A Quick History of the Floppy Disk

By: Aaron Walker

Even though there is a lot to be said about floppy drives, these forms of data storage are mostly mentioned in a historical capacity. While you can do a data backup to a floppy disk (assuming your computer even has a floppy drive) it is definitely not recommended. There are many other methods of backing up your information that are far more reliable and offer far higher capacities.

The floppy disk was the first truly portable form of information storage for computers. Sure, you could move tape drives around at risk of severely damaging the tape, and you could move punch cards from computer to computer, but both of these storage options were unwieldy. When they were invented, floppy disks could store up to 1.44MB of data.

As you can probably tell already, 1.44MB of storage space is nothing in the world of today where most of the files you will be saving are several or even several hundred megabytes in size.

The floppy disk was invented by Dr. Nakamats, who apparently did most of his thinking at the bottom of his swimming pool. The floppy disk drive was just one of the many things that he invented while sitting on the bottom of his pool. Almost as soon as it was invented, the floppy disk made punch cards obsolete - they were just so portable, reliable, and easy to use.

The first floppy disks were invented in the 1960's by IBM. The disks were 8" across and were used during the 1970's on the computers of that time. However, it was the smaller floppy disk drives that were commonly used in people's homes.

There were two sizes of these commonly used floppy disks, the 5.25" and the 3.5" floppy. If you did not have a computer during the early 1990's or 1980's, then you probably only know of the 3.5" floppy. These typically came in sizes between 720KB and 2.8 MB - though the 1.44MB floppy disk was by far the most common size.

The 5.25" floppy was the older version and was a bit floppier than the 3.5" version. These could only hold between 100KB and 1.2MB of data.

Most computers do not come with floppy disk drives anymore. The reason for this is that they are no longer in wide use, and most of the important information that was on computers that only had floppy disks for data storage has since been moved onto newer computers or storage media.

You may still need floppy disks if you need to communicate with older technology. Some lab computers at certain schools are so old that they need floppy disks to retrieve data from and store data to.

If you need a disk drive and do not already have one on your computer, you can purchase an external drive at most computer stores. Hurry, though! This type of data storage is so out of date that it is likely that these external drives will not be available for much longer. These drives can be connected to your computer through USB or alternatively with a parallel port.

Unless the computer that you are using is too old to have USB connections, you should not be using a floppy disk to bring information to and from school or work anyway. Instead, you can just use a USB flash memory drive, which is much smaller and harder to damage.

Do not try to back up your computer on floppy disks! The number of disks that you will need will quickly make this into a time consuming and expensive task!

Top Searches on
Hardware
 • 
 • 
 • 
 • 
 • 
 • 
 • 
 • 
 • 
 • 
 • 
 • 
 • 
 • 
 • 
 • 
 • 
 • 
 • 
 • 

» More on Hardware