Floppy disks have not gone completely out of use. An American company called Floppy Disk sells, repairs and recycles them for the aviation industry keeping the technology alive for those who sill need it. Younger generations may have never seen or held one of those storage drives in their hands but for many years they were the main platform for storing data.
Floppy diskettes or floppy disks in the 1980s and 1990s were used to store data. The latest version of these drives had a capacity of 1.44 MB. To have an idea, an image taken with a smartphone usually occupies between 2-3 MB, so a modern photo could not be stored on these drives.
It was in the late 1990s and early 2000s that the first USB flash drives from 8 Mb to 32 Mb started to arrive. This made floppy disks, overnight, obsolete. Although floppy disks can be considered “extinct”, they are still available for purchase. The floppydisk.com website, founded by Tom Persky, continues to sell this storage system. Persky currently repairs, recycles and sells floppy disks on a regular basis.
Half of the airline fleet in the world today is more than 20 years old and still uses floppy disks in avionics.Tom Persky, founder of Floppy Disk
The website is not only a trip back in time for selling floppy disks, but also for its design. This website reminds us of those typical websites of the late 90’s and early 2000’s, with a very simple design. In the new book “Floppy Disk Fever: The Curious Afterlives of a Flexible Medium” by Niek Hilkmann and Thomas Walskaar, Persky talks about these storage devices and his main customers.
“My biggest customers — and the place where most of the money comes from — are the industrial users,” Persky said, in an interview from the book published online in Eye On Design last week. “Imagine it’s 1990 and you’re building a big industrial machine. You design it to last for 50 years and you want to use the best technology available”.
This phenomenon also occurs with CDs, for instance. These optical media are more or less dead but there are many systems, including industrial machines, that use them and will use them for many years to come. It seems that among Persky’s most prominent customers are airlines and companies that manufacture machinery for medicine.
It is interesting to learn that much of Persky’s floppy disk sales come from airlines. “Take the airline industry as an example. Probably half of the airline fleet in the world today is more than 20 years old and still uses floppy disks in avionics. That’s a big consumer,” he wrote in his book.
Although they have certain uses and there is a small market for them, this will dwindle over the years until they disappear. According to Business Insider, Japan’s digital minister, Taro Kano, declared “a war” on the devices. The country want to issue a regulation so that Japanese companies stop using them and switch to optical disks or more modern solutions.
Floppy disks have a problem in that they are very susceptible to radiation. This type of storage unit degrades its information very quickly and even more so nowadays. Radio waves, such as WiFi or simply a telephone signal, can damage the data and cause the drive to fail.