hard drive history

1998: a year of transition

Seagate Medalist 5400

Photo: Red Hill.

Seagate Medalist 5400 Family

Seagate finally remembered the mainstream desktop drive with this series.

Throughout the previous year (1997) Seagate had manufactured excellent low-cost, fairly slow IDE drives like the long running ST31720, and (as always) superb high-end SCSI drives like the Cheetah family but nothing much in between. At a time when the market was demanding fast IDE drives in the 3 to 4GB range, Seagate's only 5400 RPM drives were too small at 2.5GB, and too large and expensive at 6.4GB, while the 4500 RPM drives Seagate had in the popular size categories were competitive only with the ultra low-end Quantum Bigfoot.

That changed with this new model. With excellent performance (by the standards of the day) and very reasonable cost, the long-running Medalist 5400 series filled the gap for 1998 — and did it with outstanding Seagate reliability (very few drives earned our "AAA" reliability rating). As so often with the very best mainstream drives, there is little else to say about these, bar that we sold a large number of them with perfect satisfaction — it is something of an injustice that it is really only the worst products in any particular area that garner much attention. The best things in life just work without fuss or bother and we take them for granted.

To appreciate how much drive technology improves over the years, compare the 2.1GB version (one of the last drives of this size ever manufactured) with the ST-32140 (the world's first 2GB IDE, introduced in February 1996 and long out of production by this time). The newer drive had only two heads instead of eight, more than double the data transfer rate, and cost less than half as much to manufacture. Only the seek time was similar, and seek time is the most difficult of all drive performance factors to do much about unless cost is not an issue.

Data rate140 Mbit/secSpin rate5400 RPM
Seek time10.5msBuffer128k
Platter capacity2.1GBInterfaceATA-33
ST321102.1GB2 MR heads***
ST332213.2GB3 MR heads****
ST343214.3GB4 MR heads****
ST365316.5GB6 MR heads*****
ST386418.6GB8 MR heads**