As part of a large bundle of stuff which was generously salvaged on my behalf, these are the hard drives that I managed to get. Definitely a trip down memory lane for some of these drives, and others, completely fascinating.
Conner Peripherals drives were a common sight if you worked around Compaq branded computers. Very often, they would be included as Compaq were a significant backer of Conner. Conner Peripherals was started up by Finis Conner, the co-founder of Seagate Technology and merged with CoData which was a Miniscribe-based startup. I did have contact with a 40Mb Miniscribe Winchester hard disk, but lets just say that their company’s accounting operations became famous when it collapsed. Interestingly, Conner was reabsorbed into Seagate in 1996. Miniscribe itself was purchased by Maxtor in 1990.
Aside from that, Conners were not popular choices amongst system builders and were more often the cheap, slow and sometimes unreliable choice. The main philosophy in Conner drives was to reduce cost by innovation – their “flat” base and tub-shaped lid were ways to reduce the cost as it didn’t require milling out or casting a complex base, and their use of microcontroller firmware based servo, spindle and self-test operation was also a distinguishing feature.
Manufactured in Singapore on Week 25 of 1994, this drive is 20 years old. Its geometry is 685/16/38 giving a size of 210Mb (hence the model number CFS210A). The power requirements are a very modest 410mA on the 5v rail and 215mA on the 12v rail, no doubt because its spindle speed (3600rpm) is probably quite slow by modern standards. It even has a 32kB cache.
The underside is a plethora of ICs, with a pair of Atmel flash chips and Motorola microcontrollers in control. There is a Hyundai memory chip, likely to be used for cache. The Cirrus Logic chip is probably for the IDE interface, whereas there are dedicated chips for spindle motor, voice coil motor control and possibly even head driver/amplifier.
On the IDE interface side, there’s not much to note – the molex is the “regular” bevelled edge-up orientation, although there appears to be a three pin white connector on the far left which might be an alternative power connector with just 5v, 12v and a single ground.
Viewed from the side, the flat-bottom-plate construction with a tub-shape lid and the use of a minimal amount of screws (four torx) to secure it with a gasket is apparent.
The front of the drive has the serial number barcode label and a host of jumpers used to configure the drive. The majority are reserved, and likely, used for diagnostic purposes in the factory.
Those with a memory of the recent Maxtor drives, prior to their acquisition by Seagate, would probably remember some of their drives as being tragically unreliable, but early Maxtors were like clockwork. This Maxtor 7080AT is a good example, amongst others, of drives of this era still persisting today.
Maxtor, formerly known as Maxtor Colorado Corporation, acquired Miniscribe in 1990 after they went bankrupt and then, itself was close to bankruptcy in 1992 (not long after this series of drives were made). They went on to acquire Quantum Corporation (which was Matsushita’s hard disk arm), and were then acquired by Seagate. It’s fascinating to think just how we came to have so few hard disk manufacturers today.
This drive is an 80Mb drive, and in fact, I’ve had two 120Mb drives in the past from the same series which I had disposed of eventually. It has the classic Maxtor/Miniscribe HDA, PCBA, UNIQUE, and UPLEVEL coding on the label. It was manufactured 28th May 1991.
The geometry of the drive is 981/10/17 according to Computerhope, and its power consumption was a mode hefty 500mA on the 5v rail, and 1A on the 12v rail. It seems to be one of the older RLL encoding drives with a 3703RPM spindle speed (stason.org). Odd rotation speeds were common in early drives, which made for annoying “beat” frequency hums from boxes with dissimilar drives installed. It also has quite a few jumper configurable geometry options for computers which needed them.
A similar design approach can be seen, with a flash firmware chip and a Motorola microcontroller in plain sight. A similar Cirrus Logic chip also handles the interface, and there is a Hitachi cache RAM chip. A few configuration jumpers sit near the interface, and an LED header is on the front of the drive. It looks a little bit more crowded than the Conner.
This one shows just how careful one has to be with their molex connectors. Many earlier drives had the molex connector oriented the other way around so that the bevels face downward. This one also has the three pin power connector which isn’t seen in systems today. Note that the drive was manufactured in Singapore, similarly to the Conner, but very few drives I have seen today are manufactured there anymore.
The paper labels serve as warranty seals, but looking at the drive from the side makes it clear that the drive follows the traditional method of producing the complex base and closing it up with a flat (or near flat) lid.
A barcoded front serial label is visible with a colour coding, and the front facing LED header pins.
Seagate drives are pretty common, as are Western Digital drives, but this one is a bit of an oddball. Part of the Seagate Medalist Pro series, this drive was a refurb (as you can tell by an additional label) and unfortunately sounds like an angle grinder. It isn’t functioning anymore, but it seems to be an attempt to reduce the volume of the drive (maybe to save on shipping and logistics costs). It’s obvious when placed aside a regular 3.5″ size drive.
It’s a 2564Mb drive, and it seems like it’s dated to 1999 after refurbishing, although I can’t be sure. It was also made in Singapore – how amazing. Not only is it shorter than a regular drive, and exposes the rear connectors, it’s also …
… thinner! It has the silver tape around it, as was common for medalist series drives, but it also had screws holding the top lid in. Later medalist drives had a can which would “fall off” if you undid the tape (they are recognizable with a black round plastic covering over the air inlet chambers).
The underside seems to make a few different assertions as to date and time. The etched code implies Week 33, 1996, whereas one of the painted markings implies Week 16, 1997 and the other, Week 43, 1999. It looks like this drive may have been manufactured initially around 1997, and been refurbished two years later.
The underside of the drive follows the Western Digital philosophy of later drives, which is to place all the components on the other side. This stops careless system builders from accidentally knocking off a few components. This was before they introduced the later Seashield which was a metal plate or rubber “harness” over the drive to protect the electronics from ESD and accidental impact. That proved to be impractical later on (maybe due to cost), and present drives almost always have the components hidden away on the “other side”.
From the edge, its slender thin profile is most evident.
The rear layout is a much more familiar layout with the molex the right way up, and configuration jumpers pointing to the rear. The jumper table is provided on the label, as usual.
Quantum Prodrive 2100S
Quantum is a brand which was highly renowned for high performance and fairly reliable drives, and I used to ask for them by name. Later, upon disassembling several in my youth, I managed to understand that it was Matsushita (the guys behind Panasonic) who really manufactured the drives, which explains why they were so good. They weren’t quiet, but they were fast and often low power consuming.
Dated 26th July 1995, this one identifies itself as a Quantum Prodrive 2100S, part of the Empire Series. It claims to be Made in the USA, where I have never ever heard of a drive being manufactured in.
From a quick look online, there is ample information about the drive. It is a 2Gb SCSI drive, and this one has active termination (type 2 PCB).
The underside is a mass of Quantum ASICs, some with Texas Instrument logos. There are Analog devices chips as well as Hitachi and Hyundai RAM. There is a long row of configuration jumpers along the left side, but it seems clear that these drives were all microcontroller based intelligent drives, as most SCSI drives were, which made them more expensive.
So why did I call it a behemoth? Because it was a full height drive. I’ve never laid my hands on a full height Quantum drive before – probably because these were the things used in expensive servers which I never had the opportunity to play with.
The drive is a tub with a flat top, as per usual.
Not much to say about the sides really.
A big long flex traverses the front side, into the platter chamber. Unfortunately, while the drive spins and sounds alright, the drive is completely confused about its geometry and thinks its size is either 0 or 1 sectors. Maybe this is a sign of a loss of firmware, or a failure of the drive to calibrate to its existing servo marks on the media. Whatever it is, this one didn’t survive.
It’s surprising to think that some of the older hard drives are still perfectly healthy – they were the lucky ones indeed. But even then, this salvage provided some unique drives I hadn’t seen before, which was a treat in itself. It’s a shame the latter two were not functional – but I don’t think I’ll take them apart because they’re pretty special in themselves. Hope you enjoyed seeing some old tech!