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Old tech of the day: Optical disk cartridge and friends

Optical disk cartridge propped up on an office chair, dwarfing the 3.5 inch floppy disks surrounding it

Back in the early 1990s, processor speeds where measured in dual-digit megahertz, RAM was measured in single-digit megabytes, and hard drives were just beginning to creep from the two- to three-digit megabyte capacity. During that time, commercially-available storage in the gigabyte range looked like the big disk, pictured above among the more common 3.5 inch floppy disks for size comparison.

It’s an optical disk cartridge with 2.62 GB capacity. The plastic case isn’t much more than a jumbo-sized version of a 3.5 inch floppy, and the disk medium is the close cousin of CD and DVD R/W technology. If you’d like to get your hands on one, it can be yours for $50 on eBay.

To give you a better idea of its size, here’s how you’d carry it around:

Guy holding an optical disk cartridge in his arm like a book

And while it looks like a floppy disk, it’s never going to fit in that A: drive:

Trying to insert an optical disk cartridge into a tower PC, but the thing's twice the PC's width.

These ODCs, as they were called for short, didn’t see much use outside enterprise computing. Instead, these smaller, cheaper backup storage devices rose and for a while were the hottest peripherals to have:

Zip drive

…and if you really needed more storage space (I did, as I was developing interactive CD-ROMs at the time), you had one of these:

Jaz drive

One reply on “Old tech of the day: Optical disk cartridge and friends”

Do you know if this optical disk is based on the same technology used by the original NeXT computer by Mr. Steve Jobs? I have not used a NeXT computer, but I look up wikipedia, and it said the original NeXT computer does not have a hard disk, but uses a 256MB magneto-optical drive instead as its primary storage.

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