The Silver Lining of Bangkok Flooding


Between hurricanes and blizzards on the East Coast and the earthquake-of-the-day here in the West, one might forget that other parts of the world are also experiencing "interesting" weather. It's not often that we can give weather credit for influencing industry, but thanks to flooding in Thailand, the world's supply of conventional electromechanical disk drives is headed for lean times.


That's because, for one reason or another, Bangkok has turned into the place to put drive manufacturing plants; with the Thai capital under flood warnings, the smart money is betting on drive shortages for a good chunk of next year, when stockpiles are exhausted.But some good may come of this, if computer manufacturers find it worthwhile to switch from rotating brown matter to solid-state drives. With 60GB SSDs retailing for around $100, and drives in the 200-300GB range priced between $400 and $500, I would ordinarily say that we're still in what I think of as the "luxury" phase of SSD adoption. But with the supply of conventional drives expected to be constrained by the flooding in Bangkok, it would not surprise me if manufacturers saw an opportunity to raise the bar, technologically speaking.

I'm not terribly upset at the cost of a computer going up by a few hundred bucks, considering the gains in battery life and reliability that come with switching to solid-state storage. I've been lucky over the years; all of the failed disks in the machines I use and support have been in desktop rather than notebook computers. I know a couple of people who have been death on notebook hard drives; there's a good chance that those failures simply wouldn't have happened if the drives had been something better suited to the job than RBM.

In the short term, the hard disk shortage will be an inconvenience; if the makers of SSDs step up to the plate, it might wind up being a rerun of the Great Floppy Drought of 1995, which only happened in my imagination.