Super Floppies

The 200MB to 300MB range is best understood as super-floppy territory. This is about double the capacity of the would-be floppy replacements with performance more akin to a hard disk than a floppy disk drive. Drives in this group use either magnetic storage or magneto-optical technology. The magnetic media drives offer better performance, but even MO drive performance, at least for the SCSI versions, is good enough to allow video clips to be played directly from the drives.

In the summer of 1999 Iomega altered the landscape of the super-floppy market with the launch of the 250MB version of its Zip drive. Like its predecessor, this is available in SCSI and parallel port versions – the latter offering sustained read performance around twice the speed of the 100MB device and sustained write speed about 50% faster. The actual usable capacity of a formatted 250MB disk is 237MB – explained by the fact that, like most hard drive and removable media manufacturers, Iomega’s capacity ratings assume that 1MB equals 1,000,000 bytes rather than the strictly correct 1,048,576 bytes. The Zip 250 media is backwards compatible with the 100MB disks, the only downside being the poor performance of the drive when writing to the older disks.

By the new millennium the SuperDisk format had already pushed super-floppy territory by doubling its capacity to 240MB. In 2001, Matsushita gave the format a further boost with the announcement of its FD32MB technology which gives high-density 1.44MB floppy users the option of reformatting the media to provide a storage capacity of 32MB per disk!

The technology works by increasing the density of each track on the HD floppy by using the SuperDisk magnetic head for reading, and using the conventional magnetic head for writing data. FD32MB takes a conventional floppy with 80 circumference-shaped tracks, increases that number to 777 and at the same time reduces the track pitch from the floppy’s normal 187.5 microns to as little as 18.8 microns.