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I, Cringely - The Survival of the Nerdiest with Robert X. Cringely
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October 26, 2006 -- Shameless Self-Promotion
Status: [CLOSED]

Hey, I'm sure you didn't wait it was me the first one sending a comment...

Juan Diego | Oct 26, 2006 | 7:01PM

What is the reliability impact of having less substantial platters? Especially for portable applications? Or is that a silly question, and decreased rotational mass makes them less susceptible to damage?

PS: I've always enjoyed your column, I look forward to being able to whine when I think you've got it wrong, or try to get you to clarify your thinking!

Jeremy | Oct 26, 2006 | 7:02PM

Um, wow. Sounds fantastic... if it pans out, though, I surely hope you'll keep writing the column once you're a gajillionaire...

Chris | Oct 26, 2006 | 7:14PM

I like the prospect of this foil based drive. Though you didn't mention the possibility of using this technology in digital cameras. I spent roughly $100 per GB in CompactFlash cards for my DSLR; shooting in RAW format I can get about 180 images per GB. Increasing that number by a factor of 10 for the same cost or lower is incredibly appealing. Currently, larger capacities are available (up to 8GB) as MicroDrives, but these are limited to lower altitudes and more careful handling due to shock limitations. Professional photographers, especially those in extreme climates/conditions, would be very interested in learning more about this technology if it could be made 100% compatible with the CompactFlash format.

Chris | Oct 26, 2006 | 7:22PM

please tell us more about planned availability and price

lhe | Oct 26, 2006 | 7:25PM

This is awesome! The best idea I heard since I read about datacenters in containers at this blog.

The only thing missing for me is a smartphone with a Antek drive running Mac OS X 10.5 Leopard!

Best of luck!
/Lee

Lee Smith | Oct 26, 2006 | 7:39PM

This is a space where innovation is absolutely needed. I live in a world of production HD video which can take mass amounts of space and requires very fast drives (100Mbps compressed, 120MBps uncompressed.) Being able to get a laptop that consumes less power and yet has, say, 1TB of storage would be a big deal to me. While this may not happen at first I would hope that over time these technologies would improve to a level similar to that.



I think this hits not only laptops but desktop computers, iPods, cell phones (why does my Treo only have 128MB of memory?) etc. Being able to have a bunch more storage attached to just about any digital device could completely change the way we think of digital electronics. While power is a big deal, just having more storage in a more stable platform and smaller size is even better. Add to this the power savings and the newer battery technologies I hope we start to see in the next few years and we have an amazing solution.



The applications are just about endless. I'm very excited to see this and can't wait to watch where it goes. On a personal level I would like to see Panasonic adopt this or something like it in their P2 cards to allow me to record more than my 8GB HD limit too. Why not just have a removable hard drive right in the camera that I can pull out and edit off of in real-time? Now that would be awesome.

Benjamin J. Higginbotham | Oct 26, 2006 | 8:25PM

Bad idea. You are endangering the considerable income I earn rebuilding otherwise pristine desktops with dead hard drives.

Bob | Oct 26, 2006 | 8:28PM

I'm sure glad I'm not reading this on 1 April. You are quite justified in such shameless self-promotion when you're revealing such coolness!

I remember that one of the earlier air-cushion technologies (I can't remember if it was SyQuest or Iomega's Bernoulli disk) that actually wore out after a time. You had to keep track of how many "miles" you had on them, and change them like tires. It sounds like that problem has been solved.

I just installed a 120 GB drive in my PowerBook a few hours ago. I wonder what I'll install in it next? :-)

When all those heavy old aluminum-platter drives get chucked so they can be replaced by your technology, we can dig the magnets out of them! Woohoo!

Thanks for sharing this with us!

Lyle | Oct 26, 2006 | 8:41PM

I like the new digs.

It sounds to me that your drives could knock $10 off of Negroponte's $130 "One Hundred Dollar Laptops." And from what you say, it could handle the extremes of temperature where Negroponte wants to put these laptops.

Bob X. saves Africa.

aprigliano | Oct 26, 2006 | 9:24PM

Exciting stuff. When I think about the PCs I've built and used over the years, the hard drive has been a pretty constant feature - the capacity going up, but it's still a big, hot, loud chunk of metal. I keep reading about holographic cubes, but they always seem to be 10 years away. Certainly room for innovation here.

A question: How do these drives compare on noise? Given they use less energy, it would make some sense to repsume they are pretty quiet.

Good luck on the venture. If half of what you say is true, you won't need it.

Colin J | Oct 26, 2006 | 9:34PM

Interesting, is it environmentally friendly?

If it is so flexible, I wonder how well it handles the forces applicable up to 30k RPM. Must be strong foil!

Tristan Brotherton | Oct 26, 2006 | 9:36PM

Re: did you cross the line? It's cool - you write about neat stuff that can have seismic impact on the tech world, and this fits right in. Still, it's a weird feeling that here you're not as disinterested as you normally are. Will you still write as well when you're worth billionz, Bob???

T. Kim Nguyen | Oct 26, 2006 | 9:36PM

Sounds great Bob! I hope it really takes off and we see these drives everywhere if they work like you describe. Even the small business that employs me needs to have a separate cooling unit for the 8 servers we have!
Also, how are you financially involved? Are you just providing funding for the IP part of it to be licensed to manufacturers?
Thanks!
BTW, I like the new site.

juan | Oct 26, 2006 | 9:37PM

If there's one thing that matters more to me than any other feature/change with the altered format, it's that you now offer an RSS feed. This really makes my day. Thank you.

Danny Dawson | Oct 26, 2006 | 9:45PM

Bob

I am sure you have noticed but the flying crowd (I assume you are still one of us) has a problem with current tablets with drives only rated to 10,000 ft. Some big spenders are using solid state drives but if it does not cost too much, how about certifying your drive to 25,000 ft (above that let them buy presuurized planes)

David Abrams | Oct 26, 2006 | 9:46PM

Hey Bob - Sounds cool and I really hope it pans out. Of course the industry has a lot of time and experience with traditional drives. This time and experience brings with it trust. Any new technology will have to be good enough to overcome the inertia (no pun intended) of the established baseline.

Jim Buzbee | Oct 26, 2006 | 9:53PM

Congratulations, I abandoned your column long ago due to the lack of RSS feed, lack of comments and general visual crappiness masquerading as quirkiness. Clearly, though, you've been busy with more important stuff, so, double congratulations on finally getting this revamp done.

Donnacha | Oct 26, 2006 | 9:54PM

It's more fun to read conjectures and best guesses and then see them come true (like the Sun trailer truck box). This seems like more of a done deal. That said, good luck to you. I've enjoyed your column and book, don't forget about us little guys.

James | Oct 26, 2006 | 9:55PM

Does this mean you're finally going to be rich, Bob? Won't this ruin your flawless track record of poor financial decisions? I always appreciate your insights, even when I don't understand them or don't agree but my favourite story is probably when you told how you refused the offer of working at Apple for stock back in the early days and held out instead for a couple of dollars an hour.

Mr Angry | Oct 26, 2006 | 9:56PM

And now that I've actually read the article, I must say this: were this the first article of yours I'd ever read, I would dismiss you as an overexcited crackpot. Having actually read your column for a couple years, I'm very intrigued by your excitement.

Danny Dawson | Oct 26, 2006 | 9:59PM

I'm not a big fan of patents, but this sounds like a legitimate use of one (actually, more than one, I'm sure).

Robert, this just blows me away! Thanks for helping keep Moore's law alive!

Calvin Dodge | Oct 26, 2006 | 10:05PM

Bob, good format, intriguing first posting. I do worry about posting on(hyping?) your own products, though, especially in the PBS world. We may not be getting impartial "on the one hand, on the other hand" analysis when you do this. I guess we all understand. Still, it's in a different category than your usual great writing.

MartinE | Oct 26, 2006 | 10:11PM

Fascinating stuff, but I really would like some more details, like: Where does the compressed air come from; and How does the dust sucking part work? I assume you are licensing this technology, which makes perfect sense, but what about those companies who don't license this technology? As Calvin Dodge noted above, Thanks for helping keep Moore's law alive!

Ron Braithwaite | Oct 26, 2006 | 10:18PM

This sounds like a high-speed, high-density Bernoulli Box.

Jonathan | Oct 26, 2006 | 10:19PM

So this is the end of the HARD disk as we know it then? What'll we call it... not floppy obviously... SOFT disk? WOBBLY drive? Needs something a bit more macho, I think.

JonK | Oct 26, 2006 | 10:19PM

It appears that Antek Peripherals is not a publicly traded company. Thanks a lot Bob!

c

Corey Renner | Oct 26, 2006 | 10:23PM

I don't know much about hard drives but it sounds to good to be true. But it would be nice if this could work.

It would be great to see the hard drive take a big step forward. It always seems to be a limiting factor for speed.

Dave Dugdale | Oct 26, 2006 | 10:24PM

I lost a ton of data on bad syquest drives back in the day. I truly hate that company - wasn't it a shell company built to flip before the claims flooded in? bernoulli seemed to be using a totally different but actually working technology...

cd | Oct 26, 2006 | 10:28PM

The ACM conference Bob is referring to is the UIUC ACM student chapter's Reflections Projections conference.

A video Bob's talk at the conference is available on the videos page.

Ryan | Oct 26, 2006 | 10:31PM

First, I hope this works out as planned. I bought my Syquest drive and a number of 1GB cartridges just as they went off the market, unbeknownst to me at the time. So Anil Nigam, co-founder of SyQuest owes me one!
Second, nothing wrong with shameless self-promotion as long as it is labeled as such. Kudos to you and your friends for putting your heads together for what sounds like a great product.
Now, about the various flash drives and cards I bought over the years when I thought the price couldn't possibly go lower, plus the 2GB SD card I just bought...

pwndecaf | Oct 26, 2006 | 10:36PM

Bob, wow! This is certainly some interesting old tech with a very real world modern application. What is the forecast for getting this to market?

Scott Johnson | Oct 26, 2006 | 10:51PM

After being the very first poster of this new age of I, Cringely -- I hope not the last age -- there is little more one can do. I'm even going to include it in my resumé.

I kind of remember one column where you wrote about the way you broke your hard drive accidentally kicking it because it was under the table, on the ground -- my memory is weak, so maybe it didn't happen at all. Anyway, you've took your time, but your revenge is complete! Nobody will suffer the same fate again! Thanks, Bob.

This conversion into a blog is quite interesting, mainly because we will be able to know what the other readers of your column think about what you say. Will we behave better than the people in other blogs?

His Steveness will pay again his employee number 12...

By the way, to those of you who find it easier to read Spanish, I've just finished the translation of this column. You can find it here:
http://enreas.com/wiki/I_Cringely/Shameless_Self-Promotion.

Juan Diego | Oct 26, 2006 | 10:52PM

Very interesting stuff. And I like the new format. But does that mean the frog has been retired??

Jim Swanson | Oct 26, 2006 | 11:00PM

Good Luck, Bob ! I hope you all get the chance to become fabuously rich ! It sounds like a GREAT idea. "Strike" before all these new memory technologies (Nantero, IBM, et. al.) wipe "moving parts" from our computers forever !

Jim | Oct 26, 2006 | 11:06PM

bob, i love your columns because you speak truth with an honesty and depth found nowhere else on the web. your analysis is one or two layers deeper than everyone else's. and your readers benefit as a result. keep those columns coming. pbs' smartest move was hiring you as columnist.

phil shapiro | Oct 26, 2006 | 11:10PM

I also used to extensively use the old 40 meg Syquest drives in the early 1990s, and I don't think I had one fail on me. I never really liked the way they were engineered, though. It was the noise they would make when accessed sounded like metal on metal, a sure death knell for a standard disk drive. Sadly, after scsi went away, I had to toss out over 20 40meg drives. Now THAT was a waste.

Randy Garbin | Oct 26, 2006 | 11:13PM

Bob- Thanks for all you do, I've anjoyed your work for awhile. This blog format is kinda freaking me out, but I'll get used to it. We always do. So when are you going to have presales of these new drives for your loyal readership?

Jer | Oct 26, 2006 | 11:17PM

When might we expect to buy a drive at Frys or a laptop with one in it?

Larry

Larry Press | Oct 26, 2006 | 11:28PM

Is there some sort of investors prospectus?

jeff | Oct 26, 2006 | 11:29PM

Maybe we'll finally see the long-rumored iPhone next year, with this technology. The ROKR was junk. But a real combo iPod-phone, with good battery life and storage? I'll pre-order.

Glenn Millam | Oct 26, 2006 | 11:38PM


Brilliant.

Cheap. Reliable. Robust. What's not to like?

(Yes, it's about the hard drive, not the writer. Well, maybe both.)

And I concur with the previous 3 comments.

David | Oct 26, 2006 | 11:41PM

Sounds too good to be true, and coming from one of the inventors, you would expect that. Just like you wouldn't expect Steve Jobs to say Macs are overpriced.

It would be interesting for you to do another column stating what the problems/issues are with the new drives. If it has all the advantages you say, why did the patent lay around for years? What technical difficulties needed to be overcome to bring these drives to reality? What problems still need to be overcome? What are the likely flaws when it comes to market?

Alan

Alan McMillan | Oct 26, 2006 | 11:50PM

I'm taking the don'ts. I have no inside knowledge except the observation this would be such an enormous breakthrough that if somebody like Bob gets to participate then there's something funny going on.

George Bailey | Oct 26, 2006 | 11:51PM

What was your reason for writing this? If this invention is so great, why do you need to hype it like this? And if it's protected by patents, why the secrecy? It can simply be marketed through normal channels.

The whole thing sounds fishy to me. It sounds like the press releases from a lot of pre-bubble tech companies, that ultimately never delivered on anything but self promotion.

My guess it the company is out of capital and desperately needs an infusion. But if the business plan was really so hot, money would be chasing the company -- they would have to be fighting investors off with sticks. Therefore, my other guess is all the claims about the product are wildly exaggerated. Otherwise the major hard drive and memory manufacturers would surely buy the license and put their competitors to great disadvantage.

You'll never see this in your ipod, phone or computer. Or it will be many years from now and performance will be no different than any other hard drive.

Mark Kirby | Oct 27, 2006 | 12:17AM

Insane! A breakthru product in the disk drive space? I checked -- it's not April 1st, so you're not joking. Geez, Bob, you'll be a billionaire before long -- you'll have to hang around with Gates and Jobs and Ellison and such -- poor bastard, I pity you! -- mac

Mac McCarthy | Oct 27, 2006 | 12:19AM

Sounds like a great venture! I sure hope you are capturing some of the ups and downs, meetings, late nights, fights, investor pitches, wins and general startup drama on film or even handheld video.

I am sure I speak for most when I say that we would all love another Cringely documentary setting out the whole story ...

Charles | Oct 27, 2006 | 12:20AM

I almost forgot -- Bob, it will be JUST FINE ethics-wise as long as you remember to sell your longsuffering readers some INSIDER STOCK!

Let us all get on this bandwagon then we won't have ANYYYYY problem with the ethics!!! ha ha!

--mac

Mac McCarthy | Oct 27, 2006 | 12:22AM

"Because of the dramatically smaller rotating mass, our drives can use smaller spindle motors that cost less, weigh less, and use less energy."

This might work for laptops, but large data centers are likely
to have their platters spinning much more of the time than stopped. Latency would become a big problem
if you plan to start and stop drives each time you want to access
information. A relatively simple caching scheme could keep the infrequently used data on "sleeping" drives and only a few
spinning most of the time. But then you would save on the energy required to drive the heads, 10 ms access time would now be only a distant memory.

Accelerating mass requires a proportional amount of work which may be expressed in terms of electrical energy consumption. Keeping a mass spinning at a constant speed requires work only against bearing friction and aerodynamic drag, neither of which are influenced significantly by the mass of the disk platters. On the other hand, more platters in the same volume will mean more aerodynamic drag. Sure, you can increase the storage density, but it won't decrease the energy requirement. What about magnetic bearings and vacuum containment? Not cost effective.

No disrespect intended to either SyQuest or Iomega but if you have ever used their products you know that "floppy" hard drives
have poorer reliability compared to conventional ones.

clamstrip | Oct 27, 2006 | 12:35AM

Is this a column or an infomercial?

jojo | Oct 27, 2006 | 12:58AM

Regarding the ethics of this column. When I hear the ethical announcement on NPR, for example, it is to let us know that a particular company or organization supports NPR or PBS. I have never heard Robert Siegel say that he was personally going to gain from a company that was the subject of a story. So, did you cross the line? Absolutely. Does it really matter? Well, apparently not to most of your readers. I'll probably continue to read, but I don't think I am alone in asking that this remain far and away the exception. How about another shameless self-promotion in another 20 years or so?

DRW | Oct 27, 2006 | 1:17AM

Well, this won't be the first time a better Idea lost out. And it won't be the first time Bob has touted it as the greatest thing since sliced bread. (22 and 25nm slices.)

Pardon the cynicsm, but for the time being, I'll expect one of these on the jet pack they've been promising me. Having been in this a long time, I remember alot of storage technologies that were "the next big thing" and due out "next year".

At best, we're talking about an upgraded design of the current drive head and a move forward in that technology... Which is good, needed, but hardly world changing. Congrats Bob, if this works, you'll make a bundle. However, the designers of technology themselves hardly ever "get" how their invention gets implemented in "The Real World". So, no offense, but I'll hold off on waiting for my CellPhone media storage thingie... If it's as great as claimed, demand will most likely keep prices artificially high for some time while the manufacturers phase out their old equipment. (Or figure the loss on the old equipment into their new drives...)

The current state of the Hard Drive is shameful, and there have been alot of folks purported to have solved the problem. Current 3.5 drives are just shrunken closed versions of the platters that were wiped down with brushes in huge machines. The Idea above sounds like a step in the right direction, if the head assembly isn't too complex... Which from the description sounds like a concern.

Jason Maggard | Oct 27, 2006 | 1:57AM

I am 69 years old.I say this because I constantly in awe as to the world of the P.C. I can see from your column that this technology will be very beneficial.Hopefully it will make a P.C., that I might buy in the future, easier for me to use since I do not have a clue as to how the whole thing works.
Congratulations are in order here!!

Chris Murray | Oct 27, 2006 | 2:15AM

There is nothing wrong with Shameless Self-Promotion, when it is labelled as, "Shameless Self-Promotion" we as the reader at that time, have the option to stop reading and move on. If you choose to read on, and are unhappy, I guess you are entitled to ask for your money back... oh wait this is free. Unfortunately this will probably be the talking point of this article, but The actual topic however , looks interesting, and like many other informative post over a large section of my life, I look forward to see how it unfold.

Eion Forsberg | Oct 27, 2006 | 2:23AM

Congratulations Bob! I hope you make a bundle, you're due. I really thought banks of NAND were going to be the solution to read-often, write-rarely world of on-demand digital media, but then I'm not friends with disk drive experts! May I suggest you start a video archival consultancy? I hear the Department of Homeland security has a few terabytes of video from airports and borders they need to keep.

I understand one of the other comment's trepidation. You have to admit this does sound too good to be true. Perhaps it is a quantum leap; I certainly hope so.

Christopher Atkins | Oct 27, 2006 | 2:43AM

An interesting idea as I have come to expect from reading I,Cringley.
The new blog format has a good side and a bad side.
The good side is the different perspectives on the subject helps to me keep my feet on the ground. I have a "few dollars" in losses from falling in love with a good story about some technology or other. The blog answers are right here to read now instead of waiting for some of my friends to take notice and get back to me.
the bad down side is I am afraid the blog and column will take up a lot more of my time then it did before something else will have to suffer.
thanks

william ginder | Oct 27, 2006 | 2:48AM

So i said it in the Pullpit Poll but AGAIN:

Luck with your new bussness.

Lets hope you are right and your technology can save our lives in power and speed (extra gigs are cool too)
And I'd like to know the sensation of probrably being very very very fuching rich (Enough to get microsoft's uncle Bill??)

Ps: The blog rules, but sucks not being able to formt my comment as I intent

Goolic | Oct 27, 2006 | 3:25AM

Bob, please don't get rich! You'll stop writing your column, and I'll miss it!

Nigel Paterson | Oct 27, 2006 | 3:49AM

Hi, it's great to be able to leave a comment, but I miss the frog. What is him name?

Great tech, but if it's enthusiastic, if you know more about it than anybody else, you know also the drawbacks. What are they?

Marc Lacoste | Oct 27, 2006 | 4:04AM

Bob, do you have any information on the environmental impact of disposing of your new drives compared to traditional drives or flash? Do they contain less/more heavy metals? Are they easier/harder to recycle?

All the best, Tim.

Tim Hayward | Oct 27, 2006 | 4:07AM

Congratulations Bob! I've been reading your columns over the years and have never emailed you before. I hope this new business is a giga-hit like it sounds like. From your description, I would love to have your technology in all my electronics and computers. May your company be wildly successful. Best wishes!

Ko Saipetch | Oct 27, 2006 | 4:29AM

Way to go Bob!

Finally, after all these years of crazy notions you've gone and implemented one, and by the sounds of it, it's a humdinger.

I seriously wish you all the best Bob.

By the way, the Blog is great, it's got no scary pictures of you...

Peter | Oct 27, 2006 | 4:52AM

Hi Bob From Bob:
Another Bob (Metcalfe) should be interested in the integration of your disc with Zigbee.

Distributed municipal infrastructure,smart meter, water, sewer, streetlight command and control, and most important, homeland security for George's fence.

Cheers,
Bob

Bob Hollands | Oct 27, 2006 | 5:31AM

Congratulations Bob, hope this really is a breakthrough as you describe it. On first impression, not knowing all the details and technologies behind it, your ideas look sound. Using basic laws of physics, I do however have some concerns (sharing them with a previous poster) about power savings. For comparison, let's look at a modern 7200rpm 2.5" drive, designed to be power efficient & quite fast. The standby power is stated to be 0.2W, low power idle 0.85W, active idle 1.1W, R/W 2.0W, seek 2.3W, spinup 5.5W. So the drive uses 0.2W to drive the electronics, FD bearing friction + platter aerodynamic drag uses 0.65W (heads parked), voice coil uses 0.25W (1.1-0.85) to hold the heads steady and 1.15-1.45W to move the heads (this figure includes aerodynamic drag and acceleration/deceleration losses of the arm-head assembly). Spinup takes, say, 5s, so spinup energy is 27.5Ws (= 27.5J = 0.0076Wh). The disk needs to be spun down for 43s or more to compensate for the energy needed for spin up (5.5W * 5s / (0.85-0.2)W). I can definitely see an advantage of your drive with 0.4s spinup time and smaller spinup power here. My concern, however, is the aerodynamic drag of the platters and aerodynamic drag + acceleration/deceleration losses of the arm/head assemblies. Your drive has three times as many platters and hence also arms/heads. All other factors being equal, this yields 3 times larger platter aerodynamic drag losses (mass is reduced, but total surface is three times larger) and aero + acceleration/deceleration losses for arm/head assemblies (three times larger mass & frontal area) - about 1.9W to rotate the platters and 3.5 - 4.5W to move the heads.
I can see the power benefit in mobile audio/video devices, but not as much in data centers / desktops.
Of course I only used some basic information to do the calculations, so I might be totally off here.
When you succeed and gain experience/wealth/momentum/publicity etc., you can help push some other environmental & energy saving technological breakthroughs which benefit everybody in the long run, are technologically possible and long due but did not happen yet (for instance: series hybrid powertrain with IC engine+generator and direct drive wheel motors for cars - something train locomotives have had for 70 years or so and big ships now have too; using heat pumps instead of electricity/fuel for heating; combined heat/cool devices - airconditioner can heat your shower water for free instead of yust heating the air outside your house; etc.)
Keep up the good work!

Roni Leben | Oct 27, 2006 | 6:11AM

Thats great news Bob. This really could spark a big change in the IT industry with a whole slew of new products and improvements to existing ones. I hope Apple put these into the iPods,if only to extend the battery life!!

I am chuffed to see you making your mark in the industry after writing about it for so long! Makes me wonder what other patents are out there waiting to be used!

Thurstan Johnston | Oct 27, 2006 | 6:14AM

What I don't get is:
- Why you don't need to park the heads?
- If you made the disks out of foil rolls, how ould you deal with the slight curviture without damaging the magnetic coating?
- In a business of cutthroat margins, will the disk drive oligopoly tolerate you?

Ged | Oct 27, 2006 | 6:28AM

So how do we your readers profit? Can we buy stock in your company?

phil | Oct 27, 2006 | 6:41AM

way cool, bob and way to go. will the new drives have the old 'click click' of the old zip type drives? sure do miss that noise...

dougtoth | Oct 27, 2006 | 7:20AM

Love the new format and am very excited for you and your new venture.

I am a little unclear on the compressed air bit. Do the heads themselves generate some kind of air force field as they move over the platters?

michael | Oct 27, 2006 | 7:53AM

Bob - Based on your article, I don't understand your role. You said there are two disk drive pioneers at the helm. What exactly, specifically is your role? Smells like marketing.

Personally, I could have done without the sales pitch in this forum. You're clearly a righteous dude and can garner media attention in the press. Better than turning this column into an advertisement.

Steve

steve | Oct 27, 2006 | 8:11AM

Nice format; however, where is the frog? You have to bring back the frog!

Finkster | Oct 27, 2006 | 8:19AM

Congratulations, Bob, and best of fortune in this venture. When they're available, I hope you'll offer a discount to anyone on your email list.

Oliver | Oct 27, 2006 | 8:42AM

well good for you, a perfect blend of new tech. with self interest. Hope you make a bundle.

After all if you get cash flush I know you'll pull more of your zany experiments which are a joy to read about.

tpotter | Oct 27, 2006 | 8:46AM

I think a little sales pitch is a small payment to suffer for all the wealth of informaton and ideas that Bob has shared with us over the years. It's not like he is trying to sell us "Special Manhood Expander Gel."

Fran | Oct 27, 2006 | 8:48AM

Bob,

I think if it turns out to be as cheap as you say, this could be a major breakthrough.

Good Luck!

Jacob Varghese | Oct 27, 2006 | 9:07AM

sounds great - keep us posted on when they become available.

christophe | Oct 27, 2006 | 9:08AM

Very interesting! To follow on Thurstan's question, I was just wondering how do you keep the recording media stable during operation? Do you rely on centrifugal force? If so, wouldn't that result in issues with the head/platten separation tolerances?

Judson | Oct 27, 2006 | 9:17AM

Need any capital?

Mark Wusinich | Oct 27, 2006 | 9:20AM

Do you take pre-orders? I'd like to get 20 500gb drives ASAP!

Steve | Oct 27, 2006 | 9:24AM

Is the company/partnership going to public? If so, when can we get in?

ddecker | Oct 27, 2006 | 9:41AM

You don't mention a prototype, i presume not all this numbers are theoretical numbers?

David van Deijk | Oct 27, 2006 | 9:46AM

Wow! This is one of the most exciting developments I have heard in years! Bob, you're gonna be a VERY rich man. Just don't ever stop the column please.

BTW, love the new site design and blog format.

Jonathan Rose | Oct 27, 2006 | 9:53AM

What I am interested in is how small these drives can be. The advantage of SD cards seems to be more of size than of capacity. Not that you need to install your drives in EVERY situation memory needs to be stored...

John | Oct 27, 2006 | 9:59AM

I have not read this column yet, but I presume that the content as usual is top notch, that is why I have read it for years, good job Bob.

ARGH.
But for the first time in all the years of reading The Pulpit, I have to click on a more link to view the whole column!
Small irritations are nevertheless accumulating...
The layout and colors and all the rest of the packaging is ugly as well.
I will have to check to see if the RSS is any good.

Trygve Sørdal | Oct 27, 2006 | 10:03AM

It took Cringely to suggest that this tech be applied to HDDs, instead of just digital cameras?

"they were aiming their work toward digital cameras, but I asked if the same technology could be used in a non-removable form inside a computer disk drive?"

Hogwash. The co-founder of SyQuest and a patent holder didn't think of this? It seems "Bob's" part in this is to supply the hype to this "BitBoyz" venture.

You should be very ashamed of yourself.

Fred | Oct 27, 2006 | 10:22AM

Having suffered lost data using SyQuest and IOMega products, also with similar claims of immunity to shock damage, the physics of flexible metal foil technology spinning at 30K RPM makes me pause. Great idea, but rather than guzzle the Kool-Aid, I'm sensing a quiet "click-of-death" capability, so I'll just sip the stuff for now. I think I'll wait on seeing MTTF and MTBF testing results before abandoning the potential out of the nanoflash industry.

kroe | Oct 27, 2006 | 10:24AM

The new layout and colors are ugly beyond imagination. Is this a Halloween joke that will soon pass? I hope so!

J. | Oct 27, 2006 | 10:36AM

First, congratulations on your involvement with this project. Fascinating, world-changing stuff.

The entire time I was reading the column I kept wondering how flash-based storage solutions-seemingly the next storage horizon for obvious reasons-do and will stack up against your technology. It was actually surprising to me, then, to read at the conclusion that your tech is superior.

Anxious to find out more about Antek Peripherals.

matthew | Oct 27, 2006 | 10:42AM

I H A T E the new format.

John | Oct 27, 2006 | 10:44AM

These are fabulous comments. I don't think a storage technology has been invented that I have not lost data on it. I suspect there will be a few problems along the way with the Cringely HDD. Most responsible firms don't push new stuff into the market too fast, the carefully watch their product quality, and they make improvements when needed. I suspect Mr. Cringely will do the same.

Its been my experience that if you ASSUME your IT technology is going to fail and think through the process of getting your applications back up and running, then factor that into your design, you'll be a lot better off in the long run. Only yesterday I was helping a big company with an application. They went cheap on the hardware and came up with a design with lots of single points of failure. They know it will take a couple days to restore a critical application if something breaks. All this, to save a few $1000. The cost to fix the application and the business impact costs to their company will be easily 100x that. Sadly the people who design bullet proof applications never make the news. We'll be hearing about my client in the news in a few years.

Mr. Cramer on CNBC has good advice on how to invest in good ideas like this. Think about the firms that can benefit from this product the most. Invest in them. It may take years before something like this is noticed in the stock market. Pick the right firm(s), wait for a good time to buy their stock (when its low). Research the companies and be patient. Watch a few of his shows. Read his book. You'll get the idea.

John | Oct 27, 2006 | 10:57AM

Ah Memory...

It ain't what it used to be.

p.s. I still miss the toad.

HiMY SYeD | Oct 27, 2006 | 10:57AM

Great new design. But where is the Frog logo. I miss the frog.

Robin Grimes | Oct 27, 2006 | 11:06AM

I like the new format. Nicely done.

How noisy are the hard drives, if I might ask? Also, how much heat do they throw out?

Peter Boddy | Oct 27, 2006 | 11:06AM

Hate the new format? Ugly beyond imaginable?

Hey, the words are still there, though in a new font. So what's it really matter? We can still read, can't we?

Nice work on the new format, Bob. I am sure people will get used to the change...

matt | Oct 27, 2006 | 11:08AM

Well, Google presented us with simpler, cheaper, energy efficient power supplies. Now Bob has given us possibly cheaper, more efficient hard drives. That still leaves chip companies trying to make cooler processors. That heat has to be dissipated and that means air conditioning. Coraid will like these new hard drives because that makes their business model more appealing as a tape replacement. Likely so will EMC and VMware.What will the human race do with all this cheap processing and storage power?

John Moore, PhD | Oct 27, 2006 | 11:22AM

Okay, Bob... While it's a shameless plug, it seems like an HONEST one- but WHEN can we expect these amazing devices. The ORB was for real, and it was an amazing device when it was announced, but by the time Castlewood got the thing out, it was a yawner- proprietary, and compared to things like high-cap flash and microdrives driven via CF and USB interfacess, it just didn't take off as they'd hoped it would. I go over to the site for the company and I LIKE what I see and what you've told us- but WHEN is it going to be in our hands? I'd love to see it NOW, if you know what I mean.

Frank Earl | Oct 27, 2006 | 11:23AM

I have been a long time fan of this blog and will continue to be. Unfortunately, I was pretty disappointed in this one. A disclaimer in the first paragraph would have sufficed. Then it wouldn't read like such an infomercial. Two thumbs down on this one. Sorry X.

Esteban Trabajo | Oct 27, 2006 | 11:26AM

i'll believe it once the product ships

cvos | Oct 27, 2006 | 11:32AM

The new drive technology sounds great and I hope it pans out, however, unlike your past reviews on other upcoming technologies, this posting lacks any comment on potential disadvantages and issues. The difference between reporting and marketing (self-promotional or otherwise) is that a reporter looks at the whole picture while the marketer just focuses on the positive. That puts this piece firmly in the latter category, a problem that could easily have been remedied by revealing the anticipated potential problems as well as the potential advantages.

Flexible media drives such as floppies, Syquest, Jaz, Zip, etc. all filled a need for large portable storage, but reliability was never their strong point. The new drive technology may indeed be more reliable and crash resistant, but there is no statistical record as yet to bear this out (compared to the long record on traditional platters and other forms). Will 22 micron foil disks catastrophically tear themselves apart at 30,000 rpm due to manufacturing flaws, maybe yes, maybe no... Is the data accuracy the same, better or worse than current drives? No one really knows yet.

Will | Oct 27, 2006 | 11:32AM

I actually like the new colors. The old lime green colors didn't do anything for me. This layout is nice too.

This is probably one of the more interesting stories written on prospective technology. Although, I can't imagine writing a column on 'foil' and not have the words 'gum wrapper' in there somewhere.

Daryl | Oct 27, 2006 | 11:38AM

After all the Next Big Things you've reported on and not invested in, I am honestly thrilled that you've finally found something worth pursuing. I know you of all people would have better insight into the feasability (and profitability) of the technology. Break a leg!

Rob Roy | Oct 27, 2006 | 11:42AM

I want one! - or many actually.
Hope it works out for ya, and they live up to expectations..

Looking forward to updates on the progress - and perhaps info on any flaws in the technology.

Jonas | Oct 27, 2006 | 11:44AM

Bob
This of course would be of tremendous interest to the Googles and Suns of this world. My initial thought was that the Disk Drives companies would drive (excuse the pun) this technology underground because you just drove their existing billions in capital infrastructure out the back door. But there are more people with vested interest in change than there is people with the status quo then this is likely to get to market, so we look forward to the day that your mum stops counting the opportunity cost of Apple Stock and counts the stock in PetaCorp !!!

Greg Royal | Oct 27, 2006 | 11:51AM

Very interesting. I've never cared whether or not you profit from plugging any technology.


Preload each drive with Linux or Solaris and have a potentially deep impact on OS politics.

I'm sure there are a lot of kinks to be worked out.

Manufacturing: Stamping out foil under normal conditions would produce a surface defect 4-5x the thickness of the foil and also modify the structure of the magnetic coating. Perhaps that's moot.

Run Time Issues:

Thermal - constant heat would be good, but I'd like to see the foil's behavior across different temperature profiles.

Inertia: Low density heads and trailing arms would be a must. I also think your air cushion and flexible foil would behave very differently at different RPM's(the foil deflects if it's all at the same inertia, but while rotating, it will act as a gyro and not flex so easily. Doesn't take much force to carve a track in 25 micron foil.

Finally, what would be the MTBF of these units ?

Oh, but when they come out, I will be out buying a few of them.

Jim H | Oct 27, 2006 | 11:51AM

I have to question the energy consumption. The only place where energy consumption would change (in my view) is during spinup because of reduced rotating mass. Why would the change in kinetic friction really be that different/significant if you are using platters with the same surface area (and potentially with the same coatings)(especially if you will be using more platters).


Hmmm...

oddsends | Oct 27, 2006 | 12:02PM

The mechanism you describe here (not the foil, but the heads and the shock resistance) sounds a heck of a lot like a Bernoulli drive. They also had the groovy throw-em-out-the-window shock-survival (as I'm sure you recall).

Sounds like a neat idea with some real positive implications for computing storage. Is there a problem with metal fatigue with the disks flexing during spin-up, spin-down, and as they deform to flay under the head?

BrianDime | Oct 27, 2006 | 12:02PM

Nice info on the drives, only that the plug would work better closer to the launch date. As for the next months, we still can't get the 100 GB iPod with extremely long battery life. A bummer.

The new format is good. Congrats.

Tomas Sancio | Oct 27, 2006 | 12:04PM


"...but I asked if the same technology could be used in a non-removable form inside a computer disk drive?"

Bob, as an analogy, lets's say Anil and Jim invented peanut butter and they're all good to go with their peanut butter and banana sandwich idea. Are you telling us that you basically said to them, "but guys, look at this: wouldn't your peanut butter taste better if you mixed it with JELLY on a sandwich?"

These are brilliant guys you're talking about. It never occurred to them that their technology was ideally suited for hard drives???

steveh | Oct 27, 2006 | 12:06PM

I hope this takes care of reason number one for you (first paragraph... ;)

LeBurt | Oct 27, 2006 | 12:08PM

The disclaimer is made clearly in the second paragraph, indicating that Cringely is writing about something in which he has a financial interest. I was found this article interesting and intriguing.

Evan Bah | Oct 27, 2006 | 12:09PM

I wish that there was a way to get this today!

Good show man! Great use of sci / tech. I am going to be investing in your technology!

Brendt Peeters | Oct 27, 2006 | 12:13PM

Great job! I'll be eagerly awaiting the release of these kind of drives.

Fred | Oct 27, 2006 | 12:14PM

This sounds like an amazing technology. However the Syquest association does not occupy a "quality" consumer mind-space. Back in the day Syquest drives went south with great regularity. Syquest's products were rigid removable platters rather than the flexible platters in these new drives, but people remember Iomega's equally dodgy flexible disc technologies.



These drives sound very promising, so I hope they get a fair shake in the consumer's mind and, of course, prove themselves reliable...

Ben Lawson | Oct 27, 2006 | 12:30PM

Great idea, innovative use of common technologies, and a an intelligent, interested individual. I hope you out-earn Bill, so you can tell him to shut up.
davel

David Lawson | Oct 27, 2006 | 12:30PM

Good technology

It doesn't like it is mutually exclusive to either the accelorameter, or the flash cache technology. Being resistant head crashes is different than being immune. Time to spin up is still time to spin up. Plus it would cost manufacturers more to have multiple assembly grades/lines where they weren't needed. I foresee in the distant future that has most drives including all these features (including the metal foil feature). Do you ask if a hard drive has SMART error logging, no, they all just have it.

---http://www.freetechsupport.us

Sqeaky | Oct 27, 2006 | 12:36PM

Fantastic

tommy | Oct 27, 2006 | 12:46PM

hmmm, this sounds an awful lot like a sales pitch for Bernoulli drives I sat through in 1986. But you left out the "no head crashes!" part.

rob | Oct 27, 2006 | 12:46PM

um, what is the name of the company that developed and will presumably receive royalties for this technology? what is the ticker symbal, i'd like to invest :)

ewookie | Oct 27, 2006 | 12:47PM

Very cool - I'd like to purchase a couple of hundred for our datacenter (make it a couple of thousand).

30000 rpm? schweet.

WOW!

James | Oct 27, 2006 | 12:49PM

I remember when you could use a dead hdd as a door stop for a steel door. With the weight and power consumption numbers this seems to be an amazing technology. When's the IPO? Can also be read as where is the company website or more information on this technology?

Marcus | Oct 27, 2006 | 12:51PM

i'd like to invest in this company :) what is the name and ticker symbol?

ewookie | Oct 27, 2006 | 12:52PM

MBTF will be the proof of the pudding.

So how does this compare to bernoulli disk?

--
Matt

Matt Hickman | Oct 27, 2006 | 1:32PM

How does this technology fit in the family of other gee-wiz, next generation, soon to be here, power saving, space increasing, world shattering vapourware like solid state disks, storage in plastic cubes, holographic gizmos, which were supposed to be cheaper than sand and just around the corner? Or is this stuff actually implemented in a buyable product *now* instead of "soon"?

Fred | Oct 27, 2006 | 1:36PM

Bob,
I would like to get one of these flash alternative drives you speak of. I discovered recently that flash drives have a limited life span. For example, at about ten thousand writes, my flash based key/pen drive started losing performance periodically failing to write, and slow reading. At about 20,000 writes my key drive started failing. Does this new technology you're proposing have similar limitations?

Thanks.

Joe Cannibal | Oct 27, 2006 | 1:41PM

Sounds pretty cool! When you mention die-cutting the foil, though, are there concerns about inducing residual stresses in the platters during the die-cutting process? Can they be annealed after the cutting, even with the magnetic material layered on?

Good luck! I'm looking forward to them for my personal computer.

Tom N. | Oct 27, 2006 | 1:45PM

You mention that tape has a problem with print-through. How are you avoiding this in your super-thin platter design?

Jens | Oct 27, 2006 | 1:46PM

Nice to see comments and the opinion poll results page is an interesting idea. the little figures are too big though. There's also a javascript error on that page, I had to click fifty [ok] buttons after passing my cursor over a bunch of the figures and then trying to click back to the main article page.

The main article page sucks. It's too busy and noisy. The old one is better in that it just shows you the goods, with all the extras tucked away at the side. I also agree with a previous comment about the aggravation of having to go through more clicks to get to the article.
----
As for the content of this week's article: sounds very intriguing and I'm looking forward to seeing and testing the real thing. For me I'm more interested in the power savings than the storage increase (not that I would complain about that). I do have reservations though. Like some of the other posters, my experience with bernoulli, syquest and jaz drives is not all rosy. I lost significant data and hair when some of these devices failed and inopportune moments.

matt | Oct 27, 2006 | 1:47PM

You don't mention working prototypes, so I doubt these will be available as soon as claimed - if ever, but I do wish you success!

Nicolai Michel | Oct 27, 2006 | 2:06PM

OK, for starters I work in hard disk drive development, so I do have a clue. Keeping it on a professional level, there are some serious issues with this technology.

"... it becomes clear that we need disk drives that hold more, cost less, and use less energy." - Not really clear at all for the data center. We are being asked to make smaller capacity enterprise drives, as customers are more concerned with performance and rebuild times than total capacity.

"The answers were stunning: they could design new families of disk drives that held up to three times as much data in the same space, were more reliable, actually cheaper to build, and used 70-95 percent less energy to run than the current state of the art." - Does it cure cancer too? Give me a break. The amount of money spent on R&D for disk drives is staggering. Teams of Phds in physics, chemistry and engineering across the world are working on improving performance, power consumption, cost and aerial density. Two people did not solve all these problems on the back of a napkin. These are not trivial problems. And don't give me "well maybe these people are just smarter". This is the the same argument given every time a new perpetual motion machine is hyped.

"The technology in question replaces the aluminum or glass platter in your hard disk drive with a "platter" made from stainless steel or titanium foil that is 22 microns or 25 microns thick, respectively." - Last time I checked, you can't store magnetic information directly onto stainless steel. You need to apply a magnetic material to the surface. How exactly do you get the 5+ overcoat layers to not delaminate on this surface when it isn't spinning? If you get delamination, you are going to have a catastrophic failure.

"The nature of our drives is such that they are very resistant -- almost immune -- to shock damage, making head crashes a non-event because the flexible metal foil yields to the head, pushed away by a layer of compressed air, rather than being struck by it." - This sounds like utter BS. So, is the platter rigid when spinning or not? If it isn't, good luck reading back anything you have written. If it is rigid, you are going to have head crashes. That is why drives now build in sensors to retract the head before a high G event occurs.

"We are able to build cheaper drives, for example, because our platters cost less to make and the nature of our flying heads is such that dust is sucked away from the head-disk interface, meaning the drives do not have to be assembled in a clean room." - Total BS. If you do not assemble in a clean environment, particles will STICK to the surface, I don't care what kind of vacuum system you have while the drive is running.

"The way we obtain greater storage density is simply by putting more platters in a drive (say 12-15 instead of 4-5 in an enterprise 3.5-inch drive) because they are much thinner and can be stacked closer together." - Yes, thinner disks means you could add more to the drive. This ignores the cost of the heads, which are one of the most expensive components. Also, any idea why no one makes 20 head drives anymore? It has to do with manufacturing yield. If you have an individual head that will pass manufacturing 98% of the time, only 66% of the drives will pass manufacturing for a 20-head model vs 90% for a 5-head model. More components = lower yield = higher cost.

Now listen, this is not to say that a flexible disk won't be introduced 'someday', but this article overhypes and ignores some serious technological challenges. Don't expect to see these for a least five years ... if ever.

Joe | Oct 27, 2006 | 2:20PM

I must be missing something. The reason for the thick platters in current drives (and the migration to glass) is for rigidity. Lose the rigidity, and you can't control the fly height of the head -- a critical parameter in current drives.

25 um is awfully thin, even for titanium.

You state that the heads "vary only in having an extra slot." I'm not sure what you mean by this -- an extra read element? Or is this perpendicular recording, and the slot you're referring to is the large backpole from the writer?

David Cuthbert | Oct 27, 2006 | 2:28PM

Moving parts? How 1950's...
You'll get maybe 2-5 years before some sort of solid state storage takes over.

J. Peterson | Oct 27, 2006 | 2:40PM

Syquest, eh? Look I remember the 2-gigabyte cartridge drive. I had just gotten my first PC and, in my naivete, figured that I needed sufficient storage to handle the audio stuff I was doing. So I bought one of those things....

During installation it demanded to be fed a cartridge. I did so. The drive then made a noise like it was eating it's own face. The cart wouldn't leave the drive anymore, either.

I called the number and was given an RMA number. Guy on the phone said not to worry, these things do that all the time.

I got one of the early IDE Sony CD burners instead, a caddy model. It worked great and I was very happy with it.

Please don't bring back these awful foil floppy hard disks. They've always been butt-awful, they always will be.

Even their relative, the Zip drive, was in it's heyday overpriced and unreliable. I always found recordable CDs better in every way. Click of death, anyone?

Please don't bring these back. They're ugly.


Dweezil | Oct 27, 2006 | 2:43PM

The new look is yuck. Sorry, man.

Master Halco | Oct 27, 2006 | 2:52PM

Maybe someone has commented on this already but I don’t have the time to check all gazillion of them.
It just seams to me that when you take a hair thin disk, no matter what the composition, and spin it up to say 10000 RPM in a second, well jeez how many duty cycles can that survive before the material stresses at the spindle and comes apart?
So the head is floating on the disk surface like an air hockey table?
If you are not building these in a clean room, well I guess you could stick fly paper in around the perimeter to capture all the dust.

MoldyJohn | Oct 27, 2006 | 3:01PM

Presently I need to erase some disk drives and tapes at end of life so that no one could ever recover the data. This paper http://www.cs.auckland.ac.nz/~pgut001/pubs/secure_del.html points to a report about how hard it is to erase hard disks or tapes using external magnetic fields.

Although my problem is personal and commercial, there are military applications as well.

Would these disks be easier to destroy at end-of-life or if the bad guys were storming the ship/plane/bunker?

Paul G. | Oct 27, 2006 | 3:33PM

i was hoping that you had written a universal operating system that would run all windows and apple programs on any generic computer.

bob fadrowski | Oct 27, 2006 | 3:47PM

Excuse my cynical nature, but I have some doubts about the plausibility of this whole story. First, if "Anil and Jim are no yokels when it comes to disk drives, having about 50 years of experience between them" as you state, how is it they never thought of non-removable disks as a potential market for their invention? Seems like at some point in their combined 50 years, they would have seen one or two of these in action.

Secondly, if they've been working on this for a decade, as your article implies, and have yet to deliver a viable product, how is it that you can waltz in and in less than a year or so, deliver the goods?

Seems like part of the story is missing... What was your role in the roll-out? Matchmaker with the manufacturers, or did you help resolve the Swan Magnetics injunction issue?

Bill | Oct 27, 2006 | 4:12PM

Your colleague Jim, being an old IBMer, can probably tell you some amusing stories about the first attempt to build a high-capacity drive using a stack of flexible disks. IBM tried to do this in the late 70s using the medium of the 8-inch diskette (which IBM was the first to deploy, as a distribution medium for loading microcode into 70s-era CPUs and controllers). The IBM techs stacked up 100 or so 8-inch mylar diskettes on a common axle with thin spacers between them. They spun at a pretty good RPM because they wanted to use centrifugal force to stabilize the stack.


There was a single read/write head which looked like the toe of a little brogan mounted on a wand. It ratched up and down a post to the desired height and then poked its toe in between two disks and could read or write. The flexible mylar was supposed to open up to let it in and bend around it as the disks spun. The whole thing never made it to the market, partly because I believe it had a distressing tendency to explode in a cloud of flying mylar confetti...

ferd | Oct 27, 2006 | 4:20PM

I'm blown away. If this is for real, it will change how computers are used in many subtle ways. How small do you think you can make one of these drives in the long run?

John Light | Oct 27, 2006 | 4:24PM

Is this disk drive hoopla like that notebook computer that you stack together like pieces of paper? You write about interesting hardware that will happen, only after I read it here, I usually never hear about it again.
Any chance you will cry from your pulpit about the new Nintendo Wii gaming console?

Matt | Oct 27, 2006 | 4:30PM

Sometimes we can read too much into something or assume too much. What is important in this story is the thought process. What if you could make the disk platters thinner and keep the rest of the disk drive exactly the same? You can use the same parts, the same oxide, the same, but smaller motors, etc. Does this take 5 years to develop? We are only changing one part. The trick is to get the same physical performance as you would in an old style platter. Will it work? That remains to be seen.

In the world of design there is an art in looking at something, challenging assumptions, and then coming up with an even better design. This is a good example of "necessity being the mother of invention." There is a problem. How do you reduce the power used by a disk drive? What uses a lot of power? The motor. Why? Rotational inertia. How do you reduce it? Reduce the rotating mass.

There were portable music players on the market years before the iPod. Why is the iPod so successful? Apple's designers took a long hard look at portable players and challenged all the beliefs and assumptions. The result was something more desireable to the market. The iPod was a great design effort. However the most amazing part of the iPod story is the lack so far of a serious competitve challenge. Why is that? Thinking out of the box is often hard to do. I applaud Mr. Cringely and his friends for trying. I hope it works for them.

John | Oct 27, 2006 | 4:33PM

Just got finished reading George Gilder's piece in Wired 14.10, "The Information Factories," at www.wired.com/wired/archive/14,10/cloudware_pr.html -- where he describes Google's gigantic site in the Pacific Northwest so as to be closer to hydro power, and the awful problem of power consumption and heat dissapation -- this is like the set-up article for your invention! If your drives work as described, Google wants to talk to you -- along with every other search company, computer maker, etc. etc.

Mac McCarthy | Oct 27, 2006 | 4:34PM

Pretty cool. Hope it is no Haloween prank of: "Foiled Again."


I'm so old I remember when flopppy drives were... floppy.
and when 20 megabite drives cost five hundred bucks, and when my first computer engineering course was half analong, half digital. I rembember when the 'paperless office' was an ideal... and created a spike in paper sales due to perfenctionist tendencies.

Is unlimited memory any better than unlimited energy? Will signifigance become lost... as it already seems? Will we techno-wizards be able to discriminate between 'the new' and 'the modern'?

I admire your column, Cring and hope you succeed. If this is true I hope you learn how to make money. Hint: have others make it alongside you. I second Mac McCarthy's comments above.

David Bean | Oct 27, 2006 | 4:53PM

Great. Love the idea. Is it real? And why isn't IBM already doing this?

Why didn't you post the ACM address someplace where it could be read.

And, most important, do you actually have any financial interest? The ambiguity about that makes me look at the information in your column with a -- well, a skeptical eye, wherease most of your columns I just believe until they're proven false.

Nice new format. Do you have trackbacks?

sabadashus

sabadashus | Oct 27, 2006 | 5:04PM

My first hard drive was a $3500 5mb unit for the TRS-80. The first one that I bought for a PC was $1000 for 10mb, 5 1/4" unit, from some guy that called his college dorm room "side business" "PCs Limited" (now known as Dell).
What ever happended to Iomga's "paper disks"? (or Autodesk's "Space Tank Corp" that was going to remodel Space Shuttle external fuel taks into apace stateions?

Bob R | Oct 27, 2006 | 5:06PM

Bob what you're offering is so revolutionary that it going to take down a whole financial echo system. Such system have the tendency (and the deep pockets) to void such revolutions from their content and make them not happen :-(
For your sake (mine and the rest of the computer users' community) I hope I'm wrong.

P. | Oct 27, 2006 | 5:12PM

Nice work. I can hardly wait for this. I need a terabyte disk drive in my laptop so badly I can hardly stand it. When I get one, I'm going to send you a bottle of wine.

/gary

Gary W. Longsine | Oct 27, 2006 | 5:23PM

Bob!

The oracle crowd doesn't want faster drives, the oracle crowd wants more spindles!

joel garry | Oct 27, 2006 | 5:32PM

Yet again, Bob shows that PBS will pay for anything to make itself appear in touch. Yet again, a long-winded and dumb article.

stephen | Oct 27, 2006 | 5:38PM

Bob, Good Luck on this one from sunny Totnes, Devon, Great Britain!

Mark Cross | Oct 27, 2006 | 5:50PM

Why is the claim made by Cringely that "the whole thing is pretty much my idea" .. when later on it's explained that:

"Two old friends of mine, Anil Nigam and Jim White, and their company, Antek Peripherals, Inc., had been working for years on technology for a sort of hyper-floppy drive using metal foil for the recording medium."

And then:

"At the time they were aiming their work toward digital cameras, but I asked if the same technology could be used in a non-removable form inside a computer disk drive?"

How does that make the "whole thing" his idea? I dont get it. Well whatever .. Seems to me the idea that was his is that they should market it to PC's instead of digital cameras. Sure to some people that idea may seem as original and creative an idea as using flash memory in PC's, or, hard drives in audio players. But I fail to see the part where one can claim the "whole idea" as theirs when they thought of a supposedly non obvious idea of using a not yet released, very dense, and possibly cheap storage media in a PC.

J | Oct 27, 2006 | 6:01PM

With 28 years of experience in the HDD industry under my belt, I have seen many 'excellent' ideas come and go with millions of VC $'s sunked into them with little to show. I believe this is one of them. It sounds good because that's what you wanted to hear and you got what you want. Does it really make sense? Why does the server drive run hotter than your laptop drive? Can the new concept run be compared at the same level as the server drives? Neither of the technies have the experience in that arena and are not qualified to address those issues. One of them may be earning millions on royalties but has another come along since the original TPC patent? I think the columnist should investigate deeper and really understand what is driving up the temperature other than hot air. BTW, even the new higher chips are running hotter not cooler because all the users are demanding higher/faster performance. In all seriousness, there is no free lunch. Please don't be so gullible.

yh | Oct 27, 2006 | 6:27PM

I very much enjoyed your ACM lecture, which I was fortunate enough to attend. It will be interesting to see how this turns out for you, as well as for the rest of us.

thaumata | Oct 27, 2006 | 6:30PM

*Wail* --am I the only one who misses the old Pulpit site look??
signed, a loyal reader....

skeezix-the-cat | Oct 27, 2006 | 7:12PM

About the new look: Well, now your page looks like everyone else's. But I do really like the little stick man.

Where are the forums to discuss your columns? Keep up the good work, and sign me up for disk drive or two.

David | Oct 27, 2006 | 7:24PM

Bravo. The disk drive absolutely crawls compared to RAM and especially the CPU. Without a doubt, it is a huge bottleneck. I would love to put this in my programming workstation - For the work I do, it would surely beat out more expensive systems with faster processors but slower drives.

Please don't let us down. You have my hopes up. :)

Kurt G. | Oct 27, 2006 | 7:40PM

Yeah, but what's the MTBF? That's the US$50B question...

Erik C. | Oct 27, 2006 | 8:44PM

Love the column.
Miss the frog...

John Nichols | Oct 27, 2006 | 10:11PM

For those interested in more detail,
this appears to be the patent.

Mitch | Oct 27, 2006 | 10:17PM

joel garry: cheaper disks means more spindles.

kim | Oct 27, 2006 | 10:18PM

Let me be the 10,000 persons to say that the new format induces severe nausea.

Happily it looks ok on bloglines! (You have > 1,200 bloglines subscribers btw).

John Faughnan | Oct 27, 2006 | 10:34PM

Let me be the 10,000 persons to say that the new format induces severe nausea.

Happily it looks ok on bloglines! (You have > 1,200 bloglines subscribers btw).

John Faughnan | Oct 27, 2006 | 10:35PM

Hi Bob

Congratulations on the new blog...it is awesome...infact one of the best designed blogs I've seen on the web (already !).

Good luck with the disk thingy as well.

Varun Mathur | Oct 27, 2006 | 10:35PM

Let me be the 10,000th person to say that the new format induces severe nausea.

Happily it looks ok on bloglines! (You have over 1,200 bloglines subscribers btw).

PS. You can't use an angle bracket in the comment system, it throws a misleading error on submission.

PS. The comment preview is silly and produces typelag.

John Faughnan | Oct 27, 2006 | 10:36PM

Yes, please save the frog. I do miss him.

Jeffrey Horner | Oct 27, 2006 | 11:49PM

1. Thickness of platters is not a limiting factor in how many platters can be stacked in a drive; they're already quite thin. Rigid arms, capable of precision seeking, and the flying head design (which you've referenced using) take up most of the room, but 6 platters in a third-hight format 3.5" drive is already pushing things just in the arm rigidity department.



2. Mass of the platters impacts spin-up time, not running power consumption, where surface area drag is the primary factor. Increasing the number of platters but making them lighter will not have the effect of reducing the torque needed from the spindle moter; quite the opposite. The increased surface drag from adding more spinning surface will radically increase the power needed from the spindle motor. Enterprise SCSI drives with lots of platters draw large amounts of power for just this reason.



3. Radically reduced costs claimed in this article seem to be justified by the lowered cost of polishing big rolls of the media. However, platters already cost sub $1. Increasing the number of heads, arms, etc is going to increase cost far more than reducing the sub-$1 platter's price.



4. Perhaps the designers are thinking of the very old design -- late 60s era, I believe -- where a (then washing-machine sized) hard-drive has one head and a pile of platters, and the platters are mechnically pried apart to accept the head between them. The head flies clear of the platters, a new gab between two platters is opened, and the head goes back into the new opening. It would be interesting to see this idea resurrected for applications that require very little performance but large on-line storage capacity, but the time to switch platters is large and the additional mechanism expensive.



5. Does anyone in the readership remember the failure rate of removable media drives that have media not sealed in in a clean room? 8", 5.25", 3.5", Syquest, Iomega, you name it, it's MTBF is about the time it takes to insert the media. Even ignoring the question of grit and removable media, I don't want any data stored on anything made by anyone from Syquest. Corporate bone piles seem to get those things first and in greater quantity than any other piece of hardware. My skin crawls just thinking about the data loss...



6. Drive manufacturers already have the technology to deploy enterprise drives -- several platters rather than one as in almost all consumer drivers -- with massive storage capacities. It's interesting that the new 1000gig Seagate drives still have just one platter. Hard drives are a cut-throat business, and Seagate knows how to limp along, and it's by offering the highest possible storage on a single platter, keeping costs down. Sticking five platters in, you'd have a 5tb drive -- but then it would be really expensive, with the fluid dynamic barrings required, all of those heads, the larger spindle motor, the larger stepper coil, and nearly 5x the assembly. And enterprises wouldn't buy it -- high priced drives need extremely high reliability to be marketable, and that's what enterprise class drives are. It would actually need lowered density to be marketable, and use more tried-and-true designs -- just like how things work now in that market.



This seems to be a mish-mash of vague innovations all stemming from "we'll use foil!". Getting rid of head crashes, any sort of failure that requires failure mode logic (!!), air friction, ... all as the result of "we'll use foil!" seems extremely unlikely.
Remember that patents still do cover implementations, not ideas -- companies that forget that and imagine virtually guaranteed profits seem to fall the hardest and fastest. This is only a tone I picked up, but it's setting off alarm bells for me.
I'm sorry; I try not to make it a habit of writing in to poo-poo things, but I've been involved in enough failed technical ventures, I hate to see people get hurt. And again, this is setting off alarm bells.



-scott

Scott Walters | Oct 28, 2006 | 3:55AM

Please bring back the frog!

WM | Oct 28, 2006 | 4:00AM

Actually, I don't think TI will flex much, even when very thin. However, I'm reminded of my own experience with the transition from floppy disk to HD in the late 80s and 90s. The first computer I had with a floppy drive was leaps ahead of the cassette tape system I had before. I used floppies until I built a frankenXT from spare parts at the office, one of which was a 10MB hard drive. Even though most of the applications were still designed for floppy disks, it was aparent that hard drives and Ethernet were going to mark the end of the floppy. It took a little longer than most people expected, mostly due to secretaries not understanding the concept of a directory, it is getting harder to justify a floppy anymore. The height of the floppy age was the Zip drive and 3M superdisc. These were really as good as the floppy drive got, and even though many people had to deal with the click of death, most of us didn't have too many problems with them. They came along just before Ethernet and solid networking became commonplace, so they had some success, but in the end they couldn't keep up.

I think the same thing is happening with hard disks. They will continue to have some useful applications, such as data centers, but I think we're in a transitional phase to solid state memory. It will take a few years, but it will happen. Hope these guys can get a product out there, but I wouldn't bet the 401k on this company.

Star_raider | Oct 28, 2006 | 10:12AM

This is my first visit to your new blog format and I think it looks and feels great! Very readable comment formatting!

Robert Gagnon | Oct 28, 2006 | 11:21AM

Great idea Bob, when and where can we see a demo?

paul | Oct 28, 2006 | 11:59AM

Durable, reliable and affordable storage sounds like a winning product. Always great when we customers can get what we want and need at a price we can afford.
The new format on the site is great Bob. Keep up the good work.

Robin Smith | Oct 28, 2006 | 12:50PM

Wow. This is really great news! I was looking to put together a >1TB RAID-5 backup/file server on my home network next summer. Maybe I should wait until winter of '07, huh? I assume your organization is granting licensing rights to some/all of the big hard disk drive players. I hope they see fit to offer something just short of those "super-high-end" 30K RPM designs to those of us who hate staring at "Loading..." screens and the like. I would love to have a RAID-0 pair of a product like that for my gaming PC. :D

Jonathan B | Oct 28, 2006 | 1:46PM

"Our 10-gigabyte 0.85-inch drive...will cost $24"

Okay, with the above comment it would seem a simple task to prove this technology. Simply start making CF-format drives (like the micro-disk) using this technology, that will just plug-in and work in the current, widely available, USB flash drive readers. Heck, if you make a drive like that with only 2-gigabytes that sells for only $24 you'll sell 'em faster than you can make them. I'd buy a couple tomorrow myself. So, why aren't you guys doing something like this instead of making all the wild-eyed claims? >On a more positive note: You've done a great job on putting together the new "I, Cringley" site.

Wayne | Oct 28, 2006 | 5:13PM

I have several technical doubts regarding the hypothetical micro drive... first reliability, while a disk is probably more reliable at read/write use, read mostly applications like firmware should be more reliable on flash than any device with moving parts. And the statement regarding putting the platters closer together seems more limited by head thickness and air flow requirements for cooling and head flying than platter thickness. So making the platters thinner has limited benefit. And finally, fast spin up is good for power but not where access time is needed. I think Mr Cringely is also assuming that the bit/area will go up, since disk size is influenced by how many sq cm are needed to store the bits. Without higher bit density the drives still need to be large.

bill davidsen | Oct 28, 2006 | 5:38PM

Any storage technology that will allow Apple to produce an iPod with say 200+GB of storage without some of worries of today's hard drives (and for less money) gets my vote. Bring it on.

gene wicker jr | Oct 28, 2006 | 7:38PM

I'm probably the poorest dentist in North America.
If I send you $1000.00 can I get a share or part of a share? Either way good luck with the new hard drives!

Dr44mag@Aol.com | Oct 28, 2006 | 9:46PM
Technopundit | Oct 28, 2006 | 11:47PM

You didn't mention seek times.


The seek time of flash is epsilon. It seems silly to argue against the hybrid flash drives without taking seek into account. YMMV.

Jay Carlson | Oct 29, 2006 | 2:25AM

Like the blog but miss the frog.

Longtimereader | Oct 29, 2006 | 6:13AM

Bob if this new drive is half as good as you claim you might finally strike it rich this time.

Nigel | Oct 29, 2006 | 8:33AM

How is poor Bob going to answer all these questions. If he does it through the comments he and the rest of us will have to keep reReading them sucking up lots of time. Maybe he could answer some points at the start of his next collum?

Nigel | Oct 29, 2006 | 9:59AM

Bob:

I have been a huge fan of your writing and your documentaries for a long time. However, I, like some others here have mixed feelings about this column. I think it would have been okay to talk about this idea, but without the hyped language and obviously one-sided coverage. (You didn't mention any downsides.) If you were just feeling enthusiastic and were dying to share, you could've still listed the downsides of the idea. For these reasons, I have to wonder whether this is just promotional for you. As for the product itself, well...I'm more than a bit skeptical. Something tells me if you do manage to get it manufactured, you won't charge the low prices that you're currently claiming.

I have mixed feelings about the new webpage-I'll have to look at it some more.

Thanks for all your in-depth and visionary work. I hope your personality won't change if the drive idea is viable and does take off. Is say this because you often seem to imply in your writing that money is the most important thing to you, and you seem to be a bit insecure about your own status with respect to it. That's too bad, as I see your role as much more important than just any old CEO or rich businessman.

Doesn'tMissAColumn | Oct 29, 2006 | 11:02AM

Interesting! Love the new site too.

Are you still involved with TaguchiNow? That website shows you as a founder although there isn't much else there.

Lovalboy | Oct 29, 2006 | 11:58AM

Interesting! Love the new site too.

Are you still involved with TaguchiNow? That website shows you as a founder although there isn't much else there.

Localboy | Oct 29, 2006 | 11:59AM

I don't care how shameless your promotion is if it lives up to expectations. My career is IT but, I have a deep concern the environment and reducing energy. The idea to promote more reliable and cost effective disk drives is an achievement the fact that you are reducing energy consumption will be what drives this technology forward. No pun intended.

Don | Oct 29, 2006 | 12:12PM

I miss Toad of Toad Hall. A pontificator forever holding forth. A gentle touch of self-mockery.
Helen

helen | Oct 29, 2006 | 1:34PM

Maybe he could get crazy frog instead? I liked the analisys of Mr Toad though. POOP POOP, it's the only way to travel!

Nigel | Oct 29, 2006 | 2:13PM

Maybe he could get crazy frog instead? I liked the analisys of Mr Toad though. POOP POOP, it's the only way to travel!

Nigel | Oct 29, 2006 | 2:15PM

Hi, sounds like a great idea. I didn't realize hard drives waste so much energy. It would be great to replace an Apple server Xraid drives with these new drives. Looking forward to seeing them in the market.

Alon | Oct 29, 2006 | 3:06PM


Ooo... I LIKE this. May have to send this article to our techie gurus.

Of course, or current server vendors might be a bit upset, but at the rate we're swapping drives out on our video servers, they need to get their act together as it is.

George E | Oct 29, 2006 | 5:24PM

What stops the (very thin) platter from 'sagging' when it's not spinning?

I assume there's a solution, and if so, sounds great!!

Jock | Oct 30, 2006 | 3:50AM

Now if these puppies would be able to hook into existing servers on existing connectors, at a lower price and power consumption I can see this picking up.

Also I can see a SAN/NAS solution being brilliant. Instead of spending a couple of hundredthousand dollars you'd actually have a couple of bucks to spare. Selling these things as a storage appliance would be a nice opportunity.

Another benefit you might have overlooked is heat creation. If these drives use less power they will most likely generate less heat... thus making powersavings on server cooling.

I can't wait to get my hands on one of these. Too bad I'll have to wait till start of 2008. Any chance you need people to test?

Henk | Oct 30, 2006 | 4:54AM

Great idea Bob, good luck with this.

Simon

Simon L | Oct 30, 2006 | 6:54AM

I think that any new solution that includes the use of moving parts for storage, is like walking backwards.

The future is solid state, future solid state disk are going to be so much faster that they will be plugged directly on a memory bus, because SCSI or SATA will be bottlenecks.

Everybody in the industry knows this. The hardrive is going to be a non-volatile memory chip on your motherboard.

Sanders | Oct 30, 2006 | 8:02AM

Personally, I think this is brilliant. Even if the future is solid state drives, this could be a good stop-gap measure as NAT was for IPV4. Just as long as these can be placed in any current system, then they should sell.



Yeah I know that the current systems probably can't use the available speed of the drive, but, they can use the extra storage space and the cost savings (up front cost and long term energy cost). Keep up the innovation.

mtgarden | Oct 30, 2006 | 8:49AM

This is a really great idea. Saving power in computers seems to be a really superb way of reducing power consumption, helping the US and other countries meet Kyoto protocol without politics. Whether there is lobbying to oppose it, or not, the country still benefits from power-miserly technology.

Now take this technology, combined with Intel's idea of going to DC for power supply current, and the integration of power technology onto a computer chip to ration it more efficiently. Overall, this looks to be a great shift towards reducing power consumption, which will not only save end-users money, but will take a lot of load off power companies to push for newer power-generation facilities, including nuclear, and will reduce the risk of brownouts and blackouts in states like California.

Bob, I'm glad to hear of this. I didn't know you were working on something like this, but it's great to hear. Please just make sure that these companies don't try to scam us or make higher profits on the technology. Looks like I'll be holding off on a drive purchase until November 2007.

Graham Fair | Oct 30, 2006 | 10:11AM

What is the company that will be making these drives or are their plans to start a new company? anyone?

Mauro | Oct 30, 2006 | 11:07AM

Bob finally gets RICH!

and it couldn't happen to a more deserving guy....

John Fuhrmann | Oct 30, 2006 | 11:32AM

While savings in power and cubic inches are both wonderful effects of these new drives, heat load savings will also be very worthy. Most data centers spend a substantial part of their energy budget on AC and UPS systems. Both of these costs will also be reduced with these drives.
Combine these drives with iSCSI rack boxes and all those blade servers will be useful, without causing the urban temperatures to approach Death Valley.
Bravo.

William Chipman | Oct 30, 2006 | 11:33AM

Proves that his statement #1 is untrue because if you are poor you cant invest in a tech company!!!
Cheaper disks we all want.

G | Oct 30, 2006 | 12:15PM

So - when I can I buy one of these? Or to put in another way, what remains to be done? Have you built prototypes?

Gar Lipow | Oct 30, 2006 | 12:36PM

Well, I for one wish to welcome our new metal-foil disk drive overlords.

Any idea on the max numbers of platters in a standard 3.5 inch drive?

Chris | Oct 30, 2006 | 12:44PM

My experience with disk drives is that most of the height stack up with multiple platters is from the head assemblies, not the platters. reducing the thickness of 4 .05" platters in a 1 inch stack doesn't give you much more room. How does this technology reduce the size of the head assemblies to make those additional platters posible?

John Elliott | Oct 30, 2006 | 12:51PM

I like the idea, as I said in an earlier post, but some friends and I came up with a question: For the data center, how does reduced mass save power? Of course, if you are spinning the drives up and down we can understand. But many data center drives spin up once and stay spinning forever. Once a spindle is spinning, the only energy required is for overcoming friction, which we would expect to be proportional to the number heads/platters and somewhat related to the bearing. Perhaps you believe such drives can be spun down often?

John Light | Oct 30, 2006 | 1:31PM

I am no expert in disk drive technology, but I think the servo speed needs to change based on the radial position of the data. If you think of the data as a line of ones and zeroes that spirals out from the center with a constant linear density, it becomes apparent that the speed of rotation must be a function of the heads read position to maintain a constant bit read rate. So the servo is constantly spinning up and down based on user data demand and storage location. The amount of actual energy saved is probably application dependent and would need to be modeled using assumptions about usage.

Frank | Oct 30, 2006 | 1:57PM

It's not that disk drives consume so much power or that they haven't come down in consumption over the years, but each of those cabinets will require using modern drives about 3,300 watts to run while the full 100 petabytes will require 2.148 MEGAwatts. And all that heat has to go somewhere, so the building will typically use three to four times as much power for air conditioning as it does to run the drives, taking our total power consumption up to just under 10 megawatts, which at typical U.S. industrial power rates will cost about $5 million per year.

Read | Oct 30, 2006 | 2:36PM

I want to apologize for taking so long to post a comment of my own here. I thought (silly me) that I might be able to reply to each of you in turn but no. That means I'll have to be a lot more interactive and jump on several times per day.

Now to some of the points that have been made here.

1) I promise to pitch my own stuff only every 493 columns.

2) I chose this topic at this time not because the company is running out of money but because I wanted a memorable topic for the first blog and I needed something to write about. that and my partners finally agreed to let me blab.

3) The company is not, at present, seeking investors. If that changes I'll let you know. We are not out of money by any means, nor are we venture financed.

4) As for the ethics of all this, I have had a business life all along and will continue to do so. This is just the firs time I think I have ever written about it. Would it be better if I was doing lots of secret deals?

5) I have not developed ANY of the technology myself. All I did was put several ideas together and repurpose a technology that appeared to me to be going nowhere. Everyone involved is now glad I did so.

6) We have some very big customers who have spent a lot of money on consultants looking for alternative energy-saving storage technology. In terms of something available at a reasonable price this decade, they have determined there is NOTHING else on the horizon. We are it.

7) Those who think it takes no more power to run a heavy disks than a light disk once it is spun up are wrong. Go back to high school physics.

8) The gyroscopic worries of some readers (that some gyroscopic effect would make the fast-spinning platter fold on itself and self-destruct if a portable device containing the drive was moved) are unfounded. It comes down to the rotating mass, which is vastly less.

9) The compressed air is generated by the spinning platter, itself, accelerating the air around it.

10) I own a VERY small part of this company but I'll be happy to get rich if it works out that way.

Bob

Bob Cringely | Oct 30, 2006 | 2:41PM

I like it.

I really like it!

I really, yes really, like it. Where do I buy it?

Steven | Oct 30, 2006 | 5:08PM

Just one comment. Bob, you are the man!

Keith | Oct 30, 2006 | 8:14PM

Well, it's not April 1st so I guess I have to believe it. Sounds great! Been reading your column for years (now retired) and still enjoy it.

Lee Vercoe | Oct 30, 2006 | 9:34PM

Very interesting...ve..ry interesting...(I think an evil villan once said as such)...so you are potentially sitting on a gold mine which is going to revolutionize data storage the world over...does this mean that I wont have to wait for my XP/Vista machine to constantly disk thrash itself to death every time I want to access something in the bowels of my 'drives architecture' (read: mess). I've been reading your columns for quite a while and really enjoy them...if this tech piggy makes it to market and performs like it should, you will make me a very happy spawn camper. Good luck! *cue manical laughing*

Dr Evil | Oct 30, 2006 | 10:33PM

"7) Those who think it takes no more power to run a heavy disks than a light disk once it is spun up are wrong. Go back to high school physics."

I have a physics MSc and astronomy PhD, and I think they are (mostly) right. To keep it spinning at constant speed, you need to replace energy lost to friction. If the friction is purely due to air friction on the surface of the spinning disks, the mass of the disks is irrelevant. I'd expect to see small gains from reduced losses in the motor. If you think differently, you need a much more detailed response than "Go back to high school physics."

Michael Woodhams | Oct 30, 2006 | 10:40PM

@Michael Woodham - Re: friction:
hmmm - I´m not convinced (of neither argument):

## conventional platter are much heavier - therefore much more friction in the liquid (or whatever) bearings -- jow does that compare to air friction?

## I assume that air friction is only an issue as long as the air around the platters isn´t "up to speed", i.e. once the platters are spinning for some time, air between the platters is no longer standing still, but moving along (I once read that the air at Nascar races in those oval tracks was measured to spin at over 60mph towards the end of the race.)

## Otoh, there are those "darned" read/write heads: Them entering the space between the platters, cause the air to compress, as described by Bob, and, also, friction and turbulences

So, if any harddisk engineer is reading along (Anil ? ;) I´d like to know two things: 1) How does air friction inside your drives compare to the bearing´s friction of conventional drives? In order to your concept work as promised, I´d guess it´s in your favour by some orders of magnitude.

2) Why is that so?

Matt

matt | Oct 31, 2006 | 1:59AM

sorry


for the bad


formatting


Matt

matt | Oct 31, 2006 | 3:21AM

sorry for the multiples - this time correctly formatted

@Michael Woodham - Re: friction:

hmmm - I´m not convinced (of neither argument):

• conventional platter are much heavier - therefore much more friction in the liquid (or whatever) bearings -- jow does that compare to air friction?

• I assume that air friction is only an issue as long as the air around the platters isn´t "up to speed", i.e. once the platters are spinning for some time, air between the platters is no longer standing still, but moving along (I once read that the air at Nascar races in those oval tracks was measured to spin at over 60mph towards the end of the race.)

• Otoh, there are those "darned" read/write heads: Them entering the space between the platters, cause the air to compress, as described by Bob, and, also, friction and turbulences.

So, if any harddisk engineer is reading along (Anil ? ;), I´d like to know two things:

1) How does air friction inside your drives compare to the bearing´s friction of conventional drives? In order to your concept work as promised, I´d guess it´s in your favour by some orders of magnitude.

2) Why is that so?

Matt

matt | Oct 31, 2006 | 3:27AM

This is great stuff! However, I have to wonder if any MBA worth her salt is going to market something like this at a lesser price reflecting the actual cost to build rather than a higher price refecting what the market will bear (and thus maximize profits, which is what investors expect). That is, the advantages of this type of drive would be compelling even at the same price/GB -- or more -- of current drives. While it's great to look forward to new features and benefits, it may be unlikely that they will come at a dramatically cheaper price/GB ... at least until some licensing occurs and some competition enters the equation.
Thanks

Chuck Eggers | Oct 31, 2006 | 8:24AM

Hey Bob, thanks for chiming back in.



Some of us would be VERY interested to read periodic updates, but others obviously would resent that "the self-promotion takes up space." So why not give us updates as "extra" columns from time to time?, so that no one feels they're missing out on a "substantive" column when you choose to do so. Best of both worlds, if your own enthusiasm to share would overcome the drag of writing some extra copy.


Not crazy about the new look "out front," but willing to give it some time to work the kinks out.


Very best,


Th.

Thorne | Oct 31, 2006 | 5:52PM

Using a non-profit website such as pbs.org as a platform for a venture in which you have a financial interest is disgusting and unethical.

I have written to PBS, I will discontinue to support public television until crap like this is ferreted out from their content.

Fred | Oct 31, 2006 | 6:51PM

On the ethics issue:
In this particular case, I don't see Bob benefiting financially from this column. There is no publically traded stock to pump, and the potential customers (a small number of engineers and managers in hard-drive companies) are presumably already getting much more information from targeted marketing (i.e. someone from the company pitches the idea to them in person.)


On the basis of some comments here, I'm skeptical that it will work as advertized, so it may not be newsworthy, but I don't think it is unethical.

(Bob: How about a new-year's prediction on this? When will metal foil platter hard-drives aimed at a mainstream market (desktop, laptop or data-centre) be available through standard retail channels? I'll predict (guess, really) not before 2009.)

Michael Woodhams | Oct 31, 2006 | 8:30PM

Coming back to a very down to earth idea for future columns for the Cringely 2.0 page...err...blog:

Please add a pagination feature to the comments section. This page is getting very, very long.

If your HD innovation investment turns out to be successful, I'm sure you can afford the programming in case PBS won't pay for this new Cringely 2.0.1 page update :)

BladeRunner | Oct 31, 2006 | 8:50PM

Once in 500 columns is fine. This was a very interesting article, on something that could have a big impact on personal computing of all forms.

The only question (the way laptop "design" seems to be going) is - does it have flame-retarding properties too?!

Anyone else, and I would have thought this was shameless hype, but you've been a very objective commentator on the IT industry for years Bob, so why not write a column like this every year or two!

Thought you might enjoy the URL, by the way. Tesco - the UK grocery company - is now getting into software. This is a review of a few of the cheaper Office Software alternatives.

paul | Nov 01, 2006 | 3:28AM

The blog format is fine, but the column isn't showing up on AvantGo anymore. Damn, now I have to be tied to legacy hardware just to read it... :-(

Scott | Nov 01, 2006 | 8:51AM

You mention the power consumption saving of spinning down disc drives currently in use but since you don't go into the cost of your drives and the changeover it's difficult to assess the timeline for the advantages. Also, one assumes that the claims about the advantages e.g., dust and head crashes, were demonstrated since the technology has been developed and patented. But since it was developed and patented and has so many advantages why was it not implemented?

Tom Shillock | Nov 01, 2006 | 1:08PM

Let the world know as soon as these drives are ready for an enterprise environment. The technology is extremely enticing and when the part is ready to fit into multiple manufacturers platforms, I want to check them out for myself.
Great stuff!

Steve | Nov 01, 2006 | 1:47PM

Isn't PBS gonna be a little perturbed at your using your blog to promote your personal business? I mean it sounds like great technology and all but haven't you crossed a line with regards to conflict-of-interest?

BOB | Nov 01, 2006 | 6:22PM

Congratulations!!!!

I am all for speed...... andmore storage capcity...not to nention less energy consumption...

But where is all this going to get us if we don't have NET NUTRALLITY......

I can only hope that enough of your readers were fortunate to have watched the piece the Bill Moyers did on Public Televison last week on NET NUTRALLITY..... I blame both the Republicans and the Democrats for allowing the American Public to stumble thru life without the benifit of a Fiber Optic world which is in itself 100 times faster then DSL & Broadband use....

Please people raise hell with your elected officials...

Tell them if the public doesn't get NET NUTRALLITY then the public will get NEW ELECTED OFFICIALS....

Thank you for your time.

thomas fannon | Nov 02, 2006 | 12:08AM

Interesting stuff. I always figured high-bandwidth flash RAM was the future due to low-power requirements. Does anyone remember C3D? They seemed to disappear after doing this:

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/sci/tech/464846.stm

Best of luck to the new foil drives. They sound very cool. Let's hope they support DRM natively in their hardware - or you'll all be labelled communists by Rush Limbaugh.

Mattster | Nov 02, 2006 | 5:24AM

Re: " For super-high-end applications we can make 30,000-RPM drives"

No you can't. Not with platters that have normal radii.
When you rotate something at a speed comparable to the speed of sound, it starts to vibrate and then falls apart. Since this is foil, the speed of sound limit that comes into play might not even be the foil's (which is more than one kilometer per second) but the speed of sound in air, about 0.3 kilometers per second. No supersonic foils please.

kirk | Nov 02, 2006 | 9:28AM

Technological breakthrough of the decade: The floppy disk!

I think not.

It just has to be flash. No moving parts - no matter how fast you can spin up your motor, no matter how light the payload, you can't beat having nothing to spin.

Wouldn't it be cool if we could drop flash memory through a time warp back a decade and or two, and have, say, a 512MB flash card competing with 100MB hard disks with prices within 1 order of magnitude.

Hard disks would die overnight, all the research $ and Yen would go into flash technology improvements. Noone would ever dare even suggest you should store your data on a little plate that has to be made to spin at a certain speed.

BTW: One really cool technology that's new for me at least - this comment preview you have going at the bottom of the comment entry. Very nifty.

rhubarb | Nov 02, 2006 | 10:57AM

Kirk,

Not sure what you're talking about. There are all sorts of 30,000RPM motors out there that don't vibrate and fall apart.

Google "30,000-RPM drives" and see the results you get.

Here's a tiny 2.5cc racing *engine* that can run at *faster* than 30K RPM: http://www.duratrax.com/cars/dtxd76-engine.html

A link to some interesting tests on standard CDROMS bringing them up to failure rate speeds (anything over 23K RPM seemed to bust'em) But that's standard CD's, not engineered for 30K RPM's. I think it can be done if standard cheapie CD's spin 23K+
http://www.qedata.se/e_js_n-cdrom.htm

My point being, 30K RPM is not fantastically un-attainable just because we don't have it now. I think it's a very attainable number based just on the Google research in 15 mins.

Nailbiter | Nov 02, 2006 | 1:44PM

An IBM SE several years ago was trying to get our company to go back to IBM servers in place of the Compaq servers we were happily using. He claimed drives could not go faster than 10,000 RPM or they would start singing, then started into the breaking the sound barrier rant. Needless to say he was wrong about that and many other things.

Russell | Nov 02, 2006 | 2:33PM

There is so much rhetoric and BS.

Hard drives use up to 30% of systems power draw lol. A GPU can consume over 100w, cpu up to 100w+, desktop hard drives consumes about 10-20w during seeks.

Need I say more about this Guru.

Guest | Nov 02, 2006 | 2:35PM

To Guest poster above:
While GAMING GPU's can possibly consume 100w, SERVERS do not use these high-end overpriced monstrosities of graphics cards. The power draw from graphics cards in datacenters is probably 1/1000th that of hard drives.

Carl | Nov 02, 2006 | 3:00PM

I think it's an absolutely brilliant concept. BTW did anyone actually bother to do the math' on the actual platter velocity? The outer edge of a 3.5" platter@30,000 RPM is traveling at 139.64 metres/second which is just a tad under 0.4 of the speed of sound (~350.32 metres/second). I'm sure an engineer could help here but while the platter would need to be virtually perfectly balanced to function, at that velocity, it would be surprisingly rigid. Certainly not an insurmountable problem to tackle.

PS. small, high velocity, gas turbines are made now with foil bearings with an operating life of 100,000 stop start cycles so the engineering issues are not impossible by current standards

steve | Nov 02, 2006 | 3:07PM

Thank Robert for using a full RSS feed. Much appreciated.

Christian Cadeo | Nov 02, 2006 | 3:38PM

I have a better idea -- we should replace hard drives altogether with environmentally-friendly ethanol.

Kevin | Nov 02, 2006 | 3:50PM

I don't recall where I found this link, but I'm glad I clicked it.

How likely are we to see these drives hit the market soon, or is that a ridiculously optimistic question?

D Walker | Nov 02, 2006 | 10:06PM

Having read and listen to your comments on the computer industry for many years (and not agreeing with all your pontifications) I am happy to hear that your about to make bucket loads of dosh.

Martin Kelly | Nov 03, 2006 | 3:26AM

http://www.storagereview.com/
http://www.silentpcreview.com/

If you take a look at the information at those sites, you will find that the notion that hard drives consume 1/3 of the energy in PCs is incorrect. In laptops, they only consume 2-3 watts of the laptop's 15-25 watt consumption (DC Power), while in desktops they consume about 10 watts of the desktop's 50 to 150 watt power consumption (DC Power). That is hardly 1/3.

Using steel or titanium in hard drives sounds promising due to the properties of metal but I fail to see the benefit that they would have over aluminum in terms of cost, performance and power consumption. Steel and titanium are both heavier than aluminum, which would mandate that more electricity is used to move them. Aluminum is cheaper than either of the two metals, so prices would increase if hard drives used them. Steel and titanium are metals like aluminum, so they will be just as flat from the factory; no lack of friction will result from using them. Without any change in the frictional characteristics of the platters when compared to conventional platters, I fail to see how they will be able to spin three times higher than conventional platters, as the friction is the chief reason preventing 18,000 RPM hard drives from reaching the market right now. The friction causes them to make so much noise and generate so much heat that it is unfeasible to bring them to market. The only potential benefit that I would see from using either titanium or steel platters, at the expense of harming the drives' other characteristics, would be in reliability as particles striking the drives will not do as much damage as they do currently, and the platters will be far more able to withstand shocks. Besides that, I see no benefit.

Richard | Nov 04, 2006 | 12:07PM

stil about storage but related to last week's Google's LD8:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Unit_Load_Device
http://www.seagate.com/docs/pdf/datasheet/disc/ds_barracuda_es.pdf

if you do the math, you conclude that *10%* of an LD8 filled with Barracudas 750GB will get you 1,2 Petabytes:

6,9/(26,11*101,6*146,99/1000/1000/1000)/10*750/1024/1024=1,265

stil plenty of space for CPUs, UPSs, AC units and support and vibration dampening infrastructure!

david mc coelho | Nov 05, 2006 | 8:09AM

Richard, how about reading the article before attacking it?
It's not just a substitution of materials that is proposed, it is a floppy disk instead of a hard disk. There are structural differences and advantages to one over the other.

glenn | Nov 06, 2006 | 8:48PM