Storage

How Many Floppy Disks Would It Take To Equal 1 Gigabyte?

This gallery was originally published in February 2011.

In this day and age, we all take it for granted that we can walk around with multi-gigabyte thumb drives in our pockets. However, it really wasn’t that long ago that we carried around floppy disks. Have you ever wondered how many floppy disks it would take to equal 1 Gigabyte? If you have, then you will enjoy this gallery of images that depicts stacks of different capacity floppy disks that add up to 1 Gigabyte.

Image by Greg Shultz for TechRepublic.

About

Greg Shultz is a freelance Technical Writer. Previously, he has worked as Documentation Specialist in the software industry, a Technical Support Specialist in educational industry, and a Technical Journalist in the computer publishing industry.

73 comments
RFCI99
RFCI99

When I first got into computers there weren't ANY floppies at all. We had to depend on "magnetic tape" or worse yet paper punch tape or punch cards! In looking back I am not sure how we managed. Just a little math: 8" floppy: 1024mb = 4000 disks 5.25 - 360: 1024 = 2844 Disks 3.5 - 720: 1024 = 1422 3.5 - 1.44: 1024 = 711 At this rate to carry around the equivalent of the 32gb thumb drive on my keychain it would mean carrying 22756 3.5" disks! Oh my aching back! :D

sightsandsounds
sightsandsounds

How about Terabyte ? I got my first pc in 2002. I got the first win xp included. Im sure glad I missed the old days, it would have driven me crazy with all the upgradeing. I still think the last floppy version, 3.5, was great, it was very usefull to give one or two away with interesting stuff on them.

TRgscratch
TRgscratch

raise your hand if you ever took a single-hole punch and made a notch in the other side of the envelope so you could put a 5.25 in "upside down" and use the other side of a "single-sided" disk

xrayangiodoc
xrayangiodoc

I wonder how much time it would take to install Win7 from floppy?

brian
brian

To make this test look more realistic, you should notch the left side of the 5.25" with a hole punch.

greg.dargiewicz
greg.dargiewicz

...in grad school, we had to load Word (version?) from a 5-1/4 floppy inserted in the A-drive, and save our work to our own 5-1/4 floppy inserted into the B-drive. Pretty much my first experience with computers and word processing.

showbizk
showbizk

Being an oldster, remembering having ONLY floppies for storage, i.e., NO hard drives (back in the early 80's!), thank you for this fascinating comparison of how far we've come, not just in storage capabilities, but in how much more software storage is necessary today!!

mslizny
mslizny

Each semester I have one class when we review the basics of computers, including the transition from no external storage to the thumb drives all of the students use. This presentation is better than what I have had so far. A shout-out also to University Place, student, I too used a Commodore 64 with an external floppy drive which supplied the code when I went from one procedure to the next in a program and saved the results on another disk when I was done.

gthomps5
gthomps5

Now imagine these numbers multiplied by 1000, to equal your 1TB USB hard drive. Wow! (Then 2TB, 3TB). I do remember when I used to back up my important files from my 10MB hard drive on to floppy disks. That was when computers used to compute, and before we "wasted" our CPUs , RAM and disk storage on so much graphics, sound, voice recognition, gestures etc.

oljoe
oljoe

Somebody can't count..... If we assume a floppy disk can hold 1mb That is 1,000,000 bytes then 100 floppies would hold only 100,000,000mb But 1 gb would need 1000 floppies to hold 1,000,000,000mb or 1gb

techrepublic
techrepublic

In the mid-80's, I studied on an IBM mainframe that had 2 MB of RAM and could run four jobs at a time. Now you can walk around with a flash drive that holds 64 GB (and maybe more by now). I used to chuckle when, while installing a driver or something, a dialog box would pop up saying "Please insert the floppy disk labeled "Windows 2000 Installation" or something similar. When I had my Commodore 64, I had two boxes that each held about 50 5-1/4 floppies. Now I have a drawer full of hard drives, not all empty, and the drawer is so heavy it's hard to open and close.

Africanpete
Africanpete

Now I'll really show my age. Does anybody remember the 8" Floppy Disks? Can't remember what their capacity was cos I've now got an old timers memory!!

smackdab2
smackdab2

Its kind of an interesting perspective but it misses the mark on a couple of points. How much would a Gig of floppies weigh if you had to carry them around? How big were the hard drives of the time each kind of floppy was in use and how many floppies did it take to equal that. Today you would need a pretty good size handful of 16Gig sd cards to back up a full 2TB hard drive. As for the number differences, there is some variance depending on whether you are talking about 1000 Megabytes or 1024 Megabytes as a Gig.

techrepublic
techrepublic

There were special hole punches you could buy that would punch the other side of the disk so that you could store twice as much on them. We found that even though the disks were certified for one-sided use, we could use the other side reliably. It didn't take long for the punch to pay for itself!

Slayer_
Slayer_

So if it takes 5 seconds to remove and insert a new disk. Add 5 seconds to each disk. But how long does it take to read 1.44mb from a Floppy? As I recall, a really really long time.

jasondlnd
jasondlnd

512k floppies...I remember those days! Still have some rotting away...

Charles Bundy
Charles Bundy

of the slide show. It's more along the lines of demonstrating shrinking physical form factor to a corresponding storage capacity increase. Not that 100 floppy disks can fit 1GB of data. (regardless of whether you use megabit or megabyte as the fundamental calculation)

NickNielsen
NickNielsen moderator

...isn't the person you think it is. 1 kB = 1024 B, therefore 1MB = 1024 *1024 = 1,048,576 B

JCitizen
JCitizen

I used to install W2K with five 1.44Mb micro floppies! At least that is what my foggy "old timers" memory tells me! :) That is without any service packs of course!

jstuart8
jstuart8

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_floppy_disk_formats Here's a list of 8", 5.25", 3.5" disks (I didn't see my old 12" disks, but maybe I just missed it). For the 8" IBM, the 23FD was 80KB, the 53FD was 1212KB. I didn't see my old Xerox 8" drive, and I forget what it had - but something in the 100-199 range.

TRgscratch
TRgscratch

they were actually *floppy* hence the name

Charles Bundy
Charles Bundy

Don't have it in front of me but going off memory I think it was either 80 or 160K SSSD. Got some punched cards in ye olde scrap book too. :)

wynn
wynn

I'm in about the same fix Africanpete, but I'll guess somewhere around 128K. I worked on a bone scan machine that used them to store images. Now, who knows how far off I am?

don
don

The original single sided single density 8" floppy disks could store 230K. They eventually made double sides double density disks that stored around 1.2 MB. Some versions of CP/M would allow you to vary the number of sectors per track and get different amounts of storage. I still have an old 8" floppy disk to show people that have never seen one.

Greg Shultz
Greg Shultz

...you understand that this gallery is about presenting an interesting perspective. However, I'm not sure where you get the idea that it is off the mark or missing information. I will consider your comments as suggestions for related topics that you would like to see in the future. * How much would 1 GB of floppies weigh? That in and of itself would be a very interesting perspective indeed. I could put a bunch of floppies on a bathroom scale and see how much they weigh. * How big were the hard drives of the time each kind of floppy was in use and how many floppies did it take to equal that. This too would be an interesting presentation that I'll definitely consider. As to the definition of a Megabyte, there is a lot of debate on this topic. Don't believe me? Just Google "how many megabytes in a gigabyte" Some people say that the measurement of 1 Gigabyte is 1000 Megabytes. Some people say that the measurement of 1 Gigabyte is 1024 Megabytes. I've always used 1024, so that is what I used here.

Charles Bundy
Charles Bundy

250Kbits/s. Mileage varies as to type, e.g. 5.25" HD (1.2Mb) had a higher spindle rpm than SD or 3.5" drives. (360 RPM vs 300 RPM). a 1.4MB 3.5" floppy should take about a minute to read assuming zero fragmentation.

JCitizen
JCitizen

I have a pile of CAD drawings stored on them somewhere. Maybe they'll end up in a dump and be recovered by archaeologists in the future after they've fossilized. HA! That is if magnetism can exist in rust!

Charles Bundy
Charles Bundy

as my original post seems to have vanished... There is a difference between megabit and megabyte. :) Unfortunately the insidious forces of marketing routinely use base10 to make magnetic media seem larger than it really is.

Who Am I Really
Who Am I Really

creating a mini install to get win2K onto systems that couldn't boot from CD or they were used for creating the mini install necessary to deploy an image or restore from backup image created by backup software that couldn't restore an entire system directly - the actual size of the RTM win2K Full & Upgrade CDs are around 360MB saw this before but didn't have my 2K CDs handy saw it again today had my Win2K CDs handy and thought I'd post the data

mudpuppy1
mudpuppy1

therefore 1024 is correct, as are you. I never liked that "gibibyte" nonsense. Lets actually teach, not dumb down. It would help if the drive manufacturers would stop equating 1TB to 1000MB. Good trip down memory lane. My experience begins wit the 360K floppies.

Slayer_
Slayer_

With floppy failure rates, we can assume that at least one has failed.

Slayer_
Slayer_

I know in practice it takes about 2 minutes to copy a floppy. I assume fragmentation takes a heavy toll. So I think we can say roughly 1 minute per disk? So that's really easy to calculate, but I won't because I will probably get it wrong.

Slayer_
Slayer_

So / by 8. 31kbytes 1.44 * 1024 = 147456 147456 / 31 = 4756 seconds. / 60 = 79 minutes. That doesn't sound right, either I did the math horribly wrong (very likely) or the 250kbits is wrong because it didn't take over an hour to copy a floppy. -Edit, I'm asking around here, because my math HAS to be wrong. I am so useless at math.

NickNielsen
NickNielsen moderator

In 1980, 91% of wage earners paid income tax; in 2010, 53% of wage earners paid income tax. The main reason for that change is the lower tax rates enacted in the Reagan and Bush II administrations. You want more people to pay income tax, raise the tax rates. Just keep in mind that in 2010, a family of four that only took the standard deductions had to earn over $26,000 in wages to incur a tax obligation. In this case, Warren Buffett wasn't whining, he was pointing out that it was an injustice that he pays tax at a lower rate than his secretary. The so-called "Buffet Rule" was his proposal that taxes be raised on capital gains and other investment income so the very rich [u]weren't[/u] paying tax at lower rates than you or I. And I'm noshing on the government teat as well. The only thing between me and not knowing which bills to pay each month is 10-15 hours of overtime (or more!) a week.

mudpuppy1
mudpuppy1

I'm not talking about SS recipients. That should be tax-free. That is earned, as we pay into it all our working lives. I also think military retirement should be tax-free as well. (Full disclosure: I am a recipient of military retirement. Believe me, it's not a lot). I do have a job as well although I'm no longer in IT. My income is not what you would consider high. There are months when we have to make choices on what to pay and how much, yet I still manage to pay my taxes. Your example probably does not pay income taxes if SS is his only source and that is as it should be. If he has a job, then yes, he should pay something on that income even if it's only $50.00 or so. As for Buffett, he is still a hypocrite. Whining about his secretary while he is fighting the IRS. If he's so concerned, he can just pay up and even send in extra to ease his conscience. The IRS will accept it. If you pay taxes, you are more likely to pay attention to how that money is used (or more likely, misused).

NickNielsen
NickNielsen moderator

Ask somebody who has to worry about whether they will have enough food for their family if they have "skin in the game". Tell your retired neighbor struggling to get by on the relative pittance he receives from Social Security that he doesn't have any "skin in the game". As for Warren Buffet, his point was not that he pays less in income tax than his secretary, but that with his much higher income, he pays it at a lower rate.

mudpuppy1
mudpuppy1

not a revenue problem. They never met a dollar (or a few billion) that they didn't want to squander on something. They make drunken sailors blush. The first thing they do when they raise taxes is find something new to blow it on, not reduce the deficit or debt. They need to learn to live within their means just as you and I do. Some deficit spending is OK (mortgage, car loan, student loan, etc.), but it should be manageable. What we have now is out of control. Some day, our Chinese masters are going to call it in. I do my own taxes and the percentage hasn't varied much for years. I agree, cut corporate welfare. I do not agree with raising taxes back to Clinton levels. They will just squander it. Look up Citizens Against Government Waste for some ideas on how to reduce the deficit. As for the 47%, as long as we are forced to pay income taxes (it's NOT voluntary), then everyone should pay something, no matter how poor you are. That way, we all have some skin in the game. The Reagan and Bush tax cuts did produce economic growth. (Of course, the Bush and Obama spending, along with a willing Congress, didn't help). That whole thing about Warren Buffet whining about his secretary paying more in taxes than he does is crap. He is embroiled in a dispute with the IRS himself and is trying to get out of paying some taxes. What a hypocrite. Oh, by the way, they will accept additional contributions above what you are obligated to pay, so feel free to send in extra if you think you aren't paying enough. Stop trying to force me to do so. I can't afford it. Of course, none of this has anything to do with floppy disks. :)

NickNielsen
NickNielsen moderator

because government income (i.e.taxes) relative to GDP is at its lowest level in decades. We pay less in taxes today, as a proportion of our income, than we did 35 years ago, or even 15 years ago. Why is that? And those with non-wage incomes pay lower rates than you or I. Why is "investment" income more special than wages? Want to do something about the deficit? Cut corporate subsidies and you put a serious dent in the deficit. Tax capital gains at the marginal rate and you almost eliminate it. Raise tax rates back to Clinton-era levels and you not only eliminate it, you start paying down the debt. Sorry...hot button... :D Edit: And, if you raise tax rates, the "47%" pretty much disappears, because the only reason about 70% or so of them aren't paying income tax is because [u]Reagan and Bush lowered the tax rates[/u].

mudpuppy1
mudpuppy1

It would provide jobs, but they would be paid by the government (read taxpayers). We are already in the hole by over $1.6 Trillion. This would just add to that. I don't know about you, but I don't have any extra money to give to the government. Maybe we could get Warren Buffet and George Soros to foot the bill. They seem to like big government. And since they don't think we pay enough taxes, let them put their sizable fortunes where their big mouths are. Pay it all now, or stretch it out, we still can't afford it at this time. When I lived in California, I would still see one of those signs that had both distances on it on occasion. The mile posts will have to be moved as 1km=0.62mi (roughly). Then we will have to call them kilometer posts. :) I doubt we will ever lose the terms mileage and footage (for film), though. Kilometerage and meterage just don't have the same ring. Our vehicles have the speedometers with both on them. The SUV has a digital readout of miles to go until empty/mpg/compass/whatever. It gives me the option of selecting standard or metric readouts. It is easier to figure out time/distance with 'clicks' vs miles. The last time I drove in Canada, if I had 100km to go, I knew it would take an hour at 100km/h. The division is easier to do in my head for portions of that hour. At this time, we have far more important things to deal with than this anyway.

JCitizen
JCitizen

As infrastructure like highway signs and such are replaced the new figures could be put on the signs(for example). Milepost markers would not be moved until the post was struck by traffic(again for example), or otherwise damaged and replaced. Highway signs could include both figures simultaneously for a few years, so folks would get used to the conversion factor. It wasn't long ago that vehicles were including MPH, and KPH numbers on the speedometers; but now that digital speedometers are in vogue, that has stopped. However a simple chip or software update could change that over night. I could see that as a major point of contention - though, if the driver weren't given the choice to revert back to the old standard. Given choice - people will soon discover that doing 'clicks' instead of miles in their head is way easier using kilometers instead of miles. To this day I use clicks(1000 meters) in my head when estimating distance on a contoured ground map.

NickNielsen
NickNielsen moderator

But it doesn't need to be done overnight, and it didn't need to be done overnight back in the 70s either, when we could at least pretend to afford it. Although, thinking about it, changing all those highway markers and signs would probably provide some medium- or long-term employment to quite a few people...

mudpuppy1
mudpuppy1

Not only was that part of it, but it was also an expensive thing to do. There are thousands of miles of highways, all with mile posts that will need to be moved back and new ones made with higher numbers. This is not only the Interstate Highway system but also US, State and County roads. All the exit signs will have to be changed, not to mention maps. All the gas stations will need to change to liters which shouldn't be a problem with modern pumps. And that's just the roads. Then there's all the thermostats and everything else that uses temperature or distance or weight or any other measurement. Yes, a lot of them are digital and many have a switch to change between the two, but many more don't. That's just the easy stuff. There are many more thing that will have to change. I don't much care if we switch. I can use both. Right now, in this crappy economy, we just can't afford it. It doesn't really gain us anything.

NickNielsen
NickNielsen moderator

In New York, I remember it as pretty much the typical American "the government is trying to make us do something" reaction combined with a "not invented here" reflex.

mudpuppy1
mudpuppy1

:) I got used to metric when as a kid we were stationed in various countries overseas and also later when I was as a member of the US Air Force (also stationed overseas) so I can deal with either one. I don't see us going metric any time soon. They tried that in the 1970s and it didn't work. Too many people rebelled.

JCitizen
JCitizen

but that is already a while ago! :) (edited)To clarify, I was talking about the base 2 or binary standard. As far as metric goes, I got so used to it in the Army and at college classes, it wouldn't matter if we(US) went full metric or not.

mudpuppy1
mudpuppy1

In an effort to eliminate the confusion, they confused matters even more. Should have left well enough alone. It's really not that difficult to deal with 1024 instead of 1000. I thought schools taught that sort of stuff. At least they did when I went. As for the US embracing the Metric System, it should have happened at the founding (I know why it didn't). It would have been a lot easier before all the infrastructure we have now was put into place. Imagine, instead of replacing that 6" pipe, you will have to get a 15.24 cm one. Now, that's confusing. It would have prevented that Mars lander from crashing a few years ago because someone used the English system instead of Metric in a calculation. Yes, I know both are in use. Now, do I use the Metric socket or the standard one on that bolt in my car?

jstuart8
jstuart8

I have no problem with people using international standards such that GigaByte and GibiByte are both international standards. But as an IT person dealing with Bytes & bits, I choose to go along with the powers of 2. Therefore for me, when I refer to KB I mean 1024 Bytes. But I have no problem with somebody else saying that a KB is 1000 Bytes - but they should do something to indicate they are using the international version or the 1000B version. Otherwise most IT people I know will misunderstand them. And the math for converting from bits to a base 10 is more work than I'm willing to do. My drives are based on 512 Bytes, not 500 Byte sectors - and the newer 4KB sectors are 4096B not 4000B. Maybe someday the US will move to just KM and grams, but not yet.