Traditional platter hard drive speed has been the limiting factor when trying to read and write data fast since the development of digital storage. While still much faster than tape or disc-based media, hard drives can’t even compare to the fast access that flash memory enables.
In the past, flash memory was prohibitively expensive as a solution for long-term data storage – not mention the extremely high volatility rates and the need for a constant supply of power. The technology was just not mature enough and well understood at the time.
How were the issues with flash memory solved, and how was this tech made available to the masses? Let’s look at the evolution of this critical storage solution.
Memory-based long-term storage devices have existed for almost as long as computers. Early iterations of solid-state drives were extremely bulky and expensive, costing millions or even billions if inflation is considered. By the time the 1980s rolled around, manufacturers and engineers had a better grasp of flash memory systems and started using them to better effect.
RAM disks were a relatively uncommon alternative to hard disk drives. They are much smaller and faster than previous SSD offerings, but they are very different from a modern SSD you might find on a site like Hddmag.com. Though RAM disks were expensive for the amount of data that could be held – not to mention volatile as well – they were critical for users that demanded the fastest read and write speeds available in a time when the floppy disc was king.
Simple Flash Storage
Very early flash storage drives began hitting the mainstream markets sometime in the 1990s. Though flash drives were much slower than RAM drives, the ability to retain data even in complete power loss made them necessary for aerospace and military applications.
It wouldn’t be until the early 2000s when consumer-focused products hit shelves in formats made for standard desktop computers. Compact flash technology developed for use in digital photography was utilized to bring costs and complexity down; this allowed the tech to be marketed towards hobbyists and smaller businesses.
Modern SSD Devices
By the mid-2000s, we started to see something that looks and acts like a contemporary SSD. The technology was implemented to increase the reliability and life over standard flash memory, bringing solid-state drives more in-line with standard hard drives’ performance. As flash-based storage became faster and more dependable, the market for it expanded.
The SSDs we use now are the culmination of decades worth of research and development. Though longevity issues are still common – flash memory can only take so many reads or writes – steps have greatly diminished this problem. Unparalleled speed makes modern SSDs irreplaceable for enthusiasts and industries alike.
With the relatively low costs and ultra-fast speeds that modern SSDs offer, it’s really not hard to see why they have become so ubiquitous. Though standard spinning platter hard drives show no signs of going away anytime soon due to their ultra-low dollar per gigabyte ratio, solid-state drives are great for serving data that has to be transferred quickly.