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SuperDisk drive

Also known as the LS-120 and the later variant LS-240, the SuperDisk was introduced by 3M's storage products group (later known as Imation) circa 1997 as a high-speed, high-capacity alternative to the 3.5", 1.44MB floppy disk. SuperDisk's main claim to fame was that in addition to being able to read and write its native 120MB (later 240MB) disks, the drives could read and write the 1.44MB floppy format (MFM) that was still popular at the time. The newer LS-240 drives also have the ability to read and write regular 1.44MB floppies at much higher densities.

The design of the SuperDisk system came from an early 1990s project at Iomega. It is one of the last examples of Floptical technology, where lasers are used to guide a magnetic head which is much smaller than those used in traditional floppy disk drives. Iomega orphaned the project around the time they decided to release the Zip drive in 1994. The idea eventually ended up at 3M, where the concept was refined and licensed the design to established floppy drive makers Matsushita (Panasonic) and Mitsubishi. Other companies involved in the development of SuperDisk included Compaq and OR Technology.

3M/Imation mainly sold Matsushita-built drives under the SuperDisk name; other companies tended to use the LS-120 name, and sold the Mitsubishi drives. However, the system was not a huge success. Few OEMs supported it, aside from Compaq. Most SuperDisk drives suffered from slow performance and reliability problems. The biggest hurdle standing in the way of success was that Iomega's Zip drive had been out for 3 years at that point. It had enough popularity to leave the public uninterested in SuperDisk technology despite its compatibility with the standard floppy disk.

By 2000, the entire removable-disk category was quickly being obsoleted by the falling prices of CD-R drives, and the SuperDisk was no exception; it has since been quietly discontinued, and the special disks, while still being made, are hard to find.

Matsushita continued development of the technology and released the LS-240, which is still sold in Asia and Australia. It has double the capacity and the added feature of being able to format regular floppy disks to 32MB capacity. However, this higher density comes at a price—the entire disk must be rewritten any time a change is made, much like early CD-RW media.

SuperDisk drives have been sold in parallel port, USB and ATAPI variants. All drives can read and write 1.44MB and 720kB MFM floppies, as used on PCs, Apple Macintoshes produced 19881998, and many workstations.

Today, the format faces heavy competition from recordable CDs and DVDs, as well as solid-state USB keydrives.

SuperDisk should not be confused with SuperDrive, which is a trademark used by Apple Computer for various disk drive products.

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