Hard Drive Nostalgia

As part of prepping for moving I’ve been doing a lot of cleaning up, deciding what things I want to keep, and what things I want to get rid of. One of these things is a number of hard drives that I’ve collected over the years.

20 years' worth of hard drives.
20 years’ worth of hard drives.

My first hard drive was a 40 megabyte Maxtor 8051a that was installed in my first computer, a clone 386DX-25. Back then, any PC that was not name brand was called a clone (compare with “white box” today). This basically meant any PC that was not an IBM or a Tandy.

Maxtor 8051a (Top)
Maxtor 8051a (Top).
Maxtor Quality
Maxtor Quality.

This was the only hard drive I found that doesn’t really resemble a modern hard drive. You can see the PCB is huge and is separate from the casing housing the platters. The PCB also looks more like something out of a radio than a computer, but I suppose all computer parts back then had big protruding chips.

Many chips.

Something I’m very nostalgic about is the sound of my first computer. In those days CPUs didn’t have heatsinks, let alone fans, so the loudest component by far was the hard drive. Upon turning on the computer, the Maxtor would spin up with its distinctive spin-up sound, each of the floppy drives (we had two drives back then, a 5.25” and a 3.5”) would do a seek (boot up floppy seek anyone?), and then the BIOS would beep before loading DOS.

When you do something every day, its characteristics and its sequence becomes a part of your memory. For me, the something is turning on the computer, the characteristics are the sounds, and the sequence is what I previously described. It was like a sing-along; I’d hum the sounds along with the computer. Even now, I can replay the entire process in my mind.

Turning off the computer is a similar memory. Every time I turned the computer off, the Maxtor always had to get the “last word” in. I made a video of the spin-up and spin-down of the Maxtor and posted it on YouTube. You can definitely hear the “last word” of the Maxtor at the 0:17 mark in the video:

As the 40 megabytes of the Maxtor started getting filled up, I began to pine for a new hard drive. The only problem was that I was a 12 year old kid, and that hard drives cost an arm and a leg back then. I made do with PKZIP and moving things onto floppies. I don’t remember how, but eventually I convinced my parents to get me an upgrade. The result was another 40 megabyte drive, what I fondly remember as the “D: Drive”, a Conner CP3000:

Conner CP3000
Conner CP3000, my 2nd hard drive.
Conner CP3000 (Bottom)
Looks a little neater than the Maxtor.

Life was pretty sweet with 80 megabytes of hard drive space, but that was lower-classmen stuff. It was soon senior year of high school, and I “needed” more processing power, more storage. Enter my next computer, a two-thousand dollar (wow!) Compaq Presario with a 486SX2-66 processor.

The 486 was one of those PCs that had a built-in monitor and speakers. The hard drive inside that PC was a 420 megabyte Quantum ProDrive LPS. It, too, had a distinctive sound, but instead of spin-up or spin-down it is the seek sound that I remember fondly. I remember the nights of doing homework and listening to that hard drive click while it accessed virtual memory. You can hear the clicking at the 0:10 mark of this video:

Good times!

Because I started off modestly, I was always of the mindset that I didn’t have that much hard drive space and that I didn’t have that many hard drives. I was pretty surprised to see how many hard drives I’ve collected over the years. The ones pictured here don’t even include all the hard drives that are still in service in active systems. I am sad to dispose of these hard drives, which is why I’m writing about them here. With the photos and videos, I will always have a record of them without having to use up valuable space to store them. Below is a gallery of some of the more interesting hard drives. I hope that when you view them you will be nostalgic as well.

And lastly, just for kicks, a video of a drive that failed to stay powered on: