The floppy disk has been around for a long time. In the last five years, it pretty much outlived usefulness. USB drives and off-site storage options have made the 1.4 MB device outdated – Not to mention it’s only 1.4 MB. Sony has seen this and decided to discontinue their production next year. Is this the end for the floppy medium?
My IT toolbox was filled with 3.5″ floppies in the 90’s until about 2006. Install discs, diagnostic discs and the one disk that would wipe a hard drive to DOD standards. Couldn’t use CD’s because a lot of the computers didn’t have drives in the 90’s. When USB drives came out, you could store files, but most computers would not recognize as a boot device. So the floppy disk was an important part to my library.
Today, I have probably one or two machines that has a floppy drive attached. I had a USB floppy, but I couldn’t tell you where that is. I haven’t used floppy disks for a couple years now.
Twelve years after the format has been first produced for consumer devices, Sony has decided to end production of the floppy disk medium. The last disk will roll off the production line March 2011, so if you rely on this media, you might want to stock up on disks now.
Of course, the first floppy was produced back in 1971. 8″ in size, it could hold only 79 KB. By 1976, we saw the size reduce to 5.25″, then in 1982 the size dropped to 3.5″, while the capacity increased – first to 28KB, then 720KB, finally 1.4 MB. The format was threatened around 2000 by the Superdrive and the Zip drive, but those formats could not replace the floppy disk.
So in tribute, let’s look at the many ways we used floppies throughout time.
Double Sided 5.25″ disks
The first thing I did when I got a 5.25″ disk was punch a hole in the opposite side. By doing this, I could copy data to both sides. that way I didn’t have to carry so many disks. The hole was a way to tell the computer the disk was protected and no other data should be written to it. The other side usually had a hole, but a piece of tape would cover it for the protection.
Early 3.5″ disks also had you putting a hole on the opposite side to double capacity. You needed to be a bit more careful because of the casing the disk came in. I usually used a soldier gun to melt a hole in. It was an art to do.
Self-made Floppy sleeves
Remember when you lost your sleeve for that 5.25″ floppy? No problem. Rip out a page in the Mead notebook, cut off the chad-style side and do your best origami to make a new one. A little scotch tape and you have a new holder for your disk.
Shall we play a game?
Remember some of the movies where floppies were used? War Games was the big one that came to mind. Real Genius, Hackers, Weird Science and The Net, amongst others, come to mind.
The first 3.5″ disks
Do you remember the first time you got the new format disks? I remember the first game I got with that format. Like most, it was Castle Wolfenstien. I also had Battle Chess and World at War.
The most popular digital camera at the turn of the century was the Sony Mavica. Pop in a floppy disk and take pictures at 1024×768 resolution. You could also take small MPEG movies with the camera.
DOS, Windows 3.1, 95, 98 on Floppy.
MS-DOS came in 3 disks. Windows 3.1 came on 6 disks. Windows 95 took 13. Windows 98 had the option of 1 disk and 1 CD. The Windows 98 Boot disk became a highly downloadable and used item.
Free Disks from AOL, Compuserve
Although I didn’t sign up for the service, I was always happy when AOL or Compuserve sent me a floppy in the mail. I could then format it and put something useful on it.
140 Floppy Backup of Windows 95
How many of you remember backing up your computer to floppy disk? I did. If I remember, it was 140 disks that held my install of Windows 95. Of course, I didn’t back up items like the Weezer video, but if there was a problem, I could restore to where I was within 4-5 hours…
The Wall of opened Disks
Anyone ever take apart the floppy? Anyone use that opened disk as wall art? It definitely had a disco-esque look to it.
What? It’s corrupt?
I stopped the 140 backup when one day one of the disks stopped working. Good thing it was a backup rather than a restore. That day I went out and paid $300 for a 4x SCSI CD-R drive.
Recycle those disks – and computer
Greendisk.org takes all your technotrash to recycle. If you have old floppies, drives, computers or whatnot, you can send to them. Of course, most communities now have recycling programs. Still, there is no reason why you should have a P-133 lying around.
**If your kids have your computer from 2000, you might want to recycle. The Lead, Mercury and Cadmium used in those older machines put anyone using them at a better risk of poisoning **
Next year we will see an era come to an end. While it’s overdue, it is still sad to see. What is your favorite memory of the Floppy? Do you remember pulling out a big case of disks from your backpack ?
Of course, that will be overshadowed when the CD finally is laid to rest. I am venturing a guess of 2015 as the last CD being rolled off the presses…