This way, thanks to IBM engineers by 1980 the floppy drives featured practically the same specifications as the contemporary hard drives, differing only by considerably bigger size. And only in 1980 IBM first time faced a serious competition from Seagate Technology Company (established by Al Shugart, who used to work in the same IBM in the 60s), which entered the market with the first small floppy-drive aka ST506. In the 80s many other companies joined the competition, although you hardly know some of them today. However, the inventiveness of Fujitsu, Rodime, Control Data, Maxtor, Hitachi, Quantum, Conner was not enough to outshine IBM’s engineering geniuses.
In 1990 IBM introduced in its hard disk drives the so called PRML signal processing technology (Partial Response Maximum Likehood), and in 1991 they first used magnetoresistive heads. These two technologies allowed increasing the data density and read/write tract bandwidth quite tangibly. The same year they discovered GMR (Giant Magneto-Resistance) effect in the labs. This innovation used for read heads allowed IBM to overcome another barrier in data density increase. IBM Deskstar 16GP hard drives introduced in 1997 were the first to feature GMR heads. All these technologies were open and many HDD manufacturers eagerly licensed them from IBM. Therefore, we owe the active growth of the HDD storage capacity, which has even exceeded the famous Moore’s law, solely to the IBM Corporation.
But there is nothing eternal in this world. No matter how sad it is we will never see new hard disk drives from the Blue Giant (at least during the next few years). Starting January 2003 its entire hard disk drive business including the development, manufacture, sales and technical support has been handed over to Hitachi Corporation (see this document for details). For this purpose, Hitachi has even established a new Hitachi Global Storage Technologies division. I do not want to speculate on the reasons behind this transition, but this is an undeniable fact and there is nothing we can do about it. Now let’s just take a glance at the entire history of the pioneer known as International Business Machines and take off our hats in silence.
During the last couple of years IBM started to fall behind the rivals in the eternal “armaments race”, being the very last of all hard disk drive manufacturers to increase the data density. However, a great lot of different small peculiarities, inevitably made its products the fastest among the competitors of the same weight category. However, this time the situation got somewhat different: all manufacturers announced their HDDs with 60GB per platter data density in September 2002. Since there had already appeared numerous announcements about IBM going to close its HDD business, the launch of Deskstar 180GXP turned out quite a surprise (I would like to mention that the whole press-release sounds highly pathetic, I strongly recommend taking a look at it :)). Well, we really like pleasant surprises like that :)
Now our primary goal is to find out how great the last IBM product actually is.