Dave, kind of a basic question, but when was the floppy disk invented, and how big was the first floppy disk, both in terms of size and storage capacity?
What a fun question! I can remember in 1980 using these behemoth 8″ floppy disks on a Terak microcomputer, learning PDP-11 assembly language while in college. Ah, but that dates me a bit, doesn’t it?
I dug around for this one and found some interesting information. According to floppy drive repair company Accurite, floppy disks were introduced by IBM in the early 1970’s to allow service engineers to update the microcode on a mainframe or even run diagnostics. These first disks were 8-inches across and held a whopping 100KB on the unit. In 1973 a new, improved read-write floppy was introduced that held 250KB of information, quite a jump.
The first 5.25-inch floppy was introduced by Shugart Associates in 1976, in cooperation with Dysan Corp. Each only stored 100KB and were single-sided. Much churning of disk formats and data density later, and the standard 1.2MB diskette was born and was prominently featured on the IBM AT personal computer.
The smaller 3.5 inch floppy drive that you now see on PCs was introduced by Sony in 1980, and today’s standard 3.5-inch floppy drives have a storage capacity of 1.5MB, while using the same basic technology introduced in the two-sided 8-inch floppy all those years ago.
Accurite has an excellent page on floppy disk drives, if you want to travel further into the past, the history of computer technology. Me? I’ll just use my DVD-RW to burn, and re-burn, 4.7GB at a time. Floppy disks are just too darn small…