Stop to appreciate the brilliant engineering of the 3½-inch floppy disk

Originally published at:½-inch-floppy-disk.html


Wow, the save icon in physical form!


It is a totally fungible token (TFT not NFT) of the past.


“The first computer I had which used 3½-inch floppies was the Commodore Amiga”

Boing boing boing boing!




I totally appreciated it on my Amiga. See, I had owned a PC previously and had the not so brilliantly engineered 5.25" floppy disk which had lots of problems that the 3.5" solved.


880K gang.


My family’s first computer (which I still have in my storage locker) was a Commodore VIC-20 with the Datasette device for reading data from and writing data to cassette tapes.


The 5.25s were not great in many ways, but the cassette tape recorder I had for a Texas Instruments PC was a whole different world of fail.


I also used cassettes with a TI994/a! They were terrible, and especially bad when your sister would record music from the radio over the multi-hundred-line program you’d laboriously typed in from a print magazine. No, I’m not still angry, why do you ask?

I still have that cassette player! I should dig it out.


I still have a box full of 3.5inch floppies because they are not recyclable and end up in landfill, so I haven’t been able to bring myself to dump them yet.


Tandy Coco 2, 16KB of memory and a cassette deck for permanent storage. I used to anxiously await the arrival of “Rainbow” magazine each month so I could type in the code for that month’s BASIC game. My kid doesn’t quite understand the concept; I tried explaining how the frame rate on some of the games I used to write was like… one frame every two seconds. Still have the system, need to find a monitor or an old TV to hook it up and show him.


My first was a C64, but not understanding what I was doing I spent my money on the better computer and had none left for the datasette. I brought it home, booted it up and spent hours meticulously typing in the code to make the little ship sail across my TV screen, only to realize the only way to show off my skills was to never turn the computer off. You know what a C64 with no permanent storage is? A very light, plastic boat anchor.


Ah, memories. These were so much better than the 5 1/4’s we started with. My first personal system to use them was a Commodore, and I still have a box of old floppies somewhere around the house. Bought a USB reader for them a while back and went through them. Many of them still readable, too.


That’s the one bright spot in that experience… It was the first audio recording device I had, and a gateway to microphones, A/V cables, etc.


I remember it being a big deal when my folks finally sprang for a floppy disk for the CoCo. It was like $300 or $400; it was basically my entire Christmas one year. And it was a pretty bad investment, because pretty soon thereafter they got an IBM clone of some kind and then the CoCo went by the wayside.


I used my Dad’s old reel to reel tape recorder with my TI99/4a… :grin:

This eventually devolves into someone, in their best Monty-Python Yorkshire accent, saying “Luxury! I had to carve my programs on clay tablets and dry them in the sun!”

I ended up with a USB 3½" drive in hand last year, dug out a bunch of floppies from 1989 to 1992 and verified I had indeed got them copied into an “Archive” folder. Of about 20, only 1 was illegible, 30 years and five house moves later.


Vic-20 w/tape , C-64 w/1541 , Amiga 500 & 1200.
Now and then Future Shop would have the 3.5" on sale for 99 cents, 50 cents on a real good day. Getting them in different colours was cool too.

Also I think the 3.5" were discs , and the 5.25" were disks. Unless that is just a Canada/Euro thing.


After a few years of using the cassette recorder for storing our data and programs, my family decided to upgrade our computer by adding 40KB if RAM, bringing the total up to 56KB (which was the bare minimum to run CP/M) and added two(!) 8-inch floppy drives (which weighed more than the computer, the terminal, and the old cassette player combined).

Ironically, we were able to rescue all our old cassette programs with about a hundred lines of code to process the tones back into data. The floppies are long gone.


I never understood how they fit enough paper tape into those to make it work


I used to run a college computer lab, and I’ve actually seen a student who managed to ram a 3.5 inch disc into a drive upside down. I had to disassemble the entire PC and the drive the get her disc out. The disc survived just fine.

Before you say wait, that’s not possible… the student shove it in so hard, the pin that was supposed to stop it from happening in the corner (that’s why floppy have a “cut corner”) was bent back, thus trapping the disc.