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Media Data Storage Hardware

The Mystery of the Mega-Selling Floppy Disk 558

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The Mystery of the Mega-Selling Floppy Disk

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  • I know (Score:5, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday April 28, 2010 @10:20AM (#32014134)

    Cowboy Neil buys them all and archives inane Slashdot comments, like this one.

    • Re:I know (Score:5, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday April 28, 2010 @10:39AM (#32014542)

      Cowboy Neil buys them all and archives inane Slashdot comments, like this one.

      20 stories a day.
      400 posts per story.
      99% are inane.
      Average post size? 850 characters (thanks to gnaa c&p trolls)
      6.4 megabytes per day
      1.4 megabytes per disk
      4.5 disks per day
      365 days in a year
      1642 disks per year
      100 disks for $25 = .25 per disk
      ~$411 per year on backups

      Max write speed: 1000 kilobits / second (7.7 megabytes per minute)
      Time to fill storage:
      314 minutes + 1 minute to toss each disk in an unsorted box (hey, they're using low paid interns of course) ~ 2000 minutes
      33 hours
      $8.00 an hour
      $264 per year
      Grand Total: $675.00, or about 3.375 hours with a decent, geeky prostitute

      Seems economical.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Sivar ( 316343 )

        Seems economical.

        Until they try to restore the backup.

      • by h00manist ( 800926 ) on Wednesday April 28, 2010 @12:12PM (#32016362) Journal
        Supporting old stuff means tougher standards, higher compatibility. Floppies were a pretty terrible standard, but they lasted forever basically because nobody could ever agree on a new standard. SuperDisk LS-120 was late, plus didn't catch on. But. Old phones work fine on today's network. Cars work with today's gas and roads. Old televisions work with today's services and electricity. But try to run some old BINARY. Chancer are better if you are using a closed-source OS. Unfortunately, stuff just lasts longer than technology, or tech-people, would like. People enjoy using the stuff they have paid for, sometimes with sacrifice, they expect it to work, fix it if broken, etc, and they are right. Lots of stuff lasts decades working. Computer stuff generally doesn't, and somehow we techies find it great and laugh at people when they want old computers and programs to work, as if we actually liked it when it happened to us. We have old stuff that we would like to be more useful too. There are old programs that sometimes cannot be replaced easily, but the environment and hardware for them is somehow basically nonexistent. Yes, recompiling and recoding works - but why does Linux always have to rely on that, and other systems less so, having better binary compatibility?
        • by xaxa ( 988988 ) on Wednesday April 28, 2010 @01:04PM (#32017394)

          Supporting old stuff means tougher standards, higher compatibility. Floppies were a pretty terrible standard, but they lasted forever basically because nobody could ever agree on a new standard. SuperDisk LS-120 was late, plus didn't catch on. But. Old phones work fine on today's network.

          Mobile phones? Pre-GSM ones don't work in the UK (and presumably other countries), they turned off the old network.
          Landline phones? The ones that only do pulse dialling don't work with most "Press 5 to do X" systems.

          Cars work with today's gas and roads.

          No they don't -- many old cars required petrol with added lead.

          Old televisions work with today's services and electricity.

          Many countries have switched to digital TV.

          Old stuff often only works if some parts are upgraded. Your old TV works (with a digital converter box) and your old car works (if you add a special chemical to the petrol).

          Old Linux binaries can be made to work (I assume you're referring to problems with shared libraries?). It probably helps to know what system they're supposed to work with. It might require some technical knowledge.

          If old closed-source stuff doesn't work, good luck fixing it.

  • by piraat ( 1772234 ) on Wednesday April 28, 2010 @10:20AM (#32014138) Homepage Journal
    I guess people who use them for their synths? It's why friends of mine still have 'em
    • by drolli ( 522659 ) on Wednesday April 28, 2010 @10:25AM (#32014226) Journal

      in the lab:

      oscilloscopes, network analysers, pulse generators etc.

      • by Shadow_139 ( 707786 ) on Wednesday April 28, 2010 @10:31AM (#32014376)
        We have >500,000$ CNC equipment your need to load your design via Floppy into a Client system that is then connected via an fecking ISA Card!!!!!
        These systems are less then 5 years old as well !!!!
        • by SethJohnson ( 112166 ) on Wednesday April 28, 2010 @11:15AM (#32015294) Homepage Journal
          You put that thing on the network, soldier, and if my boys fail to contain Skynet, your >$500,000 CNC machine becomes a Skynet factory for building T-1000's. That's why we keep it on floppies.

        • by caseih ( 160668 ) on Wednesday April 28, 2010 @11:26AM (#32015494)

          Last time this came up on slashdot, someone brought up this handy little device that looks and acts like a floppy drive (to the controller) but lets you use usb sticks instead:

          http://www.floppytousb.com/ [floppytousb.com]

          This should work on all the synths, CNC machines, sewing machines, etc.

          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by jonwil ( 467024 )

            1.It may not be using the standard floppy disk controler interface and may not be able to support that particular gizmo
            2.Are YOU going to be the one to tell the boss that the really really expensive piece of equipment has failed and that they cant get warranty service for it because of an unauthorized third party modification just so you dont need to keep floppy disks around?
            3.What do you do about things that actually come on floppy disk (for example the manufacturer may ship new firmware on floppy that you

            • by JustNilt ( 984644 ) on Wednesday April 28, 2010 @12:35PM (#32016828) Homepage

              (Side note: This is why I read Slashdot. You have to wade through the muck but there're still nuggets of pure gold here and there.) Sorry ... on topic now:

              1.It may not be using the standard floppy disk controler interface and may not be able to support that particular gizmo

              Well, if you RTFL (I know, I know ....) then you'd have seen this:

              The device connects to your existing power and data (ribbon) cables.

              The soundless drive emulates your existing floppy drive to act as if the floppy drive was never removed. This drive will replace most any existing 720k/1.44MB capacity IBM format floppy drive or your money back. Do away with the painfully slow and obsolete floppy disks. Not only will this device work in PCs but, it will also work in machinery or devices that still use floppy drives. This device completely replaces the universal floppy drive of computerized system. If you are not certain this device will work in your equipment, then just ask! 1 Year Warranty. This device also emulates NON IBM type drives (TEAC, etc) and can also be setup as a DRIVE 0, DRIVE 1 configuration

              Back to your points:

              2.Are YOU going to be the one to tell the boss that the really really expensive piece of equipment has failed and that they cant get warranty service for it because of an unauthorized third party modification just so you dont need to keep floppy disks around?

              I agree this is a good thing to consider. It may not always be a good idea even if it works. Definitely a YMMV solution.

              3.What do you do about things that actually come on floppy disk (for example the manufacturer may ship new firmware on floppy that you insert and have the machine read). Yes you could reinstall the disk drive for those rare occasions (or find a way to make the floppytousb device work with a USB floppy so you can read the disk you need to) but that's a lot of work.

              I wonder if one of the USB floppies would work. While it most likely wouldn't, I sort of like the Goldbergian aspect of running a floppy controller -> USB converter -> USB floppy drive emulator when needed. Hehe. In reality, I'd probably go with a floppy cable that supports 2 drives [amazon.com] and run the floppy drive on one and the FloppytoUSB device on the other, just in case.

              Nonetheless, this is quite an interesting device. I'll probably pick one up just to fiddle with. I'd love to have the option of USB sticks being available in such odd DOS environment for some clients.

            • by batquux ( 323697 ) on Wednesday April 28, 2010 @12:45PM (#32017020)

              What about something like this?
              http://www.memorysuppliers.com/smartdisk-flashpath-smartmedia.html?CAWELAID=327820619 [memorysuppliers.com]

              Stick a SD card into a floppy shaped device that your drive can read like it's a real floppy. The drive can still read floppies, and there's no evidence for the warranty people.

      • Ha! Exactly! I have a nearly-new top-of-the-line Agilent PSA and every time I need to print a screen shot I have to find a floppy disk, which sometimes takes hours. Fortunately USB-based floppy drives are cheap and I keep one in my laptop bag. (For some reason the floppy disks I keep in my laptop bag disappear, probably through the same wormhole that pens and single socks use to escape)
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by NoNeeeed ( 157503 )

        in the theatre:

        Lighting control desks normally use them for letting you save lighting plots (most also have hard-drives for normal use). Lighting plots are a tiny amount of data that easily fit on a floppy.

        Most are just DOS PCs with a digital desk and DMX connections to the dimmer packs and other gear.

        I would like to be able to use a USB key, but that's more because I don't have a floppy drive for my laptop so can't get the data onto it to edit.

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by IorDMUX ( 870522 )
        My old lab had a dozen such floppy-craving lab tools, including an oscilloscope which ran Windows XP and came with touch screen Solitaire (it sat unused... too slow). For all of them, we just had two or three floppies which had been passed around for years. They were the old, hardy kind of 3.5" disk which didn't mysteriously fail to format after a year or two, and we never needed to save more than a megabyte or two of plots, at once.

        So despite all of our lab tools, we did not contribute a cent to this
    • by Shakrai ( 717556 )

      Gods, remember the damn digicams that had full floppy disk drives on them? I used to work with someone that swore up and down that was the "easiest" way to get pictures off a camera and onto a computer. Apparently she had never heard of media readers....

      • Still have one of those. Sony with good macro lens. Takes excellent 640x480 images, which are perfect for embedding in documentation. No reason not to use it.
        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by biryokumaru ( 822262 )

          No reason not to use it.

          Except that your cell phone probably takes better pictures.

          • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

            by Pharmboy ( 216950 )

            Except that your cell phone probably takes better pictures.

            Bigger != Better

          • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

            by JanneM ( 7445 )

            "Except that your cell phone probably takes better pictures."

            Probably not. Cellphone cams have tiny sensors and tiny low-quality lenses that don't correct for sencond- or third-order aberrations. The resulting image is usually a low contrast, distorted image image with color fringing, coma and veiling glare. That 640x480 image, taken through a relatively high-quality optical system, most likely looks much better than your typical cellphone image, no matter what the relative resolution is on paper.

      • by lxs ( 131946 )

        Sony Mavica.
        640x400 pixel resolution. No EXIF data. And we liked it.

      • The Sony Mavica used to be the bee's knees for this reason. This was before most computers had USB or media readers, so a standard digital camera would plug into your serial port and you'd run through a set of batteries trying to download the pictures to your hard drive. So, for a while, the floppy was the "easiest" way to get pictures off a camera.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by tlhIngan ( 30335 )

        Gods, remember the damn digicams that had full floppy disk drives on them? I used to work with someone that swore up and down that was the "easiest" way to get pictures off a camera and onto a computer. Apparently she had never heard of media readers....

        Remember, these were made in the late 90's early 2000s. Floppy disks were CHEAP, a box of 10 would run you $10 if not less on sale. A meager 16MB card would cost $100+ easily. So you could go with a camera that required $100+ memory cards to use, or went wit

    • by Lumpy ( 12016 ) on Wednesday April 28, 2010 @10:27AM (#32014272) Homepage

      I modified all my synths. I found that most have a IDE header inside and you can slap a hard drive on it (was made for a ZIP drive) so instead of having 80,000 floppies that fail the 3rd time you use them all my maps and samples are on the hard drive..

      I love older E-mu gear, at least they were smart and made them hackable.

    • by yakatz ( 1176317 )

      I use them for my music keyboard and some firmware updates (mostly from Dell) which still require them.

    • That's exactly why I have 3.5" double-sided double-density floppies - an Ensoniq Mirage, and Ensoniq EPS and a Cheetah SX16. Of that three only the EPS has SCSI - and still needs to boot from floppy to format a new SCSI disk.

    • by kidel ( 1746726 ) on Wednesday April 28, 2010 @10:53AM (#32014834)
      This is why I have 10-20 lying around as well. MIDI sequencers don't need more space than a floppy disk provides to save dozens of songs.
  • Floppies (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Gizzmonic ( 412910 ) on Wednesday April 28, 2010 @10:23AM (#32014190) Homepage Journal

    I know we buy them at my lab-they are necessary for controlling the software of our scintillation counter. That thing (no joke) is running DOS 2.0 under the hood! I'm sure there's lots of industrial equipment in small/noncompetitive markets that has never felt pressured to update. It's the same reason why we have so much $500,000 equipment running unbelievably crappy software.

    • Re:Floppies (Score:5, Insightful)

      by LWATCDR ( 28044 ) on Wednesday April 28, 2010 @11:13AM (#32015234) Homepage Journal

      Actually there are some good reasons to use DOS for something like that.
      Modern OSs are great and have all sorts of functionality that a lot of devices just don't need. They also have a lot of code and services which can cause you issues.
      DOS is great for any device where you need a realtime single tasking OS.
      You can do all you development on a PC and use PC debugging tools that you are used to using.
      You see lots of CNC machines and such that use DOS for that reason.
      Or look at it this way. Does the device you use work? Does it do what you need it to do?
      If so then the software isn't crappy. Nothing sucks more than you replace a piece of software that works but isn't pretty with pretty bug ridden software.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by cpghost ( 719344 )
        Add to this, that many embedded platforms still use cheap 8086 CPUs. Try running anything bigger than an old version of DOS on that! Of course, a stripped down version of Unix v7 (or so), Minix etc.. would run too, but if it's single threaded, DOS is good enough.
    • Re:Floppies (Score:5, Insightful)

      by gnieboer ( 1272482 ) on Wednesday April 28, 2010 @11:13AM (#32015240)

      ...crappy software.

      Would you really rather have that $500,000 piece of equipment running DOS 2.0 move to Windows Vista?

      When was the last time your DOS 2.0 machine needed a security patch, or rebooted itself randomly, to for that matter did anything unexpected?
      Simple... yes
      Outdated... yes
      Crappy... not so much.

    • Re:Floppies (Score:5, Interesting)

      by pz ( 113803 ) on Wednesday April 28, 2010 @11:22AM (#32015426) Journal

      I wrote a real-time data acquisition system about 10 years ago. It was written to run on DOS. Why? One, and only one reason: under DOS, you have complete control of the hardware. Total, utter control. There's no OS that's going to interrupt with housekeeping, respond to network packets, check to see if there's another thread that wants a slice, or other crap. Only one thread executes at a time (unless you work really really hard to allow that to happen). For instrumentation that cannot tolerate a 20, 50 or even 100 ms pause every now and then, this is vital. DOS, crappy though parts of it are, has a lot of support in the embedded / instrumentation market. It isn't a lack of pressure to update so much as the ability to do exactly what you want, no questions asked, with the hardware. Worked great. As far as I know, that system is still in operation.

      More recently, I've written a different real-time data acquisition system, under Windows 98. Almost as much control of the hardware, but not quite. There were gremlins I never figured out that were stealing segments of time every now and then.

      And just this year, I ported that second system to Windows XP. Holy crap. Still haven't had time to chase down all of the HUGE number of timing problems now. If W98 drivers were available for the fast modern hardware required for the current project, I'd have stuck with the older OS.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by blair1q ( 305137 )

      That $500k may have been the price when it was new in 1992.

      But if you try to sell it now you might get 79 cents a pound for it.

  • There are probably old procedures at companies that still are written to call for using them as backups or storage of application software and the politics at such companies are that they don't easily allow those procedures to be updated.

  • by gklinger ( 571901 ) on Wednesday April 28, 2010 @10:26AM (#32014238)
    I'm a classic computer enthusiast and I purchase 3.5" disks for use with my various Amiga computers. I know many others who do the same although it seems unlikely that our purchases add up to millions. Honestly, I wasn't sure what all the fuss regarding Sony's discontinuation of the 3.5" floppy was about because there are other manufacturers. One of the larger ones is ATHANA International, Inc. [athana.com] who still make and sell 3.5", 5.25" and even 8" floppy disks.
  • It's me. I don't have a DVD or CD burner, so I've been trying to get my pirated material onto other medias.

    I just can't figure out why people don't want the latest Star Trek movie on a simple, small, and affordable 720 three and a half inch floppies collectors set!

  • XP Users (Score:5, Interesting)

    by 1s44c ( 552956 ) on Wednesday April 28, 2010 @10:27AM (#32014266)

    There are about a million XP SP2 users who have SATA disks and keep finding their driver floppy doesn't work when they try their yearly reinstall.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      Mod this guy up. There are lots of issues like this that keep me using a usb floppy drive. Some software still use floppies for license disks.

    • by Big Boss ( 7354 )

      Google Keyword: "slipstream"

      I would think that anyone smart enough to know about reinstalling XP constantly for performance would know about this. I make unattended install disks for my parents so I don't have to mess with it. Just pop the CD in, boot, format the drive and tell XP to start installing. Then walk away. Almost as nice as installing Linux. :)

      • Re:XP Users (Score:4, Insightful)

        by Lumpy ( 12016 ) on Wednesday April 28, 2010 @11:06AM (#32015080) Homepage

        Of 10,000,000 XP users less than 100 of them knows what slipstream is or has the skills to even do that. It will not happen, you can barely get a windows user to not click on every popup, you think you can get them to slipstream SP3 into their XP install Disc?

  • I know of a place that uses floppy disks to move files between the machines on their LAN. And a desktop calculator to fill in Excel spreadsheets.
  • Lighting Consoles (Score:4, Informative)

    by fimion ( 890504 ) * <fimion&gmail,com> on Wednesday April 28, 2010 @10:29AM (#32014316) Homepage
    Numerous Lighting consoles used by theatres and theatrical productions still use floppies. the one specific example is the ETC Express series of boards which while discontinued is still very popular in many theatres around the world.
  • Oscilloscope (Score:5, Interesting)

    by necro81 ( 917438 ) on Wednesday April 28, 2010 @10:29AM (#32014324) Journal
    I've got a semi-old (ca 2001) digital oscilloscope. There are only two ways to pull data off it: export a screen shot to a printer via a parallel port, or export to 3.5" floppy (screenshot or raw data). So, I've got a couple of floppies lying around. Can't say I've actually bought any in many years - I just always seem to have a couple lying around. Maybe I ought to just to make sure I've got a supply for the future.

    I suppose I could also replace the scope. Newer ones can connect to a host PC via USB, or offload to a thumb drive, or be network-attached. The specs on newer ones are, obviously, a lot better, too. But, really, why spend many thousands of dollars on new equipment just to get around using a floppy drive?
  • I have a lot of information on 3.5" disks. Tax returns dating back to the 80's. Archives of papers that I wrote in school. Old programs that I wrote since I was like 7 years old. Sure, I could convert them all to a few CDs, but do I really want to spend all that time? I also have quite a few 5.25" disks (and one computer with a working drive). I've got Windows 2 on low density 5.25" (like 5 or 6 of them). I'm too lazy to convert them to CD/DVD, yet consider them too important to just "throw away". S
  • by karcirate ( 1685354 ) on Wednesday April 28, 2010 @10:30AM (#32014364)

    I have AOL and Windows 3.1 disks all over my desk, always ready for use as a coaster under my coffee.

    Can't remember the last time I bought one, though. But if anyone needs a coaster, I am happy to sell you some.

  • by O('_')O_Bush ( 1162487 ) on Wednesday April 28, 2010 @10:31AM (#32014374)
    The most recent example was for trying to install SCSI/RAID controller drivers on my Win XP machine. The *only* ways to install them, that I've been able to find, are by floppy disk (also required me to buy an external floppy drive) or by making a re-configured Windows install disk and re-installing my OS.

    Since the former was easier, that's what I did.
  • Windows XP still needs a floppy if you need to install specific drivers on install process, like SATA drivers.
  • Just yesterday I had to explain to a female co-worker of mine about flash drives and how they were better than floppies... She was amazed, also at how cheap they were.
  • Ugh.. (Score:3, Funny)

    by krnpimpsta ( 906084 ) on Wednesday April 28, 2010 @10:32AM (#32014410)
    stopped reading after (emphasis mine):

    The truth is the 3½-inch, 1.44 megabyte floppy - the disk that made it big - has always defied logic. It's not floppy for a start. The term was a hangover from its precursor, the 5¼-inch floppy, which had a definite lack of rigidness about it. However, its smaller successor held 15 times as much data.

    1) so, what is the proper term for this then? "hard disk"? ARGHHH
    2) 15 times as much data in a 3.5"? ARGHHHHH
    ok, fine, i didn't stop reading. i only continued reading, but irritatedly.

    • Ya obviously TFA-author has never taken apart a 3.5".. they are still floppies to me because of the internal media isn't rigid, at least last I checked.

      As for use, I've used them in the last couple years to:
      - Install drivers on a Win box during install.. (WHY does VMware need a WINDOWS vCenter box?! Why can't it just be a thin-OS like ESX is?! it makes no sense!)
      - Update BIOS firmware drivers on some older servers (at the time it was easier then doing it via CD, although it did take me a short wihle to find

  • Lots of older motherboards can only boot of floppies, not of USB sticks. They need floppies with FreeDOS to boot for the occasional BIOS update, firmware flash and other similar maintenance. Memtest86+ is another popular stuff to boot on a floppy. And some antique mother boards can't even reliabily boot CD-ROMs requiring a floppy boot-loader.

    Installer of older versions of Windows XP can't use drivers on anything but floppies. Vista's installer is the first able to use other media.

    As long as such older machi

  • Maybe we should talk to this guy [engadget.com].
  • Machine tools? (Score:5, Informative)

    by vlm ( 69642 ) on Wednesday April 28, 2010 @10:36AM (#32014480)

    Brand new computer controlled machine tools being sold today, using floppy drives:

    http://www.americanmachinetools.com/cnc_milling.htm [americanmachinetools.com]

    Just ask google... "Results 1 - 10 of about 13,200 for Floppy CNC mill. (0.29 seconds)"

    G-Code is kind of a CLI for machine tools. Remember Logo in the 80s? Well, theres only so many ways to design a language to do Cartesian stuff. Being vaguely text like, you can figure ten bytes per line. Figure maybe twice as many non-cutting operations as cutting operations. Gaze upon a machined part, perhaps a hard drive case, whatever, and contemplate most jobs will have a couple hundred cutting operations. So, you're going to need hundreds of cuts times about 3 to account for non-cutting lines (config, comments, etc), times about ten bytes per line of G-code, figure 15K file per part. An easy fit on a floppy drive.

    Now something really complicated, like a turbine or fancy rims for a ghetto car, that might fill a floppy disk.

  • It is a floppy (Score:3, Insightful)

    by nuggz ( 69912 ) on Wednesday April 28, 2010 @10:38AM (#32014512) Homepage

    Right from the article.

    The truth is the 3½-inch, 1.44 megabyte floppy - the disk that made it big - has always defied logic. It's not floppy for a start.

    Really come, it's been around long enough everyone should have peeked behind that little window and seen the disk actually is a floppy little piece of plastic.

  • by gestalt_n_pepper ( 991155 ) on Wednesday April 28, 2010 @10:48AM (#32014718)

    It's me. I've been buying those millions of floppy disks. No. I don't know why. I just like them. You got a problem with that?

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by JiffyPop ( 318506 )

      I am just imagining a stack of 34,000 floppies... used to back up 1 blu-ray disc.

      At an eighth-inch a piece (rough estimate) that would be a stack more than 350ft tall!

  • Airplanes (Score:5, Interesting)

    by michelcolman ( 1208008 ) on Wednesday April 28, 2010 @10:54AM (#32014856)
    Most airplanes (A320, 737,...) still use a floppy drive to update the Flight Management System database (waypoints, routes,...). These updates are done twice a month. The data fits on about ten floppies, I think, it's just text and numbers. Some newer types use CD-Rom drives, but technology moves slowly in the airline world. If it ain't broke, don't fix it, especially if it costs lots of money for certification just because it happens to be for an airplane.
  • by shadowrat ( 1069614 ) on Wednesday April 28, 2010 @11:09AM (#32015146)
    They seem to multiply at exponential rates. I'm constantly throwing the damn things away yet more and more keep showing up in my desk drawers. Worse, some people seem to get incredibly attached to them. Maybe it's the pleasant purring they emit when nestled snuggly in a floppy drive.

    Some people at work seem to adopt them. I say there can't possibly be any data of significant value in 1.4mb, but these floppy analogs to cat ladies just can't bear to get rid of the disks.

    I can't wait till a Klingon warbird shows up and we can simply beam the lot of them to their storage holds.
  • by glowimperial ( 705397 ) on Wednesday April 28, 2010 @11:22AM (#32015438) Homepage
    I recently had a shocking meeting in the office of some folks from the Recreation and Parks Department, and was disturbed to see that the computers they were using not only were running Windows 95, but which had only 3.5" drives. The presence of several disks laying out on the desk of one employee and a disk storage unit on the desk were definite indications of daily use. Oh, and the highly paid, union protected, pension equipped employee was an excellent multitasker. He was able to both play solitaire during the entire meeting and give his full attention to the important business of doing his job. If you were wondering why one of the world's biggest cities is approaching total failure, there's a few reasons for you.
  • by GiMP ( 10923 ) on Wednesday April 28, 2010 @11:33AM (#32015632)

    While you're mourning the loss of the floppy, I'm waiting for the death of the CD/DVD. They're big, they scratch, they're not optimal for read/write. More and more of our devices are mobile and CD readers are both large and heavy.

    Digital distribution and flash media replace the necessity for the CD. Of the 3 CD/DVDs I've bought since 2005, two were Apple OS upgrades and one was a video game. The video game is now available on Steam. The OS upgrades could be easily transferred and sold on flash media, or sold online and transferred by the user either to DVD or flash media, as to their preference.

    Right now, the CD/DVD format is enjoying the same obsolesce, yet pervasiveness, the floppy enjoyed circa 1999. They'll be (practically) dead soon enough...

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by rabiddeity ( 941737 )

      Quite often the write-once nature of optical disks is a positive. Burn an OS install disc once, finalize the disc, and run a verification on a separate computer. You can be reasonably certain the install is "clean", and it can't really be tampered with. But if you instead put that installer on flash media, what's to keep compromised software from later rewriting the bootloader or modifying the installer in some way?

      Systems do get rooted, and sometimes reinstalls from known clean media are necessary. If y

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      Flash dies. So do magnetic media. Optical might suck but it's hardy, and it's cheap too! Costs pennies to press out and volume is negotiable. If you need 10k units? Do able. Need 1m units? Do able. I don't think magnetic media has that kind of flexibility.

  • Medical equipment (Score:4, Interesting)

    by kheldan ( 1460303 ) on Wednesday April 28, 2010 @11:49AM (#32015926) Journal
    I work for a company that produces a specific type of medical equipment, and since I do all the support and service for units sold in the USA, I still have to support units with floppy drives, which are still as new as 5 years old. Even on units less than a year old, I still need to use a floppy drive to run some diagnostics on them because the single-board computer won't boot from USB. Also, memo to USB flash drive manufacturers: please make more of them with write-protect switches on them!
  • by D4C5CE ( 578304 ) on Wednesday April 28, 2010 @01:39PM (#32018004)
    the HxC Floppy Drive Emulator [hxc2001.free.fr] (in SD and USB flavors [torlus.com]) which works even on Amiga [youtube.com] and accurately down to rendering old-school marvels such as playing music by drive noises [youtube.com].

    Painstakingly hand-made in small numbers [atari.plof.pl] for now, if that's not a project to be spread from high-volume automated production lines by the likes of Seeed [seeedstudio.com], then what is?

Logic is the chastity belt of the mind!