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Friday, August 06, 2004
Floppy Disk Background

Floppy disks, also known as floppies or diskettes (a name chosen in order to be similar to the word "cassette"), were ubiquitous in the 1980s and 1990s, being used on home and personal computer ("PC") platforms such as the Apple II, Macintosh, Commodore 64, Amiga, and IBM PC to distribute software, transfer data between computers, and create small backups. Before the advent of the hard drive for PCs, floppy disks were often used to store a computer's operating system (OS), application software, and other data. Many home computers had their primary OS kernels stored permanently in on-board ROM chips, but stored the disk operating system on a floppy. If it was not a proprietary one from the PC manufacturer, then it was often initially CP/M and later DOS.
By the early 1990s, the increasing size of software meant that many programs were distributed on sets of floppies. Toward the end of the 1990s, software distribution gradually switched to CD-ROM, and higher-density backup formats were introduced (e.g., the Iomega Zip disk). With the arrival of mass Internet access, cheap Ethernet, and USB "keydrives", the floppy was no longer necessary for data transfer either, and the floppy disk was essentially superseded. Mass backups were now made to high capacity tape drives such as DAT or streamers, or written to CDs or DVDs. One unsuccessful attempt in the late 1990s to continue the floppy was the SuperDisk (LS120) with a capacity of 120 MB while the drive was backward compatible with standard 3½-inch floppies.
Nonetheless, manufacturers were reluctant to remove the floppy drive from their PCs, for backward compatibility, and because many companies' IT departments appreciated a built-in file transfer mechanism that always worked and required no device driver to operate properly. Apple Computer was the first mass-market computer manufacturer to drop the floppy drive from a design altogether with the release of their iMac model in 1998. In March of 2003, Dell made a similar decision to make floppy drives optional on its higher-end computers, a move hailed by some as the end of the floppy disk as a mainstream means of data storage and exchange.
External USB-based floppy disk drives are available for computers without floppy drives, and they work on any machine that supports USB.
Floppy disks are almost universally referred to in imperial measurements, even in countries where metric is the standard.

[Note: Throughout this article, the "K" is used to indicate the "binary kilo" (1,024).]
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Floppy_disk