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Hard drives for 'terabyte lives'

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Hardware

This week Seagate announced a slew of hard drives which it says are for people who want a "terabyte lifestyle".

Among them is the first 2.5-inch 160Gb hard drive which uses what is called perpendicular recording to fit much more data for every square inch.
It also said it was producing a specially "ruggedised" drive for cars.

Its 20Gb and 40Gb hard drives for cars have been designed to withstand temperatures from minus 30 to plus 80 degrees centigrade, as well as vibrations.

"Right now in the consumer electronics industry people can't get enough storage," Rob Pait, Seagate's director of consumer electronics marketing, told the BBC News website.

Cars, digital video recorders, notebook computers, portable media players, mobile telephony, and gaming are all pushing at the storage capacity door.

Mr Pait thinks that although many people are already living an accumulative terabyte lifestyle, in about five years PCs will have five terabytes of storage on board.

This will only be possible because of perpendicular recording methods, which Seagate, Hitachi, and others, have to exploit.

The storage industry currently makes hard drives using longitudinal recording, which is reaching its physical limit.

With this method, bits of data are arranged horizontally on the recording magnetic medium.

Perpendicular recording methods arrange bits vertically so more can fit on, and higher recording densities can be achieved without magnetic interference which can corrupt data.

This method should mean hard drive storage based on moving mechanical parts will be around for another 20 years or so, says Mr Pait.

Analysts predict that the number of hard drives in consumer electronics gadgets could grow from 17 million in 2003 to 55 million in 2006.

But hard drive manufacturers are having to contend with people's desire for slimmer and smaller boxes that will be more discreet in living rooms too.

In the next year, says Mr Pait, mini motherboards, therefore much smaller and compact PCs, will become a bigger area of demand, especially in Europe.

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