This 85-pound IBM hard drive from 1989 will make you love modern tech even more
If you were to go back in time just a few decades and show off your smartphone with its 16 gigs of internal storage, the people then would exclaim sorcery and label you as a wizard or witch. When I was a kid in the 90s, I still thought a hard drive with just 10GB of storage was amazing.
Take, for instance, this IBM 3390 Direct Access Storage Device (DASD), which was one of the most expensive and largest forms of storage you could get you hands on around 1989. EEVblog has provided a teardown of this incredible engine-block-sized IBM hard drive that weighs in at 38.5kg (85 pounds) and stores a grand total of between 1 and 2 gigabytes.
Supposedly, the most well-equipped IBM 3390 system could store up to six drives for a total of capacity of 22.7GB. This particular 3390 model 2 is has 11-inch platters that spin at around 2500-3000RPM to deliver a data transfer rate of 4.2 megabytes per second and an average seek time of 12.5 milliseconds.
The video takes you through a journey of the drive's inner workings—from the single silicon chip used as a signal amplifier to the ceramic heads and the halon gas nozzle it used to keep the whole thing cool. The massive physical size of hard drives of this caliber didn't just allow them to pack in more bits, but it also to make them so reliable that companies continued to use and repair them into the 90’s—although that might have something to do with the extreme investment of buying one in the first place.
Speaking of price, when the IBM 3390 first rolled out in 1989, prices ranged from $90,000 to $275,000. Just to compare how easy things are now, I can go buy a two terabyte hard drive that spins at 7200 RPM with a six gigabyte per second data transfer rate for $180.
Take a few minutes to read through the forum thread. You might never complain about your iPad's limited storage space again.