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Toshiba Boosts Hard Drive Density By 50% 129

An anonymous reader writes "Toshiba has unveiled a ground-breaking technology that boosts recording density by 50% on an 80-GB, 1.8", single-platter drive. Using what it calls Discrete Track Recording technology, Toshiba was able to pack 120 GB storage on a single 1.8" platter. The new development will hugely benefit media player, UMPC, and ultra-portable laptop segments where 1.8" drives with maximum possible capacity are in great demand."
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Toshiba Boosts Hard Drive Density By 50%

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  • well... (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Macrosoft0 ( 1128625 )
    ...they say its easier to add the grooves in small form-factor hdd's, but they didn't say if it can be done at all in a standard sized drive
    • by Clete2 ( 823221 )
      This sounds great -- especially if it can be done to 2.5" drives and 3.5" drives. It sounds like a great way to improve the speed of hard drive reads, seek times, and data capacity.
      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        by Anonymous Coward
        density & capacity aside, i am wondering why don't we have drives with multiple independent R/W heads?
        • I have wondered that too. If you were to put two servo's on a drive instead of one, it couldn't be on the side next to it (I'm guessing the two servos could touch each other!), but the side opposite and over, but that would cause either the form factor size to change of the entire drive chassis, or the platter diameter would have to shrink in order to make room in the corner for the second servo. I'd like to see it happen, but high capacity has its benefits, because of being able to 'short stroke' it.
          • Re:well... (Score:5, Insightful)

            by toddestan ( 632714 ) on Saturday September 08, 2007 @11:40PM (#20525671)
            I would think that it would be cheaper and easier just to take two standard drives and RAID them for the same effect rather than to build some two servo monstrousity.
          • I've read that this has been done, but it's not cost-effective. I guess that would be because there isn't much demand for this technique, so low production quantities mean high prices. OTOH, I don't think anyone has tried it recently, and it might be worthwhile for some very demanding applications. I suspect in most cases that another 1 Gbyte of RAM would be more effective than cutting seek time from 5 ms to 3 ms.
          • I think they used to do this on some very old drives. (Big ones, not 3.5" AFAIK.) Also, when you think about the evolution of hard drives, remember that they came from drum systems where there was one head for every track on the drum, so it wouldn't have been a particularly foreign concept to the guys designing the earliest ones.

            IIRC, it's not as effective as you might think it would be at first glance. Although it does help some workloads (ones that are seek-limited), I don't think the improvements were en
          • Why hasn't anyone made a joke about short-stroking it?
        • by AaronW ( 33736 )
          Many years ago I saw a SCSI drive that did just that. It was really cool looking inside, but it had reliability problems according to a friend of mine who bought one.
    • It appears that they have to etch something on the platter to get this to work, probably the yield of 3.5" platters isn't worth the cost, since you can't just use multiple platters (3.5" == desktop remember).

    • by Bibz ( 849958 )
      Yes it can.
      From TFA : "The DTR "groove" forming process is most easily applied to small form factor HDDs, such as 1.8 inch and 2.5 inch drives."
  • by weirdcrashingnoises ( 1151951 ) on Saturday September 08, 2007 @10:19PM (#20525239) Journal
    i think of this...

    George McFly: Lorraine, my density has bought me to you.
    Lorraine Baines: What?
    George McFly: Oh, what I meant to say was...
    Lorraine Baines: Wait a minute, don't I know you from somewhere?
    George McFly: Yes. Yes. I'm George, George McFly. I'm your density.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    I'd rather R&D be put into solid state hard drives (e.g. flash). I can't count how many hard disks I've gone through.
    • You do realize currently there is this issue of how many times you can write to flash. right?
      • And if there's one thing that R&D isn't good for, it's improving upon an imperfection.
      • It's a non-issue when you do the math. A block on a SSD takes years to reach it's RW limit, and when it does, it warns you. The mechanical HD only does "clak.... tictic clak... tictic clak...." and your datas are gone.
      • As opposed to hard drives, which never, ever, ever fail. Right?
  • Damnit... (Score:5, Informative)

    by feepness ( 543479 ) on Saturday September 08, 2007 @10:27PM (#20525299) Homepage
    Now I have to wait longer for SSD to become the clear winner.
    • Agreed, while this is clearly better technology it's just easy to wish they would put the effort into SSD. No matter how small and dense it is, it's still mechanical which means the same old durability and power consumption.
    • Yeah, I guess it will. It could hinder the speed in which SSDs are getting cheaper. That sucks.
    • Re:Damnit... (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Kjella ( 173770 ) on Saturday September 08, 2007 @10:43PM (#20525417) Homepage
      Oh how terrible if SSD has to actually beat the competition, that it didn't just lie down and die when SSDs announced they were taking over. As bulk storage, SSDs are still damn expensive. Think either-or, say an 8GB SSD soldered on the mobo (1.8" form factor is way overkill) with OS/apps and 120GB bulk HDD space on a 1.8" HDD. Sounds good to me, at least until 100GB+ SSDs are cheap and that may take a looong while.
    • Re:Damnit... (Score:4, Interesting)

      by mcrbids ( 148650 ) on Saturday September 08, 2007 @10:55PM (#20525463) Journal
      Now I have to wait longer for SSD to become the clear winner.

      I've been waiting for well over 10 years. When I first thought that SSD was going to "win", 1 GB drive was huge. Now, it's $9, plugs into a thumb-sized slot in 5 seconds, and is available at the local Wal-Mart. The mechanical drives sport 750 GB for $200 that the 1 GB drive used to cost. (and that doesn't even account for inflation!)

      I have a digital camera with video and sound. It's up to 800x600, and with my 2 GB flash cartridge, I get up to about an 30 minutes of video. It's very small, lightweight, and runs on a couple AA rechargables.

      Still think that SSD hasn't "won"?
      • Exactly. SSDs have their place. They are now and will always be more expensive than mechanical drives. And, actually, $9 is a bit low, the going rate seems to be more like $10-12. And it looks more like $185 for 750 GB these days [].

        What was that? Don't think $10 is expensive? That's $10 a gigabyte, right? For $185, we get 750GB, which works out to be $0.24 a gigabyte.

        And that's why mechanical hard drives remain king.
        • by jcr ( 53032 )
          They are now and will always be more expensive than mechanical drives.


          I wouldn't bet on that. At some point, no moving parts has to beat moving parts.


          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by mcrbids ( 148650 )

            I wouldn't bet on that. At some point, no moving parts has to beat moving parts.

            Yeah, like how the Peltier cooler has replaced mechanical refrigerators. Or the thermocouple has replaced mechanical generators and steam in nuclear power plants.

            Oh, wait....
            • Maybe, but no one is carrying their fridge or power plant around all day, like they are their laptop, iPod, etc.
            • by jcr ( 53032 )
              More like, how core memory replaced the drum.


              • by Nevyn ( 5505 ) *

                Personally I think it's much more likely, at least initially, that they'll go the hybrid route. So you'll have say 10GB of SS and 1TB of "traditional" drive. But then it's also not obvious at the moment when the market will stop caring about larger amounts of storage, for instance it's possible that if they could do a cheap 20-40GB SSD that would work at the low end.

          • by aliquis ( 678370 )
            At some point, no moving parts has to beat moving parts.

            Yeah that is what I'm beting when I read Slashdot ;D
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by timmarhy ( 659436 )
      you were always going to have to wait a long time.

      yes spinning disks suck, but 100x the cost sucks even MORE. SSD is up there with those holographic drives we keep hearing about that are only 2 years away...

      • Re:Damnit... (Score:5, Insightful)

        by timeOday ( 582209 ) on Sunday September 09, 2007 @12:09AM (#20525839)
        No, I think SSD really will win. Over the past 5 years, solid state has doubled in capacity over and over again, while hard drive capacity growth has slowed. The net effect has been tremendous gains for flash memory.

        The other trend I see is satisfaction with hard drive sizes. Notice how the blurb for this article only mentioned 1.8" platters, as if capacity was only lacking in small devices? For most people, requirements for storage simply aren't growing. Even Vista is insignificant on a cheap, commonplace 500 GB drive. My PVR PC still has a 160 GB drive, I just can't be bothered to upgrade.

        With near 0 access latency and higher reliability, flash doesn't have to beat winchester drives in $$/GB to win. It just has to be big enough and cheap enough, and it's getting there.

        • by Wicko ( 977078 )
          I can't see it winning any time soon. There will always be need for larger capacities, especially with the relatively new HD formats becoming more and more common. I don't really see the two as truly competing, I doubt the capacities will catch up for a long time, perhaps some new format will appear long before then. I can see a lot of systems using SSD or hybrids for their main partition, including an OS (although that would probably kill an SSD much sooner than a contemporary disk), and hybrids/contempora
        • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

          by Ramble ( 940291 )
          Possibly they'll win one day but at the moment (and this will be true for some time) there is no clear advantage to SSDs. Rubbish storage capacity, similar throughput and expensive as hell. Latency is one of the only things they have going for them.
          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by owlstead ( 636356 )
            Throughput is lower, but SSD's already provide faster startup times than HDD's. Latency, reliability, size, low power use, noise are all clear advantages for SSD's over hard drive technology. If prices come down a bit (or rather, a lot) for SSD's when they become more regular, HDD's will only have size and size per dollar left as advantages.

            For my OS, flash seems a very logical choice. Price and some uncertainties about the flash currently on the market have withhold me from buying it so far, but this will
        • Requirements for storage are growing plenty fast, mostly because of HD video content but also due to a ton of other new applications that were not possible with hundreds of gigabytes but are now within reach with tens of terabytes. Good old bloat has kept up very well: compare the on-disk size of a fresh Windows 2000 install to that of a Vista install. I have no use for Vista, but it's what drives consumer hardware requirements.
          • by Kjella ( 173770 )
            Even Vista, while a big hog, doesn't take up much of a commodity drive. Unless you're building a DVR/HTPC or working with video, chances are 200GB will fit all your applications, games, music and so on, even if games take up 5GB each and your got 50GB music for your iPod. An hour of my HDV cam takes up 15GB, and usually you're interested in compressing it more not less. The only "normal" people that still fill up their disks are pack rats.

            I don't know which "new applications" you're talking about, but I don
      • by Compuser ( 14899 )
        I just checked and holographic media is here. Tapestry by Maxell is being sold.
        Granted, it will have to come down in price by a factor of 100 for me to consider
        buying it and I am in a science lab with serious funding.
      • SSD is up there with those holographic drives we keep hearing about that are only 2 years away...

        How can you even compare the two? Solid State Drives [] are already on the market. Sure it's expensive, but it's actually on the market, unlike holographic storage.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by DrMrLordX ( 559371 )
      Just keep your eye on MTRON. They're pushing a lot of SSD harddrives out on the market, albeit at astronomical prices. Still, the performance on their drives is fantastic.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Jeff DeMaagd ( 2015 )
      So what? It's not as if the advancements in hard drives are now unexpected. They are going to be pushed as hard as possible as long as they are competitive. SSDs are getting larger too, and flash chips are continually dropping in price. I really don't expect a "clear" winner for some time. What is a clear winner in one circumstance is a clear loser in another. I use a couple machines that are running on flash drives, one is a 512MB CF drive, but that's because vibration is a problem because it's runni
      • They're solid state. To me that means that every bit is as close as every other, near enough.

        It should be possible to deliver far more bandwidth from an SSD than through magnetic media.

        But the best claims I've seen for SSD are about 10MB/sec.

        Where's my pen drive that's capable of 480Mbps? Where's the SATA attached SSD capable of 3Gbps?

        • You can make flash as fast as you want. Serial reads are limited by the speed of the individual elements. Flash is typically made as a block device, however, so you can read every bit in a block in parallel. This, however, gets expensive very quickly. You need to double the number of pins and the number of interconnects to each cell in order to double the transfer rate. Since the interface is serial, you will probably need to buffer the reads for a complete block into fast RAM and stream them out, slig
    • by suv4x4 ( 956391 )
      Now I have to wait longer for SSD to become the clear winner.

      SSD will likely never be the clear winner when we're talking about large storage. Just like HDD didn't replace magnetic tapes for backup in companies, because of their lower capacity and reliability.

      You can expect SSD to make a boom (already is anyway) in mobile devices, and HDD's will become all hybrid: with 10-20 GB of SSD and a spinning disk to fill-in the capacity up to say 300-400 GB.

      This way, you get the best of both worlds. Your startup and
  • by Circlotron ( 764156 ) on Saturday September 08, 2007 @10:34PM (#20525347)
    Imagine if the humble telephone dial had received this much effort and technology. What would THEY be like now?
    • Imagine if the humble telephone dial had received this much effort and technology. What would THEY be like now?

      Most likely, all of the possible 1e10 U.S. phone numbers would be encoded as individual nanoscale holes around the dial. You could dial anybody in the country with just a single flip of the wrist.

    • Good question. Its been my longstanding dream of building a cell phone with a phone dial and no screen. It would be an old school handset with a dial, and a hook built into the belt holster. Maybe the dial should be on the holster as well. And I would tell everyone my "phone was off the hook", sometimes as a joke, sometimes as an excuse for not picking up the phone. Although, I really don't know how many people would get the joke.
    • It would be voice activated. Like, uh, your mobile can do.

  • another infomercial (Score:4, Informative)

    by semiotec ( 948062 ) on Saturday September 08, 2007 @10:35PM (#20525361)
    1. Samsung had announced their 120 Gb 4200 rpm 1.8" drive a couple of weeks earlier ( ndex.jsp?ndmViewId=news_view&newsId=20070820005213 &newsLang=en), but there's no sign of it available yet.

    2. The Toshiba 120 Gb drive, according to PC Watch Impress ( iba.htm) is 3600 rpm with CE-ATA interface, not really suitable for notebooks, even ultra-portable ones.

    I'd guess the new iPod Classic uses the Toshiba drive, since it supposedly uses even less power compared to their previous 1.8" drives. But if this is the case, it means I can't just rip it out of the iPod to plug into my laptop, since the interface doesn't appear to be compatible with their previous 1.8" drives.

    However, I still hope that at least one of these make it to the retail market. It would be nice to be able to double my current 80 Gb drive.
    • by Wicko ( 977078 )
      Err, it did say that it was per platter, not a single drive. I'm not sure how many platters 1.8" drives have, if I had to guess, that Samsung might use 2 platters. Just a guess anyway, too lazy to look that up.
  • by dada21 ( 163177 ) <> on Saturday September 08, 2007 @10:52PM (#20525449) Homepage Journal
    ...Toshiba's patent just says to take out the MFM hard disc controller, and replace it with their new RLL controller. I tested this myself and got my 10MB drive to a full 15MB without a single problem!
  • by eclectro ( 227083 ) on Saturday September 08, 2007 @11:10PM (#20525533)
    There is an article about discrete track [] recording that explains it pretty well. Using materials with different magnetic properties they are able to map channels onto the platter (hence the 'discrete'). Presumably this might would be cumbersome to manufacture for larger discs, but less so with smaller disks.
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by Anpheus ( 908711 )
      God, I'd really like it if they'd come out with discreet track recording technology so I can hide all my porn!

      (But at 120GB, that's not nearly enough space!)
  • by Anonymous Coward
    So, why don't they apply it to 3.5" drives too?
  • Why don't we drop the moving part drives? Can't flash memory and/or battery backed RAM drives replace hard drives?
    • No. See Density. Last I checked there aren't any affordable 500+GB flash disk systems.

      And even still, flash wears out too. So it's not like we have a never-failing non-volatile memory system yet.
    • Yeah, isn't it about time these engineers start thinking forward instead of investing all their R&D into should-be-already-obsolete models? Maybe it will take Steve Jobs to kill off hard drives once and for all.
  • I'm all for flash-storage as well. it's faster, uses less power, makes less noise, etc. also, my HDD's make some awfull noise too, when turning on the machine. after that it's fine. (( and well, how often do I turn it off/on? ;_) ))
    • Actually, if you get a less cheap hard drive, wouldn't that already significantly improve speed, power consumption, and make less noise? Or am I just fooling myself? It would probably still be cheaper than the flash drive equivalent too.
  • Can we get some statistics on reliability? Has reliability been once again sacrificed in the name of storage density? Will drives only last 6 months instead of a year now?


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