hard drive history

beginings: mfm drives of the 1980s

Miniscribe 3650

Photo: adapted from a 1987 Miniscribe brochure.

Miniscribe 3650

Nobody ever liked these horrible things. They were slow, noisy, unreliable, and ugly.

So why was the Miniscribe 3650 the world's best selling drive for year after year? Because at just $500 brand new, the 3650 was very cheap, and it was readily available in quantity.

You could recognise a 3650 blindfolded: the noise it made was unmistakable. It was the drive that took Miniscribe to market leadership — and, when the company kept on producing it by the thousand it long after the use-by had expired, it was the drive which eventually took Miniscribe to bankruptcy.

Back in 1989 when I was working for a large Melbourne computer dealer, for reasons never explained to me our company standard drives were the Seagate ST-225 for 20MB systems, and the Miniscribe 3650 for 40MB ones. (Knowing that company, these would have been the cheapest drives of those capacties.) Even back then, when they were factory fresh, the 3650s were noisy and not very reliable. They didn't improve with age.

Data rate5 Mbit/secSpin rate3600 RPM
Seek time61msActuatorStepper
Platter capacity13.4MBInterfaceMFM
AT drive type40Form5.25" half-height
MS-365040.3MB6 thin-film heads