hard drive history

1998: a year of transition

Western Digital Caviar AC14300

Photo: Red Hill.

Western Digital Caviar 3.2 and 4.3

Western Digital's product development was often sluggish in the late nineties. The company produced a number of excellent drives but did not always have them out fast enough to match Quantum or Seagate. Even little Maxtor often had a bigger, faster product out first.

In the summer of 97/98 WD got back on track whith a state-of-the-art family of 5400 RPM IDE drives (details here) but by the end of the year that range too was starting to look elderly, and this new range of faster products for the southern summer of 98/99 was well and truly due. The new models had been out for quite a while before we started selling them in any volume; mostly because they were often priced $10 or $20 higher than they should have been. We liked Western Digital drives here at Red Hill but they sometimes needed to be just a little cheaper to compete with the equivalent Seagate and IBM units. (In the second half of their market life — say, after April '99 — these became excellent value.)

For a while, it looked as though these were going to be the last of Western Digital's own in-house mainstream drives. While WD planned to continue as a manufacturer, around this time they contracted with IBM to manufacture re-badged IBM designs, using many IBM-supplied components. Despite some considerable success with their high-performance Western Digital Expert line, the arrangement was short-lived. By 2000, Western Digital was designing its own drives again.

Data rate161 Mbit/secSpin rate5400 RPM
Seek time9.5msBuffer512k
Platter capacity3.2GBInterfaceATA-66
AC132003.2GB2 MR heads
AC264006.45GB4 MR heads***
AC31000010.14GB6 MR heads

Data rate171 Mbit/secSpin rate5400 RPM
Seek time9.5msBuffer512k
Platter capacity4.3GBInterfaceATA-66
AC143004.31GB2 MR heads***
AC284008.45GB4 MR heads*
AC31300013.02GB6 MR heads