So, Shugart and company started working on it. According to Massaro, “We designed the 5 1/4″ floppy drive in terms of the overall design, what it should look like, in a car driving up to Herkimer, New York to visit Mohawk Data Systems.” The design team stopped at a stationery store to buy cardboard while trying to figure out what size the diskette should be. “It’s real simple, the reason why it was 5¼,” he said. “5 1/4 was the smallest diskette that you could make that would not fit in your pocket. We didn’t want to put it in a pocket because we didn’t want it bent, okay?”
Shugart also designed the diskette to be that size because an analysis of the cassette tape drives and their bays in microcomputers showed that a 5.25” drive was as big as you could fit into the PCs of the day.
According to another story from Jimmy Adkisson, a Shugart engineer, “Jim Adkisson and Don Massaro were discussing the proposed drive’s size with Wang. The trio just happened to be doing their discussing at a bar. An Wang motioned to a drink napkin and stated ‘about that size’ which happened to be 5 1/4-inches wide.”
Wang wasn’t the most important element in the success of the 5.25-inch floppy. George Sollman, another Shugart engineer, took an early model of the 5.25” drive to a Home Brew Computer Club meeting. “The following Wednesday or so, Don came to my office and said, ‘There’s a bum in the lobby,’” Sollman says. “‘And, in marketing, you’re in charge of cleaning up the lobby. Would you get the bum out of the lobby?’ So I went out to the lobby and this guy is sitting there with holes in both knees. He really needed a shower in a bad way but he had the most dark, intense eyes and he said, ‘I’ve got this thing we can build.’”
The bum’s name was Steve Jobs and the “thing” was the Apple II.
Great article about those old unreliable floppy disks. I loved how we had to wrap them around tin foil to travel in the subway… I also remember the time where I had an argument with a high-school colleague about computer virus and their spread through floppy disks. According to him, it was just like human virus. If i would let my clean floppy touch his infected floppy, my floppy really could catch the computer virus, just by being too close. Great times! Strange times.