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The 3.5-inch floppy disk size was introduced in the 1980s, most notably with the original Apple Macintosh. The use of 3.5-inch disks soon spread to other systems, including the Commodore Amiga, the Atari ST and the IBM PC and clones. The first disks supported sizes up to 360 KB and 720 KB, with later disks supporting 1.44 MB, which became the most common standard. The term “3.5-inch disk” is used even in countries that normally use the metric system for measurements.
As with the earlier 8-inch and 5.25-inch floppies, 3.5-inch disks are divided into tracks and sectors for locating data. The disk itself, which can be double-sided, is encased in a hard plastic shell with a sliding medal cover to protect it from dirt and fingerprints. A sliding switch opens and closes a hole in the corner of the shell to write-protect the disk.
3.5-inch disks were standard for both transferring files and distributing software from the late ‘80s through the late ‘90s. They declined due to the use of writable optical media, USB drives and cloud storage. Apple’s iMac, released in 1998, heralded the decline of the 3.5-inch floppy by not including a floppy drive. Almost all computers sold today do not have floppy drives, although they are available as an aftermarket item. Even though 3.5-inch disks have passed out of use, they are still used to represent the “save” icon in many programs.