hard drive history

transition: primitive ide drives

Western Digital 93044A

Photo: Red Hill.

Western Digital 93044A

These sold in their thousands, unfortunately.

The 93044A - 95044A twins fell half-way between the old and very slow but at least fairly reliable Western Digital/Tandon 20MB 70ms MFM drives, and the excellent Western Digital Caviar voice coil drives that came out not too long after. They usually made an unmistakable and very odd hissing sound, especially when they were on the verge of failing — which was quite often.

Also worth noting are the very similar companion drives, which were fitted with a peculiar eight-bit IDE interface and factory-shipped with thousands of cheap Amstrad computers. These drives were dreadfully unreliable and (according to Amstrad's lawyers) severely damaged Amstrad's reputation.

In reality, Amstrad didn't need any outside help on the reputation front; the company was entirely capable of making its own bad reputation. Just as with the Seagate ST-277R, Amstrad had shopped around for the absolute cheapest possible drive, apparently without regard for either performance or reliability, and got exactly what it paid for. Neither drive was much good in the first place. Both were squeezed into one or another of Amstrad's hot, inadequately ventilated low-rent plastic cases, and disaster was inevitable.

As always in computing, you can treat a good quality part badly and maybe get away with it; you can treat a poor quality part carefully and maybe get away with it — but you can't treat a poor quality part badly and expect anything other than a failure. In both cases, after systems started falling over en masse, Amstrad sued the hard drive manufacturer.

Clearly, all three parties were partially at fault, but the courts found in favour of Western Digital and against Seagate — which, on the whole, was probably the wrong way about.

We handled a great many WD 93044 and related drives, and never trusted any of them.

Illustration: the 93044A. It's a very ugly picture, but then that seems appropriate — these were a very ugly drive.

Data rate7.8 Mbit/secSpin rate3329 RPM
Seek time28msActuatorStepper
Platter capacity21.6MBInterfaceIDE mode 0 (8-bit IDE for the "X" models)
AT drive type17Form3.5" half-height
93044A & 93044X43.2MB4 thin-film heads