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Hello, MR

By ANITA MATTHEWS

STORAGE has taken a quantum leap with the launch of the world's first removable cartridge disk drive made using magneto-resistive (MR) head technology from Castlewood Systems Inc.

The ORB 2.2GB drive, which measures 3.5in and offers a video transfer rate of 12.2MB per second, is designed and developed by California-based Castlewood.

While most storage medium use 20-year-old hard drive technology based on thin-film inductive heads, ORB is built upon IBM's MR hard drive technology.

According to Castlewood president and chief executive officer Syed Iftikar, the introduction of ORB signifies a technology shift from present thin-film inductive head technology and at a much lower cost.

``By the year 2000, we'll be able to provide a 10GB drive using giant MR (GMR) heads at a very low price -- it's like buying a Ferrari at the price of a Volkswagen. My goal is to move the multimedia studio into the consumer's home,'' he says.

ORB is video ready and can store large amounts of digital data such as CAD/CAM, graphic design, publishing and multimedia presentations, and editing of content, like music and video.

Move to MR

Syed Iftikar says that the bigger concentration of data on the ORB cartridge was made possible using MR technology.

The basic design of the MR heads consist of separate read and write elements sharing common material layers. The write-wide and read-narrow MR heads increase its tracking reliability.

The design is further simplified with three integrated circuits that give ORB drives an estimated mean-time-between-failure (MTBF) rating that is 50% better than competitive media.

Because of this feature, Syed Iftikar claims that ORB drives will outperform other removable media technology such as magneto optical, optical DVD, inductive head technology, high-density floppies and tape.

He reiterates that the performance, capacity and cost of removable media hard drives are becoming a viable alternative for incremental capacity, transport and backup applications.

The drive comes complete with ORB Tools which features cartridge copy, file copy, disk copy, write protect, ``File Finder,'' media status reporting and more. Disk formatting also becomes redundant with ``headerless ID'' technology incorporated in ORB.

ORB's one-step backup also boasts a new standard for thoroughness, simplicity and security by automating system disk and file backups.

ORB is available in four versions: internal EIDE, external parallel port, internal SCSI and external SCSI. All are compatible with different operating systems, including DOS, Windows 3.X/95/NT and Macintosh.

The EIDE and parallel port configurations will be available shortly. The SCSI versions will be available in the first quarter of next year.

The ORB removable cartridge disk drive, which will hit the worldwide markets by December, retails at US$199 while each 2.1GB disk will sell for US$29.95.

Additional information about Castlewood and its products can be found on the World Wide Web at http://www.castlewoodsystems.com.

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