Many computer users know that their computer’s data is stored on a mechanical hard drive (aka: HDD, hard disk, or fixed disk drive). What many people don’t realize is just how old the technology is: rotating platter(s) being accessed by a mechanical head that levitates above the surface. The platter spins and the mechanical head rotates back and forth much like how a Record player works: Record spins, the head moves between tracks.
The basic design of today’s cutting edge mechanical hard drives (HDD) hasn’t changed a lot since the 1980s. Lots of HDD design tweaks have taken places over the past decades, such as new and faster interface (ATA, SATA, SCSI), and platter speed rotation speeds (7200 RPM, 10,000 RPM), but the fundamental design is similar.
Enter Solid State Drives (SSD), a whole new technology that in the recent past has made remarkable inroads to supplanting our antiquated mechanical HDDs. SSD works on this premise: Take some non-volatile memory, and put in a small enclosure (typically HDD sized), and add an interface connector (ATA, SATA, etc). Instead of a spinning platter(s) and rotating the arm, the SSD reads and writes directly to and from memory (often flash-based). This results in a potentially massive increase in performance. I say potentially b/c flash is actually not that speedy today. It’s still improving in performance. And, other flash competitor technologies are rumored to offer even more performance, and do so more cheaply.
Current SSD downsides: high cost and small capacities. But, good news: SSD technology is maturing pretty quickly, resulting in larger drives that are getting cheaper. Currently my favorite consumer SSD drive is made by Mtron. This drive is spendy and small, but still very impressive. Their 32 GB drive currently goes for around $1,500. If you are interested, please check out the future of storage:
I think this is a technology to keep our eyes on.