Many software programs are getting too big to fit on floppy disks. Huge operating systems such as IBM's OS/2 require as many as 25 floppies. Multimedia software packages, which mix text, audio, and video, are also big eaters of disk space. Compact, read-only memory disks (CD-ROMs) can hold more than 630 megabytes of information, but only once--the information can't be altered.
Sony Corp. is proposing a new storage standard that could deliver large capacity on a tiny, erasable disk. Called MD DATA, the standard is an offshoot of the MiniDisc audio format that the Japanese giant unleashed on the consumer-electronics market last November. Unlike compact disks, MiniDiscs use both lasers and magnetic pulses to store information on a shiny, 21 2-inch-diameter platter. Although the smaller size holds less data than a CD-ROM--about 140 megabytes--an MD DATA disk can be written over many times, just like a floppy disk. Other rewritable optical disks are on the market, but Sony believes the MiniDisc's size will make it ideal for next-generation portable computers.