back to article It's the oldest working Seagate drive in the UK

Seagate reckons it has found the oldest working Seagate disk drive in the UK: a 28-year-old ST-412 disk drive from 1983. It is the drive for an old IBM PC, which booted up when it was brought down from owner Mitch Hansen's attic in his Ruislip house. The 5.25-inch disk has four platters, eight read and write heads, spins at 3, …


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  1. trarch


    "but disk I/O has become a bottleneck at the platter surface level, and is set to remain that way."

    ...for a few years until inevitably SSDs become the norm and our children say "your drives moved!?!"

    Or maybe even "drives!?!"

  2. ITPete


    maybe seagate can take it back to the lab to figure out the miraculously rare ability this particular unit has demonstrated for a seagate drive


    we've had around 75% failure from seagate desktop units under a year old

    warranties are all well and good but it's better if you dont have to use it !

    1. The Cube

      Made of cheese

      Got that right, perhaps the owner of this drive should carry out an experiment by climbing a tall ladder with his disk and dropping it on the Seagate management, just to see if any of them can still recognise reliability if it fell on them.

      I have a large pile of dead seagate drives which I won't send back under warranty because I don't want a seagate replacement, I'll buy a Hitachi or a Samsung instead of waste my time replacing bloody seagate drives, the modern ones are all made of cheese. It is a shame Amstrad don't make computers anymore, they would be the natural home for a modern seagate drive.

      1. Charlie Clark Silver badge

        The world and his dog

        Are doing the same. Pretty much all modern drives have very little tolerance for failures given the density of the data. It's just too expensive to engineer the same degree of reliability into individual drives which is why the companies are more than happy to supply replacements but never guarantee against data loss. I would be extremely surprised if any modern drive that gets a reasonable amount of use is still working in ten years even five is pushing it. They know that it is far cheaper for customer to have redundant backup drives than a single but very reliable drive and they know about replacement cycles. And then, of course, the market will accept different levels of quality: cheap but maybe not so reliable, expensive and hopefully more reliable from the same manufacturer.

        Slagging off individual manufacturers is like slagging off the various mobile networks: heavily skewed by personal experience.

      2. david wilson

        @The Cube

        >>"I have a large pile of dead seagate drives which I won't send back under warranty because I don't want a seagate replacement"

        Couldn't you get them replaced under warranty anyway, if only to give Seagate some useful (ie expensive) feedback on reliability, and then eBay the replacements they send, or would that involve painful bureaucracy?

      3. jonathanb Silver badge

        No way

        There is no way I would trade a Seagate for a Hitachi Deathstar.

        1. FIA Silver badge


          'There is no way I would trade a Seagate for a Hitachi Deathstar."

          To be fair, you'd probably need a time machine to do this. The deathstar era was about 10-12 years ago now. Modern Hitachi drives are fine*, unfortunatly they just got sold to WD.

          In my very limited experience current HGST are great (I've got about 10 of the buggers in various stages of aging, some in almost 24/7 use for several years.)

          I've had a fair share of Seagate failure over the years too, although my fav drive I ever owned was a Seagate SCSI drive from the mid 90s, all of a gig in capacity, but thin as you like and dead reliable!

          infact, I think of all the HD makers I use I favour HGST, most of my current drives are them, I've even got an old 60G GXP from the deathstar era (that had failed in a friends PC) which after a firmware upgrade is still working well 10 years later.

          * for a given value of fine, they're as good as any other make anway, and better than some.

          1. Alan Lewis 1

            60GB in 2001?

            " I've even got an old 60G GXP from the deathstar era (that had failed in a friends PC) which after a firmware upgrade is still working well 10 years later."

            Some mistake, surely? In 2001 the largest drives were in the 15Gb range - the IBM Deskstars. I had four of them in a RAID0 on an Abit board. No failures, eventually sold the system. You wouldn't have gotten a 60Gb drive until back end 2002/early 2003.

            That said, I never had a problem with the deskstars, and believe that the root cause lay elsewhere in the system (iirc we discussed this either on 2cpu or Ars and came to a conclusion that it wasn't the drive per se)

      4. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward


        Christ, don't buy a Samsung drive.

      5. Anonymous Coward


        Ironically it was Seagate that partly cost Amstrad their reputation for fairly reliable computers.

        When Amstrad launched the PC2000 series in the late 80's they used Seagate hard disks. However they were faulty and had to be recalled. That combined with a problem with a new version of MS-DOS caused a lot of bad publicity and they quickly lost their dominant market share.

        Amstrad sued Seagate for $100 million and won. But it took something like 6 or 7 years to do that and by that time they pretty much no longer made computers.

    2. jason 7

      Ermmm then stop buying them?

      Reminds me of the Tommy Cooper joke - "I want to see the Doctor, I said "Doc if I do this with my arm, it hurts!"

      He said "Don't do it then!"

  3. JimC

    OK admit it

    Who else is tempted to go and drag a dusty box down from the loft... I have an IBM PC with a 10meg drive up there too, and it worked when I last tried it.

    1. Geoff Campbell Silver badge
      Thumb Up


      There's at least one IBM XT up there, plus a TRS-80 with an 8" hard drive.


      1. Ted Treen

        Not quite the same but..

        I have a couple of Macintosh IIci and a Macintosh IIcx lurking in the loft...

        Admittedly they're youngsters dating from around 1989, but their disks are SCSII (remember SCSI?)

        Said machines intro'd at circa $8,000 22 years ago...

        1. Paul_Murphy

          SCSI? Ha!

          In the loft I should have my Atari with it's ACSI (like SCSI but Ataris version) interface.

          The problem was that the OS needed around 15 drive letters to address all the space - it had to handle them as floppies if I recall correctly.

          Even if I can find it I doubt it would still work though - it needed to boot off a floppy to see the harddrive :-(


        2. NogginTheNog
          Thumb Down

          Remember SCSI?

          Isn't SCSI still alive and well, in SAS (clue: Serial Attached SCSI!), iSCSI (clue: internet SCSI!), and I think used Fibre Channel as well..?

    2. Alan Sharkey
      Thumb Up

      Me too

      I've got an old Compaq luggable in the loft with a 10mb drive. That worked, last time I powered it up.

    3. BillG

      Re: OK admit it

      I have a dusty box - well, maybe not so dusty - with a Seagate drive from 1996 that still runs fine.

      Meanwhile, I have Western Digital drives that fail SMART after three years of use.

  4. The Original Ash
    Thumb Up


    And I thought 7 years out of a Hitachi Deathstar was good!

    1. fishman

      Real Deathstars

      The Real Deathstar drives were made when it was part of IBM. I still have a dozen of the infamous drives - all dead and stacked in a filing cabinet.

      1. Peter Gathercole Silver badge

        Deskstar and Ultrastar

        I don't know whether this is relevant, but I have used IBM and Hitachi Ultrastar (the enterprise version which actually shares much of the mechanical components), and generally they have been quite reliable. I have 3 in an IBM RS6000 44P-170.

      2. Anonymous Coward


        See above ^

  5. Steve the Cynic

    I once had a drive similar to this...

    I don't remember if it was a Seagate - the guy I borrowed it from said it came out of a PDP-10, so who knows? The one I had made the PC take about five minutes to even begin to load DOS (1988-ish time frame) because it drew 4 amps from the 12V rail while spinning up, and the PSU was only just big enough to not just shut down from over-current. It also used to drop sectors, so I gave it back and bought a 20MB drive (ST-225) from the lowest cost vendor I could find in the US version of Computer Shopper, located just three miles from home...

    Also: arithmetic fail: 10MB per drive divided by eight heads makes 1.25MB per head, not 5.

    You know, the scariest part is remembering the model number of a drive I bought over twenty years ago, without looking it up...

    1. fedoraman

      C/H/S - more scary yet

      More scary is being able to remember the Cylinders, Heads and Sectors for it, without looking it up!

    2. The Fuzzy Wotnot

      I remember fitting WD hard-cards!

      You'd buy a HD and a HD card both bolted to to a steel casing. Slot the whole thing into a PC, this was around 87/88. Sizes where around 8-15MB tops.

      Then you'd have to read the manual to find out where the firmware boot address was so you could use DOS to low level format it, before laying a file system format on it. None of this, shove it in and wait for the O/S to ask you about formatting it cobblers!

      The drive would run for about 4-5 hours tops then start slowing down as there was no real concept of cooling in PCs back then. So you'd switch off, unplug the HD and use floppies for an hour while the drive cooled down before you'd fire it up again.

      I still remember the wonderful metallic clicky sound the heads made as they skittered about over the platters, wonderful noise and great days!

      1. Whitespace

        I remember fitting WD hard-cards!

        I have one of those too. Unfortunately I no longer have a computer with a full length standard IBM slot so I can't tell if it still works.

        I remember the satisfaction of swapping the motherboard's 8086 for an NEC V30 and improving the machine's performance just enough to be able to change the disk's interleave factor so doubling it's throughput.

        Halcyon days!

  6. Steve Evans


    I had an old ST drive somewhere I used to use as a door stop, I wonder if I can find it... More importantly, I wonder if I can find an ST interface card (and drivers) to test it out!

    1. El_Dave
      Thumb Up

      You know you're a real geek...

      ...when you use a HD as a door stop. Fair play sir, fair play.

      1. launcap Silver badge

        A real geek?

        Uses hard-drive platters as mug coasters, then reassembles them and uses them in live servers.

        1. serviceWithASmile
          Thumb Up


          and doesn't afraid of anything

        2. JEDIDIAH

          Not your average AOL coaster...

          >> A real geek?


          > Uses hard-drive platters as mug coasters, then reassembles them and uses them in live servers.


          ...tried the first part of that idea for a bit after my last MythTV related drive failure.

          Didn't realize the platters were so shiny...

          The novelty soon wore out and I just tossed what was left content to the fact that nearly no one is geeky enough to put the drive back together again (and read my "vital" data).

          If someone does bother they will likely be disappointed (Dr Who and Stargate reruns).

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Not quite 28 years but ...

    ... I've got a 10 year old TiVo in which one of the disks is still original Quantum drive (other was replaced when I increased size ... that's a Seagate which is 8-ish years old). Was still working fine when I last used it last month ... though as I've upgraded to the VM-TiVo so its still on but not in use. I'm sure there are several other people with simiar units ... and as these are PVR's the disks have been in constant use over those 10 years and not been spun down.

    Meanwhile ... last year bought a NAS to act as a backup drive - disk on that failed after 3 months!

    1. Daniel B.

      My Performa

      ... outlives your TiVo. 16 or 17 year old Mac still working with its Quantum SCSI HDDs, back when Macs were user-serviceable!

      My dad complains that he can't get stuff out of that Mac, but the real reason for that is because he threw away all the LocalTalk wiring, including the LocalTalk to LPT adapter we had. FAIL! Though I do wish we had bought an Ethernet adapter back then ... instead we hooked our PC to the LocalTalk network. Oh well...

  8. Scott Broukell
    Thumb Up

    what fond memories

    I had an Intel 80386 (16Mhz) AT machine circa 1985 with a similar 30Mb Seagate SCSI HDD. Having been introduced to fixed disks, (roughly the size and shape as washing machines!), at university some years before, I marveled at how small the drive was, I thought I would never fill that disk with data and I never did. It was bloomin' fast though, well, comparatively. The disk weighed a ton, as did the chassis. They don't make them like that any more, by heck!

    Now I'm looking back at that tech the same way I do at a vintage car show - how time files ;-)

  9. John White

    ......when you use a HD as a door stop

    I've a Sun E450 power supply as a door stop - does that count for geekiness?

    [great 'cos it has a handy carrying handle]

    1. IglooDude


      My geek claim to fame is having a failed drive out of my mail server's RAID5 array as a footrest. No, it isn't a very good footrest (it is an old SCSI drive, but not THAT old), but whenever some piece of hardware or another annoys me I can just kick or stomp on the old mail server drive rather than taking it out on a production bit of kit. Though I have found that less issues have been cropping up since I took the drive platter out of a range target (I mean "drive disposed of via nontraditional data wipe methods involving various firearms") and set it on my desk as a warning to the other hardware. Apparently being stepped on daily doesn't send a message, but being ventilated with .45caliber-sized holes does.

      1. John 62
        Thumb Up

        non-traditional wipe

        "drive disposed of via nontraditional data wipe methods involving various firearms"

        sir, I salute you

      2. Wize

        Nothing makes a computer behave, more than...

        ...the burnt out remains of its predecessor sitting beside it.

      3. paulf

        Further Geekiness

        I have an old SUN Sparc 20 machine at home which I use as a foot rest. Right size to be comfortable, and weighs a ton relative to its size so it hardly moves on the floor. It was an old broken one someone in the computer department gave me for the purpose when they were ditching old machines.

        That said when I started work 11 years ago (as the new PFY graduate I got the crappiest machine in the department) I was given a Sparc 20 as my only computer. It was slow, but it served well as both computer and foot rest. I even kept it in place on the floor as a foot rest when I finally begged someone to give me an Ultra 10 from a batch that were freed up from a load of redundancies.

        I still have my original (and presumably still working) Sparc 20 somewhere - as I took it with me when I left. Its probably in my "to-do" pile.

    2. Anonymous Coward

      E450 PSUs?

      <scurries down to machine room>

      You're right! They do have handles! When that servers not used any more I'm having that...

      (Anonymous to protect the 'reputation' of this fair establishment.)

  10. Andy The Hat Silver badge

    Surely no problem ... #2

    The one advantage of the 10 and 20Mb units was the external stepper so when the bleedin' heads stuck to the platters you could physically move head assembly to free the platters without opening the drive! Oh, anyone remember having to rub the spindle eathing strap with a pencil to stop it squealing! Kids these days don't know what a hard disk is! :-)

    1. John Smith 19 Gold badge

      @Andy The Hat

      "Oh, anyone remember having to rub the spindle eathing strap with a pencil to stop it squealing! Kids these days don't know what a hard disk is! :-)"

      No. But I remember working the 10 DIP (2 groups, 4 and 6) switches on a 2nd hand one to get my PC to recognise it

      At one point I had the 51/4, 31/2, internal and new one all on and the PC recognised *none* of them.

      These young people of today blah blah....

    2. Andy 68

      what about....

      what about pulling the sticker off and dropping tiny amounts of sunflower oil from a cocktail stick into the hole to free up the sticking drive just long enough for you to copy everything off?

      1. Tim #3

        @ Andy 68

        while getting cold hands as you'd just taken it out of the freezer, perchance?

    3. Web Monster

      Hydraulics anyone?

      Now I just feel like an old geek--I maintained CDC equipment and some the CDC 3000 era disk drives were hydraulically actuated. Nothing like regularly taking a 2 foot qtip dipped in alcohol to remove hydraulic fluid from the platters of the refrigerator sized 20mb drive. The next generation used voice coils, ala speakers. Stepping motors were for cheaper printers...

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward


      Well, I remember a friend who wanted four MFM drives installed on a PC with an 8bit ISA bus, having to physically break the track on the controller's PCB which signaled for drive 0/1 and connecting it to the drive 2/3 line.

    5. fixit_f
      Thumb Up


      Anyone apart from me old enough to remember drives where you had to park the heads using DOS before moving the machine? My Amstrad PC1512 had one of those in it - last I saw that machine was still working too.

    6. Inachu

      I have that 20 meg drive

      Never knew you could do that.


  11. Anonymous South African Coward Bronze badge

    Reliability... sucks.

    Seems mileage on Seagates vary. Also on any type of HDD you get nowadays.

    Got three Intel servers here, all with Intel RAID. Two have 1Tb HDD's, the third one 250Gb HDD's.

    The third Intel server's HDD's have been flaky from the start. The other two is still soldiering on.

    We also got a couple of old HP LH3 NetServers - with their original HDD's still performing well after all these years.

    My first PC had a 40Mb Seagate - you could kick it, drop it, slap it, it just continue working.

    I might be wrong, but it seems that the newer HDD's are more prone to errors and failing - part of the design of using a voice coil instead of a stepper motor. With a voice coil you do need a special platter to keep track information so the drive will know where the head is at any given moment - and once that platter gets corrupted then your drive is also gone.

    The higher the aureal densities, the higher the chances of it going south with a bigger load of data at any time.

    Anybody remember the infamous Kalok hard drives back then?

    1. TheRealRoland
      Thumb Up

      Yeah, named after

      the sound they made when you booted up...

  12. Just Thinking


    Sure if a disk has been in daily use for 28 years it would be impressive, but if it has just been sitting in storage for most of that time, assuming the temperature and humidity were reasonable, what's the big deal?

  13. Major N

    You spin me right round round

    I have a late 80s drive opened up, polished, and hanging on my wall as 'an art'

    1. Anonymous Coward

      phoey !!

      I have the main-board, VGA, IO card ad-lib soundcard and 386 sx25 cpu all mounted in a frame on my wall in my computer room... It was my first IBM compatible PC... it was an Amstrad too !!

      do I get the geek crown?

      1. amanfromearth

        No Geek crown

        - cos it's an Amstrad.

        1. Anonymous Coward


          i want the geek crown because it was an Amstrad PC was the first PC that was ever built with the millennium bug in mind..

          other pc's at the time were compliant, but was more an accident . Amstrad built the a pc that in its design spec was that it must be Y2k compliment. other machines at the time and some even afterwards were designed still not giving a rats arse about Y2K as they believed the machine would not be in use that far in the future !

          just knowing this makes me king of the court of geeks !

      2. relpy

        Geek Crown

        Only if it's running.

        Preferably NeXTStep.

  14. Jim 59


    Excellent story, which raises an intriguing issue with disk drives, ie. capacities have increased exponentially, whereas access speeds only linearly. Will the same be true of flash ?

    More generally, Moore's law continues apace. However, due to vast increases in software complexity, a 2011 PC doesn't do *that* much more than a 1995 PC, aside from playing games. I mean, they both run word processors and spreadsheets. They will both produce a letter to your solicitor or do your accounts. The 2011 PC does accomplish more, but not a thousand times more.

    1. Stevie


      Not a thousand times more than 1995?

      Well, apart from the fact that you can pretty much just plug in a scanner, printer, tablet or what-have-you and it will self-configure the thing instead of your having to muck about with IRQs and drivers for hours.

      I guess it depends on what you are counting when you make the measurements. If you take a sensible measurement, like how much the computer is really doing while you scoff crisps and watch the install screen for your games, or what has to happen for your WoW Wizard to cast his spells with appropriate visual FX, then yes it does, rather.

      1. JEDIDIAH

        ...fixatnig on the wrong technical details.

        > Not a thousand times more than 1995?


        > Well, apart from the fact that you can pretty much just plug in a scanner, printer, tablet or what-have-you and it will self-configure the thing instead of your having to muck about with IRQs and drivers for hours.


        That is a function of bus design that has very little do do with whether or not the clock on the CPU is at 60Mhz or 3Ghz.

      2. Curtis

        shoot me, i'm a nerd

        There is no Wizard class in WoW. Mages, Warlocks, Priests et cetera, but no Wizard.

  15. Nick Ryan Silver badge

    Would this be...

    Would this be one of the classic jet engine turbine drives? i.e. one that whirs, clunks and whines itself at startup until finally it somehow manages to settle into an amost tolerable noise?

    Had to love those old Seagate drives, and just old drives in general. With their assortment of interface types (MFM anyone), disk capacity IDs, and all the general pain of IRQ assignment - want your MFM adaptor card to work at the same time as the serial cards and the keyboard? Get your graph paper out, cross reference the IRQs that each will use and try to find a best fit!

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward


      Just write a program in BASIC to do the fitting.

    2. Paul 77

      <sigh>A title - why doesn't it automatically put a title in when you reply?


      I thought MFM wasn't an interface type... There was ST-506 (SASI?), ESDI, the old narrow SCSI that I used during my early career.

      But I do remember bodging of IRQ's, including the use of 16bit IRQ's on an 8 bit ISA card... I'm fairly sure little bits of wire and solder were utilised. You could do things then that you probably couldn't get away with now because of the much higher clock speeds.

      1. Steven Knox


        wasn't an interface type, it was an encoding type. Back in those days, there wasn't room on the drive for the actual controller/encoder so the add-in card you got (usually with the drive) was the equivalent of the board on the bottom of your modern drive plus the interface circuitry on the motherboard (there being, in general, no built-in HDD interface on motherboards back then). ST-506 was the interface, I believe. MFM and RLL were the encoding types for the drives. My dad and I had hours of fun trying to reformat MFM drives on RLL controllers to get that extra capacity. I think we even succeeded once...

        [<Back in the day Icon?>]

        1. Darryl

          MFM - > RLL

          I had two 40 MB MFM drives and reformatted them both on an RLL controller and both worked perfectly. One was a Seagate and the other was a Miniscribe. The Seagate bumped up to just over 61GB and the Miniscribe only made it to 55 or so. Ran a BBS on those two in an old homemade 286 box for a couple years, and never had an error.

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Up

    Me too

    I've got something very similar in my loft. 85MB from Micropolis. Similar vintage, maybe slightly newer.

  17. Graham Bartlett


    Any storage medium is going to be limited by how fast you can get data in and out of it. Flash's limits are pretty high though, so it's not such an issue.

    More of a problem for Flash is the temp file thing. Each time you write to Flash, you wear it out slightly, and eventually it stops working. The same is true of hard drive sectors, of course, so the same solutions will work, but the number of write cycles is a lot better for magnetic media. When your OS and all your apps dump a shitload of temp files onto your drive every time they start up, this is not a nice place to be if you're a Flash drive. Likewise the whole RAM paging thing where the PC uses the hard drive as a temporary RAM extension is not going to be good for a Flash drive.

    The "doesn't do much more" thing is a big problem for software companies. Why upgrade from Word 97 if it still works well enough? Hence the recent MS addition of that godawful ribbon thing, which has to be the stupidest user interface in the history of computing.

    1. juice

      Wear levelling

      The problem with Flash cells wearing out is an issue, but the storage boffins have long since come up with a workaround: wear levelling. Simply put, the flash card tries to ensure that read/write activity is averaged out over the entire space, rather than being focused on specific cells. And with flash storage now comfortably into the gigabyte space (I have a 32gb micro-SD card: I can carry the entirety of Wikipedia several times over on something smaller than my fingertip. This really is the future...), the drives are generally big enough for this to be an effective approach, unless you're constantly writing to the entire drive (e.g. video recording). Even then, you're generally looking at a minimum of around 10,000 write cycles, which is a whole lotta data...

      Back to the article. We've tripled the speed of the platter (10,000 rpm disks are commercially available - around that's 150 spins per *second*) and increased information density - from 1.25mb/platter to 300,000mb/platter - or a quarter of a million times more information. That's the equivalent to printing War and Piece onto the back of a single first-class stamp with room to spare, which I find pretty damned impressive.

      The point I think the final paragraph was trying to make is that we're coming up against physical limits for information density, spin speeds and reliability. Magnetically-based storage has come a long way since someone slapped some iron oxide onto a bit of sellatape (as nicely demonstrated on an old Secret Life of Machines episode), but it's time is slowly drawing to an end - I'd guess that we're still at least 5 years away from flash storage being commercially viable in the terrabyte range, but hey. I used to have a 2mb SD card (and that was a step up from the 1.44mb floppy some cameras used at the time) and now own a class-10 16gb SD card which quite happily records 1080i AVCHD video at 60fps...

    2. Just Thinking

      Doesn't do much more

      Sure, a word processor does what it does, and aside from live reformatting, live spell checking and not having to worry too much about downsampling images before you include them, there is not much benefit in having a faster PC.

      What does change as processor speed up is the number of tasks which suddenly become interactive. I worked in computer imaging when JPEG was coming out, and we needed custom hardware to compress moderate sized images in a reasonable timeframe. Who these days gives a second thought to opening a large JPEG? Or processing a 12MPixel image interactively - people used to work with small proxy images and process the larger image overnight.

      Didn't it take 300 Sparc stations about 6 months to render the first Toy Story? I am not saying that you could do that on a PC (yet) but Blender's wire frame mode seems a bit redundant these days. Admittedly that owes as much to the graphics card as anything else.

      There is always something new to do with extra clock cycles.

      1. JEDIDIAH

        No. You miss on this metric too.

        > Didn't it take 300 Sparc stations about 6 months to render the first Toy Story? I am not saying that you could do that on a PC (yet) but Blender's


        By 1997 and perhaps even 1995, PCs were already being used in render farms.

        Sparc CPUs were never anything to write home about in terms of performance. That's why D2 was using Alpha machines running Linux to render the effects in movies like Titanic.

        People are having a hard time trying to figure out what makes a new machine better than an old one in practical terms. A lot of the stuff that we think of as "modern and new" has been around for awhile already.

  18. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Back before bloatware

    and your average word processing file size could be measured in B instead of MB.

  19. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    You do realise that's the warranty's void

    now that the lid's been taken off it?

    More seriously, all my coasters at home are platters from the Seagate SCSI drives I used to deal with that had a penchant for corrupting data or just plain not reading it. Little buggers.

  20. BristolBachelor Gold badge


    "but disk I/O has become a bottleneck at the platter surface level, and is set to remain that way."

    So if this is the case, why do they keep increasing the bus speed? Surely if the bottleneck is the platter, then the bus is not full, and making it wider does nothing. This doesn't sound right.

    1. Marcus Aurelius
      IT Angle

      @BristolBachelor: Increasing bus speed is easy

      Increasing read/write speed to the platter isn't.

      Some drives are being released with multiple heads, which may partly get round the issue.

      1. Peter Gathercole Silver badge


        What makes you think that multiple heads per platter is new?

        I saw a magnetic drum device (swap on an IBM 360-65) which had something like 8 rows of heads spaced around the drum to increase speed.

    2. Vic

      Bus Speed

      > So if this is the case, why do they keep increasing the bus speed?

      Because that raises the rate at which you can burst data to the disk (for it to be cached in RAM).

      This allows the CPU to go off and do other things while the HDD processor gets on with writing all that cached data to the platters.

      As long as the mean bus data rate (averaged over the amount of time it takes to fill the cache) doesn't exceed the platter transfer rate, you're left with a disk subsystem that appears to write data at full bus speed - even though it's actually doing no such thing.

      If the mean bus data rate goes too high, you end up with the CPU in IOWait until the drive catches up.



      Just run hdparm for yourself...

      > "but disk I/O has become a bottleneck at the platter surface level, and is set to remain that way."


      >So if this is the case, why do they keep increasing the bus speed? Surely if the bottleneck is the platter, then the bus is not full, and making it wider does nothing. This doesn't sound right.


      You can group multiple drives together. This is also a rather old idea.

      Plus there's the possibility of newer tech. Just because your average n00b Mac user can't think of a way to use the extra capacity doesn't mean it shouldn't be developed.

      SSD looks very promising and could be 60 times faster than spinny disk. The extra speed has usable potential because the underlying interfaces have the means to support it.

      ...days to hours my DVD jukebox array rather than days. Too bad I would need a 2nd mortgage to afford the equivalent amount of SSD storage.

  21. /dev/null

    £263 my bottom...

    You wouldn't have got a hard disk (or "Winchester" as we called them back then) for less than four figures back in 1983. £263 was more like floppy disk drive money (5.25in floppy disk drive, that is).

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward


      Blimey, I'd forgotten that we used to call them "Winchesters"...

      Wonder what else I've forgotten...

      Old HDD + MFM controller = 20MB

      Same HDD + RLL controller = 28MB

      Mid 80's I think.

      1. Mike Timbers




        God I feel old!

    2. Anonymous Coward

      i agree....

      back in the early 80's a 5MB winchester Hard disk of any brand would have set you back £5k+ and a 10MB a whopping £8-10K+.

      i know cos i used to have to occasionally fix them around london in the late 80's as a field engineer.

      people forget that a basic vanila ibm pc without hard disks would start at 5K and the only ones buying them were large corporate companys for thier accounts dept.

      everyone else there would have to make do with dumb green screen wyse rs-232 terminals.

      1. /dev/null

        Wyse terminals?

        Wyse terminals? Luxury! Compared to the ergonomic delights of a Perkin-Elmer 550, or a DEC VT101 or a Televideo 915...

      2. Jim 59

        @AC re disk proces

        "back in the early 80's a 5MB winchester Hard disk of any brand would have set you back £5k+ and a 10MB a whopping £8-10K+".

        Surely not. In 1986, you could buy an Amstrad PC clone containing a 20 Mb hard disk for £499. Moore's law is good, but not that good.

        We had a 1512 in the house. Before that, my father *rented* an Epson PC, including hard disk, because buying was far to expensive. Like the way people used to rent TVs. Now, I guess people just use credit cards.

        1. /dev/null

          I think your memory is playing tricks on you...

          £500 for a PC1512 with an HD in 1986? I don't think so. More like a grand. See here:

          1. Jim 59

            PC 1512

            Wikipedia alleges £499 including hard disk. Suspect that might refer to the floppy disk model only. However, even i-programmer states the PC 1512 20 Mb model cost £949. It is therefore difficult to imagine the same size disk costing £5000 to £8000 only 3 years earlier.

            Maybe there was a price difference then, as now, between "enterprise" and domestic disks.

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  23. David 45


    If we're talking manufacturers here, I didn't get much mileage out of a WD "Elements" 640 gig external drive. Approx. 14 months on and it wouldn't rustle up, although, to be fair, it wasn't the drive itself. It must have been the interface electronics. Took the beast apart, extracted the drive, installed it in an independent housing and has been OK ever since. However, have heard similar stories. Not confident in the brand now. Certainly wouldn't buy another, that's for sure.

  24. Anonymous John

    They're tempting fate there.

    It will probably fail now. I hope they've backed up the contents.

  25. Oldfogey

    10Mb just for one PC?

    The first server I installed was an Apricot with a 40Mb hard disk, with a dozen workstaions, later increased to 20.

    The thing is these were all thin clients without floppies, so all software, user data, and the local email system, were all stored on the server, as was the only printer connection.

    Say that to the kids who are system managers today and they'll look at you like an Old Fogey!

    Min's the one with the thin ethernet crimp tool in the pocket.

    1. Jim 59


      "Say that to the kids who are system managers today and they'll look at you like an Old Fogey!"

      Not if you call it "cloud computing". And that wouldn't be too far from the truth.

  26. Sureo

    In contrast....

    ... there was the PC-XT I bought way back when that had a 10MB Seagate hard drive that worked for a day or two before croaking. The 1TB Seagate drive I bought last year did better, lasting 3 months before dying.

  27. This post has been deleted by its author

    1. Cobbler


      Might be a typo. I don't think anyone made a 10gb SCSI drive until 1997 or 1998. Even then, it was typically 8.7, give or take.

      As for SCSI, the parallel bus topped out at 320MB/sec, which isn't much better than a 3 Gb/sec serial connection (let alone 6Gb). Then again, if you're running SAS, isn't that still SCSI?

  28. K. Adams

    I have a Timex Sinclair 1000 (Sinclair ZX81)...

    ... with the 16K RAM expansion pack and cassette tape drive/recorder, and they all still work. Does that count?

    I also have a KayPro II and KayPro IV sitting in the basement somewhere...

  29. Electrohippy

    Seagate / Conner "Chinook"

    I have a prototype Conner "Chinook" IDE drive that has two separate headstacks (located at opposite ends of the same disk assembly but that share the same platter stack) and a clear plastic lid. After Seagate merged with Conner it was given to me by some guys I worked with at Seagate in the mid 1990s. They were throwing it out with some other items.

    Did anyone ever see a production Chinook drive? Supposed to be super-fast read/write times owing to the multiplexing of the two headstacks.

    Relatively young at circa 1991 but I think my Chinook drive is more interesting than a run-of-the-mill clunky old ST-412.

    1. K. Adams

      Yup... Ran into a Chinook myself once...

      Didn't last very long, as I recall. Seem to remember there were some problems where the vibrations generated from one of the HDAs (Head/Disk Assemblies) would be transmitted through the frame of the drive, and throw off the tracking of the other HDA.

      Was that a stepper-motor drive? Or was it rotary voice coil w/ servo tracks?

  30. Charlieman 1

    Apple ProFile Drives

    I have about three working 5MB ProFile drives from 1981 onwards with ST-506 mechanisms. Do I get a prize?

  31. phil 21


    I've got a few MFM atari drives circa 1986-7 here and I've just removed a scsi drive from an atari Stacy4 'laptop' in order to backup the data as the interface card is a bit wonky, thats probably circa 1988, and still works. stupidly loud though.

  32. John F***ing Stepp

    Seagate harddrives and Verbatim floppys.

    Ah, that brings back memories.

    No, wait dammit it doesn't!

  33. Charles E

    Older hard drives e.g. Corvus

    I suspect older drives in working condition could be found. Corvus Systems shipped 10Mb Winchester hard drives for the Apple ][, back around 1979. They were pretty tough, I bet someone has a Corvus drive that still works sitting on a shelf somewhere. I was a Corvus tech back in the day, so if any such drive appears, I would be glad to help get it up and running (such as I am able).

    Jeez, now I think back to ~1980 when 10Mb of hard disk seemed like an infinite storage space, compared to Apple ][ 140k floppies. And then I recall backing up a 10Mb Corvus disk to 140k floppies, ouch.

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  36. Anonymous Coward

    Memory Lane

    Hmmm, 1983. . . about when Hewlett-Packard started installing racks and racks of HP7935 disk drives in all their data centers. About the size of a small washing machine and, when the heads were seeking, they would actually walk across the floor. Stacked 'em two high using very heavy frames, but had to reinforce the raised data center flooring or they'd crash through :) The best part: 404MB, with *removable* packs. Wow!! All for a list price of only $25,000 each. Boise Division's R&D project name was BFD, 'cause they were sure big at the time.

    There were a few still working in 1991, but those were all shot up during the making of Terminator II.

  37. altman

    Hmm, I have an ST-506

    ...which is the 5MB seagate, that holds my old BBS that ran on my BBC B. Ok, so I've not powered it up in 25 years, but I finally found the DTC controller needed and am going to attempt to recover the data from it later this year.

    I'm pretty hopeful. The data density is kinda low and the thing is built like a tank!

  38. Fred 4
    Jobs Halo

    probably too late to be seen...

    I have a Mac 512k (that is the model stuffed between the original 128k (and those numbers refer to RAM in the computer) and the Mac Plus. THe case still had the signatures of the deisgn team embedded on the interior of the case.

    This oldie has an external, SERIAL port connected, hard drive which was called "HD-20".

    A 20 megabyte hard drive that connected via the serial port (and had a pass through so you could put an external 400k floppy drive on the Mac too). Access times were in the 1500 millisecond range.

    All of this still works :)

  39. Eeep !

    You geeks need to get out more

    Dad used the case from a pair of 8 inch floppy disk drives as a flower pot.

    1. Michael H.F. Wilkinson Silver badge

      Pity, I could still use an 8 inch drive

      I still have an 8" floppy with CP/M 2.2 on it. I still wonder if the data would still read (all 128 kB of data)

  40. system11

    Me too

    There's one of those up in our loft too, no reason why it shouldn't still work, it did when it was put there.

  41. Willywigwam

    Seagate drives just get worse

    It seems like the older they are the more robust they be.

    That one which is still working after many many years, I have a 250GB Seagate that is still working and has been on a daily basis for about 7 years and my most resent Seagate I purchased 2 years ago which has had to be RMA'd a few days back.

    On the Seagate RMA, a very quick turnaround, sent very late on Friday and was told that it wouldn't go that day and Seagate emailed me on Monday saying that they had received it. Tuesday I got an email saying that they had despatched a replacement but no tracking info. Now two days later and still no sign of it or any tracking info. It is DHL [none]Express.

  42. Anteaus

    HD Reliability woes

    In my workshop I've a stack of dead HDs of all makes. 2.5 and 3.5. IDE and SATA. I wouldn't like to say which manufacturer has the best reliability, but I wouldl rate now-defunct ExcelStor as the worst ever encountered, with literally 100% failure.

    The problem with modern HDs seems to be that the firmware is on the platter instead of in a ROM, and it only takes the slightest glitch for it to be over-written. Result, dead disk which can only be revived by way of special procedures, if at all..

  43. Anonymous Coward

    2kg spinning at 3600rpm?

    Even if the 2kg is not referring just to platter weigh, I bet this thing is built in sturdy fashion like a chainsaw. It probably could cut through your fingers when spinning as well.

    Was it bolted to the table along with the rest of the PC? Those needles sure showed some inertia while searching for stuff in it, didn't they?

    There is your reliability right there: it had to survive itself clonking about while looking for a file.

    Amazing piece (or chunk) of history.

  44. Jacqui


    I have a 2.5inch 20/40mb drive bought with one of the very first Amiga 1200's.

    No idea if it still boots - the VT220's stored next to it in the loft both died.

    I do have some not quite tiny SCSI hard drives from a Sun3 as well.

    I will punt tis article to the surrey LUg users - some of them have some seriously old hardware

    (still running)! I expect at least on of them can beat this drive.


  45. Jacqui


    I will punt this article to the surrey LUG users - some of them have some seriously old hardware

    (still running)! I expect at least on of them can beat this drive.

    I suspect some of the hants LIg users may also have hardware that whomps this for bnoth age and size.


  46. Version 1.0 Silver badge

    Call that a disk drive?

    ... that's not a disk drive - now it it was an RK05 (2.5Mb) or an RL01 (5Mb) or an RL02 (10Mb) then I'd be a little more impressed ... each one is a single platter, 18" in diameter - present tense because I've got a pair of RL02's in the office ... and a full RSX11M 4.2 build kit to go with it. OK, so it's been a while since I powered it up but it was fine when I shut them down.

    I might still have a pair of Seagate 8" drives too ... gonna have to dig a little for those... boxes that weigh as much as those do are stored at the bottom of the shelves.

  47. Dick Emery
    IT Angle


    The oldest bit of kit I could find in my dusty cupboard is a Sequencial Inc 5400s SCSI drive. It would make a good door stop. It has a huge 4GB of storage capacity. I only wish I had a SCSI adapter to plug it into to test it though.

  48. F. Svenson

    What a stupid metric.

    Comparing the "platter read speed" of a 5MB platter VS a 300GB platter is pure inanity.

    Perhaps you'd like to compare the toilet flush latency of an Airbus 380 VS a Clipper? That will prove how airplanes haven't gotten any better in fifty years.

    Come to think of it, the whole article is crap. I have a Selectric III in my office, perhaps you can run an article on Oxford counties oldest typewriter.

  49. Chris Mellor 1

    ST-412 history notes

    Sent to me by Steven L. Kaczeus:-

    Originally this product was ST-512 as a double density product of the ST-506. When I changed the read/write heads to thin film then we changed the product number to ST-412. My following project was the ST-225 product which was a half high and again double density device. The ST-225 was the highest volume selling product for Seagate Technology. This product also made Seagate a very successful company.


    Thanks Steven,


  50. This post has been deleted by its author

  51. MikeWolf

    Times have changed

    That one lasted 27 years. The new Seagates die after less than 5. Absolute trash.

  52. Phil_Haylor
    Thumb Up

    So who does have the oldest one of these?

    I ‘foolishly’ lent one of these to a friend back in 1999. Guess what, he binned it sometime after! I was seriously not impressed I can tell you. However, I have one more of these and it is perhaps my favourite piece of nostalgic IT history.

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