Floppy Disk Definition & Meaning

Ubiquitous in early computing from 1970 until the early 2000s, the floppy disk is a portable storage device that has since been replaced by more efficient methods, such as USB flash drives, SD cards, and cloud storage. Floppy disks were an affordable and flexible alternative to hard disks, meaning users could accumulate numerous floppy disks for storing and organizing data before spending as much money on a hard disk.

History of floppy disks

Floppy disks were developed by IBM in the early 1970s as a way of maintaining data even when a computer was powered off. Once they became widely accessible in the late 1970s and 1980s, floppy disks became the primary storage method for most computing devices. Although hard disks could hold a larger capacity, they were fixed to the larger computing device and usually considerably more expensive. (The average floppy disk costed less than $10 in the 1970s and 1980s, whereas a hard disk could cost upwards of $1,000.) As such, floppy disks were the most practical storage choice during the rise of personal computers in the 1980s and 1990s.

When computer manufacturers like Dell and Apple stopped incorporating floppy disk drives in their equipment, CD-ROMs, thumb drives, and similar dynamic, portable storage devices took center stage in the early 2000s. Today, floppy disks are largely obsolete but are still referenced as icons for “save” commands in applications like Microsoft Office.

Types of floppy disks

Throughout their history, floppy disks have been available in a range of different sizes:

  • 8-inch:The first floppy disk design was used in the early 1970s as first a read-only format and then as a read-write format. Its “floppy” physicality is what gave the entire class of disks its name.
  • 5 -inch: This disk fit the common size for PCs made before 1987 and succeeded the 8-inch floppy disk. This type of floppy was generally capable of storing between 100K and 1.2MB (megabytes) of data. The most common sizes were 360K and 1.2MB.
  • 3 -inch: Although the compact design and rigid plastic envelope meant the smallest floppy disks were no longer physically floppy, they held a larger storage capacity than other floppy disks from 400K to 1.4MB of data.

Avatar
Kaiti Norton
Kaiti Norton is a Nashville-based Content Writer for TechnologyAdvice, a full-service B2B media company. She is passionate about helping brands build genuine connections with their customers through relatable, research-based content. When she's not writing about technology, she's sharing her musings about fashion, cats, books, and skincare on her blog.

Top Articles

Huge List Of Texting and Online Chat Abbreviations

From A3 to ZZZ we list 1,559 text message and online chat abbreviations to help you translate and understand today's texting lingo. Includes Top...

How To Create A Desktop Shortcut To A Website

This Webopedia guide will show you how to create a desktop shortcut to a website using Firefox, Chrome or Internet Explorer (IE). Creating a desktop...

The History Of Windows Operating Systems

Microsoft Windows is a family of operating systems. We look at the history of Microsoft's Windows operating systems (Windows OS) from 1985 to present...

Hotmail [Outlook] Email Accounts

  By Vangie Beal Hotmail is one of the first public webmail services that can be accessed from any web browser. Prior to Hotmail and its...

Common Business-Oriented Language (COBOL)...

What is COBOL? COBOL stands for Common Business-Oriented Language. It is a 60-year-old programming...

Shared Hosting Definition &...

Shared hosting is a web hosting model in which multiple sites occupy the...

Database Integration Definition &...

Database integration consolidates data from multiple sources to provide businesses with more comprehensive...