Hard disc reaches 50th anniversary

IBM unveiled the world's first hard disc 50 years ago this week.

IBM unveiled the world's first hard disc 50 years ago this week.

The IBM 350 disc storage unit was rolled out in 1956 as part of the IBM 305 Ramac business computer. It offered storage capacities of five, 10, 15 or 20 million characters and was configured with 50 magnetic discs containing 50,000 sectors, each of which held 100 alphanumeric characters.

At the launch event on 14 September 1956, then IBM president Thomas J Watson Jr said, "Today is the greatest new product day in the history of IBM and, I believe, in the history of the office equipment industry.

These products provide the most significant advancement toward business control and operation by electronics to be made thus far." The monthly charge for the IBM 305 Ramac was £1,700.

Data density (the amount of information that can be squeezed into a square inch of hard disc space) had increased 65 million times since 1956, according to drive manufacturer Seagate. Today, a pocket-sized device using a single one-inch platter can store 12Gbytes of information.

Seagate predicted that by 2020 a one-inch platter would be able to hold 500 million pages of text.

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