Hitachi, Seagate and Toshiba are all developing a perpendicular recording technology for hard disk drives to boost capacity.

If this sounds a little dull, Hitachi has provided one of the oddest corporate-produced Flash animations we've seen in a long while, to jazz up the topic.

First, the science: drives store data in magnetically charged bits. In current commercially available drives, the bits lay flat on the disk surface. With perpendicular drives, the bits stand upright. Because they take up less space, more room is available on the disc. Drives using the new technology should be about the same weight, and able to record and access data at about the same speeds as conventional drives.

"We invest between 8 and 10 percent of our revenue each quarter into R&D (research and development) and we have invested in perpendicular technology for many years," said Randy Lee, senior vice president of global sales at Seagate. "We will be one of the first to introduce this to production," Lee said.

Lee declined to specify the company's exact schedule, but his comments suggest that Seagate could be releasing drives as early as the middle of 2005. This is mainly in answer to Toshiba’s announcement that it plans to begin selling its first hard drive using perpendicular technology in the second quarter of 2005.

In Toshiba's case, the recording density of the drives will be about 37 percent greater than that of the company's current drives, it said.

Earlier this month, Hitachi Global Storage Technologies said that it too was testing samples of drives using perpendicular recording.

The largest capacity external hard drive currently offered by Seagate is a 400GB model that uses a 3.5in disk.

To see the Hitachi Flash animation, click here.