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The Sharp X68000 came with two 5.25" floppy drives. Later models moved to 3.5" drives.

Why did Sharp choose 5.25" over 3.5"?

When the X68000 was released in 1987, 3.5" drives were well established and used in several other 16 bit machines, such as the Amiga and Atari ST.

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  • Not an answer, but Wikipedia says some models had 3.5" drives. Dec 3, 2021 at 22:07
  • @another-dave According that article, the first model with 3.5" drives was released in 1992. Dec 4, 2021 at 0:37

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Why did Sharp choose 5.25" over 3.5"?

Why something has 'not' been done will seldom get an easy answer. Often it might be a variation of 'why should they'.

When the X68000 was released in 1987, 3.5" drives were well established and used in several other 16 bit machines, such as the Amiga and Atari ST.

Well established? Maybe, but still neither mainstream usage and even less majority. In 1987 it may have been simply too early for 3.5 inch for a consumer class device. 3.5 was only slowly taking up Speed. The mainstream timeline looks a bit like this:

  • Apple had introduced their (very expensive) drive in 1984,
  • Amiga and Atari came in 1985,
  • IBM only added the first 3.5 in 1986 to the niche PC Convertible ,
  • PS/2 started in 1987 to make the 1.44 HD a mainstay,

but it still took the better part of a decade to make 3.5 the standard drive and 5.25 an optional feature for PCs. In 1987 the overwhelming majority of machines and drives sold were 5.25. Going 3.5 as primary (and only) drive was in 1987 still rather unusual and quite avantgarde.

Next, price is crucial for consumer class devices like the X68000. It was developed and marketed by the TV division in Yaita as a follow up to their X1. 5.25 drives were still lower priced than 3.5, an important fact for consumer devices. Not to mention that 3.5 diskettes were more than double the price than same capacity 5.25.

The major competition to X1 and X68000, all the MSX machines, moved at that time slowly from 5.25 to 3.5. Interestingly way faster in Europe than in Japan or other parts of the world.

Which brings the compatibility issue. The previous X1 did as well use 5.25 drives (if equipped with floppies). Similar all MZ machines (*1). For all users upgrading from an X1, or moving over from an MZ, a 5.25 is crucial to continue using their data (*2). Heck, even the only MSX Sharp the Brazilian HB-8000, introduced just short before, did.

Bottom line: For a mass market device intended to upgrade in a price sensitive market it was a sensible decision stay with compatible technology.


*1 -The MZ series in contrast was developed by the computer division in Yamatokoriyama.

*2 - This is still before build in hard disks and USB sticks. Floppies were not only used for data transfer and maybe backup, but the very sole storage, used every day over and over. Thus everyone had a considerable stack of word/data diskettes, usually outnumbering program diskettes by far. Unless it was a strict gaming only setup, but even then many games need save disks as well. Saving onto a program disk was a great way to loose both, saves and the game.

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    Indeed, my old archives from 1990-1993 while working at a science institute in Europe start with 5.25 and end with 3.5 inch floppies. This was for work where cost was not a particular driver (the later computers had both 5.25 and 3.5). 3.5 inch floppies were slow coming in, at least partly due to cost where the consumer market was much more sensitive.
    – Jon Custer
    Dec 4, 2021 at 2:34
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    I also remember only using 5.25" floppies in the years 1986-1989, my last three years in school. Even in 1990-1991, when I started working (installing and repairing computers), most (probably all, even) customers with PC's used 5.25" floppies, the customers who used 3.5" were Apple shops. And software like Netware and AutoCad was still delivered on 5.25" media. I think that it was with the coming of Windows 3.0 and Word for Windows, that more software began to be delivered on 3.5" floppy disks.
    – chthon
    Dec 4, 2021 at 10:44
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    The deployment time might have also played a role. A component being available and others using it does not automatically translate to your product design, prototyping, testing and manufacturing line changes being complete. Time-to-market matters...
    – thkala
    Dec 4, 2021 at 11:43
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    I don't think price was the reason. The X68000 was released at 370000 yen and had 2 floppy drives, it wasn't an home computer. Compatibility probably was a reason. Another possible reasons could have been that 5 inches had 1.2MB capacity, 3.5 inches were still at 720KB (1.44MB was just released). Dec 5, 2021 at 19:37
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    @ValentinoMiazzo Similar one with a frame synchronizing screen and high end graphics card will not really fit the Office point. Both will be Personal computers (more so as they are all PCs), but for different use cases. But more important, that is about today's (more and more blurring) use and applied in hindsight. When looking at 1987 the X68000 was clearly not put out as a business (Office/Professional), but for home use. Much like an Amiga would be in Europe. High end. true, but high end for Home use. Either category may have high end, as price is not the classification point.
    – Raffzahn
    Dec 7, 2021 at 13:22

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