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The End of the 3.5-inch Floppy Continues 472

Posted by timothy
from the finally-we-can-standardize-on-bernoulli dept.
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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The End of the 3.5-inch Floppy Continues

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  • 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.

  • I hope... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by CondeZer0 (158969) on Sunday April 25, 2010 @08:24AM (#31973170) Homepage

    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.

  • by Hognoxious (631665) on Sunday April 25, 2010 @08:36AM (#31973240) Homepage Journal

    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.

  • by mikael (484) on Sunday April 25, 2010 @08:37AM (#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]

  • by SIGBUS (8236) on Sunday April 25, 2010 @08:44AM (#31973290) Homepage

    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.

  • by Alwin Henseler (640539) on Sunday April 25, 2010 @08:51AM (#31973332) Homepage

    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.

  • Inflation (Score:4, Interesting)

    by michaelmalak (91262) <michael@michaelmalak.com> on Sunday April 25, 2010 @09:09AM (#31973476) Homepage
    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:Reminder (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Bearhouse (1034238) on Sunday April 25, 2010 @09:31AM (#31973646)

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

  • by Bearhouse (1034238) on Sunday April 25, 2010 @09:36AM (#31973690)

    Yeah, but beware of the myth of the 'parts car'. The same components tend to wear out on all examples of a series. My neighbour bought two 'classic' cars - one supposedly the 'runner', and the other as a reserve of spare parts.
    Since he was not really good at car repairs, I was round his place every weekend, (he WAS good at sharing his stock of excellent wine...)
    Guess what - whenever something broke on the 'good' car, the equivalent on the 'parts' car was just as busted...

  • by blackraven14250 (902843) on Sunday April 25, 2010 @12:07PM (#31975146)
    The "various nations" that would "have stupid ideas" and decide to "[nuke us] into the stone age" just so happen to already live in a weird spot where they're in the stone age but they have AK-47s.
  • by TheLink (130905) on Sunday April 25, 2010 @01:11PM (#31975812) Journal
    To create large numbers of those bullets requires a factory or two, a fair bit of infrastructure - and the gunpowder and metal become consumables.

    In contrast, the humble machete was involved in killing millions in Africa. Reloading is pretty simple with the machete ;). They're also using bow and arrows in some of their wars too (judging from some recent pics).

    Don't get me wrong, a gun would still be useful to have, but better be pretty selective on your targets.
  • by Kocureq (1191079) on Sunday April 25, 2010 @01:55PM (#31976192)
    Have you thought about this? Every program out there uses floppy image as the "save" button, but most of the teenagers right now never saw a real floppy disk. We need to replace it with something.
  • by UBfusion (1303959) on Sunday April 25, 2010 @04:06PM (#31977464)

    Some of many more reasons:

    1. There's a large industrial and scientific base using floppies because they rely on non-upgradeable DOS, Win 3.x, Win9x and WinXP proprietary/custom software and custom hardware combination. Many of them still use ISA bus motherboards and this is why there is a thriving market for ISA bus equipped so-called "industrial" motherboards.

    2. USB sticks are so small they are easily lost, misplaced and mixed up with your colleagues'/coworkers' identical ones.

    3. USB sticks are so small that one cannot adequately label them. Therefore it's hard to base a comprehensive versioning, roll-back or complete backup strategy (e.g. rotating grandfather-father-son strategies) on USB sticks.

    4. Most current USB sticks don't have a write-protect switch and thus are an easy target for viruses, trojans and rootkits when inserted in a random PC. Many of my colleagues' and students' sticks get infected when they go to service bureaus or their friends to print decent color copies of their work. In turn these sticks infect their own desktops, laptops, even their colleagues' PCs, in case these are inadequately protected.

    5. As a previous commenter said, USB sticks are not give-away friendly. Last January I searched the whole local market for 32/64/128 MB and cheap (under say 2-3 euros) USB sticks in order to provide my 16 students (which still didn't have email accounts) some Excel templates and teaching notes. In addition, the students would use the same stick during the semester to collect the experimental data from their labwork. The cheapest stick I could find was 7 euros, requiring a total budget of 112, which I can't afford. Giving away CDs (700 MB) for 1 MB of data for me is a perversion and an overkill, and since the lab PCs are not equipped with CD-R drives I cannot reuse them for multisession writing either.

    I could go on and on an on. Just think: Have you ever seen any new desktop motherboard, from any manufacturer, not featuring a floppy connector? What does this fact tell you?

    I concur to the already mentioned opinion that the Floppy-to-USB converter market will soon thrive.

Man is the best computer we can put aboard a spacecraft ... and the only one that can be mass produced with unskilled labor. -- Wernher von Braun

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