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Die floppy disk, die, die!

01/05/2010 1 comment

Floppy Disk

Floppy Disk

I have been teaching IT since the early 1980s.  To start with I used cassette-based storage.  By the mid-1980’s I was using a network, whose server employed eight inch floppy disks for storage, with the stations having no local storage.  We then moved to Research Machine’s PCs which employed the then exciting 3.5 inch floppy disk.  It was not really floppy, as the magnetic media was encased in a hard plastic case, with a metal shutter protecting the recording surface.

The capacity of this disk is 1.4Mb, laughable by today’s standards.  However, in 1986 we issued students with a single floppy disk which was a boot disk (using MS-DOS), with a word processing program complete with spell-checker (MS Word), a spreadsheet (MS Multiplan) and a database package (dBase II) and there was still room for the student’s data files!

The advent of the CD-ROM, and the later USB flash-drive pens was supposed to announce the demise of the floppy drive. However, nobody actually told the floppy disk users.  One would assume that sales would be very low, and for niche markets only.  The former is false, although the latter tends to be true.  In the UK alone in excess of one million of them are sold very month.  Some of the niche markets include dataloggers and oscilloscopes used in science, CNC [computer numerical control] machines for metalworking and manufacture use floppies because their instruction sets are small enough to fit on the disks, for boot disks, in the aviation industry they are still used to update firmware on ticket printers, most if not all ATM (cashpoint) programming is installed direct to the machine from a floppy disk and they are used is sewing machines – there are top-end models that accept embroidery designs stored either on a special cartridge on floppy disk.

The floppy disk is dead.  Long live the floppy disk!

Categories: Computing