hard drive history

barriers: stuck at 528MB

1994 Drive of the Year

Medalist 545xe

Photo: Red Hill.

Seagate Medalist 545xe

The immortal Seagate 545. The ST-3660 remained in production almost forever. We sold more of these drives than any other model, before or since, and we were still buying them and selling them as trade-ins for years afterwards.

Up until the drive capacity-growth explosion at the turn of the century, over time a manufacturer would normally end up having three or four models for any given size range. The first drive of that size would be an expensive six or eight-head state-of-the-art drive, the biggest and fastest thing anyone knew how to make at the time; then (as the technology matured) a cheaper four-head, mid-volume model would replace it; after that (as the market began to expect that size of drive as standard) there would be a low-cost four-head model which sold in massive numbers. Finally, there might be a very low cost single platter (two head) unit to gather the last few sales before the market moved on to the next size up.

But the ST-3660 was different. It was one of the first 500MB drives to sell in significant numbers, and with proven reliability and moderate cost it just kept on going and going. Seagate never really needed to replace it (even the later Seagate 540MB ST-3544A was really a re-badged Conner drive). At only 3800 RPM and 14ms it was never a speed-king, but always at least respectable.

Cheap, reliable, simple to set up and very compatible, quick enough in its day — if we had a Drive of the Decade award, this drive would have won it.

Data rate35.8 Mbit/secSpin rate3811 RPM
Seek time14msBuffer120k
Platter capacity272.7MBEncodingRLL
Form3½" 1/3 heightInterfaceIDE mode 3
ST-3660545.5MB4 thin-film heads*****