Floppy Disks – Those Old Memories


I know I am dating myself but I programmed computers a while back that used 8-inch floppy disks. They were called floppy because when you held one side they would actually bend. The most common size held 80 KB of data. That does not seem like much but was much more than an 80 column punch card. Our old keypunch equipment was replaced with ones writing to floppies instead of punch cards.

 floppies

Then the IBM PC and many others came out with 5.25-inch floppies. Instead of 80 KB, the most common were capable of holding up to 360 KB of data and worked like the 8-inch variety but in a smaller package.

I remember the excitement years later when the 3.5-inch floppy was introduced. The hard cases they were made out of did not bend like the old ones but the nickname stuck. It was smaller than its predecessors and held much more data. Imagine this tiny device holding 1.44 MB of data– more than 18,000 punch cards.

When Windows 95 came out it was distributed on twenty-one 1.44 MB floppies. If today’s Windows 10 was on floppies, it is estimated it would take 2,778 of them. Imagine that installation!


sony-digital-camera

At one time I had a Sony digital camera that had a floppy drive built in. It made it very easy to take pictures that could be read in to any computer.

Because of that digital camera, I have years of pictures stored on that old media and have been slowly going through boxes of them to move them to my desktop computer and Google Photos Cloud. I was using an old Windows 7 computer that has a 3.5-inch floppy drive.

After the update to Windows 10, that floppy disk no longer worked. I looked around and found others with floppy drive issues and some who were able to use them. It looked like a driver and/or a motherboard issue. Perhaps you have had the same problem.

external-floppy-drive

Recently, I did some additional searching and found that there are newer 3.5” external USB drives that are said to work with Windows 10. I ordered one from Amazon for $14, plugged it in, and it works great. No driver needed — plug and play — it works on my desktop and my laptop.


Now I can slowly go through all those old floppy disks. I wonder how I will get it to read those old Zip Drives.

Dick

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About the Author

Dick Evans

Dick Evans has been in the tech industry for more than fifty years. Beginning his career in the '60s on IBM mainframes, he has been a Programmer, a Data Processing Manager (now called Information Systems Manager), a Consultant, an Assistant Professor, and a Writer. He has been published in a number of computer publications and has spoken at conferences here in the US and abroad. He is currently retired from the faculty at Rhode Island College and consulting/writing part-time, holding teaching seminars, and maintaining a number of Web sites. He maintains a blog with technical “stuff” and has a Web site at rwevans.com.

9 Comments

  1. I can still hear the sound of the 3.5 floppy when it was working. I don’t think I ever used the 8 or 5 inch floppy. My first PC was running W98 so I guess I missed out on some of the older hardware.

  2. I have some old zip disk that i got from my dad after he died. I’ve been looking for some way to read them with no luck yet. It would be nice to find a usb zip drive. I have older computers sitting in my storage room that still work with floppy drives. The oldest computer i have has Windows 3.1 OS it was still working when i put in in storage. I just don’t have any computers that has a zip drive.

  3. I still have a set of 3 1/2 inch floppies for a Windows 3.1 installation. I plan to install it on an old system that isn’t much good for anything else.

  4. The last time I used a 3 1/2 floppy disk was to level a table in a restaurant
    At a computer auction place I was buying a box of 500 of them for a dollar
    Just days ago my 30 year old son asked me if I had any floppy disks, I smiled and gave him a hand full.
    He works at a place were the data for the machines is still loaded using floppies and some of them stopped working.
    Go figure…

  5. I remember the floppies well, but my Windows 95 came on a CD. Sometime later, another CD arrived in the mail – an update. In those days, I could call Microsoft and talk to a real person – for free – who would help me with my problem. How times have changed.

  6. I have a plastic tub full of the 3.5-inch floppies. They where my emergency boot disks, virus scanners, and so on. I have like a hundred disks here. I was going to throw them away but a part of me wouldn’t let them go. 🙂

  7. Then the IBM PC and many others came out with 5.25-inch floppies.

    Both Apple & Commodore had 5.25 drives available well before IBM pc launch.
    We also networked a 5mb harddrive across 4 apple II systems running Pascal based financials.
    Happy days. Not so much leading edge as bleeding edge, it was very eady to fall off 🙂

  8. I was using a 486 desktop unit (DOS) which has both floppy and disk drives, till recently when I put it into storage. So yes, I have plenty of floppies and disks. Started junking many of them, but for some insane reason, cannot part with all of them. Shelled out plenty of dough, so it is mosty a reminder of my past, Mindblower!

  9. I started out in 1967 on an IBM 360 Model 20, using 80 col cards. At least this machine had a hard drive. Next moved to an IBM System 3 using floppies. Data capture was done in a room full of ladies typing away on keyboards to capture on floppies. Writing programs was done to sheets of paper from which these ladies ‘punched’ onto card. Subsequently of course onto floppies. It could take 3weeks to get a program from paper to a workable version on the computer. Time definately have changed.

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