Sony to pull plug on floppy disks

Sony to pull plug on floppy disks

Summary: Sony plunges what could be the final nail in the coffin of the 3.5-inch floppy disk by announcing that it will stop selling the storage media in Japan from March 2011.

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TOPICS: Hardware
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Sony plunges what could be the final nail in the coffin of the 3.5-inch floppy disk by announcing that it will stop selling the storage media in Japan from March 2011.

The 3.5-inch floppy disk, which is 30 years old, has seen its fortunes dwindle over the years. The once ubiquitous media suffered its first blow when Apple discontinued the floppy drive on the iMac in 1998, a move seen at the time as both shocking and revolutionary. Dell followed suit in 2003.

Over the years, the format has felt the squeeze from a whole host of new storage media. First, there was Iomega's Zip ("No one will need more than 100MB! Hey, someone hear an ominous clicking sound?") and Jaz ("No one will need more than 540MB, no, wait, 1GB!") drives, followed by recordable CDs ("No one will need more than around 650MB!"), then recordable DVDs ("No one will need more than 4.7GB!"), and then from USB flash drives ("No one will need more than ..." well, you get the idea).

As flash memory became cheaper and offered vastly more storage space, 1.44MB no longer seemed like enough. But it wasn't just capacity that was the issue. USB flash drives are more compact and far, far more reliable than a floppy disk ever was, and far less likely to be damaged when used.

I'm sure that floppy disks will be around for years to come, much like the Compact Cassette still is, but it's clear that the door is closing on a piece of history.

Personally, I've not used a floppy disk in years. I still have loads around the place, along with working drives, and I plan to keep them "just in case" I need them, but with each passing year, the layer of dust on top of them grows ever thicker. OK, alright, I admit that I pick one up occasionally just to flick the metal shutter a few times, but that's it!

Any readers still using floppy disks? Come on, own up!

Topic: Hardware

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20 comments
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  • whatever happened to the parallel port?

    is it still around in pcs these days?
    banned from zdnet again and again
    • I hope it (and all other wastefully bloated ports) are extinct.

      SATA FTW!
      AzuMao
    • parallel ports - receipt printers

      The ubiquitous Star receipt printers still use
      parallel interfaces. Also RS-232. If you even know
      what that is, you're showing your age!
      bigjuliefromchicago
  • Nope

    1.44 MB of storage? What exactly are you still putting on these things? Maybe a Word document at best, otherwise 1.44 MB of storage isn't enough space to hold anything else.
    The one and only, Cylon Centurion
    • Older ATMs still use them...

      ...for journalling.

      YE Data seems to have stopped making their 4x floppy drives too. Sigh.

      Guess it's time to push smaller customers to uploadable journalling...
      wolf_z
    • Still required for some hardware other than PCs

      I have a digital grand piano with a floppy drive. A single disck will hold a dozen midi files and allow the piano to act as a player piano for an hour or more without repeating.
      john-whorfin
    • older legacy test equipment

      As somebody who works in electronic manufacturing and egineering. I still come across test equipment that uses floppy storage. The company is not going to toss a perfectly functional 1GHz Oscope and spend 14,000 on a new one because it still uses a flopy drive.
      Richardbz
    • Once upon a time

      Many a critical rescue operation were powered from the 3.5" floppy disks in days gone by. Drive Images were created and restored off of them, as those who remember veritable old PowerQuest will recall (before it was gobbled up by Symantec). PowerQuest Drive Image ran off two floppies, and was powered by Caldera DOS.

      Heck, entire Windows operating systems right up through Windows 95 were sold in retail editions on floppy sets (13 DMFs for the original release, 26 for OSR 2.1 IIRC). So the floppy, for all its smallness, could also be mighty at times - and durable into the bargain. 30 years in computer tech is grandfather-like, analogous to animal years.

      And now sadly, it's been relegated to little more than dinosaur status. Where we're all headed eventually I'm afraid... just a matter of time, as in all things.
      klumper
      • I remember those days

        My parents used to have stacks upon stacks upon stacks of floppy disks.

        They're in a better place now though....
        The one and only, Cylon Centurion
        • In floppy heaven

          [i]They're in a better place now though.... [/i]

          In floppy heaven I presume. ;)

          Please don't say the dustbin. *sigh*

          PS. lol at my earlier description of PowerQuest as "veritable" as opposed to venerable (as intended). Must have somehow fused part of that concept with data protection powerhouse Veritas, who were also acquired by Symantec around that same time. Odd mental synthesis I concede. [reaches for more coffee]
          klumper
  • RE: Sony to pull plug on floppy disks

    Many pieces of commercial equipment use them for the building's program backup.
    Not the actual software but the setup and particulars just for that building.
    Many pieces of equipment cannot be downloaded, only uploaded from a computer. There is no permanent computer attached to the equipment. So whenever adjustments and changes are made they have to be made from the backup disk then loaded into the equipment. Then we keep the updated disk in the equipment for the next repairman.
    MoeFugger
  • Server BIOS?

    Dell still has BIOS Updates that require the image be put on a floppy and the floppy be booted to install the BIOS updates. Some of these servers are in the neighborhood of 4-5 years old which is still within their serviceable life.

    I recently (in the last 3 months) had to run a PERC update this way.
    Freddy McGriff
    • Ha!

      Yes, Me too. This would be the only time I used a 1.44 in some time. I knew there was a reason for keeping those old blanks close.
      djmik
  • My 3-year old PC with XP

    Win XP doesn't have the required SATA drivers for my 3 year-old Dell XPS. So, any time I need to reinstall Win XP or run Norton Ghost, I need to have a floppy drive/disk with the drivers. So, yes, I DO use my floppy drive several times per year!
    bmgoodman
    • Several times a year?

      I know Win XP has its faults, but I've never seen anyone reformat several times a year...
      The one and only, Cylon Centurion
      • Clearly I was too brief

        I run multiple bootable partitions for testing applications, in addition to VMWare. So I have occasions to test a new app on one of my partitions and then wipe and re-image to a known "clean" XP using Norton Ghost. Ghost, as I said, requires the floppy disk to see the SATA hard drive. So, yes, I do use the floppy drive "several" times per year!
        bmgoodman
  • RE: Sony to pull plug on floppy disks

    Back in 1993 we purchased a box of Sony pre-formatted, 3 1/2" floppies. All the floppies had to be reformatted as they came from SONY with a virus.
    chuckleberry
    • Classic

      And to think it took Sony (Sony-BMG) all of a dozen years to reintroduce their next generation spoilers in the form of XCP and MM rootkits circa 2005, which, under the misguided pretense of "justifiable" copy protection software, created vulnerabilities in Windows OSs for other malware to exploit.

      Illegitimate DRM for the CD buying masses as it were - and without an uninstaller for good measure! Resultant BSODs, trigger alarms from AV programs and system resource slow-downs were commonplace, as is the case with most stripes of virii and malware.

      But another example of corporate greed in all its splendid, profit-whoring glory. I still can recall when Sony was a premium name in tech and electronics, when they actually delivered consistently solid products. Gawd where have those days gone?
      klumper
  • RE: Sony to pull plug on floppy disks

    I don't even put optical drives in some boxes I build now- unless I want to do some AV work, they are useless.
    Installing the OS via a usb key, moving anything I want to burn to a disc over the network works fine.

    I do still have some 5 1/4" floppies though :).
    chrisaaaaaa6
  • RE: Sony to pull plug on floppy disks

    I know it sounds dorky, but I had a "funeral" for the
    floppy disk.

    I filmed the entire thing:

    http://www.thecynch.com/video-funeral-for-a-floppy/

    -Cynthia
    thecynch