hard drive history

2000: sea change

Western Digital Caviar BA

Photo: by kind permission of Western Digital.

Western Digital Caviar BA

An interesting drive in a sense, as there was very little to notice about it! After the outstanding performance of the IBM-sourced Expert drives, Western Digital's in-house replacement models were an anti-climax. Speed-wise, they were nothing special, among the slower of the 7200 RPM units around, but still decent. They were remarkably quiet, sensibly priced most of the time, and though we only saw modest numbers of them, seemed to be as reliable as most.

In a more competitive market, the BA series might have struggled, but with the Deskstar 75GXP often being rather expensive, and the Seagate Barracuda ATA-II not being a particular speed-demon, these sold at a slow but steady rate. In reality, the lack-lustre performance of most 7200 RPM drives in late '99 and throughout 2000, together with the availability of a superb 5400 RPM unit in the Samsung SpinPoint V1020, meant that the performance gap between 5400 RPM and 7200 RPM drives was small, while the price gap remained significant. In short, we sold a lot of SpinPoints, not many WD BAs, Barracuda ATA-IIs or Deskstar 75GXPs. For most buyers, this was a sensible choice, the extra $80 or $100 was better spent on CPU, RAM or video card.

The 5400-7200 RPM price gap did not start to narrow until about October, when the worldwide shortage of DSP (Digital Signal Processing) chips brought on a shortage of all hard drives — and shortages always hit the entry-level products hardest. Most drives rose by about 20% as the shortage bit, with the smallest and cheapest drives rising the most. In consequence, as 2000 drew to a close we were seeing 7200 RPM drives start to sell in larger volumes, a trend which continued into mid-2001.

Data rate304 Mbit/secSpin rate7200 RPM
Seek time8.9msBuffer2MB
Platter capacity10GBInterfaceATA-66
WD153BA15.4GB3 GMR heads*
WD205BA20.5GB4 GMR heads**