A story about USB floppy drives

A friend of mine used to work on the development of the USB specification and subsequent implementation. One of the things that happens at these meetings is that hardware companies would show off the great USB hardware they were working on. It also gave them a chance to try out their hardware with various USB host manufacturers and operating systems to make sure everything worked properly together.

One of the earlier demonstrations was a company that was making USB floppy drives. The company representative talked about how well the drives were doing and mentioned that they make two versions, one for PCs and one for Macs.

"That's strange," the committee members thought to themselves. "Why are there separate PC and Mac versions? The specification is very careful to make sure that the same floppy drive works on both systems. You shouldn't need to make two versions."

So one of the members asked the obvious question. "Why do you have two versions? What's the difference? If there's a flaw in our specification, let us know and we can fix it."

The company representative answered, "Oh, the two floppy drives are completely the same electronically. The only difference is that the Mac version comes in translucent blue plastic and costs more."

This company was of course not the only one to try to capitalize on the iMac-inspired translucent plastic craze. My favorite is the iMac-styled George Foreman Grill. (I'm told the graphite ones cook faster.)

Comments (9)
  1. slide says:

    Fascinating how much extra people will pay for the prettier version with the same functionality. I am all for great aesthetics and appealing design, but shouldn’t form follow function? I find the trend in consumer products disturbing: it does not have to work great, just be pretty. Laptop design is something I have been taking particular note of. Laptops have become quite prettified with curves, two-toned cases, and even glowing logos. But among my fellow students in my software engineering program, the incidence of early hinge/case failure seems to just the same as it ever was. (IBM gets points with me for sticking with plain old monolithic black)

  2. Michael Moulton says:

    If they want to make a translucent version and charge more, that’s all well and good. However, if they say one is only PC compatible and the other is only Mac compatible, then something is wrong. I would consider that false advertising.

  3. Raymond Chen says:

    I doubt they said "compatible only with PCs". They probably just put a "Mac Compatible" sticker on the Mac one and a "Windows Compatible" sticker on the PC one. Heck, Sony sells USB floppy drives as if they worked only on Sony computers.

  4. Catatonic says:

    Sony also sells USB headsets for Playstation 2 that work just fine with PC’s, and if I’m not mistaken the X-Box memory cards are standard USB devices too but with the wrong connector.

  5. Louis Parks says:

    I wouldn’t call it false advertising. If they designed one of them (even if design only means color scheme) to work on a Mac and not a PC, then so be it. It’s their product.

  6. asdf says:

    Translucent colored gameboys came out way before the iMac.

  7. B.Y. says:

    I’m working on a USB-powered microwave oven.

    This USB grill is joke, right ? I mean how much power can you draw from USB port (500mA at 5V = 2.5 Watt) ? Maybe it’s for cooking mini-burgers for the anorexic geeks.

  8. "This USB grill is joke, right ?"

    Why don’t you order one and find out?

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