April 26, 2010

Will anybody shed a tear for the last...

... floppy?

45 comments:

Ron said...

Hey, they still sold 12 million last year! That in itself is surprising.

rhhardin said...

I have a couple xerox boxes of 5" floppies somewhere.

Fred4Pres said...

Floppies suck and don't even have the retro charm of 8 tracks (which also sucked in practical application).

Meade said...

"I have a couple xerox boxes of 5" floppies somewhere."

They're over there, under the box of punch card.

Meade said...

punch cards.

Meade said...

punch lin

Meade said...

Go ahead...

punch me.

Diane Wilson said...

Punch cards were great for bookmarks and grocery lists. Try that with a floppy.

Original Mike said...

"Mommy, why aren't floppies floppy?"

Ron said...

I also wrote for a PDP-8 that had no storage. There was a panel of switches that would correlate to a hex address, and a pile of pre-written programs in the thing.... you'd look up what you wanted in a book, flip the switches in the right order, and hit the "Run" button...

traditionalguy said...

Stacks of punch cards,punched, and then "verified " by a repunch, ruled the world of the 1960's. Floppy Discs were the first true cyber-world tools. So I am sad that they are useless today.

EDH said...

I've neve considered the firm plastic 3.5" diskette a true floppy.

One of the first individual stocks I bought was a company that made the equipment that made the soon to be obsolete flexible 5.25" floppies.

Now that was a flop.

AllenS said...

Into the dust bin of history. Just like the Rosetta Stone. Try marking a book page with that.

Paddy O. said...

"under the box of punch card."

It's a good.

Rick said...

Actually *yes*.

I found them handy as an alternate means of choosing which OS partition to boot. Also some of the computers I built a floppy drive was the only way to get some of the drivers loaded when first installing the OS.

rhhardin said...

There's about 50 boxes of punch cards in the basement too.

Lesson for today from punched paper tape (lost to history)

When you store rope, long electrical cords, etc., wind it in a figure-8 pattern and it won't kink much when you unwind it.

With punched paper tape, it's wound around thumb and forefinger; with rope, use thumb/forefinger valley and elbow.

Unwind it a little carefully and you'll never get a kink.

In any case it won't have the once-per-loop twist that winding it up in the usual way has.

Pogo said...

From the article: "Certainly the writing had been on the walls for years."

Well, technically, the writing hasn't been on the wall for years, either.

A.W. said...

Floppies?

Don't they have a pill for that?

jayne_cobb said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Sofa King said...

I've neve considered the firm plastic 3.5" diskette a true floppy.

But that's just the shell. The disk itself, the round sheet inside, is really quite floppy.

Original Mike said...

"I also wrote for a PDP-8 that had no storage. There was a panel of switches that would correlate to a hex address,"

I did that. Used a PDP to control a disk we built to store real-time video. Flipping those switches was kinda fun, actually.

Original Mike said...

And the blinky lights. That was probably what was fun. The blinky lights.

MadisonMan said...

A coworker once had a 9-inch computer tape in his luggage. The inspectors could not figure out how to open it. So they broke it.

EDH said...

But that's just the shell. The disk itself, the round sheet inside, is really quite floppy.

Kind of like Althouse?

Crusty conservative coating, creamy hippie love chick center.

Meade said...

Triple entendre!

Anthony said...

Ah, floppies. I've been wondering for a while how one would go about booting up in case of a bad hard drive when the netbook or whatever doesn't even have a CD player.

I started in computer science in 1980, so we still had to write a few machine language programs on cards just to get the hang of things. And I remember bootstrap-loading stuff onto the PDPs, again, just to get familiar with the basics. I only knew of punch cards before that because my mom used to make festive Christmas wreaths out of them.

I also remember the big 12" (I think) floppies our "word processing" group used to use on their special-function word processing computers. Try to find a reader for those. I think I still have some old 5.25" around as well as some 3.5" disks. I've kept some old laptops just in case I desperately need to get something off of them, although it still might be difficult to get the data off of that computer.

When I was going through some archived archaeological documents (I switched from comp sci to archaeology eventually) I found some reel tapes with some data from the Fayum Depression (Egypt) on them. Stupidly, the first time I found them I didn't immediately take it down to the U's computer joint and have them read it off while they still had their tape machine. Several years later, I asked about it again and they had since gotten rid of them, so that data is as lost as any old relic.

c3 said...

They are decent coasters

former law student said...

The days of the floppy were numbered beginning in 1999, once Toshiba settled -- for $2 billion -- a class-action lawsuit with one Phillip M. Adams, a former IBM engineer. Adams subsequently filed suit agains Packard Bell, Gateway, Hewlett-Packard, Compaq, and eMachines. The issue as I understood it was that files were corrupted on the floppy disk if two programs tried to write to the floppy at the same time. This was not possible under DOS, but as Windows developed it became possible.

Subsequently Adams patented fixes to the floppy drive controller chip to solve this problem. He is currently suing Dell for using ASUS chips that allegedly infringe his patent to fix the FDC flaw he originally sued for.

So if you miss your floppy drive you can blame a certain litigious engineer.

MamaM said...

37 kbps is not enough to sustain a readable connection to Althouse.

Dial-up was the only service available this weekend.

In the same way a floppy is useless without the technology to support it, use of this blog is limited by the technology required for access.

While shedding a tear for some of the losses, limitations and frustrations that accompany change, I'm celebrating the good when available.

("Punch lin" took a few reads)

c3 said...

So if you miss your floppy drive you can blame a certain litigious engineer


The first thing we do, let's kill all the lawyers
Dick from Henry VI
William Shakespeare

Joe said...

"The days of the floppy were numbered beginning in 1999, once Toshiba settled"

What a load of horse manure. The days of the floppy were numbered in 1995 when CD burners dropped below $1000. By 1998, you could get a solid burner for less than $500. In bulk, blanks ran about $2 a piece. Within two years, you could get a burner for under $130 and a blank disc cost less than 35 cents.

Now, you can get a DVD burner for $30 and Dual Layer DVD blanks for about a dollar.

The only reason I put a floppy drive in a computer I built in 2001 were the number of legacy applications and drivers that still required one for installation. Even then, I rarely used it.

rhhardin said...

37kbs dialup, just deselect "Automatically load images" in your browser.

former law student said...

The days of the floppy were numbered in 1995 when CD burners dropped below $1000.

For years, computers had both. But the easiest way to prevent costly litigation was to yank it out altogether. And, working on dead computers in that era, I was able to carry a boot-up floppy in my pocket. Not possible with a CD blank, which were also notable for having their aluminum coating peel off under any kind of environmental extreme.

Joe said...

Even after the litigation, you could still get a Sony Floppy drive for $35, so your theory still doesn't fly. (The last price I saw was just now for $6.50.)

Moreover, new computers still shipped with floppy drives AFTER nobody was selling software on them. (Even some of the hardware sites were including the damn things in their builds until 2007/2008.)

CDRs would have blown away the floppy regardless of litigation. (Remember the Jaz and Zip drives? Besides the fact that they broke with the click of death, they didn't stand a chance either.)

Trooper York said...

Nobody wants it floppy when you can get it hard. Just sayn'

mariner said...

fls:
So if you miss your floppy drive you can blame a certain litigious engineer.

Why shouldn't we blame the companies that stole his intellectual property?

mariner said...

Anthony,
I also remember the big 12" (I think) floppies our "word processing" group used to use on their special-function word processing computers.

I suspect they were 8" floppies, which were the first to be called "floppies".

knox said...

I might shed a tear for the last floppy hat. The last floppy disk, no.

Anthony said...

That wasn't as much fun as trying to install a C compiler that came on about 20 3 1/2s and number 16 was bad. O! the agony!!!

My first version of OS/2 came on floppies (as did the second, probably) and so did SAS, both of which were in the 20s. SAS would often corrupt itself in its initial OS/2 version and so I had to reformat and reinstall several times. Not fun.

I think OS/2's first batch of V3.0 came on floppies and that version got an immediate bad rap on it because one disk was bad. Of course, Winblows could ship with a hundred bad drivers in it and the press would ignore it. . .

former law student said...

Even after the litigation, you could still get a Sony Floppy drive for $35, so your theory still doesn't fly.

If you were willing to assume the risk yourself, sure, you could buy a component drive and install it yourself.

Why shouldn't we blame the companies that stole his intellectual property?

I have not familiarized myself with the merits of the case. But someone who sues you because of a problem, then sues you when you try to fix it, is not automatically a good guy in my estimation.

KLDAVIS said...

FLS, I think that story is mostly apocryphal...at least as a but-for cause. Floppy's were going out of style for many unrelated reasons, but those who wanted them could still get them after the suit. For example, I have a machine purchased in 2008 new from Dell that has a 3.5" floppy drive. I used it last month to re-up my computer forensic certification which required the examination of a sample piece of "evidence" in the form of a floppy disk image.

Old Dad said...

Kaypro, Wordstar, 5" floppies (apologies to eunuchs everywhere). I can't tell you the shock and awe that these magnificent developments (eunuchs excepted) generated among we lowly grad students. I weaseled a cheap loan from my, then, rich older brother, $2000 as I recall, and bought a Kaypro "portable" computer--think sewing machine, and a dot matrix printer. Regardless, they were miracles.

I can remember debating the purchase of 40 gig hard drive towers in the early 90's--my God, how could we ever use such ridiculously capacious memory?

The floppy is dead. Long live the floppy.

kynefski said...

Just last Friday, I cleaned out a drawer and threw out a pile of 3.5" floppies. I kept an MS-DOS 3.3 system disk (copy).

My mother was a keypunch operator who ran records for our school district. In her office, she had (all IBM) her keypunch machine, a card sorter, and a tabulator. Man, that stuff was some hardware.

I weaseled a cheap loan from my, then, rich older brother, $2000 as I recall, and bought a Kaypro "portable" computer--

My first personal computer was a Zenith Z-138. Kaypro-style case with PC XT innards.

JAL said...

I saw a small bedroom wall papered with punch cards many years ago. Dad worked at MIT.

More recently -- probably more than 15 years ago -- my youngest folded a big floppy in quarters, sort of, and stuffed it in the VCR. Right idea. Wrong media.

I have boxes of 3.5 floppies.

What's on them?

jamboree said...

Last time I checked out a government workforce office (around 2005?) for some free classes to learn to deal with Windows (I've had the good fortune to be able to use a Mac my entire life and know nothing of the other world), they still used floppies and would in fact charge you a dollar to buy one if you didn't bring one of your own. They had one computer in the whole place that took my flash drive.

My neighborhood CHURCH's free computer classes, on the other hand, had the latest LAPTOPS for EVERYONE. We had to ask God to bless the class before it began. They were ROLLING in money.

The government workforce computers reminded me of the line about Julie Andrews' dress in Sound of Music: "Oh, the Poor didn't want this one."

I'd bet the gov is the single largest remaining user. They should donate them all.