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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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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SuperDisk (1997 – early 2000s)

SuperDisk (also known as LS-120, and later LS-240) was a high-capacity 3.5-inch floppy disk, introduced by Imation in 1997. Initially it has a capacity of 120 MB, but was later refined by Matsushita to hold 240 MB.

Like the Floptical disk, lasers guided the magnetic read/write head.

It was backwards compatible with 720 KB and 1.44 MB 3.5-inch floppy disks, but not with older Macintosh-formatted diskettes. Iomega’s Zip Drive had also been on the market for several years when it was launched, and there was little interest in the SuperDisk system, especially when prices of CD-R and CD-RW drives and USB flash drives fell, and it was discontinued in the early 2000s.

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Floptical (1991 – 1993)

Floptical was a brand of drive introduced in 1991 by Insite Peripherals, and was also the name of the technology which was a type of floppy disk combining magnetic and optical systems. Floptical disks were the same size as the standard 3.5-inch floppy disk, and Floptical drives could read these using a second set of read/write heads.

Data is written to the disk magnetically, while optically aligning the read/write head in the drive using grooves in the disc being sensed by an infra-red LED. The optical servo tracks allowed for an increase in the tracking precision of the magnetic head, from the usual 135 tracks per inch to 1,250 tracks per inch, allowing 21 MB of storage.

Insite licensed the floptical technology to a number of companies and a number of these formed the Floptical Technology Association, or FTA, to try to have the format adopted as a floppy replacement.

Around 70,000 Floptical drive are believed to have been sold worldwide in the product’s lifetime, although it had lingering quality and reliability issues, and was generally much slower than other technologies such as the Iomega Zip. Iomega had licensed the Floptical technology, but dropped it in favour of their own Zip drive.

Later non-compatible floptical systems included SuperDisk and HiFD.

Sources / Resources

Wikipedia entry for Floptical

Yesterday’s Technology entry for Floptical