IBM developed the first floppy disk drives for its System 370 machines, which came out around 1972. These drives used 8-inch floppy disks. The same basic design was adapted by companies such as Wang for the dedicated word-processing machines used in the 1970s and early 1980s. The 5.25-inch floppy disks that accompanied the early personal computers came shortly thereafter. Floppy disks were included in personal computers before hard disk drives, mostly out of economic considerations. The cost of an early PC hard disk drive was more than the total cost of a system today and took a half day to prepare and install.
Today’s floppy disks are made of flexible plastic and coated with a magnetic material. To protect the disk from dust and physical damage, it is packaged in a plastic or coated paper case. The main reason for the popularity of floppy disk drives and disks is that they provide inexpensive read/write (R/W) removable media. The data stored on a floppy disk can be moved from one computer to another, provided both have the same type of drive. In general, it is a good idea to protect your data by always keeping two copies of any data file that you create (the original and a backup), and the floppy disk is an excellent medium for backing up, storing, or distributing copies of relatively small files, such as word-processing documents.
Figure 9. Floppy disks