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Floppy Disk

Floppy Disk Image

Floppy disks have an interesting name, considering they do not appear to be "floppy." However, if you take the actual disk out of the protective casing, you will discover that the disk is, in fact, rather flexible. It is coated with iron oxide and stores data magnetically, just like a hard disk.

The first floppy disks were created in 1969, the same year the Internet had its origin. These disks were 8 inches in diameter and were read-only, like a CD-ROM, meaning no data could be written to them by the user. The first 8 inch disks only held 80KB of data, but later versions could hold as much as 800KB.

In 1978, a 5.25 inch disk was introduced, which could hold a whopping 360KB of data. Later revisions of the 5.25 inch floppy disk could store 1.2MB. These disks were used in early desktop PCs, such as the Apple IIe. In 1987, the 3.5 inch HD (high density) floppy disk was released, which could hold 1.44MB after being formatted. These disks were a little more durable than the 5.25 inch disks and were also more portable. For the next decade, the 3.5 inch floppy disk became the standard means of distributing commercial software titles and backing up personal data.

In the late 1990s, CD-ROMs began to replace floppy disks as the standard means of distributing software. A few years later, consumers began migrating to recordable CDs for backing up their data. Apple's original iMac, released in 1998, was the first mainstream computer to not even include a floppy disk drive. While it took several years, many PC manufacturers eventually followed suit.

Now most software is distributed on CDs and DVDs and most people back up their data either on recordable CDs or USB flash drives. Floppy disks are finally becoming a thing of the past, which is good, considering they are notorious for losing data. Still, the floppy disk will always have a special place in the hearts and minds of veteran computer users as it was the data storage medium many people grew up with.

Published: 2007

Definition from the PC Glossary