Floppy Disk: Noble and IBM develop flexible data storage
In 1967, IBM was looking for a better way of sending software to its customers. Their popular System/370 mainframe computers “booted up” from big, heavy magnetic tapes which were slow and expensive to ship. Engineer David L. Noble (Birth Year: 1918) tried all sorts of improvement schemes from better tape systems to vinyl records, just like those used for music.
None of them were right for the job, so Noble proposed a new system based on a flexible disk of magnetic material. Developed by IBM over the next few years and finally released commercially in 1971, IBM’s 8 inch (20 cm) “floppy” disk was made from flexible plastic. After a hunt for a package for mailing the new disks, the engineers had the idea of making a protective envelope part of the design of the disk itself. The disk was sandwiched into a square jacket that included a fabric liner-a built-in cleaning cloth and the final design of all future floppy disks was born.
These cheap, light disks really caught on and over the years they shrank from 8 inches (20 cm) to 5.25 inches (13.3 cm) , then to the 3.5 inch (8.89 cm) standard that you may still see occasionally today. Untold billions of floppy disks were manufactured over the next thirty years.
The floppy disk is now almost obsolete, replaced by networks, flash memory or optical media such as DVDs. These innovations can store much more information than their predecessors-to match the storage capacity of single Blu-ray DVD, you would need 600,000 of IBM’s original 80 kilobyte, 8 inch (20 cm) floppies.