Floppy disks may have gone the way of the dodo and joined other defunct media such as punch cards and paper tape, but some people apparently still use them, and one company even continues to sell them.
Floppydisk.com is an American company specializing in the sale and recycling of floppy disks, and its founder, Tom Persky, describes himself as the “last man standing in the floppy disk business”. The company, which has been around for decades, provides other services such as disk-based data transfers, including CD and DVD duplication, but most of its revenue apparently comes from the sale of blank floppy disks.
Persky features in a recently published book, Floppy Disk Fever: Curious Legacy of Flexible Mediawhich examines how the venerable storage medium continues to be used for certain purposes, even though Sony, the last company to make new floppy disk media, ceased production over a decade ago.
But who on Earth still uses floppy disks? According to Persky, there are industrial equipment using machines that require floppy disks. (This writer remembers visiting a university that had lab equipment that still booted from an 8-inch floppy disk.)
Only last month, it was reported that the Japanese government had to change some laws because it still requires the use of floppy disks and CD-ROM media when sharing data with many government departments.
The airline industry is also a big customer, says Persky in a interview from the book. “Probably half of the airline fleet in the world today is over 20 years old and still uses floppy disks in some of the avionics,” he said.
Some medical equipment in the healthcare industry still requires floppy disks to transfer data, but the biggest customer would be the embroidery industry as there are a large number of embroidery machines still in use that were designed to load designs from from floppy disks.
Other customers include hobbyists, who typically wish to purchase 10, 20, or 50 floppy disks at a time, which may or may not include those involved in projects such as the Floppotron hardware orchestra.
While no one makes the media anymore, Floppydisk.com invested in a large amount – “a few million discs”, according to Persky – when production ended. Since then, the company has lived on this inventory, but is sometimes contacted by organizations that empty warehouses and discover pallets full of diskettes.
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The company now has around half a million discs in stock, comprising various formats including 3.5-inch, 5.25-inch and 8-inch types, as well as “a few rather rare floppy disks”. These are unspecified, but there were other formats available in the past, such as the 3-inch floppy disks used by Amstrad in the UK for its CPC home computers and PCW desktop systems.
The writing must be on the wall for the venerable floppy disk as software support is being phased out and the supply dries up. However, Persky said he expects his business to be in business for at least four years. ®