Happy birthday, hard disk drive – and my, how you’ve grown

This morning’s Observer column

…No matter how one views the impact of hard drive technology, one thing is unarguable: it’s been given a raw deal by history. The story of computing has hitherto been told almost entirely in terms of advances in processors and networks. But the truth is that nothing that we take for granted today would be possible without the vast, fast, cheap mass storage provided by hard disks.

Not surprisingly, the Cinderella status accorded to their achievements infuriates the industry’s leaders, who feel they don’t get the respect they deserve.’Instead of Silicon Valley, they should call it Ferrous Oxide Valley,’ Mark Kryder, chief technical officer of hard disk manufacturer Seagate, complained last month. (Ferrous oxide is what provides the magnetic coating on a hard disk.) ‘It wasn’t the microprocessor that enabled the personal video recorder – it was storage.’

He’s right. But nobody in the computer industry will thank him for saying it. Which only goes to show that if you want gratitude in this life, buy a dog…