Removable Storage

Back in the mid-1980s, when a PC had a 20MB hard disk, a 1.2MB floppy was a capacious device capable of backing up the entire drive with a mere 17 disks. By early 1999, the standard hard disk fitted to PCs had a capacity of between 3GB and 4GB: a 200-fold increase. In the same period, the floppy’s capacity has increased by less than 20%. As a result, it’s now at a disadvantage when used in conjunction with any modern large hard disks – for most users, the standard floppy disk just isn’t big enough anymore.

In the past, this problem only affected a tiny proportion of users, and solutions were available for those that did require high-capacity removable disks. For example, by the late 1980s SyQuest’s 5.25in 44MB or 88MB devices had pretty much become the industry standard in the publishing industry for transferring large DTP or graphics files from the desktop to remote printers.

Times changed, and by the mid-1990s every PC user needed high-capacity removable storage. By then, applications no longer came on single floppies, but on CD-ROMs. Thanks to Windows and the impact of multimedia, file sizes have gone through the ceiling. A Word document with a few embedded graphics results in a multi-megabyte data file, quite incapable of being shoehorned into a floppy disk.

Awkward as it is, there’s no getting away from the fact that a PC just has to have some sort of removable, writable storage, with a capacity in tune with current storage requirements. Removable storage for several reasons: to transport files between PCs, to back up personal data, and to act as an overspill for the hard disk, to provide (in theory) unlimited storage. It’s much easier to swap removable disks than fit another hard disk to obtain extra storage capacity.

In more recent years, a new dimension to storage has emerged: online storage. It’s portable in that it can be accessed from multiple locations and has the benefit of not needing the media to be physically transported.

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