Floppy disk

Clear 3.5" floppy disketteAlternatively referred to as a floppy or floppy disk, a floppy diskette was originally created in 1967 by IBM to help have an alternative to buying hard drives that were extremely expensive at the time and were not thought of as something to be used with a standard computer. Below is a brief history of each of three major floppy diskettes.

8" Floppy Disk

The first disk was introduced in 1971. The disk was 8" in diameter with a magnetic coating, enclosed in a cardboard case with the capacity of one megabyte. Conversely to hard drives, the heads touched the disk, like in a cassette or video player that wears the media down over time.

5.25" Floppy Disk

First started development in 1976 and later became a standard in 1978, these disks were first released with only 160KB of disk space. These diskettes were commonly used in 1980's and began stop being used in the early 1990's. See our 5.25" floppy diskette definition for further information, pictures, and related links.

3.5" Floppy Disk

Created by IBM in 1984, these diskettes were first introduced with a total capacity of 720KB. The 1.44MB floppy diskettes were used widely in the 1990's and were seldom found or used by 2000. See our 3.5" floppy diskette definition for further information, pictures, and related links.

How were floppy disks used?

Early computers did not have CD-ROM drives or USB, and floppy disks were the only way to install a new program onto a computer or backup your information. If the program was small (less than 1.44MB for the 3.5" floppy disk) the program could be installed from one floppy disk. However, since most programs were larger than 1.44MB most programs required multiple floppy diskettes. For example, the diskette version of Windows 95 came on 13 DMF diskettes and had to be installed one disk at a time.

Are floppy diskettes still used today?

There are still a few diehards who are still using floppy diskettes, some governments still even use 8" floppy diskettes. However, since the early 2000s computers started to no longer ship with floppy disk drives as users started moving to CD-R and Zip drives to store their information since they could hold a lot more information.

Related pages

Also see: Floppy cable, Floppy drive terms, Floppy disk drive