hard drive history

revolutions: 3600 > 4500 > 7200 rpm

1995 Drive of the Year

Seagate Decathlon 850

Photo: Red Hill.

Seagate Decathlon 850

One of the all-time great hard drives.

The Decathlon 850 was the fastest IDE hard drive in the world for a long, long time. It was very small, very cute, and very, very fast.

Decathlon drives were designed as high-end, high-performance products. With their unusual double-sided circuit board, they were quite expensive to manufacture — but because Seagate had, for some reason, neglected to produce an everyday bread and butter drive in this size class, Seagate either had to sacrifice hard-earned market share, or else sell these high-speed premium drives at mass-market prices. That is what Seagate they did, and we were more than happy to use hundreds of them.

Like the Medalist 1080, the Decathlon 850 had a dual-drive emulation jumper.

The Decathlon was a long-lived drive. We often used to see one in mainstream working machines up until close to the end of the century (well after most other drives of the same age had been retired), and even much later than that it remained a useful item.

Illustration: a pair of 850MB Decathlons with an assortment of contemporary drives for comparison. There is no significance to the different-coloured labels, the two Decathlon drives are identical.

Notice how much small and neat the Decathlons were compared to the bulky old-school drives underneath. This is no illusion: the ever increasing standards set by Seagate, IBM, Western Digital and Quantum around this time had begun to make Maxtor and especially Conner drives look very crude. Both companies were to find themselves in financial difficulties before too much longer.

Data rate61.7 Mbit/secSpin rate5376 RPM
Seek time11msBuffer256k
Platter capacity427MBEncodingRLL
Form3½" slimlineInterfaceIDE mode 4
ST5850A854.7MB4 thin-film heads*****