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Terabyte drive to debut later this year

Desktop hard drives holding 1 terabyte of storage will appear in 2006 and be incorporated into PCs and home servers.

If there's a storage fanatic in your family, a perfect gift could be coming for her or him toward the end of the year: 1-terabyte hard drives. Desktop hard drives holding 1 terabyte, or 1,000 gigabytes, of storage will likely be announced in 2006, said Bill Healy, senior vice president of product strategy and marketing at Hitachi Global Storage Technologies. These drives, which will have a 3.5-inch diameter, are expected to be incorporated into PCs and home servers. Healy wouldn?t say what companies would announce first. Sources at Seagate, however, said Seagate plans to come out with 1TB 3.5-inch drives by late 2006 or early 2007.

It's not that big of a stretch for some hard drive makers. Hitachi already sells a 500GB drive, while rival Seagate Technology started shipping a 750GB drive to desktop makers in April. Seagate also sells a home storage device with two 500GB drives to make up 1 terabyte. Drive density effectively doubles every two years and increases steadily over the two-year period; hence, a terabyte drive is on the horizon, Healy said.

Granted, few people really need 1 terabyte of storage. But it sounds cool--sort of like you could be running a ballistic missile tracking site in your den. Besides, humans continue to show that they can come up with ways to gobble up hard drive space. High-definition video is expected to greatly expand the need for storage.

These large drives also will get incorporated into televisions and personal video recorders. Hitachi, among others, already sells TVs with integrated hard drives in Japan and other markets.

While large drives start out expensive, the price drops relatively quickly. Computer makers pay something in the 30-cent range for a gigabyte when buying hard drives, Healy said. The price at retail is around 50 cents or less.

Happy birthday, hard drive
On Sept. 13, the hard drive will turn 50. to celebrate the achievement at the Computer History Museum.

It has been a wild half century. The first magnetic drive, the RAMAC created by IBM, weighed a ton and could hold 5MB of data on 50 24-inch circumference platters. Now people can get a one-inch drive that can be held in your hand that holds more than that.

"Twenty years from now, we could (potentially) squeeze a terabyte onto a one-inch drive," Healy said.