Floppy disks count among some of the greatest and popular advances in computer history. Designed as portable digital-storage devices, the popularity of the floppies was proved by their usage for more than 40 years. The peak was reached in the 1990’s, when approximately 5 billion floppy disks were sold per year. So, what made these devices so popular?
The history of the floppy disks begins in 1967 in San Jose, California. IBM assigned a team of engineers to develop a new storage system. Under the guidance of David L. Noble, the team started working on a new way of storing instructions and installing software updates into computers. They came up with the floppy disk as an inexpensive, easy to use and user friendly device. The nickname came exactly from these attributes (the word “floppy” means flexibility, loose, softness). The floppy disk was composed of a magnetic disk sealed in a plastic shell designed to protect the magnetic disk from scratches or dust. The floppy disks could be read by using a floppy disk drive.
The floppy disks were so popular because they were always up to date with the advances in computer technologies. As improvements in technology took place, the floppy disk started to change and evolve. The first to be modified was its size. If the first device used an 8-inch disk, by 1981 its size was reduced to 5.25 inches, then 3.5 inch in 1990. The storage capacity was also modified (from 360 kilobytes to 1.2 MB and then 1,44 MB). The latest innovation was in 1999, when the floppy disk reached a size of 3.5 inch and a capacity of 150/200 MB.
However, the development of computers and technologies also meant that other storage devices were introduced, so that the floppy disk lost its popularity and appeal. Today, the device is used only by a small number of people, but its importance in the PC revolution is immeasurable. Floppies played an important role in the emergence of new software industries. The floppy disk allowed companies to write programs on the disks and then sell them. The floppies also played an important role in the development of user-friendly technologies. They were the first device that allowed people to load software programs and other files into their personal computers and also to store them safely.