Tagged: floppy

Floppy disks (or diskettes) are magnetic disk data storage formats, usually composed of a thin, flexible disk sealed in a rectangular plastic carrier. In many cases the carrier is rigid, and the word floppy refers to the disc inside.

Iomega Zip 250 (2001 – 2003)

Zip was a high-capacity floppy disk format originally introduced in 1995 by Iomega. Initially, it had a capacity of 100 MB, later increased to 250 MB in 2001, and again to 750 MB in 2002.

The Zip 250 drives were available in a wide variety of interfaces; parallel port, USB 2.0 and FireWire for exernal drives and IDE or SCSI for internal drives.

Although the disks looked identical to Zip 100 disks, they could not be used in the smaller capacity drive and are automatically ejected. They could however be read and written to by the later Zip 750 drives. Zip 250 drives could read and write to the older Zip 100 disks. A variant on the Zip 250, the Zip U250 was also launched in 2001; the U250 disks contained titanium particles in the media to improve the operation of the drives, and were also self-cleaning. The U250 discs were full compatible with Zip 250 drives despite their different shape.

Even before the introduction of the Zip 250, sales of Zip drives had begun falling due to the falling cost of CD-R and CD-RW disks, followed by USB memory sticks.

All Zip variants were discontinued in 2003.

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Iomega Zip 750 (2002 – 2003)

Zip was a high-capacity floppy disk format originally introduced in 1995 by Iomega. Initially, it had a capacity of 100 MB, later increased to 250 MB in 2001, and again to 750 MB in 2002.

The new Zip 750 drives were available in various interfaces; USB 2.0 and FireWire for exernal drives and IDE for internal drives.

Although the disks looked identical to Zip 100 and Zip 250 disks, they could not be used in smaller capacity drives and are automatically ejected. However, Zip 100 discs could be read in Zip 750 drives, and Zip 250 disks can be both read and written to, so users with existing Zip disks could continue to use them. The introduction of the Zip 750 meant that Zip disks had a higher capacity than the competing CD-R or CD-RW disks. However, the cost of Zip 750 disks was much higher than CD-R or CD-RW media, and by the time of its introduction, many PCs had CD burners installed.

The Zip 750 was short-lived as all Zip versions were discontinued in 2003.

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Sony Memory Stick / Floppy Disk Adaptor (2000 – 2001)

The Memory Stick / Floppy Disk Adaptor (MSAC-FD2M) was introduced by Sony in 2000 for use in several of its Mavica line of digital cameras, and allowed the cameras to use a Memory Stick as an alternative form of storage.

The adaptor had the same form-factor as a 3.5-inch High-Density floppy disk, and incorporated a slot for a Memory Stick. The adaptor could be used in PCs (it could also be used in Macs, but was read-only) after installing suitable drivers. The adaptor required two lithium batteries to operate.

In the new Mavica cameras, users had a choice of using floppy disks for storage (as a number of previous Mavica models offered), or a Memory Stick with the adaptor which had the advantage of higher capacity (at the time, this was up to 64 MB).

By 2001, Sony had introduced Mavica cameras with dedicated Memory Stick slots, so an adaptor was no longer required.

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Iomega Zip U250 (2001 – 2003)

Zip U250 was a variant on the Iomega Zip disk, and was launched by Iomega in 2001. Like standard Zip disks, the U250 was a high-capacity floppy disk format.

The Zip U250 had a capacity of 250 MB and was fully compatible with the Zip 250 drive despite its different shape. Its launch followed the class-action lawsuit against Iomega for a type of fault in Zip drives dubbed the ‘click of death’.

The U250 disks contained titanium particles in the media to improve the operation of the drives, and were also self-cleaning. They came with a 10 year warranty, and were supplied in shatterproof cases.

Like the rest of the Zip range, sales declined due to the falling cost of CD-R and CD-RW disks, followed by USB flash drives, and the Zip range was discontinued in 2003.

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Caleb UHD144 / it drive (1998 – 2002)

The Caleb UHD144 (Ultra High Density) was a floptical-based 144 MB floppy disk system introduced in early 1998, by Caleb Technology, and marketed as the it drive. The it drive could read and write to DD and HD 3.5-inch microfloppy disks as well.

Its main advantage was the low cost of the media, but the UHD144 had little chance in the marketplace, competing against the much more popular and faster Zip drive, floppy disk alternatives such as the SuperDisk, and later CD-R and CD-RW.

Caleb Technology went bankrupt in 2002.

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3.5-inch microfloppy (High Density) (1987 – late 2000s)

The 3.5-inch HD (High Density) microfloppy was first introduced in 1987, and first used on the IBM PS/2 range, and the Macintosh IIx. It quickly become almost universally used on PC and Macintosh hardware.

High density disks were recognisable by a second hole in the opposite corner to the write-protect notch and a HD logo. Their capacity was 1.44 MB in both PCs and Macintosh machines.

By 1988, the 3.5-inch disk (all types) were outselling the 5.25-inch minifloppy.

An even higher-capacity Extended Density (ED) microfloppy was introduced in 1991, with a capacity of 2.88 MB, but this variation was not widely used. Throughout the 1990s, various attempts were made to introduce higher capacity 3.5-inch floppy disk replacement, such as the Floptical disk, SuperDisk and HiFD.

Macintosh computers were the first to stop using floppy disks (on the iMac) in 1998, and during the 2000s, PC manufacturers began to remove drives from new PCs.

Preservation / Migration

Olivetti minidisc (1977 – early 1980s)

The Olivetti minidisc was a magnetic disc format for data storage introduced by Olivetti in 1977 for use on its P6040 minicomputer.

The disc itself was a 2.5-inch mylar disc without a protective cover, capable of holding just 3 KB of data. It was single-sided and the non-recordable side had an identification number stamped on it, since there was no other way of identifying a disk once it was taken out of its storage envelope.

Unlike later floppy disks, data is not stored in tracks and sectors, but is stored in a single spiral track like a phonograph record. Reading or writing to the disk was done in a single operation, so writing to the disk overwrote all the existing contents. The advantage with this system was that it was cheaper to produce than a standard floppy disk drive.

The limited capacity of the disk meant that a read or write of the entire disk could be carried out in between 6 and 11.5 seconds.

As well as the P6040, Olivetti used the minidisc in 1978 in its TES (Text Editing System) 401 word processing system, where capacity was increased to 7.5 KB, and in the Business Computer System models BCS 2020 and BCS 2030 of 1979.

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Bernoulli disk 5.25-inch (1987 – 1994)

Iomega released the Bernoulli Box II in 1987, replacing the original Bernoulli Box with its 8-inch disks with a smaller version using 5.25-inch form factor disks. Initially offering the same capacity of 20 MB as the original, this was increased over time, and eventually offered 230 MB by the time it was replaced by the Zip disk.

Unlike the original Bernoulli Box, the Bernoulli Box II was available as an internal unit, although it was still available as an external unit with one or two drives in a self-contained case connected via an external SCSI interface.

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3.5-inch microfloppy (Extended Density) (1991 – mid 1990s)

The Extended Density (ED) 3.5-inch Microfloppy was an advance on the High Density version (HD), with improved oxide coatings that offered 2.88 MB of storage.

It was introduced on the NeXTcube, NeXTstation and IBM PS/2 model 57 in 1991, but by the time it was available, it was already too small in capacity to be a useful advance over the HD format and never became widely used, while the HD format continued to be used until the late 2000s.

Like the HD microfloppy, the ED disk had an identification notch on the right-hand side, with this being slightly higher than the HD one.

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HiFD (1998 – early 2000s)

The HiFD (High capacity Floppy Disk) was an attempt by Sony to replace their own 3.5-inch floppy disk.

It was initially launched in 1998 with a capacity of 150 MB, and whilst the drive was backwards compatible with 3.5-inch floppy disks by using dual heads, HiFD disks were shaped so that they could not be inserted by mistake into a standard 3.5-inch floppy disk drive. The separate HiFD read/write head worked more like a hard disk head, gliding over the surface of the disk without touching it, alllowing the HiFD disk to rotate at 3,600rpm.

It competed with the Zip drive, which had a capacity of 100 MB, and the SuperDisk, which then had a capacity of 120 MB. It was predicted that HiFD would be a success and replace the 3.5-inch floppy disk, but read/write head misalignment problems meant a full recall in 1999.

It was relaunched in November 1999, with 200 MB capacity, but could not read or write to the previous version’s 150 MB disks.

By this time the Zip drive now sported a 250MB capacity and CD-RW drives were entering the mainstream. These factors doomed HiFD to failure.

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