hard drive history

beginings: mfm drives of the 1980s

NEC D5126H

Photo: Red Hill.

NEC D5126H

These were the grand old days for NEC as a hard drive maker. In 1987 when these were selling new, NEC drives were a premium product, suitable for fitting to a top-notch 8 or 10MHz XT clone with an EGA monitor and 640k of RAM, or even a 12MHz 286 rocketship system.

Like the Seagate ST-251H , the D5126H was a high-performance variant of a slower drive. The H variant was much the more common of the two — the standard 5126 was vastly slower at a glacial 85ms.

The NEC drives were beautifully finished in brushed gold alloy, and very heavy. Compare the appearance to other drives of the same era, like an ST-225 or a Miniscribe 3650.

Obviously, the appearance of the outside of a drive has nothing to do with its quality and reliability — or does it?

Over the years we have observed, as a rule of thumb, that there is a distinct correlation between how well drives are finished and how well they perform in the longer term. It is not an infallible rule, of course, but all else being equal if the manufacturer has made the extra effort to make its product look attractive, it will usually have put its best efforts into getting the inside of the product right too. And when a drive maker suddenly starts producing cheap and nasty looking drives — as Maxtor did through the 540MB to 2.1GB era, for example — all too often it is feeling the financial pinch and its quality is dropping too.

Data rate5 Mbit/secSpin rate3600 RPM
Seek time40msActuatorStepper
Platter capacity10MBInterfaceMFM
AT drive type2Form5.25" half-height
D5126H21MB4 thin-film heads
D5146H42MB8 thin-film heads