back to article Hitachi halves hard drive head size

Hitachi has developed a hard drive read/write head that's half the size of the units found in today's top-of-the-line HDDs - a crucial step, it claimed, to delivering a 4TB desktop drive, albeit not until 2009 at the earliest. Hitachi's new head may be tiny - 30-50nm in size, one two-thousandth of the thickness of a human …


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  1. Stu


    OK I see the need for new long acronym-ed technologies to step in and help lengthen the life of the thick silver platter.

    So how is this fundamentally different from when we moved from 1Gb to 4Gb hard disks back over a decade ago? hard disks have hit about 1Tb now havent they, so why is 4Tb in one HDD such a difficult thing requiring new double TLAs?

    I don't remember it taking a good two years to achieve that leap. But then I could be wrong.

    Or is it that the old spinny disks days are numbered due to flash RAMs much higher rate of capacity climb. I know they're only on 64Gb commercially now but have been climbing really quickly since around 2000 up from a lowly 16Mb!!

  2. Tony Smith, Editor, Reg Hardware (Written by Reg staff)

    Re. Flash-back

    You can build a 4TB drive now, but it'd be a chunky boy and probably not fit in the 3.5in form-factor.

    The point is, any jump in capacity requires new technology: not only to get more data storage space into that 3.5in-format box, but also to allow the read/write heads to access it. This is just the latest of these jumps, and there'll be more in the future.

    Flash is growing fast, but it'll be quite a while before we see reasonably priced 500GB Flash drives, let alone 1TB models.

  3. Stu
    Thumb Up

    Re: Re: Flash-back

    Thanks Tony.

    Begs the question why there arent 5 1/4 inch hard disk drives specifically for PCs around then, but I would imagine that physically increasing drive sizes results in diminishing returns of performance, efficiency, and even capacity.

    I was just surprised that Hitachi reckon it'll be a whole two years delay given development was quicker in the past.

    Strange that the BBC reported the same story, different angle, but said they'd arrive in 2011, go figure!

  4. Franklin
    Thumb Down

    Forget new drive head technologies...

    ...we need to get rid of hard drives altogether.

    I mean, c'mon. You open up the case of an ordinary desktop computer, and what do you see inside? Miracles of solid-state electronics, with circuits etched into silicon so small that quantum effects become a real engineering headache for the folks who design them...and then this big, whirring, spinning piece of antique Victorian clockwork.

    It's appalling and embarrassing, really. Spinning disks of magnetic media? We need to chuck the clockwork already and move on to solid-state mass storage.

  5. Steven Pepperell

    @Forget new drive head technologies...


  6. Henry Wertz
    Paris Hilton

    Solid state

    Solid state is sweet, but it's expensive as all hell. And, with fabs at or near capacity, just increasing demand isn't going to lower prices for a while at least. I'm all for solid state, but not if it's going to cost me like $2000 to get a TB of storage...

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Ironic inches

    Isn't it ironic that the housing for 50nm-physics-tweaking-technology will be an undeniably-imperial-3.5-inch-box? So standards are everything in computing, but surely we have to switch standards sometime?

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    The superparamagnetic limit is about 4-10 nm for (2 Tb/in^2) conventional disk drive technology... but you can't really beat the readout speed.

    Solid state can pack 250 Tb/in^2, but readout speed much much slower (until someone creates a parallel/holographic readout scheme ;) ).

  9. ssundell

    Quantum effects

    Even though solid state sounds nice, that whirring Victoria is a piece of quantum mechanics in itself. That TMR head Hitachi plans to outdate makes heavy use of tunneling effect. Earlier GMR heads are based on - you said it - GMR, which in itself is a quantum effect and deals with electron spin. Fujitsu's creating nanohole patterns with 25nm pitch to further increase the data density in HDDs.

    So yes, it may be whirring, but there's nothing antique about it.

  10. Chris Donald far can they go?

    I was gobsmacked to realise I had something relying on quantum tunneling in my pc! Shows my education level..

    So um, how far can they go info density wise? I mean when you reach the point of lining up individual electrons, is that the limit?

  11. Alex
    Paris Hilton

    But surely...

    With the advent of holographic memory, this is purely a "We can do this, just watch us!" scenario?

    I thought they were dealing with holo-memory for the future? With a possible (theoretical without error correction) 4Gb per millimeter, surely "it's the future!" (Garlic Bread anyone?)

    Paris, Paris, Paris!... ahem..

  12. greg


    Spintronics is something already in development! Controlling the spin of an electron with a magnetic field to store either a 1 or a 0. Long way off production yet though.

  13. Alan Donaly

    Not sure if this is good place

    to bring this up but WTF apparently in the US they are deciding whether to block imports of the top hdd manufacturers because of a patent being used without permission in the fabrication process anyway the one thats not being mentioned is Hitachi and all I have seen for the last couple of days are Hitachi commercials if they do block Seagate Western Digital it might mean cheap hdd

    s for all outside the USA. I didn't make this up it's been in Ars Technica and on the USITC site.

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