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The End of the 3.5-inch Floppy Continues

timothy posted more than 3 years ago | from the finally-we-can-standardize-on-bernoulli dept.

Media 472

JoshuaInNippon writes "In a brief press release buried within Sony Japan's website, the company announced that it would be ending sales of the classic 3.5-inch diskette in the country in March 2011. Sony introduced the size to the world in 1981, and it saw its heyday in the 1990s. Sony has been one of the last major manufacturers to continue shipments of the disk type it helped develop, but had ended most worldwide sales in March of this year. The company's production of the 3.5-inch floppy ceased in 2009. Sony noted demand, or lack thereof, as the reason. The company's withdrawal is one of the final acts in the slow death of the floppy era."

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472 comments

"the end" "continues"? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#31973136)

How can an "end" continue? Surely an "end" is a point? Another example -grumble- illiteracy -grumble- Slashdot editors -grumble-.

Re:"the end" "continues"? (0, Troll)

baka_toroi (1194359) | more than 3 years ago | (#31973166)

I don't know what a metaphor is.

Asperger much?

Re:"the end" "continues"? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#31973222)

I have Aspergers and I know what a metaphor is, you insensitive clod! /not the AC in the OP

Re:"the end" "continues"? (2, Insightful)

EdZ (755139) | more than 3 years ago | (#31973208)

"The end of Floppy Disks" has occurred every year for the past decade or so.

Re:"the end" "continues"? (4, Funny)

sentientbeing (688713) | more than 3 years ago | (#31973284)

The last time I used a floppy disk, it was to strip out the flexible platter inside to use as a UV filter for the solar eclipse

That was in 1999

Re:"the end" "continues"? (4, Interesting)

Hognoxious (631665) | more than 3 years ago | (#31973240)

Ends can have beginnings. At least, Winston Churchill thought so. http://www.quotationspage.com/quote/24921.html [quotationspage.com]

So presumably ends must be able to continue, or we'd never reach the actual end of the end.

Re:"the end" "continues"? (1)

asCii88 (1017788) | more than 3 years ago | (#31973434)

So ends of ends can also have beginnings. And first we would reach the begining of the end of the end, which would continue until we reach the beginning of the end of the end of the end which would continue until we reach the beginning of the end of the end of the end of the end, which would continue until we reach the begi...

Re:"the end" "continues"? (5, Funny)

maxwell demon (590494) | more than 3 years ago | (#31973580)

Yes, but the beginning of the end, the beginning of the end of the end, the beginning of the end of the end of the end, etc. form a converging series. The point of convergence is the ultimate end point, where all ends ultimately end.

More interesting are intervals like the beginning of the end of the beginning, or the end of the end of the beginning of the end of the beginning of the beginning of the end. Their extremal points (i.e. the set of limits of those series) form a Cantor set in time, unless you have a case where the end of each beginning is already the beginning of the end. In that case the limits are dense in time, i.e. during the whole interval between ultimate beginning and ultimate end you are continuously experiencing both beginnings and ends.

Re:"the end" "continues"? (5, Interesting)

mikael (484) | more than 3 years ago | (#31973252)

Because there are two or three manufacturers of 3.5" floppy disks - there aren't any more manufacturers entering the market, so it is a slow decline. You can still buy 3.25" disk drives as a option for a new PC (+$10) just in case.

It's strange to think that back in the 1990's, we used to think 1.44 Megabytes of storage was extremely generous. Just about every student would have at least one or two solid plastic disk boxes (ten disks each). The most exotic disks would be multi-colored [pcconnection.com]

Now the disk themselves are being recycled into bags [techepics.com] and other useful objects [espritcabane.com]

Re:"the end" "continues"? (1)

Enderandrew (866215) | more than 3 years ago | (#31973368)

Thankfully most of the motherboards I've purchased in the past few years allow me to load BIOS updates from USB storage. I think that was one of the last major uses for a floppy.

Re:"the end" "continues"? (1)

pjt33 (739471) | more than 3 years ago | (#31973554)

If you want to grumble about the quality of the English in the summary, why not point out that 1981 didn't really see its heyday in the 1990s?

Reminder (3, Insightful)

mseeger (40923) | more than 3 years ago | (#31973142)

I needed the anouncement of the floppy disk demise as reminder that it is not already dead. Bought my last disk at least a decade ago....

Re:Reminder (5, Informative)

Sepultura (150245) | more than 3 years ago | (#31973258)

If you just look at the PC market you're right - floppies have been out of fashion for quite some time, and I don't think I've used one in at least a decade either, although I know some individuals in education who still have all of their crucial data (exams, assignments, custom s/w for their field, etc.) on 3.5"s.

However, where this really could cause problems is in some embedded systems. For some reason a lot of manufacturers of CNC equipment, like VMCs or even embroidery machines, stuck with the ubiquitous floppy for far too long. I know at least as late as 05-06 Haas CNC was still using floppies.

It looks to me like makers of floppy to usb adapters [floppytousb.com] are going to be in for a boon.

Re:Reminder (2, Interesting)

Bearhouse (1034238) | more than 3 years ago | (#31973646)

If your hardware & software supports USB and floppy via UBA emulation - not always the case for some of the implementations you mention

Re:Reminder (2, Insightful)

rjch (544288) | more than 3 years ago | (#31973424)

Someone really ought to let Microsoft know about this... after all, despite three service packs, Windows XP and Server 2003 still requires a floppy drive in order to load drivers for non-standard hardware (including SATA drives not in emulation mode) that will need to be accessed as part of installation.

Re:Reminder (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#31973480)

If you have to reach back to Server 2003 for that to be a problem, then it sounds like Microsoft has known for 7 years.

What, are you using Windows XP on new hardware?

Re:Reminder (2, Informative)

jawtheshark (198669) | more than 3 years ago | (#31973482)

I have installed XP on numerous SATA-only machines using a WinXP Pro Volume License CD with only SP2 (and later SP3) without any problem. No, they didn't have emulation at all.

Yes, a SP1 or even SP0 will need the manufacturer disks, but not anything beyond.

Re:Reminder (1)

c6gunner (950153) | more than 3 years ago | (#31973504)

You can use nLite to bundle the drivers right on to the installation CD. And seeing as how Microsoft is well on it's way to phasing out XP, I doubt they'll be interested in modifying the install process.

Re:Reminder (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#31973628)

Thats how it is at my company too. I'm the IT guy and I constantly have to get the engineers floppy drives so they can pull data from the manufacturing tools. This is in a Microchip
design firm!

Re:Reminder (2, Funny)

Chupathingy (1367637) | more than 3 years ago | (#31973634)

Bought my last disk at least a decade ago....

With all the free AOL disks I got, I don't think I EVER bought a floppy disk...

points to an increasing problem with modern tech (4, Interesting)

Trepidity (597) | more than 3 years ago | (#31973144)

How hard is it to actually operate an obsolete system with something vaguely like the original parts? It's in an awkward gap: too obsolete for modern mass-production to be willing to sell you, yet too complicated for you to DIY it. This makes for an odd gap of basically unmaintainable infrastructure. If you want to maintain infrastructure based on pen, paper, and the abacus, you're good. And if you want to stay on the current state-of-the-art for technology (or within a few years of it), you're also good.

But there's this weird gap in between. What if you want to play Nintendo games on a CRT fed by an RF adapter? Better either stock up on a bunch of legacy parts that were made before they stopped mass-producing them; or: find some way to ramp up your DIY tech to be able to produce that level of part; or: manage to implement something close enough in software so that your emulator is good enough.

Re:points to an increasing problem with modern tec (1, Offtopic)

tepples (727027) | more than 3 years ago | (#31973286)

What if you want to play Nintendo games on a CRT fed by an RF adapter?

All cartridge-based Nintendo consoles that have RF output also have composite output, except for the Japan-only original Famicom and the rare top-loading NES. The front-loading NES, as well as all Super NES, N64, GameCube, and Wii consoles, has a composite video output.

or: manage to implement something close enough in software so that your emulator is good enough.

In that case, you still need to ramp up your DIY tech in order to make a cartridge reader so that you can copy your Game Paks to the PC to make ROM files for use in an emulator. Retrode doesn't support NES yet.

Re:points to an increasing problem with modern tec (4, Interesting)

SIGBUS (8236) | more than 3 years ago | (#31973290)

This seems to be true with technology in general. Railway museums are a good example of this; the steam locomotives with their more-or-less blacksmith level technology have a better future as working exhibits than 1930s-era diesels. The restoration of the Flying Yankee [flyingyankee.com] streamliner required a great deal of effort to recreate the long-out-of-production injectors for its obsolete diesel engine.

As another example, the Seattle Museum of Communications [museumofco...ations.org] has several working telephone switches representing a variety of different switching technologies. The most recent of these is a Western Electric #3 ESS, a small computer-controlled analog switch that was built in small quantities and was obsolescent when it rolled off the production line. It has a variety of proprietary chips that will never be made again, and spare parts are extremely scarce since most of the #3s built were scrapped. Contrast that with the 1920s-era panel switch, a Rube Goldberg contraption for which parts could be fabricated by any competent machine shop.

Re:points to an increasing problem with modern tec (1)

Trepidity (597) | more than 3 years ago | (#31973420)

Great examples, thanks! It's something I think about periodically, which seems to relate to different kinds of steady states. There are some things that, at any reasonable point in the future, we can expect to recreate if we need to. But there are other things that are very dependent on the precise current conditions, which sounds uncomfortably chaotic. If you take "what 100 smart people could recreate in a year if they had to" as our safe fall-back position, there's increasingly a really large gap between the current state-of-the-art and that safe fallback.

Re:points to an increasing problem with modern tec (2, Insightful)

hitmark (640295) | more than 3 years ago | (#31973560)

and these days we are becoming more and more dependent on large corporate production facilities that end up becoming "to large to fail".

Re:points to an increasing problem with modern tec (3, Insightful)

hitmark (640295) | more than 3 years ago | (#31973576)

i wonder if there should be some kind of public domain requirement for obsoleting stuff like that. Basically, when production is shut down, all specs and production processes are handed over to some archive in human readable form.

Re:points to an increasing problem with modern tec (4, Interesting)

Alwin Henseler (640539) | more than 3 years ago | (#31973332)

How hard is it to actually operate an obsolete system with something vaguely like the original parts?

A bit like maintaining a classic car, I suppose: a combination of using old replacement part stocks, and (occasionaly) newly fabricated parts where it doesn't hurt the overall look & feel. Or hurts the owner's taste...

If you're careful with your classic [whatever] and don't use it everyday, such old stocks can go a long way. And there's always the option to take 3 halfway broken ones, and make 2 working ones out of those.

Re:points to an increasing problem with modern tec (1)

Trepidity (597) | more than 3 years ago | (#31973404)

It does feel weirdly like living on borrowed time, though. It's something that, apparently, nobody can make anymore, but you can straggle on because at some point in the past they made a whole lot of them.

Re:points to an increasing problem with modern tec (1)

arielCo (995647) | more than 3 years ago | (#31973354)

How hard is it to actually operate an obsolete system with something vaguely like the original parts?

You don't - either recycle it or set up a time capsule for it [slashdot.org]. I'm sure you have better things to do with your time on Earth.

Technology falls behind - get used to it. What if I want to keep writing my letters in a mechanic typewriter? What if I miss New Coke [wikipedia.org]? Unless I can afford my own metalworking shop / chemical plant / brewery AND have the time to spare, I'll have to roll with the times. As for nostalgia, you may well have an objective appraisal of the newer stuff. It's not like Doom beats the snot out of Halo ;)

Re:points to an increasing problem with modern tec (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#31973536)

Same thing happened with the original Apollo flight tapes/video. NASA is the only one with the machine that can still read the stuff and I think original slow scan video might be impossible or nearly impossible to read now due to technology missing.

Bloody hell... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#31973148)

Those things still weren't dead?

Yet MS insists in using it (2, Informative)

Opportunist (166417) | more than 3 years ago | (#31973154)

Ever tried to get a driver for your HD controller into Windows during setup?

Re:Yet MS insists in using it (2, Informative)

couchslug (175151) | more than 3 years ago | (#31973174)

"Ever tried to get a driver for your HD controller into Windows during setup?"

Once, years ago, at which point I discovered slipstreaming (much love for nlite) and never looked back.

Re:Yet MS insists in using it (1)

Dr_Barnowl (709838) | more than 3 years ago | (#31973224)

Yeah, it's a shame that you need a working Windows installation to do that. I remember my first Windows 95 install and I really struggled with it until I discovered that you could boot from the CD-ROM.

Later on, especially with new hardware, it's only nLite that enables you to install the OS. I haven't built a machine with a floppy drive in many years. It's a joke that XP couldn't use flash drives - the format had been more popular than floppies for some time.

Re:Yet MS insists in using it (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#31973176)

Pretty sure you can use optical discs (CD / DVD) or flash drives now with 7. As for XP, you can slipstream. Most HD controllers send you the driver on a floppy, though, for XP.

Keep in mind that XP is 10 years old and is EOL very soon.

Re:Yet MS insists in using it (1)

Zumbs (1241138) | more than 3 years ago | (#31973184)

Fortunately, someone came up with the idea of slipstreaming the drivers into the Windows CD/DVD.

Getting a slipstreamed disc? (1)

tepples (727027) | more than 3 years ago | (#31973444)

Due to copyright law, nobody can sell you a slipstreamed XP disc but Microsoft, and Microsoft would rather sell you a copy of a new operating system that needs more CPU, more RAM, and more battery power, and has less support for the applications and peripherals that you already use.

Re:Yet MS insists in using it (4, Insightful)

kenh (9056) | more than 3 years ago | (#31973202)

Windows 2008 allows you to use USB keys, CD-ROMs, USB floppy drives and other means to get the driver into the OS.

Windows Server 2003 still wants a floppy disk, but there are ways around it - many server mfgs provide "virtual" floppy drives, USB floppy drives are supported, and slipstreaming the driver onto the install media is another option.

Let's not forget that Windows Server 2003 came out about 7 years ago, just because you are installing it today doesn't change the operating system.

Re:Yet MS insists in using it (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#31973238)

Ever tried to get a driver for your HD controller into Windows during setup?

I stopped using that ancient operating system two and a half years ago

Re:Yet MS insists in using it (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#31973312)

Ever tried to get a driver for your HD controller into Windows during setup?

Uhm.. yes, works fine, with USB stick or CD/DVD (if you are not talking about several generations old versions of Windows that were launched nearly a decade ago).

Re:Yet MS insists in using it (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#31973330)

Please that was 9 years ago.

Vista and above allow installation by USB mass storage (usb thumb, or HDD, or your digital camera...). It has support for AHCI which you shouldn't need it most of the time for your SATA installation.

Re:Yet MS insists in using it (1)

Hognoxious (631665) | more than 3 years ago | (#31973366)

Ever tried to get a driver for your HD controller into Windows during setup?

Heh. I think that's the only use I've had for a floppy in the last ten years. When I bought my first CDR burner (a shoebox sized HP 7200[1]), one of the first things I did was to take all my floppies and burn them onto a CD.

I recently needed to do a reinstall (it's an m7700, bought when it was the latest and greatest and heaviest) and couldn't find the accursed disk. It was still inside the drive which was still sitting in my spares box, and presumably they'd both been there since the original installation.

[1] Still got that too, somewhere.

I hope... (4, Interesting)

CondeZer0 (158969) | more than 3 years ago | (#31973170)

that it doesn't take this long for all other non-solid-state storage to die.

The day when hardisk crashes and unreadable disks are things of the past is long over due.

Re:I hope... (2, Insightful)

muindaur (925372) | more than 3 years ago | (#31973296)

Price is still a major hurdle to that hope. It's more than 3K for a 1TB SSD right now and $120 for a 30GB SSD(the same price as a 1TB SATA drive.)

In time it will replace it but not in the near future unless the prices drop to a reasonable level for a market shift.

Re:I hope... (4, Insightful)

tepples (727027) | more than 3 years ago | (#31973308)

The day when hardisk crashes and unreadable disks are things of the past is long over due.

Solid-state storage may be more reliable than floppies, but it's not perfect. I've had a USB flash drive, an SD card, and two SD card readers fail on me. And an SSD still won't prevent file system corruption when you have hardware issues elsewhere.

Re:I hope... (1)

Enderandrew (866215) | more than 3 years ago | (#31973378)

I have a pocket flash drive that I've run through the wash twice and it still works. That is considerably better than most magnetic storage.

Re:I hope... (1)

megrims (839585) | more than 3 years ago | (#31973438)

From my experience, it seems like solid state storage tends to break when the circuit board is flexed, even a little bit. Hence CompactFlash > SD-Cards.

Re:I hope... (1)

hitmark (640295) | more than 3 years ago | (#31973644)

that a card reader fails is a inconvenience, but not a tragedy, unlike the failure of the actual card (unless the reader fails in such a way that it manages to corrupt whatever is on the card).

this is one worry i have with the lack of two part storage devices that can match HDDs in capacity. At least if the reader breaks you can potentially replace it (unless the media is so old its no longer available, but then there is format shifting. that is, unless its under DRM. Curse you media corporations!). In that regard tho, SD is not a perfect solution, as the storage itself is not "dumb", as there are some circuits on it to handle RW. Still, there was some talk about a new CF standard. And iirc, CF have all its logics in the reader, not the card.

Re:I hope... (1)

sznupi (719324) | more than 3 years ago | (#31973450)

Even when you add to the equation an adequate, for home user, backup machine (those small cheap NAS for example)...HDD storage still ends up significantly cheaper; and it should remain so for quite some time. Especially since there is some talk of another upcoming breakthrough in HDD tech (of course who knows if this talk is not also partly to calm investors in times when SSD have arrived)

(plus you should have backup & its added cost with SSD, too)

Saddening... (5, Funny)

ScottySniper (1699386) | more than 3 years ago | (#31973178)

I know how they feel. There's also a lack of demand for my 3.5 inch floppy...

Re:Saddening... (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#31973194)

It's covered in bad sectors. You need to have that looked at...

So sad... too bad... (2, Insightful)

Genda (560240) | more than 3 years ago | (#31973186)

It didn't help that with the growth of rich content, and growing sophistication (i.e. software bloat), that typical files sizes have reached or exceeded 1.44 MB. Figure Fry's today had a 32 GB thumb-drive on sale for $59.95. That's 22,756 "1.44 MB floppy disks", in a form factor that's less than 1/10th the size of the floppy. I recently found a cache of old disks, and I'm wondering what would be an environmentally friendly way to dispose of the little space wasters???

Re:So sad... too bad... (4, Funny)

Dialecticus (1433989) | more than 3 years ago | (#31973256)

I recently found a cache of old disks, and I'm wondering what would be an environmentally friendly way to dispose of the little space wasters???

Skeet.

Giving a copy of a file to someone (2, Insightful)

tepples (727027) | more than 3 years ago | (#31973326)

Figure Fry's today had a 32 GB thumb-drive on sale for $59.95.

True, a USB flash drive is good for carrying your own files around. But floppies, CD-R, and DVD-R have the advantage of being so cheap they're disposable, which lets you give a copy of a file to someone else.

Re:Giving a copy of a file to someone (1)

c6gunner (950153) | more than 3 years ago | (#31973532)

True, a USB flash drive is good for carrying your own files around. But floppies, CD-R, and DVD-R have the advantage of being so cheap they're disposable, which lets you give a copy of a file to someone else.

If the file you want to give away can fit on a floppy, you're better off just e-mailing it.

Re:So sad... too bad... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#31973452)

Take it to Best Buy, they recycle electronics made by anyone.

what has replaced the floppy? (2, Insightful)

FuckingNickName (1362625) | more than 3 years ago | (#31973206)

Reasons I like floppies:

1. Give-away-able - if I want to give someone a file, I can hand them a floppy with it on. No, not every circumstance involves having Internet access and not every document should be sent across the tubes. Nor does everyone who I want to give something to necessarily have a computer on them for me to slot my USB key into.

2. Long-life - most of my floppies from the '80s and '90s are still readable. Can't say the same for hard drives, and certainly not so for CDs/DVDs a few years old. IME a floppy is much likely to be readable in any floppy drive than a CD/DVD in a random CD/DVD drive, too.

3. I just drag-drop; no fucking burning/converting/e-mailing/something else process!

3. Everything boots from them. USB booting seems to be hit and miss on many motherboards, and software to support USB booting is more scarce.

Re:what has replaced the floppy? (1)

FuckingNickName (1362625) | more than 3 years ago | (#31973230)

In before, "They have 4s now, grandad."

Dammit.

Re:what has replaced the floppy? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#31973268)

I agree. And also, I doubt that most of his floppies from the 80s are still readable.....

Re:what has replaced the floppy? (3, Funny)

PolygamousRanchKid (1290638) | more than 3 years ago | (#31973298)

Armaments, chapter two, verses nine through twenty-one:

And the Lord spake, saying, "First shalt thou take out the Holy Pin. Then shalt thou count to three, no more, no less. Three shall be the number thou shalt count, and the number of the counting shall be three. Four shalt thou not count, neither count thou two, excepting that thou then proceed to three. Five is right out. Once the number three, being the third number, be reached, then lobbest thou thy Holy Hand Grenade of Antioch towards thy foe, who, being naughty in my sight, shall snuff it.

Re:what has replaced the floppy? (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#31973266)

1. Give-away-able - if I want to give someone a file, I can hand them a floppy with it on. No, not every circumstance involves having Internet access and not every document should be sent across the tubes. Nor does everyone who I want to give something to necessarily have a computer on them for me to slot my USB key into.

I'm actually now finding that USB sticks are give-away-able. Lots of companies are often giving away free branded usb sticks and I got another one that came with my new work laptop. So I have 3 attached to my keyring in various sizes (512mb, 1gb and 2gb) and when I need to give someone something I just hand them a stick, I normally get it back but if not it's not a biggy to me at all.

Re:what has replaced the floppy? (1)

tepples (727027) | more than 3 years ago | (#31973342)

Lots of companies are often giving away free branded usb sticks

How can I get in on such an offer?

Re:what has replaced the floppy? (1)

Hal_Porter (817932) | more than 3 years ago | (#31973294)

Well to be fair most of that you can do with a CD or DVD -R or -RW. There were even various attempts to make drag and drop work - UDF and Mount Rainier and even DVD-RAM, though I still use ISO because it's compatible with everything.

El Torito booting should work on pretty much any machine now - it's a lot less hit and miss than booting off USB.

Re:what has replaced the floppy? (0, Troll)

tepples (727027) | more than 3 years ago | (#31973380)

Well to be fair most of that you can do with a CD or DVD -R or -RW.

Not really. FuckingNickName seems to think CDs get damaged more easily than floppies.

There were even various attempts to make drag and drop work - UDF and Mount Rainier and even DVD-RAM, though I still use ISO because it's compatible with everything.

So you have to make a choice between "a floppy is much likely to be readable in any floppy drive than a CD/DVD in a random CD/DVD drive" and "no fucking burning".

Re:what has replaced the floppy? (1)

FuckingNickName (1362625) | more than 3 years ago | (#31973402)

Yes, I use(d) DVD-RAM internally precisely for its "large floppy" rewriteability. But not all drives support it and the discs aren't cheap.

El Torito works absolutely fine if your burn is good enough for the drive and the unforgiving BIOS you're throwing the medium in, and if your burning tool, BIOS and bootloader are in agreement [jowie.com]. You're better off with good +-R than +-RW for reliability, of course, but as well as waiting for the burn you have the physical wastage.

As the AC above implied, the full replacement will probably end up being small USB keys (although I wish SD slots had just become standard) at the price of a floppy. Eventually. Perhaps.

Re:what has replaced the floppy? (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#31973322)

1: CDs are give-able too.
2: Maybe in the 80s they made quality floppies. Anything you can buy today is a complete piece of shit that has a 50% chance of not being readable by another machine 5 minutes after being recorded.
3: Slightly faster than burning, but recording a full floppy still takes some time definitely not instant.
The second 3 which you presumably meant to be 4: how many modern computers even have floppy drives in them? Floppy booting support still sucks, but CD booting is very common on any hardware made in the last decade or so, and next to universal to anything younger than 5 years.

But I do wish we had disposable USB drives. If they now sell 32GB USB drives for $60, why can't they make a 256MB USB drive for $1? It's not like the material cost of a few grams of plastic is higher than a buck, and the manufacturing technology has been around for ages. That to me is the threshhold price of disposability.

Re:what has replaced the floppy? (2, Informative)

tepples (727027) | more than 3 years ago | (#31973410)

Slightly faster than burning, but recording a full floppy still takes some time definitely not instant.

"no fucking burning": you don't have to start a separate application (such as Nero, InfraRecorder, or Brasero) and create a "new project" to put files on a floppy. Instead, floppies mount like SD cards or USB flash drives (or more accurately vice versa).

But I do wish we had disposable USB drives. If they now sell 32GB USB drives for $60, why can't they make a 256MB USB drive for $1?

USB is still patented. Even after the patents expire sometime around 2020, there's still the cost of a connector, a PCB, a case, and a drive controller, which don't vary based on capacity. It's not like CD-R, where you can go from jewel boxes to a spindle to save money.

Re:what has replaced the floppy? (1)

sznupi (719324) | more than 3 years ago | (#31973570)

As for very cheap USB drives, there are still some options - look up Data Traveler Mini Slim from Kingston. I'm sure it can be made even simpler / cheaper; with the case using even less material than DT Mini Slim and being one block of plastic, or with controller and flash integrated in one chip.

Re:what has replaced the floppy? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#31973400)

"2. Long-life - most of my floppies from the '80s and '90s are still readable."

Bullshit.

Sure some may be readable but I'd say 8 out of 10 floppies i've formatted in the past 5 years have failed with read/write errors.

Floppies are shit.

Now I've got CD-Rs from 1999 that are still readable. I've got about 300 CD-Rs from that period and only one has had issues and I was able to restore it eventually.

Re:what has replaced the floppy? (1)

FuckingNickName (1362625) | more than 3 years ago | (#31973454)

Sure some may be readable but I'd say 8 out of 10 floppies i've formatted in the past 5 years have failed with read/write errors.

They might not make floppies like they used to, but your drive is probably bad. This is certainly going to happen if you have an unmaintained drive which you suddenly put into service after a decade of dust-gathering.

Now I've got CD-Rs from 1999 that are still readable. I've got about 300 CD-Rs from that period and only one has had issues and I was able to restore it eventually.

Then you are very lucky, especially if you're reading on a different drive. Although a good quality CD-R from that period is like a good quality early floppy, in that it's before manufacturers tried everything to cut corners, and it doesn't degrade like rewriteable optical media.

Re:what has replaced the floppy? (1)

eric-x (1348097) | more than 3 years ago | (#31973458)

4. They look much better than cd's
4. They're easier to store because they're square and smaller than cd's
4. They're don't get lost as easily as an usb stick because they're larger.
4. No need for jewel cases.

Inflation (3, Interesting)

michaelmalak (91262) | more than 3 years ago | (#31973476)

Flash drives today cost less than floppy disks in 1988.

Although the Bureau of Labor Statistics puts $1.00 in 1988 at $1.87 today, the real rate of inflation is much higher. From a popular perception standpoint, Wal-Mart's low prices are masking the double-digit inflation in healthcare, education, and housing (prices are still historically high relative to wages). From a BLS calculation standpoint, BLS pulls dirty tricks like considering only rents instead of home purchase price, considering that houses in West Virginia are equivalent to houses in Arlington, Virginia because they're in the same Census Metropolitan Statistical Area, and considering that an actual DVD player price should be adjusted down 50% because it's technologically superior to a VCR.

Shadowstats.com, which uses pre-Clinton formulas to compute CPI, now has a free calculator [shadowstats.com]. Without a subscription, it requires Photoshop to measure the bar heights, but I've measured that $1.00 in 1988 is over $5.00 today.

512MB USB thumb drives can be had for $3.99 [ewiz.com].

And that's compared to a 3.5" floppy disk. To try to add some fairness, I avoided a comparison with 5.25" floppies in 1982, which were $1.50 then.

When new formats are introduced, there is a discontinuity in prices. It makes for a sawtooth graph. You're cherry-picking the edge of the sawtooth and whining about it.

Re:what has replaced the floppy? (1)

kerrbear (163235) | more than 3 years ago | (#31973502)

I don't know what kind of 3.5s you were buying but mine failed regularly. I think I still have some in storage and I would wager they are all hosed. But I dunno, maybe I was buying the cheapo floppies. I can't remember.

Re:what has replaced the floppy? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#31973614)

1. Give-away-able - if I want to give someone a file, I can hand them a floppy with it on. No, not every circumstance involves having Internet access and not every document should be sent across the tubes. Nor does everyone who I want to give something to necessarily have a computer on them for me to slot my USB key into.

They don't have a usb mass storage device with them (for example any mobile phone or mp3 player) but they have a computer with a disk drive?

Next up, the mainframe! (1)

kenh (9056) | more than 3 years ago | (#31973234)

I can't wait for the mainframe to finally succomb to market realities and die - the mainframe has been on the verge of extinction for my entire career in computing, which started in the mid-80's...

To borrow a line from Monty Python, "(It's) not dead yet! [youtube.com]"

Close to death... Not quite (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#31973242)

Yes, it's extremely unreliable and prone to failure and data loss. Yes, the storage space is pathetic. Yes, many modern computers don't have a drive to use it. But there are still some cases where it can be better than the alternative: when you need to record something very fast, very cheap, and very small.

E.g.: college. Professors and instructors are still stuck in the 80s and demand students give a "physical" copy of their work, rather than accept it by e-mail or online CMS. The typical college student, naturally, would not bother recording the work on a physical medium until 2 minutes before class. CD recorders are just a tad slower than floppies, and besides, colleges don't like upgrading their computers that often, so even today many labs and libraries have computers with a floppy drive but not a CD burner. So floppy to the rescue.

And, of course, any sysadmin stuck with legacy hardware that can, in lieu of a hard drive with an OS, can only boot off a floppy.

Flash keys are far better for personal data storage of all but the largest data sizes, to both CDs and floppies, but unfortunately even the smallest data-size flash drives are too expensive to use as a discardable medium, akin to a CD or floppy. Still waiting until small-sized flash drives sell for less than $1 a piece, so we can record something on them and give away without consequence.

Where can I get a usb 5.25 drive? Anyone? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#31973278)

Maybe this is a good place to ask if anyone knows where I could get a 5 1/4" floppy drive with a usb attachment. It's no problem finding them in 3 1/2", but I need a 5 1/4". Also, do any modern motherboards support two floppies? I have a bunch of 5.25 and 3.5 floppies that I need to archive, and the last 2 pc's I've encountered only supported one floppy drive installed - no a: and b:.

Re:Where can I get a usb 5.25 drive? Anyone? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#31973310)

http://www.deviceside.com/fc5025.html ... but you need a 5.25" drive to attach to it. It acts as a controller/interface.

But, but..."all Sony standards fail" (1)

sznupi (719324) | more than 3 years ago | (#31973340)

So many failures...Betacam, CD, Hi8, miniDV, HDV, DAT, S/PDIF, AIBO; (some in collaboration)

Re:But, but..."all Sony standards fail" (1)

srussia (884021) | more than 3 years ago | (#31973436)

So many failures...Betacam, CD, Hi8, miniDV, HDV, DAT, S/PDIF, AIBO; (some in collaboration)

If you consider these failures, how would you describe the minidisc?

Re:But, but..."all Sony standards fail" (1)

maxwell demon (590494) | more than 3 years ago | (#31973620)

So many failures...Betacam, CD, Hi8, miniDV, HDV, DAT, S/PDIF, AIBO; (some in collaboration)

The CD was a failure?

Re:But, but..."all Sony standards fail" (1)

Yvan256 (722131) | more than 3 years ago | (#31973662)

You can add the Memory Stick to that list. It's not a failure as such, but why did Sony create their own memory media standard when there was already too many options on the market? Same thing goes for the xD-Picture Card of Fujifilm and Olympus.

The real reason (4, Funny)

6Yankee (597075) | more than 3 years ago | (#31973350)

Sony can't fit a decent rootkit on a floppy...

Sony: Oh yes we can (4, Funny)

SmallFurryCreature (593017) | more than 3 years ago | (#31973426)

Sony: Oh yes we can... oh wait. No we can't. That is right. So rootkits on our floppies at all. No sirree. Wouldn't fit see. Yeah.

ouch (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#31973518)

I know one industrial laser I used to program boots from a floppy - a 720K floppy to for good measure. Best get a box in I advised them. Don't work there anymore thank goodness

Are floopies still used to upgrade the BIOS? (1)

walterbyrd (182728) | more than 3 years ago | (#31973540)

As I remember, just a few years ago you needed a floppy to upgrade some system's bios.

What do you mean "continues"? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#31973610)

Apple dropped the floppy in 1998, that was 12 years ago. Even the comments from PC users so far, right here on Slashdot, seems to indicate that a lot of technical people haven't used a floppy disk in nearly a decade.

The floppy is dead, and so are the parallel port, the serial ports* and Adobe Flash**.

* FTDI [ftdichip.com] makes reliable USB-to-serial cables with drivers for the three main operating systems so stop bitching about the lack of serial ports on new computers.
** Mwahahaha [wikipedia.org]!

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