The origin of the phrases ATA and IDE [WAS:RE: formatting MFM

Alan Perry aperry at
Tue Oct 3 14:27:10 CDT 2017

On 10/3/17 12:09 PM, Fred Cisin via cctalk wrote:
> Scott Mueller mentions it in his "Upgrading And Repairing PCs"
> He said that "IDE" was a "marketing term", with "ATA" being the 
> "official" name.  Which is pretty much the same as the discussion 
> here, with both terms being used concurrently, without a clear 
> comparison of the histories of their origins.
> "Which came first?  The formal name?  or the street name?"
> His stuff tends to be fairly accurate. Although he specifically 
> mentions the Wren II, he makes a statement that the HARDCARD were the 
> earliest IDE.  (Not quite what we were discussing)
> He uses IDE as being very general, with ATA being very specific, and 
> thus opening up tems such as "ATA IDE" and "pre-ATA IDE" But, by using 
> IDE so loosely as to include HARDCARD, he avoids explicitly declaring 
> IDE as the SPECIFIC interface, to have existed prior to ATA.
> Also, of course, "pre-ATA IDE" can mean IDE prior to the ATA standard 
> release, rather than prior to the early use of "ATA" as a name.
> The whole issue is complicated by the terms only being used in 
> advertising and spec sheets, since drives of that time never mentioned 
> their interface type/name on the drive itself.
> Thus, finding the relevant drive on a shelf doesn't answer any of the 
> questions, and it remains a search of User Manuals and advertising.
> NOTE: on the ST157, there is a WARNING label to not low level format.
> As always, "FIRST" in history is muddled!
> "FIRST" to be mentioned
> "FIRST" to be OFFICIALLY mentioned
> "FIRST" to be advertised
> "FIRST" announced
> "FIRST" released
> "FIRST" to be manufactured
> "FIRST" to be shipped
> "FIRST" to be standardized
> . . . "FIRST" to end up on my bench.

I am continuing to investigate, but I think that IDE came first. I have 
found references that describe the Compaq/WD/CDC Wren II HH disk (which 
pre-dates the formation of the SCSI-2 CAM committee) as "IDE". Some of 
this reportedly comes from the people who did the work (years after the 
fact). However, I have yet to find period documents that include the 
term "IDE". I don't know if the people who did the work used the term at 
the time or were applying it after the fact.

Here are a couple documents that I used as starting points -


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