hard drive history

size matters: especially when you can't get it

Seagate Medalist SL

Photo: Red Hill.

Seagate Medalist SL (Decathlon) Family

Seagate's Decathlon 850 had been one of the outstanding drives of the mid-nineties. At the time of its introduction it was the fastest IDE hard drive money could buy. Only the equally excellent Quantum Fireball was in the same league, and the Decathlon 850/851 twins kept their speed crown for month after month. The 850 rapidly became our best-selling drive, and remained a favourite right up until Seagate replaced it with these two higher-capacity models, the Decathlon 1080 (illustrated here) and soon after that, the Medalist SL 1270. (The 'SL' stood for "slim line" and as you can see indicated a thinner than usual drive.)

These were super-fast and just about bullet-proof too; a classic Seagate drive. It was only at the end of the century that they stopped being a very saleable trade-in.

There was a depopulated 540GB version of the Decathlon 1080, the ST5540A, which we never sold as a new drive. It was a little too late for the market: by that time performance-conscious buyers wanted 1GB or 1.2GB drives and 500MB class drives, as the smallest drives always do, sold only on price.

The well-known names "Fireball" and "Decathlon" were the mark of a top-quality drive with outstanding performance. Both were soon to become meaningless. Quantum devalued the Fireball name by calling all its IDE drives "Fireball" (fast or not), while Seagate stopped using the Decathlon name completely. The then-new ST51270 was introduced as the Medalist SL 1270, and the ST5180 Decathlon was renamed in mid life. Seagate's 1998 range of 7200 RPM drives, which was as much an advance on the current technology as the Decathlons had been in their day, was simply the "Medalist 7200". Already there were too many finance-department bean counters in the big drive companies and not enough product guys.

Data rate67.7 Mbit/secSpin rate5376 RPM
Seek time10.5msBuffer128k
Platter capacity542MBEncodingRLL
Form3½" slimlineInterfaceIDE mode 4
ST51080A1.08GB4 thin-film heads*****
ST5540A541.9MB2 thin-film heads

Data rate71.4 Mbit/secSpin rate5376 RPM
Seek time10.5msBuffer128k
Platter capacity641MBEncodingRLL
Form3½" slimlineInterfaceIDE mode 4
ST51270A1.282GB4 thin-film heads****