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Front Page » April 24, 2007 » Tech Tips » Evolution of the floppy diskette
Published 2,798 days ago

Evolution of the floppy diskette


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By JASON BAILEY
Sun Advocate/Progress Webmaster


Since its debut in 1971, the floppy disk has played a large role in computer evolution. Highly popular, they have become so common over the past few decades that they have become a metaphor for saving data. In fact, most word processors use floppy disk icons to represent the program's "save file" feature. But alas, computers are changing, and the floppy disk is quickly being displaced by more modern technologies.

In 1971, IBM created the first floppy diskette drive. It was an 8-inch disk capable of storing a mere 80 kilobytes. Not long after, in 1976, the 5�-inch floppy disk emerged. It was capable of storing 256 kilobytes - far more than its 8-inch predecessor. Years later, Sony released what would soon become the "de-facto" industry standard for removable media - the 3� "IBM compatible" high-density (HD) floppy disk, capable of storing 1.44 megabytes of data.

In the 1990's, as computers began to find their way into homes across America and abroad, several proposed floppy replacements hit the market that would hold far more data than previous concoctions, like the Iomega ZIP disk and the Imation LS-120 diskette, but none of them would find the same widespread adoption that the 3�-inch floppy did.

So, for over 30 years the floppy disk, in its various forms, was the preferred removable storage solution. Removable storage devices are, by definition, employed to store information (i.e. photos, videos, letters and other documents) which can be safely removed from and stored outside the computer.

However, with the advent of flash-based media, that has all changed, and the floppy diskette's days are probably numbered. Flash-based storage technologies support far higher storage capacities and are far more reliable than floppies could ever be. In fact, virtually all digital camera cards use flash technology, and so do portable USB-based disk drives. A 1.44 megabyte floppy isn't worth much these days when a 512 megabyte USB-powered drive can be purchased for less than twenty dollars.

Even more condemning is the fact that most computers these days don't come with floppy disk drives in them anymore. Many OEM computer manufacturers only offer external floppy drives which use a USB cable to connect it to the PC.

What does this mean for consumers? It means that it's time to start looking at old floppy disks and copying important data from them onto a more preferred medium, like a portable USB-based drive, compact-disc (CD). Otherwise, consumers may find a future need to access information on an old floppy with no means to access it.

Have comments about this article, or suggestions for an additional Tech Tips article? Send an email to webmaster@ecprogress.com.


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