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

Liam Proven lproven at
Wed Oct 4 07:14:00 CDT 2017

On 1 October 2017 at 22:22, Fred Cisin via cctalk <cctalk at> wrote:
> Q: Is "SATA":  "Serial ATA" or "Serial AT Attachment"?

Serial ATA, to the best of my recollection.

>   (Did they reference
> an acronym without referencing the terms of the acronym, again?)


> I am going to guess that "PARALLEL ATA" came into being as a NAME, after
> "SATA", solely to differentiate it.

Yes, this is correct.

However, it does not cover why the term "ATA" started to get used more
than "IDE".

I suspect there were 2 reasons.

[1] IDE is of course overloaded, and also means "Integrated
Development Environment". Plus "Serial IDE" would come out as "side"
which is a normal English word and thus potentially confusing, unlike
"sata" -- which isn't a word -- and "pata" which sounds like "patter"
but was less important as it was a retrospective renaming.

The real reason, I suspect, is that when optical drives -- i.e. CD
drives -- that attached to the IDE interface came along, they needed a
term for them. Yes, they had "integrated drive electronics" but so did
all CD drives. They were not "IDE compatible" -- they needed different
drivers, and I believe needed some rudimentary degree of awareness
from the IDE controller electronics and firmware.

Worse still, they re-used the same connector as used for Panasonic
interface CD drives.

There was also a proprietary Sony interface, which used the same
connector as the PC floppy drive IDC connector:

And finally there was a Mitsumi interface as well:

Some ISA sound cards had all 3 interfaces.

[2] The other reason, I personally suspect, is that the term used for
the interface of CD drives that connected to the IDE bus was "ATAPI":
"AT Attachment Packet Interface".

In my world, anyway, nobody had heard of ATA drives until ATAPI came
along. This popularised the term ATA, and then Serial ATA came along
and plain old parallel IDE was renamed parallel ATA, PATA.

>  Similarly to how "DOUBLE Density"
> bacame a name before "SINGLE Density" ("SINGLE" was only needed later, to
> differentiate it).

Good point. Hadn't thought of that. Before my time!

>   And how "WORLD WAR TWO" was used as a name before
> "WORLD WAR ONE" was ever used as a name ("The Great War" got renamed when it
> was important to compare and differentiate it it from its successor).

_Way_ before my time.

Although sadly I very much fear that WW3 will be in my time. Indeed,
might be the end of it.

Liam Proven • Profile:
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