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The End of a Floppy Era 786

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the it-ain't-hard-to-make-jokes dept.
An anonymous reader writes This article is an editorial on the end of the floppy and the rise of more portable, more efficient data storage." Floppy nothing. In my day we etched our data into pottery. Talk about your long term enterprise data storage. Some of those buggers made it thousands of years!
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The End of a Floppy Era

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  • Hmm (Score:5, Funny)

    by SpooForBrains (771537) on Wednesday July 13, 2005 @09:03AM (#13052364)
    Is the end of the floppy era related to all this viagra spam I keep getting?
  • Not gone... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by ginotech (816751) on Wednesday July 13, 2005 @09:04AM (#13052365)
    I still outfit every computer i build with a floppy. Only 10 bucks, and you never know when it'll come in handy.
    • Re:Not gone... (Score:3, Interesting)

      by DigitumDei (578031)
      Back in the middle of 2003 I bought myself a new machine and decided to forget the floppy drive. I haven't regretted the decision once.
      • by tod_miller (792541) on Wednesday July 13, 2005 @09:17AM (#13052523) Journal
        And then I realised I do not have one at work (dell) or at home (home made).

        If I need to read off a floppy, I do have a laptop with a usb floppy (old). But who gives me disks? if someone tries to give me a disk, I say, just email me the bloody thing, 1.4 mb uncompressed files, or zip them up (or tar them ffs).

        Network/Email killed the floppy more than usb drives. I use usb increasingly for files that won't fit on CD.
      • Likewise, my new machine circa 2002 didn't get one. (Actually, it was more because I couldn't undo a couple of the small screws from my previous machine's drive, or it would have done as a "just in case" precaution. D'oh.)

        I gather there are a few niches where floppies are still necessary; someone was telling me something about SATA drivers for some OSes in a previous Slashdot discussion, and I'm never quite sure about Windows recovery disks and such. However, it seems either a CD-based or USB-based altern

      • ...and decided to forget the floppy drive. I haven't regretted the decision once.

        Dude, I hate to be the slashdot spelling nazi, but you mispelled the word "yet".

        HTH!

        Seriously, I built myself a new PC last year and although I put a floppy drive in, I've not ever needed it. But it's really nice to know that it's there for emergencies. Now the standard response at this point is: but there're perfectly good alternatives - USB drives, DVD-ROMs, etc. All true, but it's a lot quicker to make a bootable flo

        • Re:Not gone... (Score:5, Informative)

          by swv3752 (187722) <swv3752.hotmail@com> on Wednesday July 13, 2005 @10:16AM (#13053126) Homepage Journal
          A while back I wanted to check the integrity of a hard drive and realized that the hard drive utilities were on floppy. I have long since abandoned the floppy drive in my long upgraded machine. So I searched around for a bootable cd image that had such utils and found this [ultimatebootcd.com]. If you ever need one of those floppy utils, most likely they will be found on the Ultimate boot CD.
    • Re:Not gone... (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Nytewynd (829901)
      My mobo floppy interface died on me somehow. I wanted to Raid 0 two drives with Win XP on that machine, but couldn't load the drivers for the windows install without the floppy drive. I tried several floppy drives and cables before deciding that the mobo just wasn't working. The only option in the windows install is to put the disk in drive A:. You can't use a CD. My other option was to slipstream the install CD with the drivers. I am way to lazy for that, so I decided to just keep the 2 drives separa
    • " I still outfit every computer i build with a floppy."

      I never put floppies on computers anymore. I have a bootable CD I use for recovery and other emergency boot opertions. To me a floppy drive is just something else to break.

    • Re:Not gone... (Score:5, Informative)

      by NetNifty (796376) on Wednesday July 13, 2005 @09:20AM (#13052564) Homepage
      I've got a floppy drive on this machine, and the only reason for that is Windows requires SATA drivers to be given to it on a floppy disk during install. If MS let me use a CD or even a USB pen drive for that it wouldn't be necessary (it even asked for a floppy in the A: drive when no floppy drive was connected).
    • Re:Not gone... (Score:5, Informative)

      by Dogtanian (588974) on Wednesday July 13, 2005 @10:14AM (#13053107) Homepage
      I still outfit every computer i build with a floppy. Only 10 bucks, and you never know when it'll come in handy.

      True; although ironically, the present cheapness of floppy drives and disks have probably contributed to lack of quality, and driven the perception of the floppy further into the ground than would have happened otherwise.

      This is beside the point; the floppy's time has been and gone. Which raises a couple of issues with the article:-

      (1) The guy is positively relishing the end of floppy disks. Yeah, they're slow, and really too small to be useful for anything except emergency boot disks nowadays. But I remember getting an Atari 800XL with 5.25" drive in the mid-80s (not state-of-the-art, even then) and believe me, when the alternative was program storage on audio cassette (as was the norm for the UK 8-bit market), a floppy drive was pretty damn desirable. Particularly when you consider that Atari games took from 5-25 minutes to load from cassette. *I* didn't hate floppies back then.

      (2) It's notable that he doesn't mention the "next-generation" disk drives such as the Iomega Zip and LS-120/Superdisk... the 3.5" floppy comes out bad because it's been around *forever* (original release circa 1982, with the 1.44Mb HD released roughly *twenty years ago*!!). It's not as if the 3.5" was the only potential successor to the 5.25", it just happened to be the one adopted as standard. There were many potential successors to the 3.5", but they didn't become widely adopted enough (not even the relatively popular Zip) to become "transparently" standard.

      So, the question is, is he criticising floppies, or just having a go at the 3.5" format? In fact, what was the point of the article at all- that the 1.44Mb floppy is dying? That's not news, we've heard it before, and it's too widespread to die suddenly, although USB drives will hasten its demise.

      It's like audio cassettes... I didn't just "stop" using them one day. It just dawned on me that I had no real need for them any more, that I wasn't likely to record any new ones, and that it made more sense to transfer any remaining "commitment" to other formats. They're not woefully obsolete, I don't hate them, I just don't have a real use for them any more.
    • Windows Drivers (Score:3, Informative)

      by WD_40 (156877)
      When I built my last computer I decided to forgo the floppy drive, however when I went to load my RAID drivers during Win2K setup, I discovered that Microsoft, in it's infinite wisdom, will only take RAID or SCSI drivers off a floppy. There is no option to browse any other media.

      In any case, I hooked up a floppy during setup and then tossed it in the closet when I was done.

      I certainly hope that in future versions of windows we won't be forced to use obsolete media.
    • Re:Not gone... (Score:3, Interesting)

      by fm6 (162816)
      Right you are. Floppies have been "obsolete" for at least a decade, in the sense that they're too small for any useful data exchange. But as long as the IBM architecture remains the model for commodity computers, people will continue to have floppy drives. You may go for years without using yours, but when you need it, you need it bad.
    • by bigpat (158134)
      I still outfit every computer i build with a floppy. Only 10 bucks, and you never know when it'll come in handy.

      Well you never know when 10 bucks will come in handy either.
  • pshaw! (Score:4, Funny)

    by nocomment (239368) on Wednesday July 13, 2005 @09:04AM (#13052370) Homepage Journal
    Your buried pottery broke into millions of peices at the slightest hint of a landslide, in my day we painted our data on the walls of ours caves.
  • by aicrules (819392)
    Right next to VHS...oh wait...people still own and use VHS Players? AND Floppy drives? What's that you say? Even 5.25" Floppy Drives?! Well then the title for this article must have been "The Death of Floppy Drives In Newly Sold PCs" not yet another "XXX is Dead". And if XXX is dead, THAT would be a news story.
    • It talks about the end of an era, not that it is completely dead. It is replaced on all fronts, the era where it was used a lot is over, that doesn't mean it is completely dead.

      How many VHS drives are sold? Probably a lot, but I'd still say the ERA of VHS is gone and replaced by DVD. Imo off course.
    • by kypper (446750)
      you mean like BSD is Dead? ;-)
  • by kzinti (9651) *
    At least you can take your pottery with you when an ice age comes! Now, in my day, we had it TOUGH. We had to scratch our data onto our cave walls with the points of our spears. Sunup to sundown, we'd be scratching data, with our pointy-haired bosses standing over us every minute, and anyone who didn't pass checksum got fed to the mastadons.
  • New Format (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Antimatter3009 (886953) on Wednesday July 13, 2005 @09:05AM (#13052381)
    So what's the new format for booting into DOS to flash my video card BIOS?
    • Re:New Format (Score:2, Informative)

      by toady (629465)
      They call it CD-ROM [slashdot.org]
      • by PaxTech (103481)
        You can't double the storage capacity of a CD-ROM with a hole puncher though. ;)

        Actually I'll be glad when floppies are completely gone, it drives me batshit when people refer to 3.5" floppies as "hard disks". Argh!
        • by badfish99 (826052)
          In South Africa they used to call 5-1/4 inch disks "floppies" and 3-1/2 inch disks "stiffies".
          It sort of makes sense, but it gave me a huge amount of amusement when I was there.

          Not as funny as the American who used to phone up our office (in England) and announce his name by saying "Hello, I'm Randy", until it was gently explained to him why it was sending the secretary into a fit of giggles every time he called.

          • by ninjagin (631183)
            Actually, as an American who's always gone by "Randy" (my name's Randall), I had a very similar experience in Edinburgh, which reminded me at once that I needed to use my full, proper name from then on out.

            I walked into the dining room of one of (imho) the nicer old pubs just behind Princes street (on Rose Street, I think?) and asked the matronly hostess to be put on the waiting list for a table. Without thinking, I said "Randy" when asked for my name. I recall looking down at the list for a few moments a

    • Re:New Format (Score:3, Informative)

      by Gaima (174551)
      CD
      USB
      Floppy for all those millions of machines still out there with floppy drives, and all the millions still to be made with floppies.
    • Re:New Format (Score:2, Informative)

      by faloi (738831)
      Easy, set up your USB key to be DOS bootable and do it that way. Next question?
    • Not only that, but I'm still running Windows 2000 Pro. How do I install SATA drivers without a floppy?

      I hate feeling like technology articles are trying to force me to get Windows XP.

      Long live my floppy drive! It's been in 4 different cases for this very reason.
      • Sorry if I come off as a complete ass wanker, but have you considered building your own OEM Installation CD with the console-drivers integrated?
      • XP has the same problem. The solution is to get a motherboard which properly integrates the SATA controller into the system chipset.

      • I hate feeling like technology articles are trying to force me to get Windows XP.

        Except many mobos need floppy driver disks for XP too... You can slipstream the drivers onto the install media but unless you're doing a bunch of identical installs (in which case you'd be better off with a cloned disk image anyway) the floppy drive is easier.

    • So what's the new format for booting into DOS to flash my video card BIOS?

      CD-R[W]. The bootable part of a bootable CD is actually a floppy disk image. If you get the BIOS update in an image form (instead of some program for writing the disk), you can burn it to a CD and use that. Works for me at least, YMMV.

    • Why not use a thumb drive?
    • From the adjacent replies in this thread it appears that DOS is at least USB bootable from thumb drives.

      When will Windows be bootable from USB? Why isn't it now? Is there a solid technical reason or is it the same reason there's no print command from Windows Explorer? The inflexibility of boot devices relative to technology on Windows is kind of appalling.

      I cede boot flexibility to the Mac world completely. You've always been able to boot into Mac OS from any darn connected drive -- 1394, USB, CDs (du
  • They may have been floppy, but they were 8 inches long! Not like these puny kids with their 3.5" ones...
    • " They may have been floppy, but they were 8 inches long!"

      I stilll have an unopened box of Memorex 8" Floppies on the shelf above my desk. It is kind of homage to a time gone by.

  • by barnseyboy (842629) on Wednesday July 13, 2005 @09:06AM (#13052389) Homepage
    and how i love fiddling round the back of my pc trying to slot it in.
    • Spend the $10 and get a 4' USB extension cable. Leave it plugged into the difficult-to-access slot, thereby giving you an easy-to-access USB port next to your machine.
    • Believe it or not, the USB ports on the front of my work PC are even worse: Dell chose to angle them. They're beneath a plastic cover, but they aren't perpendicular to the front of the PC - the ports actually face down at an angle and are difficult to use unless I lay on the floor and look up. (Optiplex GX270.)
  • Back around 1981 (Score:2, Interesting)

    by jmp_nyc (895404) *
    I remember when my father set up a new office in 1981...

    He got a system sold by Datapoint. There was the computer itself, and terminals at various places around the office. They also had a printer room, which had a dot matrix printer for each of the news wire services.

    The Datapoint computer had a 10" floppy drive, but the tour de force was the "Cynthia," a 10MB drive with a removable cartridge. At the time, my father couldn't imagine any way they would ever use so much space.

    25 years later, he still

    • Re:Back around 1981 (Score:3, Informative)

      by corngrower (738661)
      I don't ever recall 10" floppy drives. They probably were 8" drives. Even by the mid 1980's 8" drives were getting rare. 5 1/4" had larger capacity, and were smaller and more reliable by then.
  • Taco... (Score:2, Funny)

    by Dacmot (266348)
    "Floppy nothing. In my day we etched our data into pottery."

    Poor Taco. He must feel so overwhelmed by the technology of slash. Maybe that's why there are so many dups.
  • by eck06 (725760)
    To me, there's still nothing quite like a cheap, simple, effective floppy to bootstrap with (e.g. etherboot) in a large computing environment.
    • To me, there's still nothing quite like a cheap, simple, effective floppy to bootstrap with (e.g. etherboot) in a large computing environment.

      You shouldn't really need that though, as most systems these days (both from vendors like HP/Compaq, as well as individually sold consumer motherboards) support booting straight from the network.

      Personally, I find USB drives much more useful. At worse I prefer writing a CD (/CWRW), as both are larger and more reliable (and in the case of CD's, have been supported a
  • What with booting from CDs and ubiquitous internet access, the old "sneakernet" has long gone the way of the dinosaur. I use computers all the time, and haven't touched a floppy in a couple years.
    Heck, now that we've working on fingernail hard drives, [slashdot.org] maybe even those USB drives will be outdated.

    Don't ride the bus? Get sued! [whattofix.com]
  • Whoa... (Score:3, Funny)

    by Wdomburg (141264) on Wednesday July 13, 2005 @09:09AM (#13052434)
    Amazing revelations to start my morning off with.
  • Boot From Floppy (Score:2, Insightful)

    by p0 (740290)
    They are just handy to do booting related stuff. What if the CDROM is broken? Floppies just work! And USB boot? I havent tried that and I doubt their effectiveness over floppies
    • Floppy drives go bad just like CD-ROM drives. And if you're replacing a bad drive, $15 for a new CD-ROM isn't much more than $10 for a new floppy (newegg prices).
  • by Ignorant Aardvark (632408) <.cydeweys. .at. .gmail.com.> on Wednesday July 13, 2005 @09:10AM (#13052446) Homepage Journal
    This article was entered as part of an article-writing contest [flexbeta.net] with real life rewards such as a video card or DVD writers. This article is just written by some guy trying to win a contest, not by anyone influential. What he says is true, but obvious.
  • Floppies work everywhere! What's so unportable about them?
  • by kevmo (243736)
    This article was just another worthless piece of bad journalism in the genre of "The end of X". This guy is ranting like people need to stop using floppies, but thats pretty much already happened. A lot of people I know don't even have floppy drives. Cheap optical media and USB drives have all but replaced it.

    Even at my mom's office, where they are very backwards about technology, they use zip drives over floppy drives.

    I'm anxiously looking forward to reading the authors article on the "The End of the
  • Keep the floppy (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday July 13, 2005 @09:11AM (#13052467)
    Advantages of floppies over USB:
    * They can be removed without an unmount procedure.
    * They are essentially free, whereas I need to get my USB drives returned.
    * They don't autorun stuff when inserted.
    * Works with Windows 98 (25% of the desktop market)
    * They are bootable (handy when debugging a computer)
    * Works with DOS (handy when debugging a computer)

    For $10, I'll keep my floppy drive, thank you.
    • by TobyWong (168498) on Wednesday July 13, 2005 @09:26AM (#13052638)
      I had a great reply written up and saved to floppy, just as I was about to post it my floppy died.

  • by falcon5768 (629591) <Falcon5768@comca ... t minus caffeine> on Wednesday July 13, 2005 @09:12AM (#13052473) Journal
    I havent used a floppy since Apple stopped putting them on computers and you know what, I never once in all these years missed it. Not once.

    There is nothing out there right now that SOMETHING cant fill the place that the floppy once had, yet I see posts even here talking about "never know when you will need it" Yet I dont need it, it really is wasted space and there are plenty of better things out there that can fill its place as a emergancy boot device, and a storage device.

    Does a whole generation of nerd need to move on and retire before people get the hint to stop buying this peice of 70's technology for their 21 century computer???

  • Don't be surprised to see floppies sticking around for a little more time. Think of all the countless small companies whose "computer guys" still run around with DOS boot floppies to kick off a Windows installation. Just because MS stopped supporting it doesn't mean it's not still around. I can't imagine why people would want to fuss with LAN Manager config files in 2005 and wait 2 minutes for a system to boot though.

    What might happen is a huge jump in the price of media and drives. OKI is getting nearly $
  • Floppy dependencies are still there. E.g. Win XP requires floppy to install the RAID drivers during Windows setup. So, the flppy is not dead yet.
  • I found this out recently when I had to scrounge through old computer junk for a floppy drive. Yep, even in 2005, you can't set up XP on my brand new computer (3 months ago now) equipped with only a SATA hard disk in it. Sheesh.
  • But has Netcraft confirmed oh god my life is an empty shell and I have no meaning or purpose.
  • Great, just great. Now what am I going to do with this $42.95 uber-space-making disk notch-cutter I just bought on EBay?
  • move along.... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Lxy (80823) on Wednesday July 13, 2005 @09:15AM (#13052500) Journal
    Another article declaring the death of the floppy. Haven't we seen these before? Isn't it OBVIOUS that there's better solutions? Duh. Unfortunately for most IT geeks, the floppy will be part of our job for the forseeable future.

    In the ideal world, all your PCs that you administer will boot off that fancy USB keychain. Software that insists on doing a media check no longer exists, and the floppy disk is merely a wall decoration.

    In a real IT environment, you're ineveitably stuck with machines that are accesible ONLY by floppy. Want to boot that PII machine? Better find a floppy. I set up several HPaq laptops about a year ago. You'd think by now they'd have USB booting working, right? NOPE. The BIOS was set to boot off USB, I popped in my bootable flash drive, and... nothing. I booted a desktop to be sure, yes, this flash drive is bootable. I never pursued it because I had several workarounds (one being the removable floppy drive) but it goes to show that this bane of technology known as the floppy disk will be around for quite some time.

    Last month I received a software package distributed on DVD. A forward thinking company, right? Then what's this floppy disk for? That's right, they have a floppy that's needed to install the software. It uses strategically placed bad sectors to verify that the floppy disk is genuine and lets you install the software. Good thing this brand new Dell PC still has a floppy drive, or I couldn't install it.

    Sorry folks, the floppy may have outlived its usefulness in the user realm but in the IT realm, we get to hang on to them for quite awhile.
  • by mrRay720 (874710) on Wednesday July 13, 2005 @09:16AM (#13052510)
    What have we got in terms of removable media though?

    CD? certainly cheap, and at a guess 50% of computers now have them, but they are BIGGER than what they're replacing. Probably not as durable for day-to-day usage, either. FAIL

    DVD? Well a much better replacement option than CD, were it not for the fact that probably only 10% of comnputers have them. Less durable that CD, with compatability issues still lingering on older equipment. FAIL

    ZIP? Dead. Dead

    USB memory sticks? Probably usable by 95%+ at least. Most are compatible alternative (well the ones using standard mass storage drivers anyway), but there are price issues. The cheapest ones are an order of magnitude or two more expensive than floppys/CDs/DVDs. Higher capacity ones (650MB-4.7GB) are A LOT more expensive than the alternative replacements, CDs and DVDs.

    Portable HD? Great capacity, compatability, capacity/price ratio, but an even higher minimum price than the thumbdrives.

    All other options just have no real benefits over the alternatives listed above and/or have a pathetic tiny market share.

    Why did the industry fail so horribly in coming up with a cheap and easy floppy replacement? Perhaps there's just far less need for it now that so many PCs are connected via the internet or local LAN.

    Is it "Floppy is dead" or "removable mass media is dead"?

  • There can be no argument, cave wall wins - bah people talk about DLT and Harddisks and floppies.. all amature stuff!!

    Think about it.. cave wall paintings have survived thousands of years, and in alot of cases, survived with only minor data loss (bat shit, wind, rain etc)

    And I now your thinking, what about offsite storage/backup (Incase something happens to my cave) No problem, just find another cave and paint away!

    Now, to write an export script to convert my Word and Open Office documents into cave wall
  • I honestly couldn't finish the article because of those unnerving spider ads on the side.

    Freak me out, man.

    (Firefox at work doesn't come with ad blocker by default.)
  • by CAIMLAS (41445) on Wednesday July 13, 2005 @09:17AM (#13052526) Homepage
    In a world where a single Word document can take up 700Kb (ie, half a floppy disk) without being more than a couple pages or having graphics, probably close to 1/2 of all floppy disks are bad out of the box and even more die after only a couple uses, and there's almost ubiquitous networks and Internet access, why is this surprising?

    The fact that other media is finding a niche is, I think, only correlary. A box of 10 floppies costs, what, $10 still at Best Buy? Do they even sell floppies at Best Buy anymore? This transition would've occurred much sooner if companies would've stopped selling flawed and essentially lemon disks years ago, when the technology allowed from the transition away from such things.

    Sometime around the year 1999 would've been a good time to simply stop providing them in a PC (and including a 16Mb USB CF card in its stead, with easy-access USB ports on the front). The cost to the manufaturer would've been defrayed in both increased sales ("Ohh, free technology!") and having to not spend $10 or so per machine for the next 4 (5? are they still installing floppy drives in new PCs?) years.

    Aside from a couple disks I've got floating around which I use as bookmarks for magazines and books I'm reading, I've not seen a floppy actually being used as such in years.
  • by cnaumann (466328) on Wednesday July 13, 2005 @09:17AM (#13052529)
    Most of their new Oscilliscopes still use floppies to store screen shots. Most of their Oscilliscopes do not support USB drives. Unlike a new computer, the useful lifetime of a lab instrument is measured in decades. Floppies will be around for a while.

    Speaking of lab instruments, my new Stanford Research SR620 Time Interval Counter requires either an Epson MX80 printer or an HPGL plotter (either RS232 or IEE488) for simple hardcopy output, and requires and analog oscilliscope for a real time video display.
  • Memories... (Score:2, Interesting)

    by vchoy (134429)
    Here are just some things I can think of:

    * Getting those special hole punchers and converting those 5 1/4" 360KB floppys to instant 720KB- Instant double density!

    * Buying a special pack of 10 x 3 1/2 1.44 SONY (We're talking branded!!) for $15. - bargain!

    * Those cool programs that you could execute and make your floppy [drive] play a tune by it issuing commands to the seek mechanism of the drive. (eg. Happy Birthday, Silent Night, etc etc)

    * ..."Insert disk 2 of disk 30, press any key to continue"

    * OPER
  • What does netcraft [netcraft.com] say?
  • People are willing to pay good money for a retro cassette drive [thinkgeek.com] for their computers right now to gain points with the geek crowd.

    Wait a minute; I'm going to sell my "crap box" full of floppy drives on eBay for the retro crowd. I'll soon be a thousandaire. Or at least a hundredaire.
  • by lightyear4 (852813) on Wednesday July 13, 2005 @09:25AM (#13052621) Homepage
    I can certainly hear the death knell ringing in the distance, but as with all legacy equipment, the floppy will never quite die. In repairing computers for the past ten or so years, I have been required to use a floppy with, paradoxically, increasing frequency. Boot cds are wonderful, but many times older equipment (the stuff that fails that I'm being asked to troubleshoot) just cannot handle them; some require a floppy to due to the nonexistent bios booting option; others are of great use simply because old software, well written, will never pass away. Surely those of you who do data recovery and forensics have loads of such tools at your disposal?

    Floppies have served us well, and at least some of us will be using them for some time to come.
  • by Ed Avis (5917) <ed@membled.com> on Wednesday July 13, 2005 @09:36AM (#13052735) Homepage
    The article claims that a 3.5inch floppy holds only 1.44 megabytes of data. That's true only if you format them in the standard MS-DOS format (and we'll ignore the rather weird definition of 'megabyte' used to quote the size). But the physical limit of the diskette is two megabytes - that's why they are sometimes called '2MB (Unformatted)' - and with better software you can get closer to this.

    You can increase the number of tracks (concentric circles) on the disk, or the number of sectors per track (reducing the gap between each sector). Floppy drives are rated for 80 tracks but can usually manage a few more. There is the 1.72 megabyte or so format used by Microsoft for installation floppies, which is readable by standard DOS and Windows with no problems. Although DOS supports it, the 'format' program doesn't, so you will need to get fdformat or 2MDOS (see below).

    A step further is to install a driver like 2M (search for it on Simtel's MS-DOS archive) which lets you format floppies up to 1.92 megs or so. I think some of these formats are understood by Linux but I'm not sure. Sadly, since 2M is a DOS driver it won't work with newer Windows versions. The included 2MDOS driver patches MS-DOS's format program to let you format floppies in 1.72 megs and other reasonably-large sizes, which are then readable by all DOS and Windows versions without the need for extra drivers.

    2M also includes 2MGUI, short for '2M-Guiness', which claims to hold the world record for fitting the most onto a floppy. It will format ordinary quad-density floppies nearly two megabytes. (Bizarrely, it also manages to get about 1.1 megs on a double-density floppy, which is more than the theoretical limit.)

    Note also that later model IBM PS/2s included an octuple-density floppy drive, giving 2.88 megs with vanilla DOS or OS/2 and nearly 4 megs with clever format programs, but this more expensive hardware never caught on. Perhaps the floppy controller in your clone PC nowadays can handle an octuple-density disk drive, I'm not sure.
  • by gweihir (88907) on Wednesday July 13, 2005 @10:17AM (#13053136)
    The floppy is the only easily writable medium today that you can reliably boot a PC from. USB storage is still not there yet. CD/DVD/etc is not writable in any HDD/floppy-like sense. That is the reason why countless utilities (BIOS iupdata, HDD diagnose, ramtest, disk-imagers, desaster recovery, ....) are available on floppies.
    Until something as compatible and universal as the floppy is around, removing it is just plain stupid. I am quite anoyed at the people that have predicted the death of the floppy again and again for several years now.
  • by Have Blue (616) on Wednesday July 13, 2005 @11:08AM (#13053629) Homepage
    The PC world just hasn't caught up with those in the know [apple.com] yet. I haven't even *seen* a floppy for years.
  • by a_nonamiss (743253) on Wednesday July 13, 2005 @11:13AM (#13053683)
    I REALLY want to kill my floppy drive. I hate it. Floppy disks are so incredibly unreliable. They are corrupted on the whim. Hell, even putting a floppy next to a cell phone can provide sufficient magnetic field to erase its contents.

    However, I just built a new set of servers for my company, and we had to put floppy drives on all of them. The BIOS on the motherboard we used supported booting to a USB device, but if you didn't want to boot to it, it wasn't recognized. In order to load the SATA RAID drivers for Win2k3, we had to have a FDD in the machine. It sucks. Also, recently, I made a customization of the Ultimate Boot CD [ultimatebootcd.com] and I needed every friggin' floppy disk that I wanted to put on there, because there's no easy (and free) way to make an image of a boot floppy without using the actual disk. I had copies of all the compressed images, but since they were compressed, I had to copy them onto a floppy, then re-create a non-compressed image using FloppyImage. (There are commercial programs out there, but who wants to pay $30 for WinImage to create 5 images when FloppyImage is free)

    So what's the solution? Will motherboard BIOS manufacturers just standardize the practice of putting NON-BOOTABLE USB support in the BIOS? I can fit every image to every floppy disk I ever owned onto one 512MB USB drive. What does it take?
  • Who cares? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by east coast (590680) on Wednesday July 13, 2005 @01:08PM (#13054930)
    Dead? As in obsolete? Obsolete is just a word. Get over it. Floppies will not die until the last person who ever puts on in a PC decides it's not worth it anymore. There is no debate and frankly if you're losing sleep over this issue maybe it is you that is obsolete.

    If a Commodore 64 is what it takes to get you where you're going than a Commodore 64 is still a viable machine, if your needs are fulfilled by a floppy than a floppy is still viable storage.
  • by KC7GR (473279) on Wednesday July 13, 2005 @04:14PM (#13057027) Homepage Journal
    While the floppy may no longer be useful in a "consumer" PC world (and I even have my doubts about that), it is still very much alive and well in the industrial PC arena, and in many electronics labs, just like RS232, RS422, and RS485 serial ports.

    This is because good ole' DOS (yes, as in MS-DOS, PC-DOS, whatever DOS you want to call it, complete with command-line interface) is still used in many embedded and dedicated-system applications that work just fine without the bloat and instability that Windows would add.

    Example, from my own lab: Programming and servicing many makes of Motorola 2-way radios. I could not do so were it not for a DOS-based system which has no ability to network at all. Many of the Motorola radio service software packages won't run on Windows, mainly because they were written long before Windows was in force and Motorola has chosen not to re-write them. Also, most such programs require direct control of the serial port, something that Windows versions above (I think) 95 do not allow.

    Transferring radio data files from my archives to the programming computer is best done with -- you guessed it -- floppies. This includes transfer of files to older (pre-Pentium) portable systems for programming or service work in the field. Again, floppies are incredibly useful for such.

    I want to add here that I've grown very tired of supposedly knowledgeable people arbitrarily deciding, just because they think a given technology isn't "very friendly" or that its "usefulness is now gone," that everyone else should kowtow to their "advice" and stop using said technology immediately. If Mr. McCollum truly does find floppies something he's come to "loathe with a passion," then he certainly has my permission to stop using them.

    The article itself is really comparing apples and oranges in any case. Floppies were never meant to compete with things like USB drives. They were designed for one purpose, and they serve that purpose very well indeed. Heck, I think the fact that they've stood the Test of Time so well speaks volumes for their continued usefulness.

    Here's my challenge to the computing world: Find me a DOS version that supports USB hardware, and a USB storage device that can talk to DOS over said hardware, AND that I can boot DOS from if I need to, and I will consider giving up floppies.

    Until then, Mr. McCollum has my most cordial invitation (which I'll post to the actual article site as soon as I get home tonight) to take his myopic and repetitive "Floppies are Dead" editorial, and blow it out his Jump drive.

Optimism is the content of small men in high places. -- F. Scott Fitzgerald, "The Crack Up"

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