hard drive history

1999: maturity

Quantum Fireball CX

Photo: Red Hill.

Quantum Fireball CX

Quantum's first GMR head drive had very impressive specs; it was the fastest 5400 RPM drive around for quite some time. Indeed, at 241Mbit/sec, its claimed transfer rate was higher than that of any then-current 7200 RPM drive, and its overall performance about equal to that of first-generation 7200s like the Medalist 7200. The new Quantum arrived in mid-year but for one reason or another, we never got around to sampling it.

→ Illustration: Fireball CX 10.2. Notice two interesting things about this two disk, three head drive: first, the low-set platter which leaves room for a third disk to be added to make the 20GB model. Second, the two naked actuator arms — there appear to be four, but the lower two are just reflections. There is nothing attached to the arms. The inner arms (not visible in the picture) have the usual read-write heads and suspension mechanisms, but the upper two arms have none. Despite the perfection of its mirror finish, the visible surface of this upper disc does nothing.

The 20GB CX, having six heads, simply added three more head gimbal assemblies — two to the lower arm and one to the upper one — and an extra platter. This particular drive was not sold through the usual channels but direct to a major OEM, so although it was only installed in November 1999 it was already out of warranty when it failed in April 2002 and gave me the chance to photograph it.

Performance1.23Reliabilityno data
Data rate241 Mbit/secSpin rate5400 RPM
Seek time9.5msBuffer512k
Platter capacity6.8GBInterfaceATA-66
CX 6.46.4GB2 GMR heads
CX 10.210.2GB3 GMR heads
CX 13.013.0GB4 GMR heads
CX 20.420.4GB6 GMR heads