Toshiba announced today that it is shipping the world's first hard disk drive based on perpendicular magnetic recording (PMR) technology. The 1.8-inch drive will live in consumer electronics products such as HDD-based MP3 players.
Conventional longitudinal recording technology lays data bits end to end on the disc, much as you would lay dominoes in a game of, well, dominoes. But these tiny bits are subject to a force called superparamagnetic effect, which sometimes causes the bits to flip, corrupting the data on that disc. With PMR technology, the bits are stood on end, which means more bits can fit onto a disc, resulting in a greater areal density.
Toshiba's 1.8-inch drive packs in 133GB per square inch, or 40GB on a single platter. What does that mean to you? How about up to 10,000 MP3 songs or 25,000 photos on a disc? And while Toshiba is the first company to release a viable product, other storage companies are not far behind. Hitachi expects to ship a PMR-based, 2.5-inch HDD by the end of the year. (And Hitachi definitely wins the battle of jaw-dropping PR: this flash animation video from Hitachi's site explains PMR through the glory of '70s disco--complete with questionable fashion choices and a disco ball!)