"Shirt pocket diskettes" (was: What used these?

From: Fred Cisin <cisin_at_xenosoft.com>
Date: Wed Mar 7 18:12:43 2001

NO, they are NOT an early version of a 3.5" any more than saying that a
1885 Benz or 1896 Durye or 1890s Oldsmobile was an early version of a

At one point, it became obvious that the next generation of diskettes
would be smaller than 5.25", and would probably be shirt pocket size.
There were several that came out:
        3" (think Amstrad)
        3.25" (Dysan)
        3.5" (Sony)
        3.9" (IBM)

The journalists argued long and hard over which was the "best" of the
"shirt pocket disks", and therefore would "obviously" win out.
George Morrow suggested that the computer industry should cut a deal with
the clothing industry to make shirt pockets 5.25" (8" anyone?).

Dysan, who was the foremost diskette manufacturer, did not like the 3" and
3.5" designs, since that would require MAJOR retooling. So they came out
with the 3.25", which was simply a smaller version of a 5.25", and would
require MUCH less re-tooling to produce in their existing factories.

But how to influence the outcome of which would become the "standard"?
George Morrow said that standards are great - everyone should have a
unique one of their own.
BTW, does anyone have a copy of "Quotations of Chairman Morrow"? I'd like
to buy one, or at least get a duplicate of the text of it.

Dysan "knew" that whichever one had software distributed on it would
become the standard. So they bet the company on a daring venture. They
started a software publishing business! They went around to the larger
software companies and cut distribution deals. For a while, you could buy
ANY major program on 3.25" diskette!

The Seequa Chameleon 325 was the only machine that I know of that used a
3.25" drive, and I've never seen one of them. Everybody else waited to
see what everybody else would do. The inertia kept the critical mass from
ever coming about.

There were a lot of 3.25" drives and diskettes made. Many more than
computers that used them.

Dysan never completely recovered.

Meanwhile, Amstrad went with the 3" diskette. Amdek marketed an external
3" drive unit for use with Aplle ][ and RS Coco. The earliest models of
the Gavilan used 3". I'm not sure, but I think that some Japanese models
of Canon may have also used the 3".

IBM showed the 3.9" at trade shows, but apparently never got around to
ever selling any. I think that the diskettes and drives were by Brown and

But when HP, Apple, and then IBM went with 3.5", the "standard" was
sealed; the others were doomed, and it became clear that technological
superiority was NOT necessarily the controlling factor of what would win

Note that there have been some minor changes in the 3.5" diskettes. The
earliest ones were without shutters. Then there was a "manual" shutter
that you had to slide open and closed. Then a semi-automatic one that you
had to slide open, and you pinched the corner to release a latch to let a
spring close the shutter. Look for the word "pinch" on some of
them. Many current diskettes still have a vestigial arrow pointing to
which corner you had to pinch, although now that arrow purportedly is to
tell you which end of the diskette to put into the drive.

Later on, there was a similar (unresolved) battle between 3 or 4 different
2.5" and 2.9" formats. (Zenith, TEC, ...)

Fred Cisin                      cisin_at_xenosoft.com
XenoSoft                        http://www.xenosoft.com
PO Box 1236                     (510) 558-9366
Berkeley, CA 94701-1236
On Wed, 7 Mar 2001, Tom Uban wrote:
> I picked these up a number of years ago and in sorting through
> some of my stuff, I rediscovered them. They seem to be an early
> version of a 3.5" floppy disk system, before what we know today
> as a 3.5" floppy became standard.
> http://www.ubanproductions.com/Images/drivette1.jpg
> http://www.ubanproductions.com/Images/drivette2.jpg
> http://www.ubanproductions.com/Images/drivette3.jpg
> http://www.ubanproductions.com/Images/drivette_disks.jpg
> Note, one of the disks is labeled 3 1/4".
> The fact that Dysan made a disk for this thing leads me to
> believe that someone must have used it.
> The markings on the drive are:
> Tabor Corp.
> Westford MA
> Drivette Microfloppy Disk Drive
> Model TC500
> If anyone knows what this drive was used in (if anything), I
> would be interested in knowing.
> --tom
Received on Wed Mar 07 2001 - 18:12:43 GMT

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