Disk drives shrink again

Those who have been using a computer for more than a couple of years will fondly remember when the “huge” 40 megabyte hard drives were introduced, about the same time as the 80286 computer. Of course, with today’s large programs filled with graphics and extra features, most users are working on machines that have close to 40 megabytes of memory, never mind data storage capacity. Hard drives are now at least one gigabyte (1000 megabytes) and 7 or 8 gigabyte drives are common.

This week, IBM went one further, introducing the “world’s smallest hard drive”. Equipped with a disk platter (the “record” where your data is written) about the size of a large coin, the new microdrive weighs less than an AA battery, yet it can store over 200 times more data or images than a floppy disk, at 340 megabytes.

The microdrive is designed for use in portable electronic devices, including still and video digital cameras as well as handheld or “companion” computers. For example, digital photographers can now take more photos before having to pause to download the stored images. They can also take much higher resolution photos more economically.

Microdrive will bring high-capacity, higperformance storage to almost any handheld digital device, such as digital video cameras, GPS navigation systems, and cellular phones.

According to IBM, the Microdrive will also stimulate the invention of new devices that take advantage of its high capacity and high performance. The new disk drive will be available in mid-1999. Who knows, we may be wearing the entire sum of the world’s knowledge on our wrists before the millennium.