Stop us if you've heard this before: the floppy drive is dead. Sony has announced that it will stop selling the long-running storage medium next year. According to the BBC, the end of floppy sales in Japan coupled with Sony's dropping international floppy sales earlier this year sticks the proverbial fork in the finicky, low- …
Demise of the Floppy
It's been a long time coming. As the guy who edited the first standard for the floppy (in Europe), I never thought the disks would last 36 years. Even the keyboard and the mouse have gone through several generations. Au revoir!
Ah... I loved my LS120 - still got it in my desk drawer with other random obsolete crap. A lot easier than zip-spanning across 20 floppies and waiting for one of the disks to have an error...
I'm just amazed that USB keys have only been around for such a small amount of time.
Time to stock up
Even though I haven't used a floppy in years the company I work for needs them to set up the cnc drill machines and routers since most of our equipment is vintage 1980's. If you think that's bad the plotter itself uses paper tape though most jobs are still sent on floppy from out customers.
I guess we'll be updating whether the boss can afford it or not.
Find a card reader that plugs into the floppy interface
Format a card as 1.44MB FAT (wasting 99.9% of the space) and the drill doesn't know the difference. Don't ask me about the paper tape, though.
8 inch floppies
If you remember them, etc
Still, New York was one of Lou Reed's better albums.
I remember being accosted outside the sixth form physics lab by the biggest geek in the school, brandishing the biggest magnet in the school, going "alright, got any floppies on you? Fnar!". Try doing that with a flash drive. Kids these days, etc.
No - halogen. It's a highly sophisticated cultural reference don't you know.
(For "sophisticated" read "I got it off the telly".)
Blinded by science.
Farewell Old Friend
My Amiga 500 booted from a floppy. Adding a whopping extra 512k of ram and an extra floppy drive (one to boot the "proper" multi tasking OS, the other to do stuff) increased its usefulness no end. Recently, I produced a Microsoft Word document of just over seventy pages. After I'd sent it out for review, received comments and merged them all into a single document, it came to just over 1.4MB. That's fair enough though.... Outlook reports my average email is pretty much too big for my first computer, a ZX Spectrum (but Outlook isn't nearly as much fun as going to bed after a couple of hours of 3d Death Race).
Now, I carry 32GB and enough processing power to fully emulate the Amiga (if the control freaks at Apple would ever allow it) in my pocket.
The world moves on but oh, how it has moved.
I had an Amiga500 with a custom case respray done. I was the envy of everyone i knew. Then i also ran with an Atari 520ST, which we boosted the RAM up to outperform my mates' 1040ST.
Then i sold both, external drives and all, and got myself an Amiga 1500. A bit like an ancient PC to look at. Twin floppy drives built in. A hard drive... an actual hard drive, inside, for storing stuff from your floppies. Amazing!! And a monitor. So i could watch my 14" portable tv in my bedroom with no reception on the little indoor aerial and play cannon fodder at the same time... sending Jools & Jopps off to face certain death and have their tombstones placed upon the hill.
Happy happy happy days. So much so a couple of years ago i bought an Amiga600 on ebay for about £20, went round my best mates house and pretended we were 14 all day!!
ps. My Sinclair ZX Spectrum+2 is still in as new condition in my loft. Cant wait until my 2 year old is 8 so i can show her how awesome her youth is compared to mine lol
No offence to the writer, but the best thing about this piece is the link to that old Ars review. That is some funky 1990s web design.
The Real Problem
The problem with the iMac was not that it didn't have a floppy disk drive. The problem was that you couldn't open it up, and install a $30 internal floppy drive on your own if you wanted one, as you might on a beige box PC. Instead, you had to pay $100 for an external floppy that connected by USB and had its own power supply and so on.
I bought a USB powered one for mine. I still have it here.
USB is your friend
There are still some USB floppies around, but a flash drive works a whole lot better than those old floppies. I haven't used a floppy in years and all of my new machines are ordered without floppy drives. Pretty soon a 1GB SD card will cost the same as a floppy and that 6 in 1 card reader you bought for $20.00 will do just fine for a lot of years.
@ John Savard
It was ten years ago! Move on already!
Loved the bit about wondering where 'floppy' came from
Whilst you might think people wonder why they're called floppy drives I remember myself being curious and examining a few by ripping open the plastic at the age of 10. Best thing was that they all still worked even when I put them back together having got my grubby fingers all over them.
Pfft, young whippersnapper!
The name floppy came from long before the time of super high density (!) 1.44MB 3.5" discs encased in a rigid plastic shell.
A fond farewell o7
Ahh the early days of PC gaming, when the latest big budget games like Syndicate came on 13 3.5inch floppies and the joyous fun of working out which order they needed to be put in in order to stop PKUNZIP throwing a hissy fit.
36 years, huh....wonder whether CDs and DVDs will make it that far.
Hmm I'm sure Syndicate was 4 disks on the Amiga. Monkey Island 2 was about 20 if I recall! Happy days...
Sometimes they still rear their ugly head...
...especially on older hardware and operating systems. For example, as recently as last year I was trying to install Windows XP onto my RAID array, but hit the rails as I didn't have a floppy drive to load the drivers and so of course the installer couldn't see the controller...
Also some of the old Compaq SoftPaqs insist on decompressing to a floppy drive.
It's been a slow and painful death but it won't be missed. But I'll always remember you enhanced 1.6MB capacity under RISC OS :)
Raid floppies?? What will we do?
RAID is one concern I had, especially where some operating systems only seem to want to load RAID drivers from a floppy, but most operating systems now accept drivers from external drives, and for xp, there's always nlite to add the driver to the install image in advance.
You can use a CD in place of the floppy
Well, I have done in the past on an apparently unmodified Server 03 install disc.
+1 for the RISC OS love. I was wondering if I was going to have to be the first or not...
Death of the floppy is highly overrated
Please excuse me whilst I flash the BIOS on this old motherboard. Oh, lookee here: XP wants a SATA driver. etc.
Yeah, yeah, newer systems might not need such archaic devices, but you'd be surprised how long older systems kick around.
I'm not chucking my floppy stock quite yet.
Last time I used a floppy was last month, to upgrade the BIOS. The machine runs Windows 7, while flasher programs for the motherboard only came in XP (which crashes Windows 7 upon attempting to flash) or MS-DOS variants. Using an older XP box to create a bootable floppy then throwing in the flashing app and image then rebooting the windows 7 box to the floppy and flashing from there worked wonders. The BIOS' onboard flasher? requires the floppy drive too, and sorta glitched. And yes, the fact that XP needs an AHCI driver provided by means of a floppy during installation or your installation will go into a reboot loop when plase 2 of installation starts.
Tux, because Linux doesn't need AHCI drivers.
Re: Been there.
Since I discovered the HP "make a bootable thumb drive from a directory holding the O/S files of your choice" utility for running BIOS flashers from I removed my last floppy drive and binned it.
I've been slipstreaming drivers into XP CD images with nLite to get round the RAID / AHCI / other drivers install issue for a while now. Makes life so much simpler than sitting through the CD boot process only to find that the damned thing didn't notice me thumping the shit out of F6 a while back.
I will admit to a slight lump in the throat as I unscrewed it and lobbed it into the obsolete parts box though.....
@TeeCee Re: Bootable thumb drives
I still have quite a few systems in service that won't boot from USB. Them old systems that didn't require 130W chips, man. They just keep going and going and going...
And an even greater 1.76MB under AmigaOS! (If you were rich enough to grab yourself a HD floppy drive, that is.)
RE: 1.44MB? Pah!
Yep 1.76Mb on a standard Amiga but with the right file system, you could stretch it even further (to about 1.9Mb I believe)
And on the Sinclair QL
I had (still have -up in the loft) a pair of the HD drives on my QL. I think they were made by Mitsubishi.
I think the QL put more than 1.76MB on them though.
I made a mistake
The drives were called ED, the disk were made by Verbatim and were 2.88MB
original floppy size...
A small point of correction. the original commercial floppies were 8 3/4 inches, not 8 inches. I had all my class assignments on one.
Just a footnote. NeXT Computer had to do Apple one better. The second machine, the NeXTSTation (sic) came out and it had a 2.88 mb SCSI floppy. SCSI ! An expensive SCSI drive and cable with an expensive 2.88mb floppy.
Just the thing thing to pop into the beautiful 'pizza box', then look at the beautiful screen (where you might see perfect Postscript Japanese characters, for the first time) and type on the beautiful keyboard. Then print from a beautiful matching printer.
Where would it end?!
2.88 on the cheap
Our IBM PS/2 came with a 2.88MB floppy drive, so we used to drill extra holes in the top corner of 1.44MB and 720KB floppies to trick it into thinking we'd bought the more expensive DSED disks.
Shame you can't do the same to "upgrade" a DVD to BluRay!
What 12 years out makes Jobs a visonary rather than a flamming egomanic?
Ah, yes, back in the day when Zip was still only 100MB (and having suffered through two click-o-death drive failures), I opted for a little external storage thing called a Shark Drive, mainly because it held 250MB on it's heavy little 2" x 2" metal-clad cartridges, which contained a rigid disc media, I believe.
The unusual thing is that it connected to the PC and drew power through the keyboard PS/2 plug on the PC, the connector having a pass-through.
Still have it (and several cartridges) stuck away in a drawer somewhere. Unfortunately drivers were win98 only, though it prob would have worked on w2k, didn't try it.
In South Africa
Apparently the 3.5" floppy is called a "stiffy" in South Africa. It makes sense I guess.
Tell me about it.....
There was a gorgeous South African girl I used to work with and one day she asked to use my stiffy for a while.
I was really disappointed when she reached for my disk.
Been a ghost of itself for a long time anyways
Before people wax too poetic on just computers they ought to remember the Sony Mavica cameras that used floppies, I still remember the FD-95 my workplace had, It's hard to believe it was once considered an expensive and high end piece of equipment.
What some people haven't noticed is floppies have gone downhill quality wise for years. My father had a 8088 from 1984 that I used in college and up to 1991, still booting off of one 5 1/4 floppy for the OS and another for the program/storage. I also had my 3 1/2 DOS floppies from 1994 that I kept until about 1999.
The last time I bought any floppies was in 2000, and all of them lasted less than three months before going bad. USB keys are everywhere now, but I prefer SD cards; I keep waiting for someone to make an array to plug in a few dozen of them for the equivalent of a live tape library of backup storage. I can dream, can't I?
I still have a mavica at work, I don't use it as a camera but it does function as quite a nice USB floppy drive on the rare occasion someone digs a dusty one out of the draw and demands to retrieve their files.
Have 5 of them in a box behind me, 2 of them still work. Good cameras and given that (at the time) flash memory tended to be on the small side, being able to change floppies at will was useful. Decent resolution on them for their age too.
don't let the door hit your arse on the way out
someone who had the job of fishing the fallen-off shutters of the 3.5" disks from drives (sometimes more than 1 per drive).
Floppys finally break surface tension and slip away to the deep
I have built more than just a few computers, with Linux of course... For my own machines I always included a legacy device that the BIOS would still support... a genuine 5.25 teac FD55G drive.
That is if anyone remembers, an awesome 1.2 Mb "real" floppy (1.6Mb for this floppy monster)
About once a year I would actually write something cryptic to it just because I could.
maybe a word processor .odt file writing to the disk formatted in ext2 (did I mention that it is Linux)
If I wanted to really reach back I might put in a 360K (yes I actually have two that function.)
In teaching computer science to a class of young students they would be fascinated to see a machine (externally demonstrated) actually move and do something... like watching a steam locomotive, they were slightly visceral, they got a reaction of interest.
But something happened last year, I built my latest almost super computer and decided it was time. I have not even reacted to the existence of 3.5's for about ten years... so why would the exclusion of its predecessor cause emotion... it is after all a true antique.
That was it. The last of the dinosaurs.
So I put it on display near its big brother the teacosaurus 8.75
Maybe I will make a little viking ship and put a 5.25 floppy in it and set it on fire in the backyard swimming pool.
Roger, switch on the autopilot and don't call me Shirely.
There's a lot of airliners out there that will need upgrades then... most airliners use 1.44MB floppies to load data into their flight computers.
Scary to think that while in the air you are at the mercy of a "Floppy read error: file not found. Abort, Retry or Cancel?"
Now I've got Echelon after me...
How long will it take for microsoft to keep up?
As mentioned before, if you have some newfangled SATA or SCSI driver that your choice of windows doesn't support, you are prompted to press F6 to load these drivers.
And it looks for them at drive A:
The only other way to work around it, is to use nLite or vLite to create a combination windows disk with the drivers already embedded.
Which may cause stress if you're in an organisation that requires new software to be assessed before being implemented into procedure. Not something you can cassually download from the net and try out see if it works.
Yet, to this day, Microsoft insists that you have two options:
The A: drive, or you can get nicked. Your choice.
RE: How long will it take for microsoft to keep up?
Good to see you're up to date yourself. I can only assume you've not used Vista or 7 then?
No Floppy Drive in sight.
What are you wanting Microsoft to do?
Do you expect them to go back and rewrite the installer for XP and 2003, should they do 2000 whilst they're at it?
Vista and newer all support sensible loading of drivers from a CD or DVD, 2003 generally includes any useful drivers (out of the box HP SAS cards boot fine).
For anything else HP sell a USB thumb drive that has a switch on the side, one way is a normal (very small 64MB) mass storage drive, the other way emulates a floppy.