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

Alan Perry aperry at
Tue Oct 3 19:03:04 CDT 2017

On 10/3/17 3:57 PM, Fred Cisin via cctalk wrote:
>>> The earliest use I can find of the "AT Attachment" terminology is the
>>> X3T9 project proposal from late 1990 which eventually led to the
>>> formation of the X3T10 group:
> On Tue, 3 Oct 2017, Alan Perry via cctalk wrote:
>> As I previously posted, these minutes refer one of two CAM Committee 
>> meeting in May or Jun 1989 where it was announced that the "ATA 
>> document" was nearly complete:
>> I have found two independent sources that indicate a first draft of 
>> the document appeared in Mar 1989.
> We would need to compare that with WD internal discussions, OR
> compare public discussions.
> ATA committee existed, and was working on a standard; then WD sold 
> products; then ATA standard was formally released.
> Comparing "FIRST"s in development, is not the same as comparing 
> "FIRST"s in release or production.
> There are plenty of other races, where one was first to be built, but 
> a different one was first to be available.
> My guess of the timeline, is that MANY people wanted the same idea. 
> People in the standards committee(s) started to discuss it, while some 
> drive engineers started to build them.
> Were members of committee talking about it before WD spoke up?
> Were WD engineers working on it before committee mentioned it?
> Yes, to both.

I suggest that you read the narratives at the two links that I posted in 
my subsequent posting.

WD initialy made the controller boards. As noted elsewhere, they did not 
make HDDs themselves at that point. They shopped it around in late 1984 
and got interest from Compaq. According to the document that I am 
referencing, WD did a IDE-to-ST506 board that was used with Miniscribe 
10M and 20M ST506 drives in Compaq Portable IIs (announced Feb 1986). 
Compaq and WD also worked with CDC to use the Wren II HH drive in the 
Compaq Deskpro 286. I found separate reports confirming the Miniscribe 
HDD in the Portable II and the Wren II in a Compaq Deskpro 386 in 1986. 
There were also a number of Conner IDE HDDs (CP340 family) in 1987.  
These were all products released before the SCSI-2 CAM committee was 
formed. However, I have not found any contemporary documentation for any 
of them, so I can't determine whether the interface is called IDE in any 
of them.

> The standards committee(s) called it "AT attachment"; the WD engineers 
> called it "IDE" NEITHER name was used publicly.  YET.
> The committees started to draft standards.  WD started to market.
> WD probably pushed the committee(s) to use WD's pinout and details.
> Companies are ALWAYS pushing standards committees to do it THEIR way.
> Motherboard makers started to call theirs "IDE", because calling them 
> ATA might run afoul of the not-yet-released standard.  "ATA" was 
> hardly a secret, but it wasn't "official" yet.
> When the standard was released, the MB makers were already calling it 
> "IDE", and that stuck, in spite of "ATA" becoming the "official" name 
> and standard.
> Q: was the card slot in the Poqet "PCMCIA"? ("People Can't Memorize 
> Computer Industry Acronyms"  ("Personal Computer Memory Card Industry 
> Association", for those who want more formality))
> Maybe later ones were, but the first ones were just "card slot" "that 
> happened to match PCMCIA when that came out"

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