hard drive history

1999: maturity

Photo: Red Hill.

Western Digital Spartan

A little-known drive with nothing much to recommend it. Our Western Digital distributor told us that the Spartan ran at 4500 RPM and in the workshop it certainly performed like a 4500. Western Digital were coy about these entry-level drives to the point of pretending on the website that they never existed. There was a Spartan listed on the WD site, but at 6.8GB it was clearly not the drive we sold a bare handful of. Odd looking things, they were very light and looked rather cheap and nasty.

Of the two or three we saw, one failed after six months or so — hardly a statistically valid sample, but not encouraging. I was looking forward to getting its replacement returned so we could run formal performance tests on this mysterious drive, but the replacement unit, shipped to us promptly as Western Digital always do, was a much superior but throughly uninteresting 8GB Caviar 5400. For once, we would have rather had the slower drive!

The Spartan appeared without fanfare in the spring of 2000 and had disappeared by the start of summer. We assume that there was another two head 15GB version, though we didn't see any. WD would have another, more convincing, stab at the entry-level market before the year was out — the Protege which is described on the following page.

More information on these from an American friend: 'The first Spartan drive was the WD68AA. It was a 5,400 RPM drive, just like a regular 5,400-rpm Caviar drive, however it had a 1-year warranty. The 5,400 Spartan line included 3 families, which, in the end produced three drives: WD68AA, WD84AA, and WD102AA. After these three generations, WD came out with a new chassis design for their value-line products, called the first one Spartan, and spun it down to 4,500 RPM. This new chassis led the way for a new name, Protégé. This first Protégé drive was labeled: WD75DA (D for its 4,500-rpm speed) and subsequently a dud. After this feeble attempt, WD spun the drive back up to 5,400-rpm, programmed the firmware for ATA-100, and began using the "EB" description.'

I am now more confused than ever! The handful of drives we got were definately 7.5GB units and definately labelled "Spartan". The model number I are uncertain of. For years, I hoped that one of the remaining ones we had sold would be traded back in so that I could examine it more carefully, but this never happened.

Estimated performance1.15Reliabilityno data
Estimated data rate300 Mbit/secSpin rate4500 RPM
Seek timeabout 12msBuffer
Platter capacity15GBInterfaceATA-66
WD75DA7.5GB1 GMR head*