The origin of the phrases ATA and IDE [WAS:RE: formatting MFM drives on a IBM PC]

Alan Perry aperry at
Mon Oct 2 01:46:14 CDT 2017

On 10/1/17 1:22 PM, Fred Cisin via cctech wrote:
> On Sun, 1 Oct 2017, Tom Gardner via cctalk wrote:
>> I've looked for but cannot find any WD or Compaq documents publically 
>> using IDE to describe what ultimately issued as ATA-1.  My search 
>> included various Compaq maintenance manuals.
> Thank you very much for doing those searches!
> My first encounter with one was in a Compaq, without having previously 
> heard any mention that they were going to do anything like that.  And 
> no prior mention of "IDE" NOR "ATA".
> It was a surprise, but seemed to make sense.
> So, the PR and naming bodies of the relevant companies let it go into 
> use without massive prior bragging!  I hadn't been paying close 
> attention to CDC nor Connor, but I seemed to have missed whatever WD 
> or Compaq had advertised about it at Comdex.
> And then, later, I heard "IDE", before I had heard "ATA", but that was 
> presumably just due to the circles that I dealt with.
>> The earliest public use of ATA and AT attachment that I can find is 
>> March 1969 at the CAM committee 
> Would that be 1989?
>> My recollection (possibly flawed) is WD tried to have the responsible 
>> committee change the name to IDE and failed.
> especially interesting
> Standards committees are always being pressured by individual 
> companies to use the specific structures and terminologies of those 
> companies.
>> I do have a confidential WD document from 1965 which does use the 
>> term IDE for "Integrated Drive Electronics" referring to their chips, 
>> a drive built with these chips was called an "Integrated Drive" or an 
>> ID.
> Would that be 1985?
>> The CAM and ANSI committees have since March 1969 defined ATA == AT 
> Would that be 1989?
> (In 1969, it would certainly NOT be a reference to the IBM PC/AT (5170)!)
I did my own searching.

There was a call to form the CAM (Common Access Method) Committee of 
X3T9.2 (SCSI-2) on 30 Sept 1988 and they first met on 19 Oct 1988. The 
primary goal was to come up with a SCSI subset to facilitate it support 
in multiple OSs and BIOS on PCs. At the first meeting, two items 
mentioned in the minutes seem relevant. 1. Jim McGrath of Quantum was 
interested in embedding SCSI in the drive without a physical SCSI bus 
and described problems with reference to the PC/AT. 2. Bob Snively of 
Adaptec is described as indicating that everyone at the meeting has the 
problem of "attaching to systems" and this aspect of the committee's 
work was described as "attachment problems".

Unfortunately, I can't find CAM Committee minutes after that first 
meeting. If anyone here is a member of ANSI Technical Committee T13, 
perhaps they can check to see if the minutes or early drafts of ATA 
documents hidden away in the member only areas of the web site.

The next thing that I found was June 1989 X3T9.2 minutes indicating the 
the CAM Committee had almost completed the "ATA document". It mentioned 
two CAM Committee meetings (10 May 1989 and 8 June 1989), but was not 
clear on at which one of those meetings it was reported on the status of 
the ATA document. I read somewhere unofficial that the first draft of 
the ATA document came out in Mar 1989.


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