Where are floppy disks this day? Planes, trains, and all these other areas

Where are floppy disks this day? Planes, trains, and all these other areas

Floppy Disks

About a of 5.35″ floppy disks from the early 80s. 


I invent no longer endure in mind after I first started utilizing a floppy disk in the mid-70s. It used to be both putting in firmware on IBM S/370 mainframes or on a devoted library workstation to assemble Library of Congress catalog records. Oh, the thrilling life I’ve led! In both case, it may perhaps most likely presumably perhaps presumably have been a single-sided, 8-toddle floppy disk, which held an wonderful 79.7 KiloBytes (KB) of recordsdata.

Howdy, belief me, that used to be a gargantuan deal then when our other portable storage picks were IBM 12-row/80-column punched playing cards or 9-track tape. They were, in a note, cumbersome.

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Floppy disks predated me getting my feet moist in computing. Within the leisurely 1960s, IBM engineers Alan Shugart and David L. Noble envisioned a compact and transportable solution for storing recordsdata. This pioneering work, Mission Minnow, led to the creation of the first commercially viable 8-toddle floppy disk in 1971. Its 79K of storage can also seem worship nothing to you, however it no doubt held the identical of 3,000 punched playing cards. 

Which could presumably perhaps presumably you rather drop? A single disk or hundreds of playing cards? Yeah, that is what we all figuring out, too. 

As deepest computers gained recognition in the 1970s, the floppy disk moved from my world of mainframes and workstations to PCs. There, it discovered its region as an inexpensive and accessible storage solution. 

Then, in 1976, a guy named Steve Wozniak wished as a draw to add a floppy drive to his subsequent laptop. His buddy, Steve Jobs, purchased a 5.25-toddle floppy disk from Shugart’s original firm, Shugart Friends, in 1976, and after plenty of hacking, Woz purchased the first floppy drive to trot on what would become the Apple II

These original-fangled disks first held from 90 to 110KB. Then floppy disks were upgraded first to 160KB and then 360KB, which is what many of us middle of attention on of as their default dimension. That is unless the 1.2Megabyte (MB) dimension disks looked in 1984 along with the IBM/AT PC. We beloved those disks and that blazingly mercurial 6MHz laptop. 

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From then on, the floppy disk took off. With the flexibility to distribute programs on these portable disks, tool companies can also now sell their products via mail or retail stores. The fundamental tool markets sprang from floppy disks. 

It wasn’t impartial correct necessary companies, both. Floppy disks enabled anybody to assemble and sell programs, which sparked the freeware and shareware actions. They moreover enabled of us to share recordsdata with out problems for the first time. Lengthy sooner than we were utilizing modems and Bulletin Board Programs (BBS) to share programs, photos, and recordsdata, we may perhaps presumably perhaps presumably share them by “sneakerware.” That is, actually strolling the recordsdata from one laptop to one other by hand carrying disks. 

In 1981, Sony launched the 3.5-toddle floppy disk. It hasty gained recognition because of its smaller dimension and higher storage capacity in contrast with its predecessors. It used to be moreover rather more stable than the earlier devices. They’d had a behavior of going sinister all too hasty with establish on and crawl. 

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Despite the indisputable reality that no longer “floppy,” this structure grew to become the smartly-liked for floppy disks. Its recognition lasted successfully into the Nineties, solidifying the floppy disk’s region as a ubiquitous storage medium. This invent started with 720KB of storage, however its preferred model held 1.44MB.  

As laptop networking and original storage formats worship USB flash drives and memory playing cards emerged, the floppy disk’s reign waned in the mid-to-leisurely Nineties. The tip of the floppy disk generation got here with the introduction of the floppy-less iMac in 1998. 

By the early 2000s, floppy disks had become increasingly uncommon, worn primarily with legacy hardware and industrial gear. Sony manufactured the final original floppy disk in 2011

Despite its obsolescence, the floppy disk’s legacy endures. Its iconic invent has become a symbol of recordsdata storage, and the floppy disk icon detached appears on many laptop desktops as the file-saving symbol.

Nonetheless as veteran as its abilities can also seem, the floppy disk is detached worn this day. As an illustration, industrial embroidery machines from the Nineties were constructed to read patterns and designs from floppy disks. Some older industrial machines and energy, worship laptop numerical adjust (CNC) machines, detached utilize floppy disks to load tool updates and programs. 

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Some older Boeing 747 devices detached utilize floppy disks to load crucial navigation database updates and tool into their avionics programs. Indeed, Tom Persky, the president of floppydisk.com, which sells and recycles floppy disks, mentioned in 2022 that the airline industry stays one of his most practical clients.

Closer to the bottom, in San Francisco, the Muni Metro light railway, which launched in 1980, is no longer going to open up up every morning unless its Computerized Verbalize Assist a watch on System physique of workers is booted up with a floppy. Why? It has no laborious drive and it’s too unstable to be left on, so every morning, in goes the disk, and off goes the trains. It’ll be replaced, even though… finally. Currently, the up to this level replacement venture is scheduled to be done in 2033/4. 

Floppy drives moreover are residing on in scientific devices impartial like CT scanners and ultrasound machines. Famously, or infamously, unless 2019, the US nuclear missile internet sites pressure detached worn 8-toddle floppy disks as segment of the contrivance for coordinating operational parts. On a miles more silly display, those Chuck E. Cheese’s animatronic figures you saw at your eighth birthday event? Yep, they’re pushed by floppy disks.

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And, unnecessary to reveal, some of us, impartial like musician Espen Kraft, detached utilize floppy disks with older synthesizers and samplers to load sounds and assemble song. He’s no longer on my own; other collectors and retro computing enthusiasts proceed to make utilize of and substitute floppy disks to at the unusual time.

Why break they linger? As Persky told NPR, they’re “extraordinarily stable, extraordinarily successfully-understood, no longer in point of fact hackable, and develop an unbelievably titanic job for extraordinarily puny bits of recordsdata.”

Neatly, that’s segment of it. Nonetheless, one other segment is technical debt. Some of those machines the place floppies are residing are extraordinarily costly. So long as they attend running, and also you may perhaps presumably perhaps presumably also procure unusual floppies to make utilize of on them as the smartly-liked ones establish on out, no one wishes to pay to interchange them. In some more vulgar cases, no replacement machinery is on hand for the smartly-liked hardware. 

At final, they’ll all must interchange their smartly-liked equipment. Nonetheless, it’s no longer going to shock me a little bit when, by the level I hurry off this mortal coil, someone, somewhere, will detached be running a floppy drive in a producing contrivance. 


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