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Is the floppy disk history?

by Ask The Propellerheads
| June 6, 2010 9:00 PM

Dear Propeller Heads: I just heard the floppy disk is dead and I have tons of them, what should I do?

A: You still have floppies! Are you still using a typewriter too?

Like the transistor radio first made popular by Sony in the late 1950s and the BetaMax VCR first marketed by Sony in 1975, the floppy disk first created in 1980 by Sony will too come to an end ... just not quite yet!

The floppy disk has had a 30-year history and even though Sony will cease manufacturing them early next year, they will continue to be around for a while. The disks are still widely-used, especially in other countries. Sony holds 70 percent of the Japanese market for the disks (http://bit.ly/alBndp) and 40 percent worldwide. At the height of its use, Sony shipped around 47 million disks in 2000. By 2009, Sony sold around 8.5 million. That's still a bunch of floppies by anyone's standards.

So what's "floppy" about the floppy disk? When first invented as a data storage device in 1971 by IBM, the floppy disk was an eight-inch disk. It was deemed too big to be practical and was quickly replaced by the 5.25 inch floppy disk. That disk was truly "floppy." It was a flexible material in a somewhat flexible outer covering. Still considered too big, the 3.5-inch floppy disk was created by Sony and first appeared in 1983 in the Apple Macintosh. The smaller disk enclosed in a hard plastic casing quickly became the standard for compact, portable data storage.

Those of you who've been around the block once or twice probably easily remember creating data or game files to share on the ubiquitous floppies. And who knows how many AOL sent out in the day, trying to entice the world to use its online services? And what will become of the cute little floppy "save" icon on programs' toolbars?

The jury is still out on that one. So what can you do with all those you have collecting dust on the shelf? Not much! When doing research for the article, I did come across some rather inventive uses. But ultimately the cute purses, pencil holders, and spatulas will likely end up in the landfill.

So here are two recommendations from this PropellerHead. They actually do make decent retro drink coasters, but who needs 187 of those? So the best way to get rid of them is to recycle them. Many localities hold annual "recycle" days. That's a safe, cost-effective way to dispose of them. If you just missed yours, or your locality doesn't offer one, you can order a "Technotrash Pack-IT Service" from GreenDisk (www.greendisk.com). For only $6.95 you can pack your own box of up to 20 pounds of old disks, drives or whatever 20 pounds of techno-trash you want to get rid of, print a shipping label and send your junk on its way to be recycled.

That's about it for this latest PropellerHead article. Now I just need to click that cute little floppy save icon and call it a day. But for those of you who want to know more about the history of the floppy disk, take a look at http://bit.ly/agCouo. I'm heading out to play floppy disk Frisbee with my dog. Oh ... be sure to check out my upcoming articles on the death of the CD and DVD; I'm sure they will follow the path of the floppy soon!

When the PropellerHeads at Data Directions aren't busy with their IT projects, they love to answer questions on business or consumer technology. E-mail them to questions@askthepropellerheads.com or contact us at Data Directions Inc., 8510 Bell Creek Road, Mechanicsville, VA 23116. Visit our Web site at www.askthepropellerheads.com.

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