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Feature Articles
From a Gigabyte to a Terabyte - 10 Years of Storage Development
By Kenny Yeo - 2 Feb 2009,12:00am

Timeline: 1997 - 2000

1997 - 2000


  • At this point, traditional floppy disks were almost completely obsolete. Not only were they slow, the capacity they offered were just too little for the needs for consumers of the time.
  • DVDs were introduced to the masses. DVD players and DVD movies became available and were all the rage. In comparison with its predecessor, the Video CD, it provided video and audio quality that was many times better. Today, it is still widely used. Many movies are still released in DVD format, and many games and software still come on DVD discs.

Although DVD technology has been around for over a decade, they are still widely used. The Xbox 360, for example, still employs a DVD drive.


  • Syquest, who previously had a large share of the removable hard disk market, found itself challenged by Iomega and Superdisk. They eventually filed for bankruptcy and were subsequently acquired by Iomega a year later.
  • Iomega themselves were facing problems of their own, namely dwindling sales, competition from Superdisk, and more seriously, reliability issues with their disks. This, coupled with the proliferation of recordable optical discs, and later USB flash drives meant that Iomega probably never had the chance to recover its former glory days.

    In addition, Zip drives were not as ubiquitous and cheap as one would have liked. More computers had optical drives installed than Zip drives; and in terms of cost per megabyte, rewritable discs were overwhelmingly cheaper and all of this made Zip disks an unattractive option from this time frame moving forward. They were definitely a hit when they first arrived, but competing technologies and simpler storage options won the consumers once these had the capacity and cost advantage.

  • 1998 also saw the birth of one of the world's first hard drives to employ Giant Magneto-Resistive technology (GMR) - the IBM DeskStar 14GXP 14.4 GB . We had one in our labs and we were pleased by its performance. Not only did it offer huge capacity (at that time), it was also fast and quiet. If there was anything we didn't like, it was its price - S$798.



  • These days, memory cards have become part and parcel of out daily life in some way or another and are omnipresent in several of our daily gadgets. However, Secure Digital, arguably the most popular and widely used format now, was born in 1999. Over the next few years, it will spawn smaller, higher capacity varieties such as the SDHC and microSDHC vairants
  • Even with memory cards, storage drives are still a popular means of transporting large amounts of data. One popular format that was often sought after for reliable large capacity storage back in 1999 was magneto-optical drives and we had a Fujitsu DynaMO 640SD/1300SD in our labs for testing.

Back in the days when optical storage was still in its infancy, and no one has ever heard of a thumbdrive, Fujitsu's magneto-optical drives were the primary means of transferring large amounts of data.


  • The first USB flash drive was made commercially available. The name "ThumbDrive" that we are so familiar with today came from Trek, a Singapore company, whose USB flash drive was about the size of your thumb and was hence aptly named "Trek ThumbDrive". Somehow, the name stuck, and today USB flash drives are known worldwide simply as thumbdrives.

    We reviewed Trek's thumbdrive back in 2000 and were impressed by its size and ease of use. We also noted in the review that what users really wanted was a storage device that can be used across a multitude of systems, and the thumbdrive provided just that.

Ladies and Gentlemen, presenting the original 'Thumbdrive'!

  • Thanks to the proliferation of recordable optical media and USB flash drives, Zip disks and drives are now rendered completely obsolete.
  • That year we tested a very interesting and innovative gadget, probably the first of its kind - Romtec's Trios Multi-IDE Selector (RX-910T3) . The idea behind this gadget is that it'll allow you to boot from the hard drive of your choice. What use is this you might ask? With this, you can install different operating systems on different hard drives, and then later choose which hard drive to boot from with just a button push. Of course there's always the BIOS equivalent for such adjustments, but it's just cumbersome. Being such a nifty device, it got the full 5 stars from us.

The ROMTEC Multi-IDE selector is a god-send for those whose work requires them to work with multiple operating systems.

  • Hitachi, in partnership with LG, formed the data storage company, Hitachi-LG Data Storage. The company was formed with the specific purpose of manufacturing optical data storage devices such as CD and DVD drives for desktops and notebook OEMs. As of July 2006, they have started developing Blu-ray drives.
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