hard drive history

1999: maturity

Seagate Medalist 17240 series hard drives

Photo: Red Hill.

Seagate Medalist 17240 Family

Seagate always used to have two or three levels of IDE drive at any given time: entry-level, mainstream, and high-performance. There was always an entry-level drive, nearly always a mainstream mid-market product, and Seagate seemed to produce high-end, high-performance drives or not produce them as the fancy struck. When Seagate did make a high-performance drive, it was usually an absolute ripper.

The Medalist 17240 was announced in November 1998 as a replacement for both the mainstream Medalist 5400 and the high-performance Medalist 7200. Frankly, Seagate didn't have a Medalist 7200 replacement and this was fluff: the 17240 was a mainstream product, nothing more. At 5400 RPM and 9.0ms, no-one who knew anything about hard drives was fooled for a moment.

On paper the 17240 looked great, straight out of the classic Seagate mainstream mould. The performance figures were more than competitive with the then-current 5400 RPM market-leading drives (Quantum's Fireball EX and CR models): the data transfer rate was almost identical, it lifted the previous Medalist's meager 128k on-drive cache to 512k, and the seek time was down significantly: from 10.5ms to 9.0. Alas, the delivery was sadly lacking. There was nothing wrong with the drive itself, Seagate simply took far too long getting the 17240 into volume production, and by the time product finally arrived it was merely a competent mid-ranger.

Pre-announcing a drive six months before you have product ready to ship was considered dirty pool. In the case of IBM and Quantum, it was routine practice — they were notorious for it — but Seagate was usually much better behaved, certainly with IDE drives. Presumably the 17240 ran into major production difficulties: Seagate had already dropped the previous models and had everything to gain and nothing to lose by getting the 17240 out on time. As a consequence Seagate lost market share. We sold a lot of IBM and Western Digital drives instead and were encouraged to have one of our rare flirtations with Quantum.

Performance1.19Reliabilityno data
Data rate188 Mbit/secSpin rate5400 RPM
Seek time9.0msBuffer512k
Platter capacity4.3GBInterfaceATA-33/66
ST-34310A4.3GB2 MR heads
ST-38420A8.4GB4 MR heads**
ST-310231A10.2GB5 MR heads
ST-313032A12.9GB6 MR heads*
ST-17242A17.2GB8 MR heads*