I wrote the following text after class today (Thursday 01/16/1997) in an effort to collect my own thoughts on the current place of the floppy disk in the environment of the customer, the user of the diskette. I explored the issue in a pragmatic manner in order to evaluate the importance of the floppy disk to the customer relative to other secondary storage technologies and its role in day-to-day computer use. This user-centric approach differs from the disk-centric approach that I've taken up to this point. (For example, in previous exercises I explored the exclusive use of the floppy disk without regard to its place in normal computer use.)
I look forward to any comments you may have on the issues presented.
CMPE Undergraduate CS1803A
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Putting the Floppy Diskette in Perspective
In developing a specification for the 3.5" floppy diskette, it's important to consider the place it occupies in today's varied landscape of secondary storage systems. The floppy disk was displaced as the leader in commodity storage systems over a decade ago. As a result, the floppy disk must assume its place as a last-resort file storage and transfer medium.
Today's hard disks are faster, cheaper, more compact, and more reliable than floppy disks. Actually, this has been the case for several years. Hard disk drives (10 MBytes/sec and beyond) are several orders of magnitude faster than floppy disk drives (250 Kbits/sec up to 500 Kbits/sec). Per unit of data capacity, hard disks (US$0.17/MB) are far less expensive than floppy diskettes (US$0.40/MB). Hard disks store up to 384 MBytes per cubic inch while floppy disks store only 1.10 MBytes per cubic inch. Hard disk drives (300,000 POH - 1,000,000 POH) are also more reliable than floppy disk drives (30,000 - 80,000 POH).
The importance of the floppy diskette's portability is rapidly diminishing with the exponential growth of high-speed, high-capacity, low-cost, high-availability worldwide internetworking technology. No longer is it necessary (or even particularly effective) to use a diskette to transfer a file from one computer system to another. When the two are networked, file transfer, whether intra-system or inter- system, is a simple file copy operation.
In addition to usage considerations, the end of the floppy disk's reign is also readily apparent in the history of technological improvements in design and operation. While form factor, density, and usability have improved slightly over two decades of use, floppy disk recording technology has not. True, improvements were made in disk drive systems to allow the use of double-sided disks without removing and turning over the disk; however, this was primarily an improvement in usability. Also, recording densities have improved from 120 KB to 1.44 MB, or a factor of 12.288 increase in storage capacity per floppy disk. Meanwhile, hard disk drive densities have improved from less than ... [ Read More (0.2k in body) ]