When was the last time that you used a floppy disk? While still used as the save icon in modern software packages like Microsoft’s Office suite, it’s unusual to see one out in the wild. Given that a typical floppy disk offers up a minuscule 1.44MB of space – not even enough to house a three-minute pop song in MP3 format – there’s seemingly no reason for these disks to stay in circulation.
But while the average user might not have any cause to use a floppy disk, there are those out there who can’t settle for anything else. They’re in dire need of the disks, which most manufacturers have stopped producing. The floppy disk might seem like something better left in the 1990s. Instead it’s a product that’s alive and well in the 21st century.
When my friends and I were in the US late last year, we got into an accident with our rental car – an old and kind Canadian lady rear-ended us while doing 110kph on the I-89 near the town of Lebanon, New Hampshire. The accident was entirely her fault, so she accepted all responsibility, the state trooper made an incident report, and sent us on our way to the nearest Avis office so we could get a new car, because the car’s rear end was all mangled up. We were a bit shaken up, but luckily, nobody got hurt, and the Canadian lady bought us a bottle of maple syrup, and I bought a cheesy Vermont baseball cap to commemorate our grand adventure of meeting a state trooper.
In any event, it turned out the nearest Avis office was at the Lebanon Municipal Airport, an absolutely amazing place that seemed frozen in time – a tiny airport with an adorable terminal and sliding doors leading straight to the runway. Mildly condescending adjectives like ‘adorable’, ‘quaint’, ‘cute’, and ‘darling’ don’t do this place justice. In the terminal, while we waited for one of two airport employees present to fill out some paperwork, I noticed something remarkable: there, in the middle of the terminal, next to an old soda machine, sat an old TTY, a Minicom IV.
Much like the TTY, the answer to the question of old technology lingering around is always the same: because it works.
Those of us with an interest in alternative operating systems, once the focus of OSNews, know that small OS projects are still distributed as disk image files. MenuetOS, of course, still fits on a single floppy disk.
Some system tools still require booting a floppy as well. Maybe not as much today as five years ago, but long past the time when computers stopped coming standard with floppy drives. Flashing ROMs, partition tools, hard drive diagnostic tools…
I bet a lot of floppies are still working in industrial settings as well, like CNC machines.