Panasonic crams 32MB onto standard floppy

The company will begin selling later this month a new disk drive that, it says, is capable of storing 32MB of data on a standard 2HD floppy disk -- some 22.2 times that of its usual 1.44MB capacity. To increase the data capacity of a standard floppy, Matsushita's FD32MB system employs zone bit recording -- a system used to encode data onto hard disks and optical disc systems that more efficiently uses the space to record data.

The popularity of floppy disks, once king of the removable media market, has been waning in recent years as computers have increased in sophistication and users have found the floppy disks' capacity a limiting factor to their use. "With the FD32MB system, it enables people to find a use for all the floppies they had that they thought were useless," said Matsushita spokeswoman Yoko Fukusaki.

The new drive also boasts support for 120MB and 240MB versions of the SuperDisk format and doesn't need an external power supply. Instead, it is powered from the USB (Universal Serial Bus) port to which it connects.

Matsushita plans to put the drive on sale from 23 February in Japan. It is expected to cost less than 10,000 yen (approximately $140).

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