Friday, June 22, 2012
Where Are They Now? Floppy Disks
What they were: A form of removable storage, in 3.5-, 5.25- and 8-inch variants, that started in the 1970s as a high-end alternative to saving programs on audio cassettes, then segued into serving as a handy complement to hard drives.
What happened: Until the mid-1990s, floppies remained essential. But then the Internet came along and provided folks with file downloads and attachments -- faster ways to accomplish tasks that had long been the floppy disk’s domain, without floppies’ 1.44MB capacity limitation. (Higher-capacity floppies arrived at about the same time, but never caught on.) Much higher-capacity storage media like Zip disks and recordable DVDs nudged floppies further towards irrelevancy. And USB drives -- which provide a gigabyte or more of storage for less than what I paid for one 72KB floppy in the 1970s -- finished the job.
Current whereabouts: Floppy drives are no longer standard equipment, but they certainly haven’t vanished -- in fact, you may have a computer or two around the house that sports one. New 3.5-inch drives and media remain readily available, and you might be able to find 5.25-inch ones if you hunt a bit. (8-inch floppies I can’t help you with.) Which leaves only one question: Under what circumstances would you opt for floppies over something like a $10 (or so) 4GB USB drive that holds 2750 times as much data?
SOURCE: 'Where Are They Now? 25 Computer Products That Refuse to Die' by Harry McCracken.