hard drive history

size still matters: is there ever enough?

IBM Deskstar 3

Photo: Red Hill.

1997 Drive of the Year

IBM Deskstar 3 Family

Like the excellent IBM Deskstar 2 of the previous year, these superb drives were a technician's delight and a great illustration of the way drive manufacturers in general and IBM Storage in particular used expensive new technology to make cheaper, faster, more reliable drives. Magneto-Resistive heads were more expensive than the older thin-film heads, but allowed such high data density that only three platters were required to store over 3GB (an outstanding achievement at that time). The total cost was surprisingly low, and as a bonus, the high areal density translated into very high data transfer rates.

There were just two versions, the 3.2, and the 2.1GB "depop". (A "depop" or depopulated drive is a larger model with one or more discs left out to reduce the capacity — and the cost too, of course. Nearly all drive models have depop versions.)

The 2.1GB Deskstar 3 was our best-selling drive for most of the earlier part of 1997, and the 3.2 took over at the top for another few months after that. Only some classic weirdo IBM marketing stopped it going even longer — IBM started selling the bigger and faster 3.6GB Deskstar 4 for thirty-odd dollars less than the (by then over-priced) 3.2! Apparently this had to do with long-term OEM contracts, but IBM was always very good at the carefully aimed bullet in the foot.

Fast, cheap, and ultra-reliable, the Deskstar 3 was the obvious choice for our 1997 Drive of the Year. Five years later we were still getting them traded in regularly, and they remained as they started: one of the most fuss-free and reliable drives we have ever sold.

Data rate88.4Mbit/secSpin rate5400 RPM
Seek time9.5msBuffer128k
Platter capacity1.05GBInterfaceIDE mode 4
Read channelPRMLHead technologyMR
DAQA-321602.1GB4 heads*****
DAQA-332403.28GB6 heads****