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Quo Vadis, Hard Drive? The 50th Anniversary of the HDD

Quo Vadis, Hard Drive? The 50th Anniversary of the HDD

Tom's Hardware Guide: Does this mean that hard disk drives will come up with completely new recording and storage technologies by 2010?

Atzkern: Seagate is very careful with projections on deployment of new recording technologies. We will need material with much higher densities such as iron-platinum, so we can use new ways of recording data. Those materials can easily decuple the storage density. So far it is pretty costly to chemically produce those materials and we don't have other fully developed technologies - yet.

In general, the hard disk drive material is very important, because the heads have to stay on track even at a very high rotation speeds. Reducing the distance between the medium and the heads presents yet another challenge: By developing thinner protective layers, we hope to reach a 10-nm distance - compared to today's 30 nm operating altitude.

Tom's Hardware Guide: Which of the recording techniques do you think will dominate the future of data storage? Or will it be a combination of various technologies?

Atzkern: I guess there will be a variety of technologies to choose from. Seagate's research and development department is working with controlled media or so-called "Self-Ordered Magnet Arrays" (SOMA). One typical informational bit consists of 100 material grains. Our task is to transfer each and every grain into an informational bit. The consequence would be a steep increase in bit density.

Probe Storage can offer an alternative to Flash memory, because it is less expensive, more efficient and shock resistant. Probe Storage uses 1000 heads on half a square inch at the same time. This is a non-writing technology, which could easily be implemented in the size of a typical semiconductor. Probe Storage works like a scanning microscope with the difference that an array of these microscopes - the probes - is writing and reading the data. Each single probe addresses a number of informational bits while reading and writing simultaneously.

We consider many different types of storage media, especially magnetic media, which would not lose its stored content during a blackout . An estimated ten gigabytes of information could be stored onto a half-inch chip. Although offering interesting possibilities, Seagate won't use probe storage to substitute hard disk drives. We see probe storage solutions as components of various consumer electronic devices operating with a stable low voltage. Seagate also envisions hard disk drives that have an internal memory buffer, which enables a faster data access than the conventional platter approach.

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