In 1971, IBM completed the first "memory disk", as it was called then, or the "floppy disk" as it is known today. The first floppy was an 8" plastic disk coated with magnetic iron oxide. Data was written to and read from the disk's surface. The nickname "floppy" came from it's flexibility, because you could bend it. The "floppy disk" was considered a revolutionary device at the time, for it's portability, that provided a new and easy physical means of transporting data from computer to computer.
The "floppy" was invented by IBM engineers led by Alan Shugart. The first disks were designed for loading microcodes into the controller of the "Merlin" (IBM 3330) disk pack file (a 100 megabytes storage device). So, in effect, the first floppies were used to fill another type of data storage device. Overnight, additional uses for the "floppy" occurred making it "the new" program and file storage medium.
It is a circle of magnetic material similar to any kind of recording tape, one or two sides of the disk are used for recording. The "disk drive" grabs the floppy by its center and spins it like a record inside its housing. The read/write head, much like what we refer to as the head on a tape deck, contacts the surface through an opening in the plastic shell or envelope. The Shugart "floppy" held 100 kilobytes of data.
In 1976, the 5 1/4" flexible disk drive and diskette was developed by Alan Shugart for Wang Laboratories. Wang wanted a smaller "floppy disk" and drive to use with their desktop computers. By 1978, more than 10 companies/manufacturers were producing 5 1/4" floppy drives.