A Look Back at the First Built-In Hard Drive

Sam Sattel Sam Sattel May 4, 2020

2 min read



In March of 1983, the world changed. Where there was once nothing, now there was something: the first IBM Personal Computer with a built-in hard drive. It cost around $1,500 (around $4,000 by today’s standards), so these hard drives weren’t cheap, nor were they readily available. With 128 KB of RAM, a double-sided disk drive, and a 130-watt power supply, IBM, with a significant assist from HDD supplier Seagate, was changing the game.


The Rapidly Evolving HDD


IBM PC Model 5150. Image Credit.


The 80s was a cool time, and not just for hair bands. In 1980, we saw the first 1 GB hard drive, priced at a casual $44,000. But home computing wasn’t far off, thanks to the hard work of IBM and others – these early innovators were laying the groundwork for a product that would be around for a long time.


Just months after the first built-in hard drive, a 10 and 20MB version was released, and Seagate solidified their role as a supplier to IBM’s personal computer line. Starting in 1984, hard drives came standard in all PCs.


It Takes a Village


Significant industry growth doesn’t happen in a vacuum, and the hard drive was no exception. In fact, it took a host of companies to make this leap in personal computing. Rodime developed a 3.5-inch hard drive in 1983, earning the attention of Seagate co-founder Finis Conner in 1985. Conner formed Conner Peripherals, partnered with Compaq Computers, and, using the 3.5-inch HDD, reached $1.3 billion in sales by 1990. While Rodime did not experience the same level of success, they ignited the spark.


Prairie Tek came out with a 2.5-inch HDD in 1988, used in laptops, that quickly became adopted by the industry. Tandon (now part of Western Digital) also vied for space in the industry. This competition was helpful for innovation and consumers since it drove down prices and allowed for greater access. In 1960, it cost around $10,000,000 to get a gigabyte of storage. By 1980, it was approximately $200,000, and in 1990, you could pick that up for about $8,000. By 2005, one gigabyte of storage was less than a dollar.


Today’s Hard Drives



While they don’t take up an entire room in your house, today’s hard drives are still large compared to other industry options. Manufactured by Seagate, Western Digital, and Toshiba, they’re somewhat limited in their capabilities, replaced by SSDs that offer higher speeds and increased durability, despite the more affordable cost and larger capacity of the hard drive. It’s hard to say precisely what the future holds for hard drives — they may not have much of a future at all. Still, their legacy lives on, an evolution of technology unparalleled today.

Hard drives in personal computers paved the way for amassing data in new and unexpected ways, which has undoubtedly changed the world. Now, people utilize more data than ever.


Fusion 360: Supporting Engineers to Make the Next Big Innovation


Like the hard drive, Fusion 360 has changed as the industry demands it and thus changed the industry.  Through enabling engineers to seamlessly connect electrical engineering, PCB, design, mechanical engineering, and manufacturing, Fusion 360 is poised to allow engineers to make the kinds of innovations that take one GB of space from $10,000,000 to $1.


Have you tried the Electronics Workspace in Fusion 360 yet?  Try it out today and be the catalyst to change the computer industry of our future.




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