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The story behind Inside of Hard Drive

Dedicated to the late James Randi (The Amazing Randi). Thanks for everything you taught me and the rest of the World about Critical thinking.

– Joshua Marius

One of the most boring videos ever published, went viral, was published by two major educational publishers for Online college classes worldwide, and as of February 2021, remains as the main video used for many programming and hardware classes around the world. It went viral even before the iPhone existed. The video was posted on YouTube October 1st, 2006 . The first iPhone launched in January 9th, 2007.
What’s even more interesting, is the fact that I was discouraged to publish it to begin with.

After the successful Launch of my older website, LeThe Online in 2001, the articles had inspired many techs globally. I received thousands of emails from more than 50 countries with words of appreciation, admiration and encouragement to keep doing what I was doing: obtaining knowledge and sharing it with the world. Since 2008 (when I implemented Google Analytics), and although written in Spanish, LeThe Online’s articles have been displayed more than 10 Million times in more than 150 countries. Universities as well as Tech Schools have used the solutions, tips, tricks, and documents to build their curriculum and use them in class to teach future Techs and Engineers.

In 2006, I shifted my research to optimizing the performance of the Hard Disk Drive within the Windows Operating System. My research extended from physical failures, to different de-fragmentation applications, cluster sizes, partition formats and even cooling. Even though I was surrounded by hundreds of drives and even opened a few to look inside, I had never seen one operating with its cover off. At the time, I owned a Sony DCR-TRV460 Digital8 Camcorder. I was actually photographed with it at the Tampa Airfest in 2007:

The idea was simple, open up an older drive, with such low capacity that it would be unusable for any real application. I had a Samsung WU32543A, 2.5 GB, 3.5″ IDE Drive – Perfect! I setup the camera on a tripod above the drive, removed the cover, plugged it into an external MASSCOOL 350U2 enclosure, and proceeded to record different operations – deleting, creating folders, powering it on and off, etc. I was like a kid watching a science experiment. Think about it: a metallic plate spinning 5400 times per minute, or 90 times a second, while a reading head, hovers over this plate at a distance of two millionths of one inch, moves back and forth by actuators, controlled by powerful neodymium magnets. That sounds like a pure Engineering Marvel. Back then I was using a very old version of Ulead Video Studio, so I had to physically print some of the labels for the video. I proceeded to open up my YouTube account and published the video titled Inside of Hard Drive.
The next day I showed several of my colleagues at the College of Engineering at the University of South Florida. Others, I had emailed the link to, to which they replied: I’ll describe it in one word: BORING. No one really cared about the video. I almost ended up deleting it from YouTube, but left it there and just forgot about it.

About a week later, I get a text from the same guy that called it “Boring” and he let me know somebody had found the video and published it on a website called Digg, with over 900 people “Digging” the article. From there, it got picked up by companies such as Cengage Learning, Coursera and others. The video had gone viral.

But it doesn’t stop there. I then had to face the hundreds of keyboard warriors that swore the video was fake, as they claimed it was “impossible to run a hard drive without it’s cover”. This was followed by the many websites and YouTube channels that had copied the video and made it into their own, in which I lost an estimated 1-2 million views. Luckily, YouTube took action and deleted these copies due to copyrights.

On January 16, 2007, an ex-coworker from the Academic Computing Help Desk let me know the video was shown in his Database Design / Administrator class at the University of South Florida (my Alma mater). I was very humbled. Just to know that something I was discouraged to create, ended up being an educational tool. Some of those classrooms happened to be right next to mine, as I was still in College and graduated in December of 2007. In 2015, many students from several courses such as Python for Everybody, taught by Charles Severance, or Dr. Chuck, left hundreds of comments on the YouTube Video.

The actual Hard Drive used in the video remains in my collection. In 2009 it was signed by The Amazing Randi after my visit to the James Randi Educational Foundation. In 2014 he was featured in the Documentary An Honest Liar.

Joshua Marius and James Randi
Signed by James Randi. The actuator with magnets was removed; I gave these to Randi as a gift.