Who Came Up with the Invention of the Hard Drive?

Quck answer

The hard drive was invented by IBM in 1956. It was developed by a team led by Reynold B. Johnson, who is credited with the invention. The first hard drive, called the IBM 350 Disk File, was the size of a refrigerator and had a storage capacity of 5 megabytes. Since then, hard drives have evolved significantly in terms of size, capacity, and technology. Today, hard drives are a crucial component of computers and other electronic devices, providing high-capacity storage for data and programs.

Have you ever wondered how computers are able to store such a large amount of information? Games, pictures, and apps all require a significant amount of memory to function properly. In the early days, as data processing became more complex, there was a greater need for improved and faster data storage. When engineers first created computers, they stored data on magnetic tapes, punch cards, and drums. Data storage was kept in protected, clean rooms away from the computers. Just imagine if today’s smartphones, tablets, and laptops were unable to store their own data!

Many people consider engineer Reynold B. Johnson to be “the father of the hard drive.” Johnson was born on July 16, 1906. He obtained a college degree in education administration and initially worked as a math and science teacher. However, he lost his job during the Great Depression. During his period of unemployment, he invented a device that could automatically check pencil-marked multiple-choice tests. In 1933, he attempted to sell his invention to IBM, but they initially rejected it.

One year later, IBM offered Johnson an engineering position. The company recognized the potential of both Johnson and his invention. For many years, he dedicated his time to inventing for IBM. In the 1950s, he was assigned to lead a team. Johnson was relocated to California by IBM to head a new laboratory, where his team was tasked with improving data storage. The existing data storage technology was extremely slow when it came to searching for information. The team conducted experiments on magnetic storage disks.

The first hard drive had a storage capacity of less than ten megabytes and weighed one ton. The IBM 350 Random Access Method of Accounting and Control (RAMAC) computer was introduced in 1955, featuring the IBM 350 Disk Storage. By 1956, they had sold 1,000 units, primarily for military and large business use. The hard drive utilized rotating magnetic disks and reduced search time to approximately one second. RAMAC consisted of 5,000,000 characters and 50 storage disks that rotated 1,200 times per minute.

Modern hard drives are still based on Johnson’s original design concept. The technology continues to evolve and improve. Today’s hard drives can store up to 20 terabytes of data!

In 1986, President Ronald Reagan awarded Johnson the National Medal of Technology and Innovation in recognition of his contributions to the field of computer science. He was also credited with creating over 100,000 jobs.

Johnson received additional accolades. He was elected to the National Academy of Engineering in 1981. In 1987, he received the Computer Pioneer Award from the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE). The IEEE also established an award in Johnson’s name.

Johnson remained employed by IBM until 1971 and held patents for approximately 90 inventions. After retiring, he founded Education Engineering Associates. In addition to his previous work, he invented micro-phonography, a technology that allowed books to read words and play sounds. Toy company Fisher-Price purchased this idea for use in its Talk to Me books. He also played a role in Sony’s invention of video tape recording, which ultimately led to the development of the videocassette recorder (VCR). Johnson passed away in 1998 at the age of 92.

What do you think the future holds for computer memory? Just imagine the possibilities when computers have even more storage capacity!

Give It a Try

If you’re interested in delving further into computer engineering, why not give these activities a try!

  • Create an imaginative drawing of the original appearance of the first computer hard drive. Share your artwork with a friend or family member and compare it to the video in this Wonder’s gallery to see how accurate you were.
  • Compose a story that depicts how computers would have developed without Reynolds Johnson’s invention of the first hard drive.
  • Have you ever aspired to become an engineer and invent new technologies? Explore the internet under the guidance of a trusted adult and discover the various contributions engineers have made. Discuss with them what type of career you might pursue in the future.

Wonder Sources

  • https://www.britannica.com/dictionary (accessed 16 Dec., 2022)
  • https://lemelson.mit.edu/resources/reynold-johnson (accessed 28 Nov., 2022)
  • https://nationalmedals.org/laureate/reynold-b-johnson/ (accessed 30 Nov., 2022)
  • https://www.nae.edu/188220/REYNOLD-B-JOHNSON-19061998 (accessed 30 Nov., 2022)


1. Who invented the hard drive?

The hard drive was invented by Reynold B. Johnson. He was an engineer at the IBM (International Business Machines) company. In 1956, he led a team that developed the first hard disk drive, called the IBM 350 Disk File. This invention revolutionized the field of data storage and paved the way for modern computer systems.

2. What was the purpose of inventing the hard drive?

The purpose of inventing the hard drive was to provide a reliable and efficient method of storing and retrieving large amounts of data. Before the invention of the hard drive, computer systems relied on magnetic tape or punched cards for data storage, which were slower and had limited capacity. The hard drive allowed for faster access to data and increased storage capacity, making it a crucial component in the development of modern computers.

3. When was the hard drive invented?

The hard drive was invented in 1956. Reynold B. Johnson and his team at IBM developed the first hard disk drive, known as the IBM 350 Disk File, during this year. This invention marked a significant milestone in the history of computing and set the stage for the rapid advancement of data storage technology in the following decades.

4. How has the hard drive evolved since its invention?

Since its invention, the hard drive has undergone significant evolution. Over the years, hard drives have become smaller in size, while their storage capacity has increased exponentially. Advancements in technology have led to the development of solid-state drives (SSDs), which use flash memory instead of magnetic disks. SSDs are faster, more reliable, and more energy-efficient than traditional hard drives, making them popular in modern computing devices.

5. What are the main components of a hard drive?

A hard drive consists of several main components. These include a spinning disk or platter, a read/write head, an actuator arm, and a motor. The platter is coated with a magnetic material and stores the data. The read/write head is responsible for reading and writing data on the platter. The actuator arm moves the read/write head across the platter, allowing it to access different areas. The motor spins the platter at a high speed, typically thousands of revolutions per minute.

6. What are the advantages of using a hard drive?

Using a hard drive offers several advantages. Firstly, hard drives provide high storage capacity, allowing users to store large amounts of data such as documents, photos, videos, and applications. Secondly, hard drives are relatively affordable compared to other storage solutions. Additionally, hard drives provide reliable and long-term data storage, with data being retained even when the power is turned off. Finally, hard drives are compatible with a wide range of devices, including desktop computers, laptops, gaming consoles, and external storage devices.

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