Every now and again I hear someone complain that netbooks typically don’t come with DVD drives. But I’ve never heard anyone complain that they can’t take floppy disks. While we haven’t quite moved to a world without the need for physical storage media, I haven’t even seen a floppy disk in at least 5 years — unless you count floppies that have been repurposed as art, jewelry, and other goods.

But while there’s really only so much you can store on a 1.44MB floppy disk, I was surprised to learn today that Sony was still selling 3.5 inch disks — although the company plans to stop selling the floppies in Japan in March, 2011. Sony introduced the first 3.5 inch floppy disk in 1981, and until recently it was the largest supplier of the floppy disks around the world. But Sony pretty much stamped out worldwide distribution last month.

I don’t think floppy disks are going to become collectors’ items anytime soon. Over the past 30 years, hundreds of millions of the disks have been shipped. But admit it, yo’re kind of going to miss the little guys, aren’t you?

via Slashdot

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39 replies on “Say goodbye to the 3.5 inch floppy disk (if you haven’t already)”

  1. Guys, I have a pair of 8″ floppy drives and a few boxes of the discs themselves. We used them on Intel’s big blue box for developing and supporting MCS48 microcontrollers. Used to have all the 8080 and 8048/49 compilers and assemblers.

  2. I remember back in 88 using 5.25 floppies in school. It was on a Apple IIe computer. To load a program you had to insert 4 to 5 floppies on after the other and it took a long time like 5 minutes to load the entire program into memory. Of course someone would be an ass and shut the computer down just as I was starting to do some work.

  3. Long ago, in the dark ages, I was a member of a computer user club organized at my employer (Control Data Corp). The 3.5″ came out first as a 720 K, then later as a 1.44 MB version. The only difference was a hole punched in the upper left corner. The 1.44’s cost about as much as 10 of the 720’s! Our club had a guy who was a hobby machinist, he built a small punch that cleanly put a hole in the right location. Most of the manufacturers used the same media, just different cases!
    The club bought 720’s in bulk, and I recall spending many lunch breaks inserting a 720 into the fixtrure, whacking it with a hammer to cause the spring loaded punch to function, then stacking the new new 1.44 on a pile.
    We sold these at the club meeting’s, and about 90% of then formatted OK as 1.44. Still was cheaper than buying “real” 1.44’s

    1. My TI-99/4A used cassettes then 5.25 inch disks. I had a dual drive that had both a 5.25 inch drive attached to the 3.5 inch drive and it used one disk cable for both drives. One could use them both at the same time.

      I remember an USB flash drive that was shaped like a floppy (3.5inch) that one could insert into the flopp drive and be read like a floppy. There was also a memory card reader shaped like a floppy drive. It has been many years since I have seen either.

    2. Many companies sold punches for 3.5″, 720k floppies. I never used one as my company bought the “real” 1.44 disks. By the time I could afford my own computer the 720k discs had pretty much vanished.

  4. Gone then are those magic support questions. “I’ve got a floppy disk stuck”. No problem (normally). Ask user for paper clip, enjoy bemused look, unbend, rebend into magic hook, insert into write protect tab and fish out.

    Except for the call I took one day, where the user had wedged a 3.5 disk into a 5.25 slot. No I dont know how they did it either without extreme force!

  5. Zip drives, Jazz drives, syquest, floppies and soon CDs (700 MB) all heading to the dust bin. Recordable DVDs and Bluray discs still have some life in them…for now. The only discs I see staying around a while are hard drives. The price per unit of storage is just too low to let them go. I have 3.5 TB of disc storage and can’t afford to replace it with SSDs.

  6. I actually had to *buy* a box of floppies maybe a year and a half ago! It was after-hours, and I needed to load the SATA drivers for a lappie I was doing a Windows re-install on (it had puked big time). I was like “WTF??? Floppies???” but I was able to find some at a 24-hour pharmacy of all places…

  7. I think I was wrong, it must of been 3 floppy’s for windows 3.1, Windows 95 could be installed with a bunch of floppy’s but I think mostly came on a cd. I do remember solving many problems with a boot disk a running other apps from the floppy. Most files are way to large to fit on one anymore, but It reminds me of how small files and apps used to be.

  8. I know technology has improved so much over the years but it is still sad. My Sony Mavica still works great and I hate to get rid of it just because the media is no longer available. I guess I better stock up on those little guys.

  9. I remember my Dad had a notebook computer. It had a monochrom screen and two floppy drives but no hard drive. It had a special system that connected to where he worked but it was not easy to use. I played missile command on it. πŸ™‚

    I remember when the 3.5 inch floppie was an upgrade to the 5.25 inch floppie. I still have boxes of the smaller floppies but I am not sure why. I mainly use flash drives and sd cards now.

    I think the photos will inspire me to ‘recycle’ the floppies disks into crafts.

  10. Simple question:

    If You wish to flash the BIOS of Your PC, due to, for example supporting 4GB instead of 2GB of RAM, when installing Windows 7; MSI motherboards provide new BIOS firmware, and request to install it from Floppy! But if we haven’t floppy accessible, how to upgrade BIOS? I didn’t try for example, if the CD drive would be accepted as floppy (that is, if we burn new BIOS at DVD, and then try to install it from there, instead from floppy);

    Best regards,

    Dejan Senic

  11. The timing on this is funny. I was having issues with an old Dell two weeks ago and tried to reinstall Windows, but I needed a floppy to install the third party SCSI divers. I was pleasantly surprised to discover that Best Buy still sells them, because I sure didn’t have any!

  12. In South Africa, the smaller floppy (3.5 inch) was called a stiffy.

    1. I remember visiting South Africa a few times about 10 years ago and found it amusing to be asked if I had a stiffy. Also saw an advert by Sont proclaiming they had the best Stiffies!

  13. Errr, as far as I remember – it was some years ago – Ms-Dos 6.22 was a 3 floppy install (I still have them). Windows 95 – depending on edition – was usually 25 (but I have seen 17, 20, 30 disk editions, from OEM makers).
    In my country (East Europe, Romania), altough the hardware we use is equal to or above the average European or US setups, we still use floppies, accountants above everybody else. The reason? Our financial administration requires our tax statement both in print and as a csv text file, generated from a software, copied on a floppy and sent in πŸ™‚ It has become something of a disposable storage medium πŸ˜€

  14. If you have good stuff on floppies, be sure to copy it onto something “permanent”. I did not do that with the 8″ floppies (which really flopped!) nor with the cassette tapes and now that good stuff is gone forever! Got wise with 5.25 floppies just in time … πŸ™‚

    1. Ten years retention for magnetic media is commonly quoted – better if you re-write them at least every 5 years.

      Same with flash devices – about ten years retention – so don’t forget to re-write them on some sort of schedule.

      No such thing. Optical media has the longest retention times for now.
      Twenty years, in a controlled environment, is probably a good figure to use.

      How do you backup a 2Tbyte drive?
      With today’s backup media, mostly you don’t, at least not yet.

      Best you can do is keep duplicates, using RAID to mirror all drives –
      Pick drives with at least a 5 year warranty, swap out the “oldest” in each array every 3 years. Put the “used” drives into service storing something that does not need to be long term.

      Don’t forget about the drives you pull and stick on the shelf – they will “forget” within a decade just like any other magnetic storage media.
      Plan on re-write them on some regular schedule also.

  15. I miss the days of creating boot disks πŸ˜€
    And I still have tonnes of games still enslaved in these plastic prisons :/ While we are still nostalgic, let me talk about 5.25″….

  16. I can’t wait for this story headline to hit the tablet market.. “Say goodbye to the tablet pc (if you haven’t already) — Fall 2010.

  17. Nope, can’t say I’ll miss ’em. You never knew when they were going to corrupt and take your precious files with them! Gone, nearly forgotton & not missed.

  18. I am an assistant at a laboratory in a Technical University in Greece. We have a bunch of old PCs because the software we use doesn’t run properly on modern ones. And guess what, we use floppies and the computers don’t have USB ports!!!

    1. Computers without usb ports great. My father is using a P3 machine with 500 MHZ and 128 MB RAM. I thought that will be a pretty old hardware but you guys are older than us.

    2. Last year I developed a solver for one combinatorial problem. As I submitted a paper about it to a journal, the referees desired to see computational results on some ancient PC. A PII with win95 was the oldest one I could bring back to life. An guess if it has any USB port πŸ™‚ So I had to use 3.5 floppies for all the data transport.

  19. I remember when I used a floppy disk to carry ms docs between school and home. Then I got a 64mb usb for free after rebate, and never looked back.
    Now I have a 16gb usb and can’t wait for the day when ssds replace hdds as the defacto storage medium.

  20. Oh the good old days of fat32, you could do about anything from a floppy boot disk. And flashing the bios(and holding your breath).
    Windows 95 could be installed with 3 floppy’s.
    And they where cheap.

    1. Three floppies for win95??? I still have the install floppies for Windows for workgroups 3.11 and it is seven floppies (I think). How did Win95 fit on three?

      1. Perhaps it was three floppies and a cd-rom? I had a version of OS/2 Warp version 3. that installed using 3 floppies and a cd-rom. It was easier to install than the all floppie install I had with another OS/2 Warp vers 3. The latest version – eComStation – does not use floppies at all. I am hoping version 2.0 of eCS can be installed from either a flash drive or a SD Card. https://www.ecomstation.com

      1. I still have my Windows 95 “cube”. I took the 13 floppies for my Windows 95 installation, and used clear packing tape to tape them into a solid cube. Now recycled into a conversation piece.

        I would often take bad 3 1/2″ disks and gut them, hang the pieces on my wall, to serve as a warning to other disks πŸ˜€

    2. I got Windows 95 OEM installation on 13 disks when I bought my first computer. Good old days! =)

      I specially remember when you got something big compressed with “arj” on something like 10-15 disks. You sat there, swapping floppy disks and watching the screen while it decompressed the files. Usually something like floppy 7 (not the first floppy ofcourse) had sector read faults and you had to abort everything! ;D

      If you got lycky, you could repair it with good’ol scandisk…

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