[ Retro Scan of the Week ] Sony 3.5″ Floppy Disk

December 28th, 2009 by Benj Edwards

Sony 3.5This reminds me of a psychic parlor trick.

The Sony-designed 3.5″ floppy drive (1982) first made waves in the mid-1980s with its use in the Apple Macintosh, released in 1984. The format quickly gained popularity in the PC market and overtook the 5.25″ floppy disk in overall usage by the early 1990s. PC clone manufacturers, many of whom had supported both the larger and smaller floppy formats, eventually stopped including 5.25″ drives in their machines.

Today, 3.5″ floppy drives are rarely found in new PCs thanks to more capacious CD-Rs, removable flash media (especially USB thumb drives), and nearly ubiquitous computer networking. However, that hasn't stopped Windows XP from requiring @#^$ RAID drivers on a floppy disk when it's being installed.

[ From Macazine, January 1987 ]

Discussion Topic of the Week: Do you still use 3.5″ floppy disks regularly? What for?



13 Responses to “[ Retro Scan of the Week ] Sony 3.5″ Floppy Disk”

  1. Rockin' Kat Says:

    I've got two usb floppy drives hooked up to my PowerMac G4, but they don't get used a whole lot, just when I take pictures with my Sony Mavica or transfer files to older Macs/PCs.

    I mess around with older computers that use them fairly often. Especially Double Density ones…. So much so that I've placed orders for as many as 300 new disks at a time from a bulk floppy disk seller.

    Now that I've got my Atari ST and Amiga computers set up I'm probably going to be putting another order in for 'em in a bit here…

  2. idisjunction Says:

    I deal with floppy disk images fairly regularly, but I don't deal with the actual disks themselves anymore, mostly because I have trouble finding ones that are still sane. That, and I'm too cheap buy a USB floppy drive and my main computer doesn't have a floppy bay, so I have to take the cover off and dangle it out the side. Very ghetto.

  3. Blake Patterson Says:

    I deal with floppies quite frequently in playing with my retro machines — both DS/DD 3.5″ and 5.25″. Indeed, new floppies are extremely difficult to find now, but I've found that just grabbing a bag of random floppies from eBay works fine — a reformat is usually all it takes to get a usable disk.

    I've never owned an 8″ drive / floppy, though, I must say.

  4. Matt Says:

    Still use them all the time, for server disk wipes, images, etc. Also on workstations here and there for Boot & Nuke.

  5. BDD Says:

    I use them on my Mac SE/30 occasionally when I need to move a quick file from one of my other Macs. Once my network card arrives, this may be the end of the floppy for me…

  6. Zoyous Says:

    The last time I used them regularly was to store samples for my Ensoniq Mirage 8-bit sampling keyboard, which was sadly slain by a power surge several years ago. I kept the disks around for a long time, in case I got another Mirage, but eventually I finally resigned to adapt to using software samplers so I don't accumulate so much hardware. There are ways to attempt to imitate the sound quality of older hardware samplers like that, but nothing really gets it right.

  7. TheSaintOfPain Says:

    I have a USB, plug-n-play 3.5″ floppy drive that gets semi-regular use on my current PC, when transferring old files from older comps. Other than that, I use my 2GB flash drive/MP3 player, 1TB external hard drive, or DVD-R's when I store files.

  8. Moondog Says:

    Other than the occasional running of DBAN at work, I haven't installed a floppy on any of my personal pc's in 9 years. I have one old pc running with a floppy I use to search my old floppy collection.

  9. Leland Barnes Says:

    I keep a 3.5 floppy drive and an Epson SD-800 dual 3.5″ / 5.25″ combo drive in my office just in case any users comes by with a disc that they need to retrieve data from. happens all the time.

  10. Exin3 Says:

    3,5″ Disks are still the most reliable method on transferring data between Internet capable PC's to naked old systems like the Amstrad CPC and the Atari ST for example. i still have a disk box full of 3,5″ disks that are completely incompatible to each other for various systems as C64 (1581), ZX Spectrum (PlusD), Atari ST, Macintosh… I also have big boxes only with 3,5″ and 3″ disks for Amstrad CPC only.

  11. Alan Says:

    Everyone keeps bashing on floppies. To this day, I still use them like crazy. Although with Windows 7 its not really needed anymore. XP had a fuss with AHCI drivers and you needed either a internal or usb floppy drive if your bios supported it to load the drivers durning the XP setup. That or waste time burning another xp cd with the driver slipstreamed. Most laptops today have a bios failsafe which only works from a usb floppy drive. This actually saved my life as durning a bios update (insert long stupid story) and it bricked. Luckily for me, I had my trusty usb floppy at hand. I made the correct format of files on the floppy and had restored the pc. Saved my self there. So i always carry my usb floppy and at least 2 disks because sometimes they go bad on me.

  12. magallanes Says:

    did Sony invented the 3 1/2 floppy?.

    They are amazing inventing new format.

  13. Cody Says:

    I held onto them for a long time, but moved to CD quite a few years ago and haven't built a drive into my PCs for the better part of the last decade.

    What I find funny is how Sony talks about the 2.88MB disks, which were really rare as hens teeth. Almost everyone had 1.44MB and also those hacks that formatted a couple of the extra inner tracks and let you store a couple fractions of a MB more (1.8MB?)

    Come to think of it, I wrote a program to format or test those inner tracks. That's probably one of the first utilities I wrote. I wonder if it's around on the internet somewhere. It was so long ago I'd completely forgotten and I have no idea how I did it …

    But it wasn't very good anyway, and I think I used a 3rd party one.

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