SuperDisk drive can handle regular, 120M floppies

Pros and cons:
+        Backward compatibility with standard
floppies
–        Slow startup, occasional lockup


Real-life requirements:
Win9x, 8M RAM, 5M free on hard drive, free parallel port


Trying to get by with 1.44M floppy disks nowadays is like trying to pack a lunch in a
coin purse. There’s just not enough room.


Until recently, heavy data users have been forced to buy special drives that read only
proprietary high-capacity disks.


But the fact is that ordinary floppies are still the global standard for swapping
files. Billions of them are tucked away in pockets, briefcases and filing cabinets around
the world. Why can’t one drive read every kind of diskette?


That’s the idea behind Imation’s SuperDisk drive, which reads both regular
floppies and newer 120M floppies. The SuperDisk has been on the market for nine months and
is starting to show up in new desktop PCs and notebooks from Acer America Corp. of San
Jose, Calif., Compaq Computer Corp., Gateway Inc. and IBM Corp.


Based on my testing, I think it will succeed. The SuperDisk performed as flawlessly as
a regular floppy drive and can handle 83 times as much data.


Just imagine not having to search through all those stacks of floppies around your
computer for the one file you need.


Aside from a brief flurry of activity when you pop in the disk, the SuperDisk drive
works somewhat faster than a regular floppy drive. But because of the way it
laser-compacts information, performance is sometimes slower than from the Zip drive from
Iomega Corp. of Roy, Utah.


The Zip, which takes 100M disks, is becoming standard in many offices.


What the SuperDisk concedes in speed to the Zip, it makes up in capacity and
durability.


A SuperDisk weighs about 10 ounces and costs only $13.


Like a standard floppy, it can survive, say, falling three stories. A Zip disk, with
its moving parts, would probably not work after such a fall. An Iomega Jaz cartridge?
Humpty-Dumpty.


My verdict: If you already have a high-capacity drive, don’t change to a SuperDisk
drive now. If you’re a notebook user who’s running out of options, call your
manufacturer to if the regular floppy drive can be replaced with a SuperDisk drive.


If you’re just emerging from floppyland and have the option of adding a SuperDisk
to a new system, think it over. The only downside would come from inability to read Zip
disks, which have had a two-year head. If you can’t make up your mind, wait. Any
day now, Sony Electronics Inc. will have its backward-compatible HiFD drive ready to sock
away 200M per disk.  


Dan Pacheco is a Washington computer reviewer and journalist. 

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