN. Apple Computer introduces the UniDisk 5.25
single 5.25-inch floppy disk drive, with the ability to daisy-chain
additional drives through it.
By 1987, 3.5-inch form factor hard drives began to
appear. These compact units weigh as little as a pound and are about the
size of a paperback book. They were first integrated into desktop computers
and later incorporated into the first truly portable computers - laptops
weighing under 12 pounds. The 3.5-inch form factor hard drives
quickly became the standard for desktop and portable systems requiring
less than 500 MB capacity. Height also kept shrinking with the introduction
of one-inch high, 'low-profile' drives.
1987 - SEP. Microsoft ships Microsoft Bookshelf, its first
1990 - JAN. Commodore gives a sneak preview of a proposed
"interactive graphics player", based on a variant of the Amiga 500, with
1MB of RAM. The machine includes an integrated CD-ROM drive,
but no keyboard.
1990 - NOV. The Multimedia PC Marketing Council sets the
minimum configuration required of a PC to run MPC-class software: 10-MHz
286 processor, 2MB RAM, 30MB hard drive, 16-color VGA, mouse, 8-bit audio
card, 150KBps CD-ROM drive.
1991 - JAN. Commodore releases the CDTV (Commodore Dynamic
Total Vision) package. It features a CD-ROM player integrated
with a 7.16-MHz 68000-based Amiga 500. List price is US$1000.
1991 - JUN. Tandy introduces its low-cost CDR-1000
CD-ROM drive for PCs. At US$400, including drive and controller
card, it is about half the price of other drives.
1991 - OCT. Insite Technology begins shipping its 21
MB 3.5-inch floppy disk drive to system vendors. The drive
uses "floptical" disks, using optical technology
to store data.
By 1992, a number of 1.8-inch form factor hard drives
appeared, weighing only a few ounces and delivering capacities up to 40
MB. Even a 1.3-inch hard drive, about the size of a matchbox,
was introduced. Of course, smaller form factors in and of themselves are
not necessarily better than larger ones. Hard disk drives
with form factors of 2.5 inches and less currently are required only by
computer applications where light weight and compactness are key criteria.
Where capacity and cost-per-megabyte are the leading criteria, larger form
factor hard drives are still the preferred choice. For this
reason, 3.5-inch hard drives will continue to dominate for
the foreseeable future in desktop PCs and workstations, while 2.5-inch
hard drives will continue to dominate in portable computers.
1993 - OCT. NEC Technologies unveils the first triple-speed
(450KBps) CD-ROM drive.
1994 - JAN. NEC Technologies ships its quad-speed CD-ROM,
priced at US$1000.
1994 - DEC. Iomega Corp. introduces its Zip drive
and Zip disks, floppy disk sized removable
storage in sizes of 25MB or 100MB.
Since its introduction, the hard disk drive has become the
most common form of mass storage for personal computers. Manufacturers
have made immense strides in drive capacity, size, and performance. Today,
3.5-inch, gigabyte (GB) drives capable of storing and accessing one billion
bytes of data are commonplace in workstations running multimedia, high-end
graphics, networking, and communications applications. And, palm-sized
drives not only store the equivalent of hundreds of thousands of pages
of information, but also retrieve a selected item from all this data in
just a few thousandths of a second. What's more, a disk drive does all
of this very inexpensively. By the early 1990s, the cost of purchasing
a 200 MB hard disk drive had dropped below $200, or less than one dollar
1997 - NOV. IBM announced the world's highest capacity desktop
PC hard disk drive with new breakthrough technology called
Giant Magnetoresistive (GMR) heads. Pioneered by scientists
at IBM Research, GMR heads will be used in IBM's Deskstar 16GP, a 16.8-gigabyte
drive. This brings down the cost of storage to .25 cents per megabyte.