Toshiba is close to commercialising a new data storage technology that could significantly increase the capacity of hard disk drives.
By the middle of 2005, the company plans to put on sale two 1.8in hard disk drives that use the technology, called perpendicular recording.
Like current drives, the new method relies on storing data in magnetically charged bits. However, unlike current longitudinal recording in which the bits lie flat on the disk surface, in perpendicular they stand upright and thus take up less space. This means there is room for more of them on the disk and so the storage capacity is higher.
The first two drives planned by Toshiba to use the technology will have a recording density of 133Gb per square inch, which is 37 percent greater than current drives.
They will be 1.8in drives of the type used in portable consumer electronics products, such as digital music players. One of Toshiba's best-known customers for its 1.8in drives is Apple, which uses them in its iPod family of music players. The greater recording density could help Toshiba's customers produce thinner and lighter products.
For example, one of the two drives will have a single disk platter and be capable of storing 40GB of data. Toshiba's current 40GB drive requires two platters to achieve this capacity. The drop from a dual to a single platter means the overall drive falls in thickness from 8mm to 5mm. Toshiba's second drive will pack two platters and offer a total storage capacity of 80G bytes – the highest yet for a device of its size.
Other major specifications of the drives, including the weight, average seek time and rotational speed, remain similar to Toshiba's current 1.8in drives.
Toshiba won't provide an estimate of the likely price of the drives.
In the future, it also wants to use the technology in its 0.85in drive. Employing perpendicular recording along with other new technologies will raise the capacity of the drives from between 2GB and 4GB to between 6GB and 8GB, said Furuta.