Three Fact about Solid-State Drives
- Solid-state drives store data in cells made of semiconducting material.
- Although sometimes called solid-state disks, these storage devices do not have moving parts and operate silently.
- The first enterprise-scale SSD debuted in 1976. The Bulk Core by Dataram had 2MB of memory and cost $9,700.
Data storage has always been a limiting factor in the computer industry. System performance depends on the speed of reading and writing information as well as the amount of available data storage. Solid-state drives developed as a faster alternative to traditional hard drives.
The first attempts at SSDs in the 1970s were supplementary storage devices used along with more familiar hard disk drives. Eliminating read-write heads and spinning disks saved space and enabled faster memory recall. However, semiconductor technology was still young, and these early drives were too expensive for implementation outside of larger systems like supercomputers by IBM and Cray.
- Original Use
- Data storage
- $9,700 for 2MB
The 1980s saw the invention of a new type of memory storage. Engineer Fujio Masuoka developed flash memory for the Toshiba corporation in 1980. They would introduce the first commercial flash-based SSDs in 1987.
A few years later, in 1991, SanDisk entered the SSD market with a 20MB storage device that sold for about $1,000. From there, improvements in technology have lowered prices and increased capacity. Today, SSDs are a standard piece of hardware in laptops, tablets, and other devices. For supplemental storage, consumers can buy a 1TB drive for less than $100, and units with larger capacities are readily available.
Solid-State Drive: How It Worked
An SSD storage device stores data in a series of memory cells made from a semiconducting material. Early solid-state products employed charge-coupled devices and DRAM technology. While these devices could read and write faster than hard drives, they were bulky and expensive. The inability to partially erase the devices to rewrite data was another drawback.
Solid-state drive technology became commercially feasible with the invention of flash memory in the 1980s. Flash technology uses floating-gate transistors to store bits of memory in series. Breaking data into accessible blocks makes it possible to read, write and erase data at a rate compatible with fast CPUs. This increased speed enabled the use of these storage devices in laptops, phones, and digital cameras. SSDs empower the fast performance that consumers have come to expect.
SSD vs HDD
Computer-users of a certain age will remember the whirring and buzzing of a hard disk drive as their computer came online. A hard drive in a computer involves a spinning disk with a magnetic coating to store information. An attached read/write arm accesses and enters information. Because reading data requires mechanical action, hard drives are louder and slower than SSDs. However, as a mature technology, users can purchase more storage space at a lower price point.
Without any moving parts, SSDs have become standard hardware in new devices. They can store memory in a smaller space and read it faster than mechanical disk drives. However, each block of an SSD can go through a limited number of program/erase cycles. For most users, this limit will not be a problem. They will most likely replace the device before seeing errors due to failed blocks. However, users who frequently update files or create new projects may encounter problems sooner.
SSD: Historical Significance
The invention of the solid-state drive led to a new era in technology. One of the primary benefits of SSDs was their compact size. In the late 1970s and early 80s, people imagined stationary desktops when they thought about computers. Early laptops, while portable, were still hefty pieces of equipment. With SSD technology, consumers could purchase personal devices that were both portable and powerful.
Placing an SSD in a laptop also improved its performance. Solid-state drives minimize bootup time and move information faster from storage to the motherboard. The resulting improvements in processing speed have empowered the progress of many types of hardware technologies. The gaming and simulation industries have also seen the performance-related benefits of the move to SSDs.