DISC OR DISK? BOTH, AC­TU­ALLY

PCPOWERPLAY - - Tech -

Okay let’s sort this out once and for all. When IBM devel­oped cheap, re­mov­able, se­condary stor­age for com­put­ers in the late 1960s, the ne­ol­o­gism “diskette” was born. It’s a play on disc and casette, see. Ety­mo­log­i­cally, “disk” is the older English spell­ing for a re­ally flat cylin­der and “disc” is the pre­ferred med­i­cal spell­ing for bits of your spine.

To­day, “disc” refers to op­ti­cal me­dia - DVD, Blu-ray, and CD. While “disk” is used for mag­netic stor­age. As for the word “drive”, well the orig­i­nal diskettes needed some­thing to spin them and read the in­for­ma­tion - and any ma­chine that im­parts mo­tion to some­thing loaded into it is tra­di­tion­ally called a “drive”.

In­ter­est­ingly, the disc/disk dis­tinc­tion pre­dates com­put­ers. At the BBC, tran­scrip­tion records (of in­ter­views etc) were called “disks”, while com­mer­cially-pro­duced gramo­phone records were called “discs”.

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