CES 2007: Hitachi announces 1 TB hard drive

Pre CES 2007 coverage - - Las Vegas (NV) - Hitachi this morning was first out of the gate to announce details about a 1 TB hard drive, which the company said will ship during the first quarter of this year. The announcement follows a brief statement by Seagate, which yesterday confirmed that it will also deliver a 1 TB drive within the next three months.

If your 500 or even 750 GB hard drive just doesn't cut it anymore, we have good news for you. The terabyte is about to begin, with Hitachi being the first company to announce such a drive, at least sort of: The drive isn't available just yet, but will be available "in limited numbers" in retail stores within this quarter, the company told us. In other words, if you really want such a drive, you'll be able to get one, if your keep watching those Sundays ads.

Besides the sheer capacity of the Hitachi Deskstar 7K1000 drive, which provides 33% more storage space than the largest drive currently available on the market - Seagate's 750 GB Barracuda drive - the big news about the Terabyte drive is that it actually may be ringing in more competition for Seagate on the high-end, ultimately resulting in lower prices. Hitachi will sell the 7K1000 for about $400 retail, which compares to about $450 for Seagate's 750 GB drive.

Looking at the capacity of the Hitachi drive, which will be available with SATA and PATA interfaces and appear later on in the consumer electronics version called "Cinemastar 7K1000", you will be able to store 56 million pages of text or about 1 million ebooks. Hitachi noted that 18 terabyte drives would be enough to store the entire contents of the Library of congress, which currently holds about 18 million books. 1 TB is also enough to store more than 300,000 6-megapixel images, 250,000 MP3s, 1000 hours of standard definition video or 250 hours of high-definition video. Or, you could store the content of 20 Blu-ray discs.

Hitachi won't be alone with a terabyte drive for long, as Seagate told us yesterday that the company actually expects to be the first manufacturer that is shipping such a drive. And, Seagate appears to have the technological edge: While Hitachi is using five 200 GB platters (148 Gb/in2 density) to reach 1 TB, Seagate will be using four 250 GB platters, which indicates that Seagate will be announcing a new storage density record in commercial hard drives of more than 180 Gb/in2.

With the 1 TB milestone in mind, we can't help looking back at the history at hard drives. Hitachi reminded us that the first hard drive, released in 1956, stored 5 MB of data and was priced at $50,000 - or $10,000 per MB. 35 years later, in 1991, the industry had reached 1 GB and first mass-market gigabyte drives were entering the market around 1995 for about $500. Twelve years later, the industry has overcome serious concerns of how to keep increasing hard drive storage densities and is looking towards hard drives with multiple terabytes of storage capacity. Compared to a $10,000/MB price in 1956, a capacity of 1 GB is priced today at about 40 cents.