Pixie Dust Grows Drives

By eweek  |  Posted 2001-05-28

IBM last week touted a new disk capacity technology as magical, but at least one company owner and IBM competitors said its overhyped and offers more capacity than needed. The company said the technology—which it calls "Pixie Dust"—increases a disks capacity without causing magnetic instability. IBM began outfitting its entire line of Travelstar disk drives for notebooks with the technology last month.

Current methods to increase capacity shrink a disks magnetic particles so that more can fit on the disk but cant go further because the particles would be too close to the size of a bit and would therefore be unstable and, as a result, would cause what is called a superparamagnetic effect.

With Pixie Dust, a ruthenium layer is inserted between a disks magnetized layers, allowing the particles to fit in the same space but look smaller to data bits and thus increasing capacity, according to officials of the Armonk, N.Y., company.

Although the ability to expand current products into 400GB desktop drives and 6GB CompactFlash cards is impressive, there are other things to consider, said John Moen, owner of GraphicMaps, a custom digital mapping company in Galveston, Texas.

"I cant imagine needing more than 20, 30, 40 gigs—thats a lot of stuff," Moen said. "I can see where 80 would be attractive [to others]. Our decision would be based on price."

One analyst said the technology, rather than being used for PCs, may prove most useful for a variety of other products.

"The big advantage is for small handheld computers, which are data- constrained," said Rob Enderle, of Giga Information Group Inc., in Santa Clara, Calif.

"Things like [personal digital assistants] and MP3 players could end up having some decent storage capacity," Enderle added.

Officials at Maxtor Corp., a hard disk manufacturer in Milpitas, Calif., said they saw the superparamagnetic effect problem coming and opted to use aluminum substrates instead of glass, which is the standard used by IBM and others.

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