hard drive history

finding the formula: ide as we know it

Western Digital Caviar AC140

Photo: Red Hill.

1992 Drive of the Year

Western Digital Caviar AC140 and AC280

All things considered, and allowing for the era, these original Caviars were quite possibly the best drives Western Digital ever made: fast, much easier to set up than any other drive then on the market, a very neat , clean design, and they proved to be extraordinarily reliable by 1990s standards.

The AC140 was perhaps the very best of all the 40MB IDE drives, light years in front of the dreadful Western Digital 93044 that preceeded it.

These drives, and the models that were to follow over the next few years, marked the time that Western Digital emerged from amongst the herd of other drive makers. Starting with these, WD made a series of great drives and became famous for them, rather than only being known for their old-school AT controller cards.

Only the traditional Western Digital stiction problem flawed the early model Caviars — and if you were going to have a problem, then stiction was better than most, because at least you usually had a chance to get the data off and transfer it to another drive.

For five or six years, in the public mind Western Digital were the brand to have, certainly here in Australia. Very often these public perception things are more to do with fashion than actual merit, but usually there has to be a hard core of technical excellence behind it somewhere. The AC140 and the AC280 was enormously successful in their own right, but they also predisposed a generation of PC buyers towards later Western Digital drives.

Data rate12 Mbit/secSpin rate3395 RPM
Seek time17msBuffer8k
Platter capacity42.6MBInterfaceIDE mode 0
ActuatorVoice coilForm3½" 1/3 height
AC14042.6MB2 thin-film heads****
AC28085.3MB4 thin-film heads****

Note. The term "stiction" was coined to indicate a cross between "stick" and "friction". Stiction was a fairly common problem with older hard drives, up till about 1995 or so, particularly if the drive had been left unused for a long time, especially in cold weather. The heads would weld themselves to the surface of the disk and the drive was then unable to spin up. A temporary cure was usually possible, but you needed to get the data off over the next little while and replace the drive.