Another nail has been pounded on the coffin for the iconic floppy or diskette drive as PC World says farewell to floppy, meaning the UK-based computer super store will stop selling floppies when their stocks run out. In addition, some computer manufacturers have started to phase out the diskette drive, more popularly known as Drive A:, from their desktops.
Here’s a history of the floppy disk:
The floppy disk drive (FDD) was invented at IBM by Alan Shugart in 1967. The first floppy drives used an 8-inch disk (later called a “diskette” as it got smaller), which evolved into the 5.25-inch disk that was used on the first IBM Personal Computer in August 1981. The 5.25-inch disk held 360 kilobytes compared to the 1.44 megabyte capacity of today’s 3.5-inch diskette.
The 5.25-inch disks were dubbed “floppy” because the diskette packaging was a very flexible plastic envelope, unlike the rigid case used to hold today’s 3.5-inch diskettes.
By the mid-1980s, the improved designs of the read/write heads, along with improvements in the magnetic recording media, led to the less-flexible, 3.5-inch, 1.44-megabyte (MB) capacity FDD in use today. For a few years, computers had both FDD sizes (3.5-inch and 5.25-inch). But by the mid-1990s, the 5.25-inch version had fallen out of popularity, partly because the diskette’s recording surface could easily become contaminated by fingerprints through the open access area.
Declining sales have been driven primarily by the emergence of new portable external storage devices like external hard drives and the latest trend, USB flash drives. Which could hold as much data, not just documents but music, movies and other content, as one floppy disk drive can a thousand times over.
Other than capacity, reliability and durability has been another weakness of the floppy against the USB thumb drives. Moisture, heat, magnets, physical strain, troublesome floppy drives, younger siblings who can’t resist to put things in their mouths are the top causes of the floppy disk’s demise or loss of its stored data. An alternative or improvement(?) were those zip drives from Iomega but those fizzled out as well. Another one which has also become popular is the writable and re-writable CDs, but still, the main killer is the USB thumb drive. We could say that it’s just the way things are in the world of technology wherein a product must continue to adapt and evolve or even lead the change in order to survive, give consumers what they want, (not necessarily need) and their manufacturers and patent holders big fat profits.
Obviously, the floppy failed to do so and now it’s on its way to its complete demise. In the UK or Europe for that matter. On the contrary, here in the Philippines, the floppy diskette, or diskette, as we call it remains an essential piece of hardware for most Filipinos who use a computer.
Who are those users still relying on the floppy?
- Students – Yep, from elementary to high school even up to college, the diskette is still the essential tool they need in their school work that needs a computer to complete with. They are also required to have one for their computer classes. Why not USB thumb drives? It’s just too damn expensive for an ordinary student who would rather spend their tight budgets on other stuff like computer and internet rentals which of course leads to playing online games, surfing Friendster, YouTube, chatting and blogging.
- IT or tech people – They still need floppies to troubleshoot computers, primarily for rebooting tasks, system maintenance especially when the computers they work on are living relics of the past which lack USB ports and still has a BIOS that requires a diskette drive to work.
- Employees and Workers – Desk employees still use diskettes from important file sharing, back-up, taking home work etc. Why not USB thumb drives? Again they could barely afford one given that their pay has already been allocated for basic home expenses, kids’ allowances, food and other essential stuff.
A special case is in De La Salle University – DasmariÃ±as. The ITC still bans the use of USB thumb drives in the computer facilities in the library in which the university proved free internet and computer services to us students. (It’s not actually free because we still pay for it from our matriculation fees.) They still advocate the use of floppies because 1) they sell them to the students and 2) which is really ridiculous, they say the USB drives might harbor computer worms and viruses that might infect the university computer system.
Say what?! Does it mean that our Information Technology Center, IT personnel of the university, a La Salle University, doesn’t know how th use anti-virus programs that can scan and clean USB drives before using them? OMFG!
Okay I’m ranting off now, but going back, UK and Europe may dump the floppies forever but here in the Philippines, we still need them diskettes. Especially the IT personnel of DLSU-D!