A short floppy disk history lesson
Chances are that you, as a visitor of a site about old computer games, know pretty well what a floppy disk is. I think most people in the world who have ever used a computer, have some idea of what it is. The soon to be extinct media, was immensely popular in its various forms from the 70's, to the late 90's. So even though most people know what a floppy disk is, I ought to write a little about it. After all, it is the name of this site.
This is an example of the 3.5"
floppy disk, here represented by the
computer game Commander Keen 6
The floppy disk was first introduced in 1971 by IBM as a means to store computer data. It was not in the form that most people know it yet, as the first floppy disk was 8 inches. But in 1976 came the first of the two most popular formats, the 5.25" floppy disk. It quickly replaced the 8" disk. And in 1981, Sony introduced its 3.5" disk drive, and with it, the 3.5" disk.
Although other disk formats have been made, and released, the immense popularity of these two formats, made sure every other attempt at developing a new disk format have just become a parenthesis in the computer history (Notable the Iomega zip drive).
Even though the CD-R was introduced by Sony and Phillips with its much larger capacity, the floppy disk stood its ground. Mainly because floppies were easy to copy files to, and then transfer them to another machine (what is known as a Sneakernet, as you have to walk between the machines you are copying the files to). And because of this, it was also easy to make illegal copies of commercial computer games, by just making a copying the disk. Because of the software piracy, many games started to get released with some form of copy protection.
And here is a specimen of a 5.25" floppy
disk. Maniac Mansion for the IBM
But in the 90's, a revolution happened. The internet and the World Wide Web. There had been other networks before it, like the bbs, but the World Wide Web become vastly popular. The internet allowed people to swap files between computers without the hassle with a floppy disk. Also, the files were growing bigger, as digital cameras gained the public's attention. Other small storage devices was coming as well, such as USB flash drives and SD cards, which had a much larger capacity, and higher transfer speeds.
The floppy disk was doomed, and today it is an obscurity. But the floppy disk had a long life, the 3.5" HD disks from 1987 could hold 1.44 MB of data. This is still the capacity of the disks, if you can manage to find them in a computer store today. The last few years the floppy disks are disappearing from stores stock. And the companies who make them are getting fewer.
Today, the floppy disk has joined ranks with vinyl records, cassettes and laserdiscs, as a retro format.