A 5 1/4 inch floppy was your method of portable data transfer for your home computer.
Long before external hard drives and USB sticks, years before writable CD and DVD’s, even before the 3 1/2 inch discs, there was the distinct black 5.25″ floppy disk. Thin and floppy in nature (you could bend them, and if you did so too much destroy them) these were the mainstay method of media transfer for kids of the mid 80’s. Walking to computer science class at high school with a box of these babies under one arm was the norm. Data was stored magnetically onto a a disk encased within the plastic exterior. You inserted it into a floppy disk drive connected to your computer (initially external, but eventually personal computers were developed with a slot to insert the disks into). If a file was large (over 100 kilobytes … yep – you read that right … KILObytes) you might even have to eject and flip the disk over to read everything, or in later years sit around loading multiple floppy disks one after the other in order to load a program onto your computer.
At home, I begged my parents to buy me games that came on floppy disks. They took forever to load, didn’t stay in memory when the computer was switched off and if you brought a proprietary software or game it cost you a small fortune. I remember Afterburner (am F-14 flight sim game) being one of my absolute pride and joys despite the graphics being crudely pixilated compared to the version in the arcades. For a kid in the 80’s like myself it was worth the wait to sit and load disks for 15 minutes or more just to be able to have the luxurious pleasure of playing a game in my own home.
Distributors started to release the floppy disks in colours other than black and wow was THAT a sensation, especially for those wanting to be trendy in high school. The fact was personal computing was so new it meant something that now seems quite primitive was the equivalent of a new iPod or iPad. Looking back, one has to laugh at how patient we had to be not only with the loading and writing process, but also the sector errors that could easily occur if you accidentally put a finger mark on the inner magnetic disk.
Technology has developed so much since then but if we hadn’t had these quirky and trusty old 5.25″ floppies (as well as the floppy disks that were developed before and after them) we may not have seem computing and data storage evolve into what it is today. The mind boggles as to what we might be seeing in another 20 years!
Did you have a favourite 5.25″ floppy moment?