Look hard and you will find a way to eliminate PC data storage trouble

Does your
multigigabyte hard drive seem a bit crowded these days, despite regular dumping of what
you sincerely hope were unnecessary files? Join the crowd.

I remember when a 10M PC-XT drive seemed huge. Now my 10G drive fills up so fast I have
to purge old files every month. A stack of 5G Travan backup tapes stands where I used to
stack 1.44M floppies.

Don’t worry, this is not yet another tirade about bloated software and data files.
I face the same challenges as federal users who must find ways to cope with data
collections as massive as those on network servers only a few years ago.

The only real choice for me these days is tape. I use an external Hewlett-Packard Co.
5G Colorado parallel-port drive because I couldn’t get enough mileage out of drives
such as the ZipPlus from Iomega Corp. of Roy, Utah.

The ZipPlus has 100M capacity and costs only $199. But I would use up about five of its
$15 disks every day, and it would cost more than $1,000 to back up my main drive.

CD-recordable media is cheaper. I use it to publish data and archive files, but
it’s too slow and quirky for daily backups.

Iomega’s Jaz drive with 2G disks could be a possibility, too, if I didn’t
mind spending more for a single blank disk than for a complete 2G hard drive—about

The removable magnetic SparQ drive from SyQuest Technology Inc. of Fremont, Calif.,
looks like a much better alternative. At $200, it offers the same performance as the 2G
Jaz, and 1M media costs only $33.

But none of these can deal with my volume of Web research results and multimedia
presentations. Happily, some developments on the near horizon might eliminate such PC data
storage problems.

Several vendors are promoting a switch to 720K- and 1.44M-compatible floppy drives that
store up to 200M on special diskettes. These will probably supplant standard floppy drives
in new PCs over the next year or so, but they don’t make enough of a dent in my

Castlewood Systems Inc. of Pleasanton, Calif., is poised to introduce Orb, a $200,
31/2-inch magnetic drive capable of storing 2.16G on each proprietary disk. Promised
performance is terrific at a maximum sustained data transfer rate of 12.2 megabytes/sec.
Each disk costs $30.

This looks like a good bet for a lot of applications if the company can overcome the
marketing lead held by Iomega and SyQuest.

But we’re only talking 2G, and I can easily fill that in a week. So, although I
want to see Orb and may use it, it isn’t the answer.

Complete hard drives go for less than $70 per gigabyte today—another option.

You can get an 8.5G IBM Corp. drive for about $350, and the long-standing industry
trend is toward lower prices and higher capacities, so buying a stack of hard drives and a
$50 removable bracket makes a lot of sense.

Magneto-optical technology also is well-developed, but its speed is unacceptable and
its drive and media prices are high.

How about digital video disk? DVD-RAM, which should be here any day now, according to
its proponents, will record about 2.5G on a single-sided disk.

The drive supposedly will read standard DVD disks as well as CD-audio and CD-ROM data
formats. DVD-rewritable will store about 3.5G per side and compete directly with
DVD-RAM, but it probably will not come to market until DVD-RAM has been around for about
nine months.

If, the DVD recorders have good enough long-term reliability, they should become a good
choice for massive storage chores.

The problem with CD-R and CD-RW drives has been that they’re just not designed for
online storage as a CD-ROM drive is.

Chances are that although DVD recorder drives will read CDs, CD-ROMs and DVD disks,
they won’t supplant regular DVD drives for exactly the same reasons.

I’m looking harder at a brand-new technology based on near-field recording, from
TeraStor Corp. of San Jose, Calif. The TeraStor drive has a flying optical head
similar to a magnetic hard drive’s head.

The TeraStor read-write head glides along on a cushion of air right next to the media
surface. This, along with a new type of lens, makes it possible to read and write
data on much smaller areas on the disk. The company claims it will store 20G per surface
before the end of this year. I expect this to be the leading storage technology in
the first decade of the next century—if it works well and the cost isn’t too

John McCormick, a free-lance writer and computer consultant, has been working with
computers since the early 1960s. E-mail him at [email protected].


  • business meeting (Monkey Business Images/Shutterstock.com)

    Civic tech volunteers help states with legacy systems

    As COVID-19 exposed vulnerabilities in state and local government IT systems, the newly formed U.S. Digital Response stepped in to help. Its successes offer insight into existing barriers and the future of the civic tech movement.

  • data analytics (Shutterstock.com)

    More visible data helps drive DOD decision-making

    CDOs in the Defense Department are opening up their data to take advantage of artificial intelligence and machine learning tools that help surface insights and improve decision-making.

Stay Connected