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Data Storage

The Death of the Floppy Disk 1049

vook writes "Long the most common way to store letters, homework and other computer files, the floppy disk is going the way of the horse upon the arrival of the car: it'll hang around but never hold the same relevance in everyday life. "
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The Death of the Floppy Disk

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  • Quote from TFA (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday September 07, 2004 @10:48AM (#10176763)
    It may not be too many years before floppy disks are joined by DVDs. Microsoft founder Bill Gates recently predicted the DVD would be obsolete within a decade.
    I get a chuckle whenever I read something like this. Bill Gates is a shrewd businessman, but his predictions of the future are usually clouded by the goals of his company. Why anyone listens to him for tech trends is beyond me. He's the one who said that the global internet wouldn't amount to much. Oops.

    The Death of the Floppy Disk
    When is the death of "Death of..." articles going to come? They are usually wrong, and are always annoying.
    • Re:Quote from TFA (Score:3, Insightful)

      by mmusson ( 753678 )
      I'm having a hard time remembering the last time I used a floppy. Between a network and a USB dongle...

      And when something is too large I burn it to a CDROM or DVDROM.
      • Re:Quote from TFA (Score:5, Insightful)

        by misleb ( 129952 ) on Tuesday September 07, 2004 @11:13AM (#10177112)
        What about BIOS updates or virus recovery? Can you boot from a USB dongle? That is where floppies (still) come in handy. Unless you have a Mac (which can boot off just about anything with a "System" folder on it). floppies make good quick and dirty boot devices.


        • Re:Quote from TFA (Score:3, Insightful)

          by cheesybagel ( 670288 )
          You can boot from a CD too. At least that's what the OS install does.
        • Re:Quote from TFA (Score:4, Insightful)

          by M1FCJ ( 586251 ) on Tuesday September 07, 2004 @11:20AM (#10177228) Homepage
          BIOS updates? Last time I did it, it was from an El Burrito CD. Who needs a real floppy when an emulation is good enough? What virus recovery? I use Linux and I don't have any virii.

          System/crash recovery? Ever heard of Knoppix? Works like a dream. If you're wedded to MS, there is BartPE CD.

          • Re:Quote from TFA (Score:4, Interesting)

            by SpaceLifeForm ( 228190 ) on Tuesday September 07, 2004 @11:55AM (#10177641)
            Booting from CD only works if the BIOS supports booting from CD.

            Can you create a bootable CD *and* write back to it?

            CD emulation can be a problem, depending upon what you are trying to do.

            Never, ever, buy/build a PC that does not have a floppy. MS wants to kill the floppy so they can control what you can boot. They already have the BIOS manufacturers in their pocket (most), and with DRM they will be able to influence the manafacturers to the point that you won't be able to boot Linux.

          • by Mysticalfruit ( 533341 ) on Tuesday September 07, 2004 @12:26PM (#10178067) Homepage Journal
            El Burrito?

            Is that when you take a bootable cdrom (also know as an "El Torito") and roll it up?
        • Re:Quote from TFA (Score:5, Informative)

          by NexusTw1n ( 580394 ) on Tuesday September 07, 2004 @11:21AM (#10177235) Journal
          Dells without floppy drives can boot from USB, either USB floppy ( ironically enough,) or USB dongle, or USB external hard drive (such as Lacie)

          I would assume any OEM that was scrapping floppy support would have a BIOS that could handle USB boot.

          The sooner slow, unreliable, huge 3.5 inch floppies are completely scrapped the better.

          Post USB they have become an archiac format long past their use by date.
          • Re:Quote from TFA (Score:4, Informative)

            by Jim_Maryland ( 718224 ) on Tuesday September 07, 2004 @11:37AM (#10177433)
            The sooner slow, unreliable, huge 3.5 inch floppies are completely scrapped the better.

            The floppy is still a very common method of transfering documentation between the home PC and a school PC. While the USB drive does hold more information, one can't assume that people or institutions will update their hardware to include USB ports. This will become a bigger problem though with PC's shipping without the floppy drive as a default configuration. I just sent my son to 6th grade and he requires two floppy disk. I've seen the hardware the school is working with and USB is not as common as the floppy drive. The floppy drive may be dying, but it will be a long slow death due to situations such as this.
          • by DG ( 989 ) on Tuesday September 07, 2004 @12:10PM (#10177779) Homepage Journal
            I, for one, really miss the floppy.

            I just got a new laptop for racecar support - brand spankin' new HP zd7280us with all the bells and whistles. P4-3.2. Monster 17" widescreen. DVD burner. USB ports up the yinyang. No floppy, no serial port.

            The machine it replaces is a Panasonic Toughbook CF-25, a military-spec indestructable deal. P150. No CD burner, no USB - but a floppy drive.

            99% of the software moved from one machine to the other was actually installed from scratch, so the lack of connectivity from one to the other wasn't all that big a deal. DATA, on the other hand, is proving to be a pain in the ass. It'd be SO simple to just zip it and dump it to floppy.....

            Where I have a real bitch though is the deletion of the serial port from modern laptops. I found a USB-serial converter at RadioShack, but that's the last thing I wanted to do - further complicate my cabling. Grr. Don't the laptop people realize that the most popular way to connect widgets to computers (save printers) is via the serial port?

            My phone uses a serial port. The ECU and datalogger on the race car uses the serial port. The scales, pyrometer, shock dyno, and every other measuring equipment I have all use the serial port. And in a pinch, a null-modem cable and ZMODEM makes for a decent file-transfer solution.

            Grrr. I want my damn serial port back!

            • Google is your friend, search for Bluetooth to serial dongle.

              Bluetooth natively shows up as one of several com ports to the computer. If you got REALLY happy, you could have one for the pyro, one for the scale, one for the datalogger.

              Then you leave the laptop in the shade, within 30 feet of the pits and it talks to the datalogger when the driver brings the car in.

              Serial connectivity with no add'l cables!
            • by jandrese ( 485 ) * <> on Tuesday September 07, 2004 @02:34PM (#10179860) Homepage Journal
              The worst part is that the serial port is (ironically) one of the hardest to offload to another interface. The tight timing on the serial port means you can't have a lot of stuff between it and the processor. For instance, PC-Card serial ports tend to fall over a lot when you start pushing a lot of data through them. Also, since I work with a lot of headless equipment (heck, even our switches have serial consoles on them!) I'd hate to lose the serial port. I also agree that the Parallel port is mostly useless these days (even the days of parallel ethernet are gone) and I wouldn't mind seeing a few more USB ports (why do laptops only ship with 1 USB port?!?) and a serial port in its place.
        • Re:Quote from TFA (Score:3, Informative)

          by jericho4.0 ( 565125 )
          Actually, any computer that has OpenFirmware (like the Mac) can boot of many, many things.

          Heck, my SGI Indy from '93 can boot off a TFTP partition on the net. Very handy for a diskless workstation. AFAIK, the Mac can do this also.

        • Re:Quote from TFA (Score:4, Informative)

          by MattyCobb ( 695086 ) on Tuesday September 07, 2004 @02:49PM (#10180082)
          What about BIOS updates or virus recovery? Can you boot from a USB dongle? That is where floppies (still) come in handy. Unless you have a Mac (which can boot off just about anything with a "System" folder on it). floppies make good quick and dirty boot devices.

          Actually most newer computers can boot from USB jump drives, USB drivers, and even old systems and boot from CD. You don't need a Mac either. My WinTel P4 system can boot Zipslack off my 512mb jump drive just fine. Its actually just an option in the bios to enable boot from other devices. My last AMD system had this option too thought I never tested it with USB.

          Oh and while no one uses them anymore, you can also boot off zip drives and all those odd little discs too.
      • by alacar ( 628036 ) on Tuesday September 07, 2004 @11:19AM (#10177198)
        And when something is too large I burn it to a CDROM or DVDROM.

        And how do you do that ???

        • by mikael ( 484 ) on Tuesday September 07, 2004 @12:41PM (#10178272)
          And when something is too large I burn it to a CDROM or DVDROM.

          And how do you do that ???

          With a magnifying glass and a large pair of reading glasses. But you have to wait for a sunny day with a clear sky, and to make sure you have memorized the sequence of one's and zero's you want to burn. It's very easy to forget which block of data you were writing. And do be careful not to look towards the Sun when you're wearing your reading glasses.

      • Re:Quote from TFA (Score:5, Interesting)

        by legoburner ( 702695 ) on Tuesday September 07, 2004 @11:35AM (#10177409) Homepage Journal
        I wonder if people will ever come up with a replacement for the floppy disk icon when saving a file in most programs... it will be amusing explaining to kids of the future what that strange blue square icon on the save button is. Is this the first obsolete bit of tech that has been cemented into part of the general computer consciousness?
    • by sgant ( 178166 ) on Tuesday September 07, 2004 @11:04AM (#10176985) Homepage Journal
      I still load all my programs in with a cassette tape recorder...never bought one of them "floppy drives" for my computer as I thought it wouldn't last.

      Turns out I'm right after all! Saved my self some bucks.

      Though it takes about 2 hours now to just boot my computer off the cassette. And I won't even begin to tell ya how long it took to compile Gentoo.
    • Re:Quote from TFA (Score:5, Insightful)

      by stratjakt ( 596332 ) on Tuesday September 07, 2004 @11:06AM (#10177018) Journal
      He's right, though.

      Once you buy a HDTV, you really see the limitations of video on DVD.

      DVD is a shitty stop-gap format. I predict BluRay or HD-DVD to overtake it quickly.

      A BluRay or HD-DVD player should come down in parity with the price of a regular DVD player very quickly. Just like the price of a DVD player got down close to that of a CD player quite quickly. The tech hasn't changed that much.

      It didn't take long at all for DVD to KO videotape. It seemed like I read about this new video format, and overnight - everyone has a DVD player.
      • Re:Quote from TFA (Score:4, Insightful)

        by Waffle Iron ( 339739 ) on Tuesday September 07, 2004 @11:22AM (#10177250)
        But the upcoming DVD replacements you mention are backwards compatible with the DVD and CD format. That doesn't mean that DVDs will become "obsolete".

        Even today, 20 years after the CD was introduced and 8 years after the DVD came out, the vast majority of 4-inch shiny disks are still CDs. Content producers only need to use the technology that's big enough for the task. Most software and music still fits on a CD, so they don't put them on DVDs.

        Likewise, not everything is going to need as much data as a BluRay disk will hold, so CDs and/or DVDs will be used for those applications. Even for video, HD will probably used as a price differentiator for many years to come. Since HD will cost more, cheaper shows on standard-def DVDs will be around for a while. Additionally, anything that was originally produced on standard video tape will probably never come out on an HD format.

      • Re:Quote from TFA (Score:5, Interesting)

        by ivan256 ( 17499 ) * on Tuesday September 07, 2004 @12:42PM (#10178285)
        Once you buy a HDTV, you really see the limitations of video on DVD.

        DVD is a shitty stop-gap format. I predict BluRay or HD-DVD to overtake it quickly.

        Replace predict with hope...

        It'll still be decades before a signifigant percentage of the population has HD televisions. Once that hits 40 or 50%, sure some HD format will quickly overtake DVD, but how long do you think it will be before half of us replace our televisions with HD models?

        See you in 10 years.
      • Re:Quote from TFA (Score:5, Insightful)

        by jandrese ( 485 ) * <> on Tuesday September 07, 2004 @02:15PM (#10179572) Homepage Journal
        I respectfully disagree. The current direction of the HD market and Blu-ray reminds me a lot of the direction the market took with S-VHS vs. regular VHS. While it is true that DVD really stomped over the VHS market, there was certainly a lot more to DVDs than just "better image quality on equipment you don't have" for the average consumer. DVDs have numerous other advantages over VHS (storage space, shelf life, no need to rewind, extras on disc, etc...) that were easy to sell to Joe Schmoe (who you need to buy your technology for it to really be successful). Blue-Ray discs are basically going to be "Just like DVD, only with better image quality if you buy all of this expensive home theatre equipment to replace your 20" TV/VCR/DVD combo set" unless the industry can really focus on getting the price down and the volume up.

        I'll tell you one thing, Joe Schmoe is not going to spend $1500+ on a HDTV with that $200 TV sitting on the shelf just down the aisle.
  • by skrysakj ( 32108 ) * on Tuesday September 07, 2004 @10:48AM (#10176768) Homepage Journal
    Since when should people be listening to Bill Gates, aside from when he points out the obvious? Quotes from the article:

    "Apple become the first mass-market computer manufacturer to stop including floppy drives altogether with the release of their iMac model in 1998."

    then it said....

    "Bill Gates recently predicted the DVD would be obsolete within a decade."

    Obvious, really, but shouldn't they be listening to Apple, if they were the first to really see such a trend in the market and drop the floppy? Since when has Microsoft, or Bill Gates, *led* the industry in anything new?
    "This just in! IBM builds the best stuff in the world, but let's interview Tandy PC makers for their opinion instead!".

    The rational for such logic escapes me.

    Also, the title of the article should have been "The SLOW death of the floppy disk." It wasn't until USB flash drives came out that people felt comfortable with replacing their floppy. (IMHO)

    Does SP2 cause bovine lesbianism? []
  • Finally (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Nos. ( 179609 ) <andrew.thekerrs@ca> on Tuesday September 07, 2004 @10:48AM (#10176770) Homepage
    I'd much rather use a USB key than a floppy anytime. More space, more convenient to carry. Did I mention more space?
    • Re:Finally (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Feyr ( 449684 ) *
      usb anything won't be a viable replacement for the floppy for 10 more years, when every current PCs will have been made into dust and EVERY pcs can boot off a usb device (most can't right now)

      cd aren't a viable replacement for that purpose either due to them being so slow to read to, requiring a special device (cd writer) and not always working as boot devices either (im guessing due to the spin up delay)
      • Re:Finally (Score:3, Interesting)

        by jandrese ( 485 ) *
        I thought the booting problem was eventually going to bite me in the ass when I pulled the floppy drive out of my PC a couple of years ago. It turns out to be a non-issue. I've got CDRW blanks and know how to burn floppy images as El-Torrito boot sectors (that pretty much every computer these days can boot). It's slightly less convient than the floppy, but it's only come up a couple of times and removing the floppy drive kept my HDD from overheating, so I think it was worth it.
      • Re:Finally (Score:3, Insightful)

        cd aren't a viable replacement for that purpose either due to them being so slow to read

        Yeah, 'cause floppies are so fast...

  • Hmmm... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Laivincolmo ( 778355 ) on Tuesday September 07, 2004 @10:48AM (#10176772)
    I guess apple had the right idea a while back when they stopped using floppies... It might have been a little bit early though, before the huge rise of usb memory drives.
    • Re:Hmmm... (Score:3, Interesting)

      by jm92956n ( 758515 )
      I guess apple had the right idea a while back when they stopped using floppies

      Apple did have the right idea, they just implemented it poorly.

      Most everyone who purchased the original iMac went out and purchased an external USB floppy drive as well. The problem was people didn't have a way to reliabley back up their documents since the original iMacs did not come with a CD-RW, but rather with a basic read-only CD drive. This, in my opinion, was a huge mistake. People don't like to have a computer that is
  • by daveschroeder ( 516195 ) * on Tuesday September 07, 2004 @10:49AM (#10176777)
    The first company to ship and popularize Sony's revolutionary 3.5" hard-case floppy drives and disks, and...

    The first company to realize that the floppy was dead, and that it was time to wisely move consumers away from it.

    (Not to mention the first computers[1] to include USB, FireWire, etc. - and wise enough to eliminate ancient legacy ports at the same time.)

    Many consumers weren't *ready* to give up floppies in 1998, but it was more out of fear than actual need. The PC industry even played into that fear with the iMac, scaring customers with it's lack of a floppy drive. And 5 years later, the PC industry followed along. Hmm, 5 years...that seems about right...

    [1] Yes, yes, someone will come up with some retarded example about some other obscure thing that was "first", but let's face it: Apple was the first to mainstream technologies in so many of these realms. "First" to 802.11? No, but the first to force prices of access points down from over $1000 to under $300, and cards from $300 to under $100, and to include integrated wireless in its laptops and desktops...and then everyone else followed in earnest a couple years later. "First" to 64-bit on the desktop? No, but some random company someone has never heard of ("BOXX TECHNOLOGIES") doesn't really count, and Apple's G5 orders far eclipsed any other 64-bit *desktop* offering from any vendor the first day it was introduced. "First" to an online music store? No, but the first one to receive widespread press and the first one to not completely and utterly blow that normal people can (and actually do) use. Let's face the facts: like it or not, Apple is the innovator here, and one of very, very few in the industry.
    • by Minwee ( 522556 ) <> on Tuesday September 07, 2004 @11:01AM (#10176927) Homepage
      "First" to 64-bit on the desktop? No, but some random company someone has never heard of doesn't really count.

      I know things have been tough for Digital Equipment Corporation since they were bought out, but this is the first time I have heard them described as "some random company someone has never heard of".

    • Let's face the facts: like it or not, Apple is the innovator here, and one of very, very few in the industry.

      I'm not sure getting rid of old cruft is "innovative". If so then the definition of the word has been stretched a fair bit from what it used to be.

      Anyway, who cares? One mans "innovation" is anothers backwards compatibility. Floppy drives are so cheap, that it's really not a big deal if you include one. Given that some people may find them useful, what's the benefit to taking them out? Hell th

    • OK, this is getting pretty OT, but who cares of Apple was the first to do anything? It doesn't matter what came first -- what matters is what is best, what is best supported, and what will be the longest lived. Perfect example: the Tivo. The Tivo was first, and is still a great product...however, it's pretty widely held by analysts that they will eventually go away. Every cable and satellite provider in the country will offer a similar product bundled with their service -- Tivo won't be able to compet

  • It's about time... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by jargoone ( 166102 ) * on Tuesday September 07, 2004 @10:50AM (#10176785)
    Is it just me, or does everyone else have like 50% failure rate on floppies? I'm not talking about abused ones, I'm talking about ones I keep in a case on my desk. They just... suck. With how common broadband is now, and with USB drives and bootable CDs, there's just no reason to use them anymore. Good riddance.
    • by renoX ( 11677 )
      Unfortunately CD-R are not especially reliable either in my experience, I hear that USB flash is quite reliable, which is a welcome change!
    • by ebuck ( 585470 ) on Tuesday September 07, 2004 @11:09AM (#10177065)
      Odds are good that your floppys sitting on your desk were manufactured over ten years ago.

      Even if you buy "fresh" floppys off the shelf today, odds are good that those were manufactured ten years ago. The floppy market saw some revival with the introduction of colored cases, but you can only dress up a lost cause so much. Besides, it's only a matter of time before the competing technologies edge you out that way too.

      I don't fault floppies for a 50% failure rate. After all, they were never meant to last for decades, and it's not like there's been enough demand to gurantee that even newly purchased floppys aren't ancient. If fault could be assigned, it's on the lack of retailers / producers to account for on shelf spoilage in their business practices.
    • by andrewmc ( 88496 ) on Tuesday September 07, 2004 @11:17AM (#10177167)
      Is it just me, or does everyone else have like 50% failure rate on floppies?
      Yup, almost exactly 50%. It claims it works when I write to them, and will almost certainly fail when I try to read from them.
  • Sorry... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Oxy the moron ( 770724 ) on Tuesday September 07, 2004 @10:50AM (#10176786)
    ... as long as I still have old 486's and Pentiums lying around for gateways and cheap storage, I will gladly use floppy disks as a boot medium. =]
  • by spoonyfork ( 23307 ) <spoonyfork&gmail,com> on Tuesday September 07, 2004 @10:51AM (#10176797) Journal
    What "death of floppies" article would be complete without a link to Floppy RAID! []
  • by YeeHaW_Jelte ( 451855 ) on Tuesday September 07, 2004 @10:52AM (#10176807) Homepage
    ... or were floppies getting worse and worse still the last decennium? I remember actually depending on floppies for backups and (god forbid) copying stuff, and usually they worked.
    Now what I remember from the few times I used floppies the last five years is that invariabily almost half of them would be rotten in no time sharp, giving read errors and all kinds of data loss. Could it be that the quality of floppies or floppy drives slipped, anticipating the ultimate demise of the floppy?
  • by the unbeliever ( 201915 ) <[moc.keeglta] [ta] [todhsals+sirhc]> on Tuesday September 07, 2004 @10:54AM (#10176833) Homepage
    Install Windows XP to a non-southbridge SATA or IDE RAID controller without giving it the driver floppy, I'll believe that they're dead.

    Until then, though, floppy drives cost $10. I will put one in each compute I build.

    (or, alternately, I'll buy the $29 combo floppy drive w/ USB media reader)
  • not yet. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by lifebouy ( 115193 ) on Tuesday September 07, 2004 @10:54AM (#10176846) Journal
    When I see a "Boot from USB storage device" in the Bios boot menu, then I'll believe floppies are gone.
  • by thrill12 ( 711899 ) * on Tuesday September 07, 2004 @10:56AM (#10176859) Journal
    A lot of vendors started discarding serial ports on laptops as well. This proves difficult if you need to debug a lot of, say, RS-485 stuff using your laptop (on-site), and can't use an USB-to-Serial converter to make sure you are not introducing any interface-quirks with that. The next port is probably the ieee-1284 (parallel) - everyone has a USB-printer nowadays anyway.

    In someway this is OK, but there will and should always remain a small segment of the market devoted to (a correct implementation of!) these "obsolete" technologies to make sure applications relying on them can still be debugged in the future...
  • Way of the horse.... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by mr_z_beeblebrox ( 591077 ) on Tuesday September 07, 2004 @10:57AM (#10176882) Journal
    The horse occupies a special place in modern society. We view it as the carriers of roman invaders. The transportation of the american frontiersman. Specialised groups breed and cherish the horse. We will never see the eyes of the world on Kentucky for a "Floppy Disk" event.
  • by Aadain2001 ( 684036 ) on Tuesday September 07, 2004 @11:02AM (#10176950) Journal
    1. I can install 3rd party disk drivers during a Windows install from a CD or USB device (right now you can only do that with a floppy) 2. EVERY BIOS supports booting from a USB key device 3. USB keys universally work across all platforms and OS's. Some do already, but some don't and rely on the OS to have builtin drivers already. 4. ALL OEMs stop relying on floppies for ANYTHING (Dell for example). Once all these come to pass, we can safely throw away our floppies and be fine. Until then, floppies will cling to life by a thin thread for admins, hackers, and power users, even though none of them wish to use floppies. Normal users have no need for floppies these days, so this won't affect them much.
    • 3. USB keys universally work across all platforms and OS's

      The only problem I see with this is USER-acceptance. I believe the past two versions of the linux kernel, Windows, and MacOS support the USB Key just fine. However, the problem lies not in the manufactures of the OS, but the user's inability to upgrade their Windows 95/NT machines despite it being a 10 year old OS.

      4. ALL OEMs stop relying on floppies for ANYTHING (Dell for example)

      This is a problem that relies on the manufacturer of the ke
  • Every time I want to use one of my old floppy disks, I encounter a problem of bad sectors. It's up to the point that when I absolutely need to carry data on FD (old computers with no usb, no CDRW and no internet), I copy it twice on each of two disks.

    Is it going to be the same for CD as they get older ? I am considering moving my data archive from CD to hard drives with RAID.

    Ah this reminds me of this story : []
  • This is news?? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by webgit ( 805155 ) on Tuesday September 07, 2004 @11:05AM (#10177004)
    For the majority of people floppy disk are something that they think they need, but in this modern world of CD-R's, USB storage devices, etc. they have no use.

    I personally wouldn't rely on the a floppy disk any more to backup or transfer information, the number of times I've tried to read a floppy disk and my computer has turned around and said there was something wrong with it. It amazes me that people will keep the only copy of their very important piece of work on a floppy disk! I wouldn't even keep the only copy of an important piece of work on my hard drive!

    I can't remember the last time that I used a floppy disk, in fact, I don't even know why I've still got a floppy disk drive (except the fact that I'd have a strange and pointless floppy disk shaped hole in the front of my computer!).
  • by Proc6 ( 518858 ) on Tuesday September 07, 2004 @11:10AM (#10177086)
    Why packet writing to CDRW's STILL isn't nativly supported by most major OS's is beyond me. CDRW media is dirt cheap, and 400 times bigger than a floppy but making the average user go through extra clicks and disconnecting the ideas of "dropping onto a disk" and "writing TO the disk" is just the stupidest thing.

    CDRW's should have been drag and drop write/erase like any other media since day one, and if they couldnt do it on day one, then day two. But this is what, year 5? It's why ZipDrives, even at their insane failure rates and price per meg are still popular with many people, because they've performed the miracle of "being able to drag and drop and erase from it". What's so hard about making that happen with Windows/Linux even at the very lowest level (as in, from a command line, safe mode, whatever).

    • Why packet writing to CDRW's STILL isn't nativly supported by most major OS's is beyond me. CDRW media is dirt cheap, and 400 times bigger than a floppy but making the average user go through extra clicks and disconnecting the ideas of "dropping onto a disk" and "writing TO the disk" is just the stupidest thing.

      This is something I don't understand either. I bought like 4 or 5 years ago my first CD-RW drive, Philips CD3660 (2x/2x/6x) and THAT came with Ahead InCD, allowing for packet writing. Just format
    • by SewersOfRivendell ( 646620 ) on Tuesday September 07, 2004 @12:10PM (#10177782)
      Why packet writing to CDRW's STILL isn't nativly supported

      It's not supported because CD-RW packet writing is incredibly fucked up. It has a limited number of writes before the disc becomes unusable. It doesn't have error correction. It's slow. The standard filesystem, UDF version 2.0 does not lay out efficiently on CD (lots of preallocated space required for block sparing), and, due to the way partition works, requires you to blur the distinction between the filesystem and the driver layer. And have you ever read the UDF standards document? Good luck parsing the UDF document itself, let alone the incredibly obtuse ECMA volume format standard on which it's based.

      The Mt Rainier standard fixes some of this by offloading it into hardware, but you can still only rewrite a CD-RW sector 999 times before the sector goes bad.

      Add in the fact that CD-R media is cheaper than CD-RW media. It's easier, cheaper, and more reliable to use a ton of CD-Rs than to use a few CD-RW discs.

  • by dpbsmith ( 263124 ) on Tuesday September 07, 2004 @11:13AM (#10177118) Homepage
    Yes, there are certain phrases that alway tell me that I'm hearing the sound of an axe being ground.

    One is the "thus-and-such is dead" meme. First of all, who cares? Most technologies experience very slow declines. The floppy became "dead" for me when I bought a PowerMac G4 in 2000 which didn't include a floppy drive, and at the instance when I decided I didn't to spend $89 for an an add-on external floppy drive. But it's still "alive" for my wife because the Win98 box she bought at about the same time has one.

    Why should anyone bother to try to declare the exact point at which some slowly-declining technology is "dead?" Usually, it is motivated by some company that hopes to influence consumers to stop using it. I notice the reporter spoke to Dell and Gateway. Very likely there are product managers at those companies responsible for some models that don't have floppies, who are annoyed that those pesky customers persist in buying floppy-equipped models instead and hoping this article will influence consumers.

    The other one is the phrase "X-killer." This always seems to be traceable to marketing and sales and is never close to being true. The "X-killers" never have more than a rough similarity to the product they're supposed to be killing. Let me see, which IBM product was supposed to be the "VAX-killer?" Adobe InDesign was said to be a "Quark killer" when it was introduced in... when? 2001? Indeed Quark is experiencing what looks like a long slow, painful decline, due mostly to self-inflicted wounds, partly as a result of outsourced software development that neither succeeded brilliantly nor failed utterly, and somewhat due to InDesign... but the process is taking years and years and years.
  • Not convinced (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Dracolytch ( 714699 ) on Tuesday September 07, 2004 @11:16AM (#10177163) Homepage
    I'm not totally convinced, and here's why:

    I just built a (screaming) athlon system that included SATA. However, the SATA drivers were not availble when installing Windows (Linux isn't an option for me at this point) off of the XP CD. So I had to load an external driver using... You guessed it, a floppy.

    I had actually considered not buying a floppy for the machine, but I did "just in case". If I hadn't, I wouldn't be able to get the machine working until I went out and bought one.

  • by dpilot ( 134227 ) on Tuesday September 07, 2004 @11:21AM (#10177231) Homepage Journal
    is that AOL moved to sending out CDs a long time ago, so our free floppy source is all gone.

    (Actually, that's only *half* humor.)

    More seriously, I recently bought floppies for my kids to take data to and from school. Schools seldom have *new* equipment, CDRWs are finicky for older drives, and as someone else said, you hate to burn a CDR for memtest86. Kids' reports are smaller than that, even with multisession. KISS.
  • by rainman_bc ( 735332 ) on Tuesday September 07, 2004 @11:21AM (#10177236)
    The thing I'd miss is downloading a 1.44MB image for FreeBSD to do an FTP install of it. FTP install is my favourite install method for FreeBSD.

    Currently AFAIK the only choice is that, or a full CD with all the ports.

    Wish there was a CD image for an FTP install you can download so you don't need three or four hours to download the ISO...

  • by Dirtside ( 91468 ) on Tuesday September 07, 2004 @11:21AM (#10177238) Journal
    But seriously, 1998 called and it wants its "Death of the Floppy Disk" story back. Jesus.

    (I'll head off the obvious response now: "2001 called, it wants its joke back." Thank you, I'm here all week.)
  • by landoltjp ( 676315 ) on Tuesday September 07, 2004 @11:26AM (#10177298)

    I finally bought a laptop at the start of this year and it came without an internal floppy drive. OK, I said, I don't really use one all that much. What could possibly go wrong?

    I hit my first snag that evening when I was trying to use Partition Magic to generate my dual-boot partition (Linux). PM cannot repartition the drive opon which it is running, so I needed to create a floppy set for booting off of and partitioning from. With no ready method to do so, and no easy way (at that time) to generate a bootable CD, it was back to the BestFutureCircuitFry store to get a USB external floppy

    I must admit that the floppy is almost never used, but it's nice to have it around when needed. I make use of it when working with paritions or ghosting drives. Without the external floppy, it would be difficult to do either.

    It is my opinion that, unless an OS comes with the ability to create a bootable CD with the same ease that one could previously create a bootable diskette, then the diskette will not be devoid of value or usefulness. Until Bill has a "create emergency boot CD" option alongside (or in place of) the "create boot Diskette" option, then MS-Windows will still require the occasional use of a floppy drive.

    I also know that it's possible to create a bootable USB key, but it's not easy enough yet (for the average user), and most people don't have a box of USB keys around like they would a box of diskettes or a spool of CD blanks.

    Now, what to do with my cases of 5.25" floppies. And the two 8" Elelephant disks that I have, since the IMSA got donated.

  • by wandazulu ( 265281 ) on Tuesday September 07, 2004 @11:30AM (#10177348)
    ...but I needed a floppy drive just last week. I had built a P4 box and had thrown in a floppy drive for pretty much the reasons the article points out ... nostalgia and the "well, maybe I'll need it" excuse.

    Last week I needed it. And I discovered that it was broken.

    I was trying to install, of all things, Win95 with VMWare to test something. Since the disc isn't bootable, I had to use the floppy drive just to put dos on it first. First I had to *find* a copy of dos...luckily a coworker still had a set. Then I discovered the drive was busted. And for some reason, VMWare wouldn't acknowledge the new USB floppy drive as "B:". Lots of cursing and threats, and finally got it working by *networking* the floppy drive off my Linux machine, which I couldn't spare to swap the drive from.

    In short, it's 2004, and not only are floppies *not* completely removed from my geek life, neither is dos!

    The only upshot is that I could play nibbles.bas again.
  • by RonBurk ( 543988 ) on Tuesday September 07, 2004 @11:37AM (#10177443) Homepage Journal
    During the long competition to replace the floppy (with ZIP, LS-120, etc.), no one predicted the actual outcome -- that there would be no clear winner.

    ZIP drives, well, not cheap and not small, and not widely built-in by box builders and (some think) not all that reliable.

    CD-RW, well, not small, and the software was not built-in until Windows XP, and even that software is "one big burn" and doesn't let you copy/delete individual files one at a time so you can use it "like a floppy" and (some think) not all that reliable.

    Then we come to USB disk-on-key. Small, software already mostly built-in, random access, can be used "like a floppy". Not real fast, but probably works pretty good for many floppy-like applications. But will it work for data backup? Most people aren't aware that the technology there tolerates a quite limited number of rewrites. Will people be happy when they discover their $50 USB dongle fails after less than a year of daily backups?

    When it comes to making casual backups, the battle to replace the floppy is still ongoing. Maybe there'll never be a clear winner, or maybe it's going to be one of these technologies [].

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday September 07, 2004 @11:47AM (#10177555)
    1. You just can't put anything interesting on them anymore. I used to be able to copy Word files or graphics files to a floppy and carry them back and forth to work on them. Most of the Word files (something more interesting than a 1-page letter) I work with lately are bigger than a floppy! Many of the graphics I work with are too. You simply need something bigger than a floppy nowadays.
    2. Bootable CDs are filling the niche for system recovery. Used to be I always had a boot floppy with me to recover systems. Now I carry a bootable credit card CD with a lot more tools on it.
    3. Floppy quality is going down. The last box of floppies that I bought, I threw away about 30%! Not only that, I've noticed that they don't seem to hold files like they used to. I write a file on floppy, check it two weeks later and the file is unreadable. I format the floppy and come up with 200k of bad sectors when previously there were none.
  • The extra layer (Score:4, Interesting)

    by CalsailX ( 619204 ) on Tuesday September 07, 2004 @11:49AM (#10177568) Homepage Journal
    I look at a 5 1/4" floppy drive as
    an extra layer of security for small files,
    I want to kept from prying eyes.

    Simply because you don't see many of them
    these days, and most the one's you do
    see are homes for giant dust bunnies!

    In another ten years...I may say the same
    thing about 3 1/2" floppies, however some
    of the old 5 1/4" drives are built like a
    tank, while the 3 1/2" drives as of late
    most are junk.

  • USB flash drives (Score:4, Informative)

    by xot ( 663131 ) <fragiledeath@g[ ] ['mai' in gap]> on Tuesday September 07, 2004 @11:51AM (#10177593) Journal
    One big reason for their decline is the usb flash drive.Also their high mortality rate.The other day day i kept my cell phone on a floppy disk(yes my company still has a fewfloppies).The phone rang and the floppy instantly died(rendered useless).Thats just one lovely way to kill a floppy :-).
  • Death to floppies! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by j-turkey ( 187775 ) on Tuesday September 07, 2004 @11:52AM (#10177602) Homepage

    Here's the thing: Floppies suck.
    Don't agree? Too bad, they still suck

    From a guy who spent the middle part of the 90's working in a college computer lab, I can't tell you how many kids would come in with a floppy telling me that they couldn't get the only copy of their final paper (or worse, their thesis) off of their floppy disk. I had to tell them "tough tacos", that their data was lost, and they should have backed it up to something. The Zip drives, also floppy magnetic media, were just as bad (if not worse...with the click of death and all). The fact is that floppy disks are a horribly unreliable storage medium...combined with their low transfer rate and incredibly low storage density, they downright suck ass. Some people whine about the longetivity of CD's -- however, due to the frailty of floppy disks, I believe this is a moot argument. (You lose your data if you breathe on floppies wrong!) The people who support floppies because they're "convenient" and it's the only thing they know how to use...I hate to say it, but they sorta deserve to lose their data. Why should we have to suffer (and/or buy crappy technology) because floppies are convenient for some folks?

    As far as needing bootable floppies for things like BIOS updates -- floppy advocates may have a point here. I still keep one floppy drive around for this purpose. However, under most circumstances, I'll make a boot floppy on the one system that has a floppy, then burn it to a bootable CD. This way, I won't have to shuffle that drive around. Some will complain that burning a CD is a waste of space and money. I reject that argument because unless you're still using your free AOL floppies from the mid 90's, CDR/RW's are just as cheap as floppies (if not cheaper). Outside of the per-disk cost, on a cost-per-MB basis, it's an absolute no-brainer. Even if you waste 96% of the space on a CD, you're still making off better than you would with a floppy.

    Anyway, the end is near for this technology. It's not quite here yet, because manufacturers are still updating bios' with floppies. There are ways around them, but until manufacturers start shipping CD ISO's, these are still hacks. I welcome the demise of floppy technology with open arms. Now, when will analog modems go this way too?

  • by ianbnet ( 214952 ) on Tuesday September 07, 2004 @12:07PM (#10177748)
    I haven't had a floppy in any of my systems for several years now, but every once in a while it comes back to bite me in the ass.

    Windows XP, installs, for instance, STILL have to laod driver extras (RAID, SCSI, etc) from a floppy at boot -- even if the computer in question doesn't have one.

    Companies such as Dell often package their driver and BIOS releases only onto floppy disk images; it's damn near impossible to pull out these files and install them from the hard drive or CD. That drives me nuts, but it happens.

    So I keep a couple of old drives, cables and all, hanging around in a box, and I plug 'em in to the desktop systems when needed. Luckily my laptop has never needed one... I'd feel just plain silly going out and buying a USB floppy drive these days.
  • by lcsjk ( 143581 ) on Tuesday September 07, 2004 @02:52PM (#10180131)
    This is both on and off topic, but you might be interested. I work at a university where most of the high priced instrumentation included Floppy Drives. In about 20 years these will become obsolete. They can't be upgraded to CD or USB. As floppys become obsolete, public institutions will need special computers that can transfer from floppy to cd or usb stick.

    Another problem is that most of the university lab computers are old and do not have USB. Some boot from CD, some do not. With education budgets so slim, upgrading is much more expensive than adding a floppy drive. And it means you can always boot to DOS.---- I still use 3 1/2 inch floppys about once a week. (I finally am in the process of transfering programs from 5 1/4 floppys to CD. What do you do with about 300 5 1/4 inch floppys? - Ebay?)

    I read that some people report problems with reading floppys on different machines. Floppys are factory adjusted to position the head in the middle of the track. Some do not do a very good job. Interestingly enough, most of the grad students I work with, use Zip drives.

    A few weeks ago I had to record a wedding ceremony. I went to Walmart and found only RCA and TDK audio tapes in packages of 5 or 6. I have not noticed portable CD recorders to replace the audio recorders. Am I missing something?

  • by HuguesT ( 84078 ) on Tuesday September 07, 2004 @08:33PM (#10184441)
    OK, have you tried to install Windows XP on a computer with only SATA drives and no floppy?

    XP doesn't have any SATA drivers, and the only way Microsoft has seen fit to present extra drivers to the normal install is through a floppy drive. Nothing else works. Another CD? nope. A USB key drive? sorry.

    The only way around this that I've found is to "slipstream" the drivers into the normal install on CD. This involves a complicated process of ripping the content of the original XP install CD, hacking into various files, modifying the directory structure and rebuilding another bootable CD-rom from the result.

    It cannot be done unless you have access to another computer with a CD burner and the right software (that can produce a bootable CD), and if your version of the XP medium is provided by a third party vendor like DELL or IBM, chances are even this process won't work.

    In other words it makes installing Debian on the same machine a walk in the park in comparison.

    Search google for "slipstream SATA drivers XP" if you want to know the gory details.
  • by brendano ( 457446 ) on Tuesday September 07, 2004 @10:55PM (#10185571) Homepage
    I think an often overlooked reason that floppies have survived so long is because speed and size aren't all that's important to make a media useful. The system of floppy disks for data storage and sharing still beats out all these newfangled systems -- USB drives, CD's, Zip, networks -- in several ways.

    1) Read/write is transparent. The burning step for CDRW is terrible; you should be able to directly open, save, and erase files just like any other drive. Then you don't need to copy files to your harddrive to work on them and then back again when you're done; that eventually invites confusion. The most prevalent network transfer protocols require separate download/upload steps.

    2) The media is physically robust. Unlike CD's, a protective case isn't critical for floppies. Floppies do not start flaking out after being scratched a number of times. They're easier to transport and share -- I can put them in a backpack and run around all day without the flimsy plastic case breaking. And the fact you can write on them with a normal pen increases usefulness too: labelling is really helpful for yourself and essential for sharing.

    And unlike USB drives, floppies have a standardized size, so you can stack them and store them in standardized cases.

    3) The media is cheap, which facilitates sharing. USB drives cost lots of money; to give your data to someone you can't just hand them a spare drive. Floppies, even the older high quality ones, are cheap enough to give away.

    With cheap media, you can afford to use a labelled disk as a unit of classification -- you don't need to fill up the disk to get your money's worth. USB drives can't do this (yet).

    Expensive drives inside computers paired with cheap disks is much better than expensive combined disk+drives that can be swapped between computers. A good universal physical medium should be usable on all computers; it's not like the act of transferring files is something that only the rare person with a usb stick wants to do. You should only have to have a cheap disk to transfer files; you should not have to invest in a special drive.

    To transfer files I once had to go around knocking on doors, looking for someone with a USB drive. This is ridiculous. (I am more likely to have a spare floppy, or only have to go knocking around for a floppy!)

    4) Media reading/writing is (was) universal. CD drives are universal, but not always for writing. USB is pretty good now, but it can be a pain to find the plug in the back of the machine; I've also had weird OS hangups on certain systems (esp. older windows). Networks aren't always available in all environments -- especially figuring out which server or transfer protocol to use that will work for your particular situation.

    Universality was definitely a bane of Zip drives and other floppy replacements -- a media type is useful only if everyone else has it.

    5) They're dead easy to use. The CD burn step and usb issues were mentioned above. Further, network transfers are a pain. I've had the most annoying experiences just figuring out how to network transfer a file from one computer to another. Maybe you can upload/download via ftp -- if you have a server around, and you even know what ftp is? Maybe use email -- which requires extra space in someone's mailbox, and through web interfaces is often even clunkier than ftp? And the login steps are definitely extraneous. Store on a network drive -- if you have a server available nearby? Computers still can't universally detect each other's presence and sling around individual files without depending on some remote server. The easiest and most common way to transfer files I've observed on campus is to have an AOL IM signon on each computer, then use its file transfer mechanism. This is ridiculous. If files still fit on floppies this situation would be so much easier.

    Obviously, it's possible to solve the peer-to-peer transfer problem via better and more universal pr

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