Everything in the personal computer world seems to be changing size except the humble floppy disk. You can get a bigger hard disk, greater screen resolution, more RAM, and notebook computers are getting smaller and smaller, but the floppy has not advanced in a long time. That could be about to change. One of the world's leaders in optical technology, Panasonic, has recently unveiled a device which it calls the LS-120 or Laser Servo 120. The device is exactly the same size as a 3.5-inch floppy disk drive and can be installed in its place. The LS-120 can read and write all the standard floppy disks as well as its own special 120Mb disks that are - as one would expect - exactly the same size as an ordinary floppy. This could be exactly what everybody has been looking for, particularly if the price is right and the installation is as easy as Panasonic says it is. On a recent visit to the territory, Junichi Okubo, the senior co-ordinator for Panasonic's information and computer peripherals equipment group, talked about the future of optical disk storage and the LS-120. As we head towards 2000, Mr Okubo said that storage would get faster and would be able to contain more data. 'High capacity is the key word for the year 2000,' he said. The LS-120 is being developed by 3M, Compaq and MKE, with Maxell and Mitsubishi interested in joining. The disk is 150Mb unformatted and 120Mb formatted. 'Mass production shipping should begin by the end of this year,' Mr Okubo said. The LS-120 is three times faster than an ordinary floppy, according to Panasonic. Panasonic will be testing the limits on other optical technology as well, Mr Okubo said. It will be pushing the new standard digital video disk (DVD) optical drives. These are already capable of handling 17Gb of data and there is talk of doubling their capacity by 2000. Mr Okubo expects DVDs to have replaced CD-ROMs by that time despite the fact that he also expects CD-ROMs to continue getting faster, up to 32X. Panasonic has launched the PD/CD-ROM that can handle both the older CD-ROMs and the newer DVD formats. Mr Okubo also talked about the CD-R, or writable CD-ROM. This is an area that is dominated by Yamaha and Toshiba at the moment but one that Panasonic would like to get into. There are plans now for Panasonic to bring out a CD-R that would be 8X read and 4X write, which would make it one of the fastest on the market. Whatever the future may bring, optical storage is certain to be bigger and faster. It may even end up being cheaper as well.