If you’ve got a computer, you’ve got a hard drive–in fact, if you don’t have a computer, you might still have one.
Hard drives are in everything from laptops to Tivos, iPods, game systems, and even some cameras–their unique ability to store massive amounts of information relatively safely and inexpensively makes them the prime choice for new technology developers that need digital data storage in their products. They’ve come a long way, too–from the old supercomputer hard drives that were practically the size of a room to current drives which store thousands of times more data than those dinosaurs and can fit in a pocket, hard drives have consistently and drastically improved over the years.
The future will be no different.
Well, actually, it will be quite a bit different. In order to innovate, hard drive manufacturers will need to think big.
There’s no doubt that hard drive manufacturers need to make larger and larger drives in order for their products to thrive in the digital storage media marketplace–as one employee of the hard drive manufacturer Seagate put it, “We need to maintain that 40 percent areal-density growth rate, at a minimum, to stay ahead of flash, and we are dang well going to do it.”
The question isn’t whether the move towards larger drive space is necessary, but exactly how to do it. By 2011, the current technique of “perpendicular hard drive recording”, which stores data vertically on a drive, will be essentially at its limit, and hard drive manufacturers will have to innovate to stay ahead of the game. Companies like Seagate, Hitachi and Western Digital are rapidly developing these techniques, since the company that implements an inexpensive and fully functional technique first will likely gain a large edge over their competition.
Hard drives will become faster as time goes by, since this will be necessary to compensate for the more precise movements necessary when hard drive data density becomes better. We will see hard drive caches (which store a small amount of data for the computer) begin to get larger to allow the heads of a drive to move less often. Hard drives currently spin at speeds of upwards of 7200RPM, but we’ll likely see much faster drives in the future, leading to better hard drive performance and stability.
Eventually, hard drives will be fast enough to drastically improve all computing performance, with lower seek times for particular bits of data and special technology implemented to make booting up an operating system like Windows Vista practically instant.
In the future, we may even see hybrid hard drives–a mix of flash technology and hard drive technology. This would lead to massive hard drive caches, resulting in more stable drives that can boot regularly used files (again, such as operating system files) very quickly. There are already a few hybrid hard drives being developed, but only time will tell if the technology catches on.
For the time being, we’ll have to get by with our paltry 1 TB drives, but in the future, we’ll likely have more data storage capabilities than we can handle–picture having every Steven Seagal movie on an area smaller than your fingernail.
Maybe not all technology is necessarily a good thing.