Last spring, my good friend Andrew Binstock and I agreed upon a simple wager: Would we be able to purchase a terabyte hard drive, in a 3.5-inch form factor, by the end of 2006? At that time, 500GB drives were readily available at places like Best Buy and CompUSA. I believe that the 750GB drives were just coming out as well.

Forget Moore’s Law: The pace of innovation in hard drives is incredible. As I write this, there still aren’t 1TB drives commercially available, but the price of 500GB and 750GB 3.5-inch drives is falling fast. You can also get a 160GB laptop drive (in a 2.5-inch form factor) for under $200, which is equally amazing.

Twenty years ago I’d not have predicted this… the future belonged to optical media, remember. When the CD-ROM was introduced in the mid-1980s, a typical hard drive had somewhere around 30MB of storage capacity. An ISO-9660 CD-ROM, by contrast, had 650MB capacity, or about 20x that of the hard disk.

Imagine if 12cm compact disc technology had kept pace with magnetic media: we’d have 15TB discs! But optical didn’t keep up, and capacity has grown very slowly. The first move, in the mid-1990s, was to the 4.7GB DVD, and then the 8.5GB dual-layer DVD. Now, finally, there are 20-50GB optical discs in the Blu-Ray spec coming out in lte 2006.

Given the pace of change, the future clearly belongs to magnetic hard disks.

Z Trek Copyright (c) Alan Zeichick
2 replies
  1. Anonymous
    Anonymous says:

    One disk or not, I’d much prefer to raid two of those $350 750 GB drives.

    Single drive by mid-January.

  2. Anonymous
    Anonymous says:

    I taken to tracking how much internal hard drive storage you can buy for less than $100. At last check (10/19/06), CompUSA was selling a Maxtor 250GB drive for $59. (Best Buy’s best buy was a WD 160GB drive for $99.)

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