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

Tom Gardner t.gardner at
Mon Oct 2 18:14:59 CDT 2017

Sorry for the typo, I typed 6 where I should have typed 9, as in 1969 when I meant 1989.  But my 20 years typo doesn’t change a thing. L


Chuck’s old Wren III supports the point. Wren III’s began shipping in the late 80s and so his recollection (if correct) that  ‘ the interface is called "ATA", with no mention of "IDE" ’ suggests at least Imprimis wasn’t using IDE at that time but was using ATA.


Porter’s Disk/Trend doesn’t mention IDE until its 1992 edition; its 1988 edition identifies 14 manufacturers of drives having what he called a “PC AT” interface.   As I said, I think the term IDE came into public usage from WD in 1991 or 1992.  


I don’t think any digging is necessary but if I had to I suppose I could go to the Computer History Museum and pull up Porter’s files for the early ATA drive manufacturers and see what term their literature uses.




-----Original Message-----
From: Chuck Guzis [mailto:cclist at] 
Sent: Sunday, October 01, 2017 12:59 PM
To: Tom Gardner via cctalk
Subject: Re: The origin of the phrases ATA and IDE [WAS:RE: formatting MFM drives on a IBM PC]


On 10/01/2017 12:46 PM, 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.  The earliest public use 

> of ATA and AT attachment that I can find is March 1989 [1969] at the CAM 

> committee draft standard long before IDE was linuga franca for these 

> drives.  The earliest public disclosure of the interface that I can 

> find is revision IV to the Conner CP3022 specification dated Feb 1988; 

> it doesn t name the interface other than in terms of  task file 

> emulation.   It is likely that such documents existed from Conner 

> prior to Feb 1988, perhaps as early as shipping the CP344 in 4Q86.

> My point is the interface was public before it was named.


> My recollection (possibly flawed) is WD tried to have the responsible 

> committee change the name to IDE and failed.


> I do have a confidential WD document from 1985 [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.


> The earliest advertisements and specifications for what we would now 

> call ATA-1 drives from Conner, MiniScribe and Quantum did not use 

> either the term IDE or ATA.  I have a list of terms used if anyone 

> cares.


> As best I can tell WD began publically using the term IDE for its 

> drives sometime around 1990 - if anyone can find a public usage prior 

> to March 1989 of IDE to describe what became ATA-1  I'd really like to 

> see it.


> The CAM and ANSI committees have since March 1989 [1969] defined ATA == AT 

> Attachment and NEVER used "Advanced Technology" as an acronym for AT 

> in any standard or draft including the one cited below!  There are

> 134 possible definitions < <>>  of 

>  AT,  including for example,  Appropriate Technology     sure the 

> connection to IBM s PC/AT  is obvious, but the authors, editors and 

> reviewers of the standards never meant it to mean  Advanced 

> Technology  so I suggest we respect their definition and not leap to 

> an obvious but incorrect conclusion.


Tom, I think your dates are about 20 years early.


I do have an old CDC Wren III half-height manual where the interface is called "ATA", with no mention of "IDE".  Even then, we still referred to

the drives as "IDE".   That term had to come from somewhere.


So perhaps some digging is in order.




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