Disk drives
Disk drives

Apple has effectively killed off two disk drive formats, and may well be on its way to eliminating disk drives altogether.

In the early 1980s, the company supported the predominant floppy disk format of the time, selling "Disk II" 5-1/4-inch disk drives for the Apple II system.

But with the 1984 release of the Macintosh, Apple did away with 5-1/4 drives, opting to build a 3-1/2-inch drive into the Mac. The technology was extremely new at the time, introduced just over a year before the Mac went on sale.

That made the Macintosh among the first PCs to even feature a 3-1/2 inch disk drive, let alone have it be the only disk drive built into the computer. But the bet was right, and within a few years, the computer industry embraced the 3-1/2 inch drive as the new standard.

But Apple wasn't done shaking things up. With the 1998 release of the iMac, Apple got rid of the floppy disk drive entirely, featuring only a re-writable CD drive. It was a controversial decision, but one that, as before, was mimicked by all of Apple's competitors.

A decade later, Apple released a PC with no disk drive at all in the MacBook Air. Unsurprisingly, rivals are once again copycatting Apple's leap of faith, releasing "Ultrabooks" that feature no disk drive.

By David Goldman @CNNMoneyTech - Last updated January 27 2012: 7:21 AM ET
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