70s Technological Breakthrough- The Floppy Disk

2 min readApr 12, 2017


We know that computers already come with hard disk drives. But without USB sticks, online storage, network based storage solutions (cloud services) how did people store data???

Back in 1967 at IBM, people used paper punched cards for data entry and software programming. Until a technological breakthrough of the floppy disk was born and commercially sold in 1971. The first floppies were 8-inch mylar square disk coated with magnetic material. A single disk had the capacity of 3,000 punched cards! Which mean’t no more recording data on paper cards but instead putting it on to disks. As the years went on, the floppy disks changed, here’s an overview of the changes:

  • 1971- 8 inches and protected by flexible plastic jacket, 1MB of data
  • 1976- 5 1/4 inches, higher density media
  • 1981–3 1/2 inches, became dominant storage medium

This new way of storing data was a huge advancement in technology and user-friendly. Ordinary people were able to load softwares on their personal computers due to floppies. The first IBM PC sold has two floppy drives- one for loading applications and one for stored data.

This didn’t only impact individuals but had a huge impact on the IT industry. Prior to the floppy disk, most processes of software applications were written by personal computer owners. With the floppy, “companies could write programs, put them on the disks, and sell them through the mail or in stores. “It made it possible to have a software industry,” says Lee Felsenstein, a pioneer of the PC industry who designed the Osborne 1, the first mass-produced portable computer.”

The floppy disk was a successful breakthrough, some of the advantages are:

  • Floppies are inexpensive
  • Small and portable
  • Have built-in write protection that helps prevent data from being erased
  • Able to write on both sides- more storage capacity

Some disadvantages are:

  • slow data transfer rate
  • floppy disks themselves aren’t so durable