The disk drive. That impermeable "black box" that stores our life's work ... documents, photographs, music, videos, and almost everything we hold dear in our life. Have you ever wondered how it really works? Have you ever longed to open the case and look inside? Maybe you'd just like to know what clothes ITPros wore to work before the turn of the century?

 

Recently I had the opportunity to view an old video tape, compliments of the This Week in Tech Security Now podcast #384 (Dec 26, 2012), that discusses those very questions. In 1990, when Steve Gibson's SpinRite was just a fledgling product, he went on the road and did a series of educational presentations to retailers, sponsored by SoftSell (a major distributor of computer software in 1990), describing everything you'd ever want to know about how disk drives work, and why they don't.

 

Have you ever wondered about the internals of a disk drive ... Heads, Cylinders, Sectors. Or maybe the bygone question of interleaving. Why did IBM choose a grossly inefficient interleave of 6:1? Why did Western Digital overcompensate by making it 3:1, trying to produce a 2x faster system, but actually producing a 3x slower one!? Or the myriad of acronyms that befell ITPros back then: MFM, RLL, ERLL, to name a few. What impact does heat really have on disk drives, and what was the real reason common wisdom was to leave your PC turned on all of the time?

 

Most significantly: Why do disk drives fail? What can you do to reduce, maybe even eliminate, disk drive failures – even today!

 

In addition to being informative, the video is also exceptionally entertaining. Steve has an incredible sense of humor, whether picking on his mother-in-law, “Big Blue”, Seagate Technologies, or Western Digital. I promise that even if you actually personally owned a PC in the late 1980s, and lived through this experience, you'll still learn something new from this video. I did (and yes, I bought my first IBM PC-compatible in June 1989 .. 23 1/2 years ago).

 

The full episode is 65 minutes, but minus the 10 minute intro/ads, and the 10 minute wrapup, the legacy video is about 45 minutes long.

 

Happy New Year!

 

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