back to article 'Last man standing in the floppy disk business' reckons his company has 4 years left

Floppy disks may have gone the way of the dodo and joined other extinct media such as punched cards and paper tape, but some people are apparently still using them, and one company even continues to sell them. is a US-based company specializing in selling and recycling floppy disks, and founder Tom Persky …

  1. M E H

    Hardware support still possible

    In an exercise in pointlessness, a few months ago I managed to get a USB floppy drive to connect to an oldish HP Elitebook under Windows10.

    It was then that I found out the copy of Windows Arcade I’d been keeping for years had been wiped.

    That laptop later went kaput and I haven’t tried my floppy drive on its replacement.

  2. Miss Config
    Thumb Up

    Speaking Of Ancient Storage Methods .....

    Seriously, are there still companies that use reel-to-reel tapes for mass storage ?

    1. Furious Reg reader John

      Re: Speaking Of Ancient Storage Methods .....


      1. Dave 126 Silver badge

        Re: Speaking Of Ancient Storage Methods .....

        > NASA?

        Kodak film cameras aboard lunar orbiters, film developed in situ, resulting hotos scanned and sent back to Earth. This was done to scout for landing sites for Apollo.

    2. mkusanagi

      Re: Speaking Of Ancient Storage Methods .....

      CERN is certainly using tape on some form:

      I remember reading an article suggesting that it was due to the vast amount of data they were dealing with and the fact that it was easier to recover from.

      1. An_Old_Dog Silver badge

        Re: Speaking Of Ancient Storage Methods .....

        You still can get 9-track reel-to-reel magtape drives which connect to your PC.

        1. Bitsminer Silver badge

          Re: Speaking Of Ancient Storage Methods .....

          $WORK used to back up the VAXes with 9-track tape. It was the latest 6250 bpi drives from Storagetek, complete with vacuum columns, noisy air pumps, blinken lights, and looked cool as heck. We had about 40 or so RA81 disk drives (454 MB each) to backup.

          Until I got the phonecall at 0200AM about the backup failing and what should the machine operator do?

          "I dunno. See you in the morning."

          Then we switched to LTO-1 in a big Storagetek library. Replaced that with a bigger Sun library; except they promised "expandability" but failed to offer an expansion when we wanted it (it was relabelled from somebody else). Good ole' Sun Microsystems.

          We had an "Archiver" package for VAX that we had setup with 9-track tapes. At some point we realized the media had issues (all such 9-track media did). The plastic backing emitted some kind of water-based gunk after a few years. And was thereafter unreadable.

          There was a tape "cleaner" -- motorized with a sapphire blade to scrape off the gunk. 200 tapes and two weeks later we were back in business with DLT2000 cartridges.

          In the good old days.

          1. C R Mudgeon Bronze badge

            Re: Speaking Of Ancient Storage Methods .....

            "The plastic backing emitted some kind of water-based gunk after a few years. And was thereafter unreadable."

            A similar problem exists for audio tape. Back when people were re-releasing their back catalogs on CD, they sometimes found that the old (analog) masters were deteriorating. The glue that binds the oxide to the plastic carrier had degraded and the oxide was coming off. Precious, irreplaceable master recordings were literally crumbling into dust.

            The workaround is to bake the tape in an oven at low temperature for a while. That stabilizes the glue long enough to play the tape once and get a digital copy.

            (That's actually what inspired us to bake old hard drives in an attempt to work around a very different failure mode. In our case the baking didn't work, but more drastic measures did -- we got the data.)

            1. H in The Hague

              Re: Speaking Of Ancient Storage Methods .....

              "The workaround is to bake the tape in an oven at low temperature for a while."

              As this gentleman is currently doing:


      2. Arbuthnot the Magnificent

        Re: Speaking Of Ancient Storage Methods .....

        I work in HPC (for astronomy) and we use tons of tape, it'll be LTO or something. When you have to store PB of data for years it's still a good option.

        1. John Smith 19 Gold badge

          we use tons of tape....When you have to store PB of data for years it's still a good option.


          The data fetishists medium of choice for all the data GCHQ has slurped over the years.

    3. martinusher Silver badge

      Re: Speaking Of Ancient Storage Methods .....

      Not reel to rell as such but tape cartridges. They're still widely used for backups and other mass data storage. They're quite reliable and have been shown to reliably hold data for extended periods of time..

      1. Stuart Castle Silver badge

        Re: Speaking Of Ancient Storage Methods .....

        Re "They're quite reliable and have been shown to reliably hold data for extended periods of time.."

        That's something people forget. When selecting a corporate backup system (or even a personal one if you are so disposed), you want a backup system that is large enough, fast enough and has media that is likely to usable in 10, 20 or even longer years. It's all very well having the latest, greatest media for your backup, but if it fails, or is unsupported in a couple of years, it's not the best choice.

        While i don't know of any specific examples, I wouldn't be surprised if certain organisations weren't still relying on backups from the 60s.

        I know that back in the 90s, I went for a job interview, where the job was designing and coding applications that provided then state of the art UIs for applications running on 1960s and 70s era mainframes, because when you've spent 6 or 7 figures on a machine, you want it to last.

        1. J. Cook Silver badge

          Re: Speaking Of Ancient Storage Methods .....

          I can provide an example of tape's longevity. Back in 2017, [RedactedCo] was going through the (rather large) amount of media we had stored off-site looking for media that was past data retention, and after recalling a number of of items, decided to see if I could read an old LTO1 tape we had from 2003-ish.

          I had to get a server built, dredge up and LTO3 drive, and install BackupExec on the server, but the tape was not only readable, but if I wanted to, I could have restored the data from it.

          There's a reason why I have old hardware sitting in the archive cabinets, and that's one of them. (the other reason is regulatory- we are required to keep certain types of data for a specific minimum time frame, and in the event they ever want to audit us, I'd like to be able to read the media that has that data in-house without having to scramble and find a refurbished tape drive or have to call in a service that does that sort of thing.)

          1. tip pc Silver badge

            Re: Speaking Of Ancient Storage Methods .....

            the other reason is regulatory- we are required to keep certain types of data for a specific minimum time frame, and in the event they ever want to audit us, I'd like to be able to read the media that has that data in-house without having to scramble and find a refurbished tape drive or have to call in a service that does that sort of thing.

            Do your bosses know you’ve got that capability in house and do you think they want that capability I house?

            Most organisations (public/private) don’t want historical records, especially records long past the retention time frames and most likely records more than 3 years.

            Deleting records and shuffling staff so no one knows what’s there is a good way of excusing old behaviours that don’t look so good in todays world.

            1. Kernel

              Re: Speaking Of Ancient Storage Methods .....

              "Deleting records and shuffling staff so no one knows what’s there is a good way of excusing old behaviours that don’t look so good in todays world."

              I wish you all the best with that story in court - some records have very long legally required retention periods, up to and including pretty much forever.

              1. imanidiot Silver badge

                Re: Speaking Of Ancient Storage Methods .....

                Oh, no, no, the story in court would be: Sorry your honor we tried, see, here's all the documentation: Our in house capability turned out to be a single machine that's busted from having sat unused so long and we then tried an external contractor but they were also unable to gather data from these tapes/drives/diskette's/stone tablets.

                (What they don't say of course and for which all evidence has since been destroyed or promoted to keep quiet is that they intentionally stored a single busted machine with dried out drive belts and that the external contractor was a friend of a friend who used his own broken machine to add some extra scratches and break the tape to ensure it'll never be read.)

                1. Helcat Bronze badge

                  Re: Speaking Of Ancient Storage Methods .....

                  The response from the courts would likely to be: "And? You are responsible for keeping this data and you're admitting negligence in doing so? Well, here's a hefty fine: One that's greater than the potential fine if those records had shown you'd fiddled the books'.

                  That's the problem, especially when it comes to the tax office: You have to keep those records: No excuse. If tech goes out of date: You are responsible for transferring that data to new tech. Fail to do so is admission of negligence and the fines can be crippling - who knows what a company is trying to hide by claiming the records were lost, after all?

                  1. J.G.Harston Silver badge

                    Re: Speaking Of Ancient Storage Methods .....

                    * Was 1967 a particularly bad winter?

                    * No, a marvellous winter. We lost no end of embarrassing files.

              2. Arthur the cat Silver badge

                Re: Speaking Of Ancient Storage Methods .....

                some records have very long legally required retention periods, up to and including pretty much forever.

                I vaguely remember being told that blueprints for the UK's nuclear reactors were CNC milled into slate and stored in a disused mine somewhere. Can anyone confirm this?

                1. Dave Schofield

                  Re: Speaking Of Ancient Storage Methods .....

                  >I vaguely remember being told that blueprints for the UK's nuclear reactors were CNC milled into slate and stored in a disused mine somewhere. Can anyone confirm this?

                  I can't confirm that (or deny it either!), but I worked on a bid for new nuclear reactor that specified data retention in Azure of 100 years for all components down to nuts and bolts.

                  1. that one in the corner Silver badge

                    Re: Speaking Of Ancient Storage Methods .....

                    Data retention for 100 years is all well and good, but is there a requirement that the information still be readable and interpretable in 100 years time? Readable by the glowing, yet ironically blind, subterranean mutants living below the magic warm dome, that is.

          2. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Speaking Of Ancient Storage Methods .....

            Ugh...BackupExec....there's a software package I don't fact tape backups in general. Those were dark times.

            1. Stuart Castle Silver badge

              Re: Speaking Of Ancient Storage Methods .....

              Re "Ugh...BackupExec....there's a software package I don't fact tape backups in general. Those were dark times."

              Neither do I. That said, I do miss sitting there watching the tape picking robot, which was strangely hypnotic to watch as it re-arranged the tapes.

              1. beaker633

                Re: Speaking Of Ancient Storage Methods .....

                Funny... my recollection of tape is fairly happy :) ... although I worked designing them for HP in Bristol. Started working on cartridge tapes .. then DAT .. then LTO .... kept me in gainful employment all through the '90s.

                Good times ...

        2. Terry 6 Silver badge

          Re: Speaking Of Ancient Storage Methods .....

          Apropos of which,some DVD stored video footage of my kids from 15 or so years back is proving quite hard to play back, let alone copy to my HDD. I bought a USB DVD reader/writer for just such a purpose, but some of the videos just don't play nicely anymore. I'm fairly sure it's not the reader, as it's not all the discs. I am reasonably sure that the (probably cheap) 15 year old discs are starting to deteriorate.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Speaking Of Ancient Storage Methods .....

            As you suspect, it is probably the disks.

            Depending on the technology used in the recordable disks, oxygen, sulfur dioxide or light will all attack the data layer and then there are issues such as delamination of the different layers in the disk as adhesives age.

            The Council on Library and Information Resources (I'm sure you're a subscriber) have some information here suggesting disks should be okay for about 25 years after recording if handled under ideal conditions - which is probably not what most of us have at home. It's probably much less if you're somewhere warm, sunny and humid:


            1. Blackjack Silver badge

              Re: Speaking Of Ancient Storage Methods .....

              I still use CDs and DVDs for backups as they last longer that external HDs or SSDs.

              My last DVD backup of pictures was made this year, it contains home pictures taken digitally from the last decade and change.

              I have backups CDs from 2008 that still work.

              And of course, there is some old hardware that prefers CDs.

              Oh and my family keeps a working VHS player we use once in a blue moon, last time was before the pandemic. Hopefully it still works the next time we plug it in.

              1. hammarbtyp

                Re: Speaking Of Ancient Storage Methods .....

                CD's and DVD's are very sensitive to the type and manufacture of disk(and storage). I've had some CD's that did not last 5 years. Also you have to take into account size of the media.

                Modern cameras will quickly fill a DVD, so i use old HD drives, but the rotating rust type. They are fast, large capacity and been around long enough to be trusted. Yes potentially there maybe long term mechanical issues (oil evaporation is one possible fail mode), but I still think they are safer that DVD or CDD (SSD's have there own problem in that the charge will leak away so should not be trusted)

                But in truth if you want to safe images for posterity you need to print them out...

                1. Lon24

                  Re: Speaking Of Ancient Storage Methods .....

                  Maybe you used better toner cartridges than us. 20 years I give 'em before they fade - maybe an argument for retaining the old line & dot matrix printers.

                  Our solution is recopying the old backups to new media every 10 years or so. It's a painful job - if only because you get diverted by some of the stuff you find - so tends to get forgotten behind more urgent and profitable business.

                  I 'm running 7 years late on this ... this article is a wake-up call.

                2. Ian Moffatt 1

                  Re: Speaking Of Ancient Storage Methods .....

                  This last paragraph stands on its own.

                  Get those pictures printed!

              2. Missing Semicolon Silver badge

                Re: Speaking Of Ancient Storage Methods .....

                VHS tapes remain playable for years. The picture ain't pretty, but it's still visible. Analogue FTW!

                1. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

                  Re: Speaking Of Ancient Storage Methods .....

                  I certainly hope so. I have a good-quality Sony VCR in storage and a box of VHS tapes containing certain content difficult to replace, which I hope to digitize as soon as Mountain Fastness 2.0 finishes construction and I have the space to set up the necessary equipment.

                  The poor picture quality of VHS really doesn't bother me. I grew up with NTSC VHF and UHF broadcasts, often viewed on a black & white set. I don't even bother with HD these days when SD is on offer, much less 4K.

                  1. Miss Config

                    Re: Speaking Of Ancient Storage Methods .....

                    VHS ?

                    On a Sony ?

                    As I recall Sony were famous for using Betamax ( the alternative and superior format to VHS )

                  2. Anonymous Coward
                    Anonymous Coward

                    Re: Speaking Of Ancient Storage Methods .....

                    The electrolytic capacitors tend to fail over time if such equipment is stored without being periodically powered up.

                2. Blackjack Silver badge

                  Re: Speaking Of Ancient Storage Methods .....

                  VHS definitely have lasted me more that DVDs and Blue ray disks.

                  CDs and DVDs quality varies, that's why I usually make redundant backups but yeah in my experience they last me more that HDs.

                  Floppies? I had very bad luck when I used the non flat ones, they got damaged and or got data damaged all the time.

                3. squelch41

                  Re: Speaking Of Ancient Storage Methods .....

                  my VHS tapes didn't - thankfully digitised them before but the tapes are now growing lots of mould over them.

                  Not kept anywhere particularly moist or humid.

    4. steviebuk Silver badge

      Re: Speaking Of Ancient Storage Methods .....


      1. Arthur the cat Silver badge

        Re: Speaking Of Ancient Storage Methods .....

        Middens in Oxyrhynchus.

        1. J.G.Harston Silver badge

          Re: Speaking Of Ancient Storage Methods .....

          Hey, that's the Oxyrhynchus Trove, not midden. :)

          1. Arthur the cat Silver badge

            Re: Speaking Of Ancient Storage Methods .....

            I believe they're synonyms when speaking Archaeologist.

    5. lidgaca-2

      Re: Speaking Of Ancient Storage Methods .....

      When last I heard (OK probably 10 years ago now ...) the UK gov still had a lot of 9 track geophysical data in storage. I would be surprised to hear that all of that data had been re-archived onto a newer medium.

      Hell, I'd bet that if you looked you'd still find a *really* interesting TIAC 21 track tape or two ... But finding a drive that would read that would take you some time :)

      -- Chris

    6. DBH

      Re: Speaking Of Ancient Storage Methods .....

      Around 2012, I did some contract work in an electronics manufacturing plant and they still had all their backups on tape

      1. skswales

        Re: Speaking Of Ancient Storage Methods .....

        Oi! My monthly archive is still to DAT!

  3. Mike 137 Silver badge

    "Extinct media still in demand"

    Clearly they're not extinct. Extinct means utterly gone for good, which they're obviously not if anyone at all produces or uses them. They could legitimately be called "obsolete" but not extinct.

    1. General Purpose

      Re: "Extinct media still in demand"

      They are functionally extinct. New floppies are no longer produced; never again will we hear the patter of tiny floppy feet.

    2. doublelayer Silver badge

      Re: "Extinct media still in demand"

      It depends how you define extinct. Usually for life forms, it's when they're all dead, but that's because life forms can take a few living ones and make more. If you only have sterile organisms, then you can pretty much call the species extinct as it will be shortly and there's nothing you can do about it. Using that definition, which admittedly I just made up, floppy disks become extinct when nobody has the capacity to make more. Since the manufacturing for them ended over a decade ago, I'm guessing the machines needed to do so have been scrapped. The inventory of these people probably means that nobody will put in the resources it would take to start it up again.

    3. midgepad

      Re: "Extinct media still in demand"

      In the wild?

    4. C R Mudgeon Bronze badge

      Re: "Extinct media still in demand"

      Even a biological species can be *effectively* extinct while members still live. When the last female dies, or the last male if none of the remaining females are pregnant, the species is done. (I've described the case for mammals obviously. Adjust for different reproductive biologies.)

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: "Extinct media still in demand"

        They are making progress on turning mammalian skin cells into stem cells and germ cells - that can be used to produce a fertilised egg eg

  4. Anonymous Coward

    Thanks Dan for the heads-up...

    Thanks for the heads-up Dan. I still have an XP laptop with a built-in floppy (and serial and parallel ports) that I keep just in case so I might invest in a box of 20 - again just in case.

    [Icon: a lot of floppies suffered this fate.]

  5. Filippo Silver badge

    I have a USB floppy drive. I've used it just last month, because I was cleaning up several boxes of junk and I was curious about some old floppies that were lying there. The drive worked perfectly (on Win10), I just plugged it in and a new drive letter appeared, same as any other USB drives.

    1. Dan 55 Silver badge

      USB drives still work in Windows 10, but the classic floppy drives connected via a ribbon cable inside the PC case don't work unless you add the driver. Linus also talked about knocking classic floppy drives on the head. Unfortunately USB drives can't read anything that isn't a 1.44MB PC-formatted disk.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        That depends on what USB floppy drive you have. Some can read 720 DD.

      2. The Unexpected Bill

        I've heard this said in the past a few times that Windows 10 dispensed with support for internal floppy drives connected to an actual floppy disk controller.

        Empirical experience suggests this isn't so. I have a Dell Dimension E310 whose only form of legacy I/O is a 34 pin internal floppy drive connection, courtesy of the LPCIO. (In other words, no, it's not a USB drive or any other more modern implementation.) Windows 10 can most definitely see and use that internal floppy drive. I didn't have to do anything special for it to be recognized. It worked right out of the box.

        1. Dan 55 Silver badge

          I was convinced support was removed, but after searching around a bit when I should have been working it turns out the first Windows Insider builds did not support floppy drives but then support was brought back and I guess news of it going spread more widely than the news of it being brought back.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Similar story here. Connected drive, Windows explorer open looking at files, but couldn't help thinking something didn't look quite right.

      Opened a full screen command prompt, then started typing....

      DIR A:

      Xcopy *.* c:\backup /s /v

      Much better!!

  6. navarac Bronze badge

    Sony Mavica

    I keep a couple of boxes to use with a Sony Mavica Digital Camera. Still in perfect order, I get it out once in a while.

    1. The Oncoming Scorn Silver badge

      Re: Sony Mavica

      I presume that's why you need the camera.

      Damn no Paris, guess this icon will have to do.

      1. navarac Bronze badge

        Re: Sony Mavica

        Yep - chicken and egg :-) LOL.

        At the time of original purchase, everyone was amazed at digital photos. Click, transfer to PC and print if required. No restriction on number of photos (as long as you had extra floppies of course) and no waiting for a roll of 24/36 photos to come back to find some were rubbish. Youngsters of today have no idea, what with their smartphones, which seem to get reviewed solely for the camera app.

        1. Lon24

          Re: Sony Mavica

          So true. My photographic skills have toiletted since digital. Why spend time carefully choosing, framing and lighting the subject when you can just click away. Then select, crop and photoshop the best?

          Except somehow they never match stuff I carefully took 40 years ago with my OM-2 when a couple of rolls of 36 had to last a holiday.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Sony Mavica

            Most of us were restricted to 36 exposure 35mm - still a great advance on the previous B&W slightly larger formats with 8/12 frames on a roll.

            You still had try hard to get a well composed picture. Professionals had more success - but often they were using a motorised large magazine and then picking out their fortuitous good shot.

        2. ChrisC Silver badge

          Re: Sony Mavica

          Mind you, if we're talking the really early days of consumer digital photography, then some of the cameras available then felt like a step backwards from film...

          My first digicam was an Agfa ePhoto 307, which stored its images (at 320x240 or, woo, 640x480, living the dream there, eh) in fixed internal memory which was large enough, IIRC, to store 36 640x480 images. No LCD to review the photo you'd just taken, and it could only delete the last photo taken, so it really was very much like film photography in the sense of still having to wait and see how good/bad your photos were, with only that limited ability to redo if you *knew* your last shot needed to be thrown away. And once you'd taken 36 photos you were happy with, that was your lot until you got back home and waited for them to transfer to your PC via the serial cable.

          Happy days.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Sony Mavica

            It also took some years for advances in scanning and digital media storage to capture the full definition of something like 35mm Agfachrome 50.

      2. Mayday Silver badge
        Thumb Down

        Re No Paris

        Oh no. I just made this reply to confirm that it were true. Well that sucks. What happened there? “Someone” must have complained.

        1. wolfetone Silver badge
          Big Brother

          Re: Re No Paris

          First Dabbs, now Paris.

          We live in truly dystopian El Reg times.

  7. Throatwarbler Mangrove Silver badge


    I was recently walking down one of the streets in my neighborhood, and some cad had flung a bunch of 3.5" floppies (dozens of them, IIRC) all over the sidewalk. Had I realized what demand there was for them, I would have collected them!

    Also, in before the first commentard who insists that he never uses anything as newfangled and unnecessarily complicated as a hard drive and still mourns the death of paper tape.

    1. An_Old_Dog Silver badge

      Re: Bummer

      It's not dead (though dying). If you have a Teletype or similar device, you still can get paper and punch tape to feed it.

      1. Arthur the cat Silver badge

        Re: Bummer

        Punch tapes readers are incredibly simple so you could probably knock one up using Lego, 8 photodiodes and a small board (Arduino, Pico, etc) of your choice.

        1. An_Old_Dog Silver badge

          Re: Bummer

          New paper-tape punches, on the other hand, would be harder to build.

          1. that one in the corner Silver badge

            Re: Bummer

            You never learnt to nip out the holes with your canines?

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: Bummer

              I still have a solid metal dibber block. Used one of those once to make a self-loading recovery machine code program for a mainframe whose one-and-only system disk had become corrupted.

          2. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Bummer

            A customer wanted to port their 1970s mainframe onto new era hardware that was similar but not totally compatible.. By various methods we managed to meet the requirement for running their TP applications without recompiling the sources. Their dumb RS232 video terminals were fortunately replaced by emulators - and we just had to rejig the comms.

            They also had a legacy system requirement to punch and read 5 track paper tape. That proved a challenge as the original peripherals could not be connected to the mainframe. No one seemed to make them any more - except some that connected by RS232. We duly made them work Unfortunately the punches' mechanics couldn't take the long duty cycle day-after-day. Maintenance apparently became a spinning plates exercise.

            About a decade later there was a phone call - could I help in reinstituting the team of mainly independent specialist contractors - so they could move the whole legacy system onto yet another era's hardware.

    2. heyrick Silver badge

      Re: Bummer

      You can still get boxes of new 3.5 discs on Amazon (about €30 a box). There don't appear to be any 5.25 discs, so I wonder if one of those GoTek gizmos will work with much older hardware?

      1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

        Re: Bummer

        According to GpTek, yes, they do. On the front page they even make a model specifically for weaving, embroidery, knitting, CNC, and music applications. That version is an adaptor to make a USB stick appear to be a physical floppy disk to the hardware,

        They are certainly popular in the vintage computing community. From comments I've seen there, you put multiple floppy images on an SD card or USB pendrive and can then select which image is presented to the host computer from a thumb-wheel switch/LED display. I've seen them used on Amigas and Atari ST so they do support various formats. You might need to buy the correct version or model though. Although looking at the linked site, they are wholesale only and make no mention of Amiga or Atari. Maybe others buy them and flash the firmware to cover those computers.

  8. Paul Crawford Silver badge

    We have a 17 year old spectrum analyser with a FDD, though it also has USB which would be easier to use.

    I wrote some conversion software to get document files from may father's ancient Sharp "word processor" floppy disks in to a sensible readable / formatted text some years back, finding FDD that were working and not going to trash the disks was a challenge!

    Personally good riddance, but obviously in some cases they are your only choice.

    1. Red Ted

      Lots of lab equipment

      The HP Network Analyser I use has a floppy drive in it and it's the easiest way to get the data off. Whilst it's a few years old now, it's in calibration and very reliable.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Lots of lab equipment

        That had a non-standard floppy format too. Both the HP WAN and LAN analysers were the same. The Atlantic Research ARD7500(?) WAN analyser also used a 3.5" floppy. Those monitors cost our networking department an arm and a leg to buy.

        Eventually we only needed a PC with a promiscuous LAN card - and a fast hard disk. Analysing the volumes of data then became the challenge.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Lots of lab equipment

          Early WAN monitors only stored what was shown serially on their screen. My recently acquired VHS camera/recorder was rigged up to give an hour or so of recording of the screen.

          My wristwatch was taped to the monitor - so a tape play back could do fast forward/reverse to see the rotating hands. The audio track would also capture the phone ringing when the remote user saw their problem.

  9. John Robson Silver badge

    I'm surprised

    that for all these "industrial" use cases they haven't developed a floppy <-> SD interface adaptor (as in replace the floppy disk drive with something of the same physical/electrical format but that takes an SD card).

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: I'm surprised

      For my Commodore64, I am nort using floppy disks anymore. I have copied everything to a SD card. and use now only a SD card reader that acts as a disk drive.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: I'm surprised

      Here's one for 8" or 5.25" floppies.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: I'm surprised

      Of course "they" have, as you could have found out using a search engine. GOTEK even specifically caters to the embroidery industry, CNC etc.

    4. Peter2 Silver badge

      Re: I'm surprised

      There are actually several physical emulators on the market which does that, but most hardware has the floppy disc soldered to the board, so it requires physical disassembly and replacement instead of just being unplugged as it is in a PC.

      I did it to a really old system we had, but I was only really willing to do it because I had two of those complete boards spare from buying up other systems which other people had finished using. (Manufacturer support ended ~2007 IIRC)

      My design level modifications to the system freaked out the engineers who used to support it a bit. (they still supported systems around it, but not that particular bit of equipment (due to constantly incrementing yearly support charges it was cheaper to buy 3x spares of everything so we had complete spare systems ready to go.) Their managing director had actually been on the design team and came to look at in person at what i'd done to it.

      (Once you had a USB interface then if your willing to play then you could have a PC next to the device and directly push things to the "floppy disc" from that computer, which meant that the device which predated modern networking was defacto networked instead of floppy fed)

      I found it quite funny that he took plenty of photos, asked loads of questions and a couple of demos, but the closest he came was about half a meter from the equipment, obviously wanting zero risk that he'd end up being asked to have anything to do with supporting it!

      1. J. Cook Silver badge

        Re: I'm surprised

        The Amiga/Commodore, Atari, and Apple (including older 68K/powerPC macs) communities have been creating floppy drive emulators for some time that connect to the computer's drive interface and present a disk image as a disk. I'd have to go and dig up the relevant bookmarks, but they do exist.

        1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

          Re: I'm surprised

          Likewise, there are IDE- PC-Card[*] devices which present as a hard disk too.

          Experience in the community indicates that SD cards are too "fragile" long term for emulating a hard disk with many r/w cycles.

      2. heyrick Silver badge

        Re: I'm surprised

        "but most hardware has the floppy disc soldered to the board"

        So how does it spin?

    5. david 12 Silver badge

      Re: I'm surprised

      They have developed adapters. The adapters are fairly generic (since the floppy interface is generic), but are normally advertised as specific for each $100K machine they match.

      If you go on Alibaba and search for your cutting/sewing/placing machine, you'll find parts, including SD/USB interfaces for 3.5"" replacement. (Far more 3.5"" than 5" or anything else)

      1. Richard 12 Silver badge

        Re: I'm surprised

        They aren't quite generic.

        The industrial machinery that uses floppies generally runs it using its own custom software interface that just so happens to rely on particular quirks or a particular region of the standard timing ranges that the drives they were using had.

        Which means you often can't just drop in a generic drive and have it work reliably, or at all.

        The emulators have a fair bit of configuration available so you can match it to the quirks of the "original" drive - particular delays, sequencing etc.

        So while they'll probably all work on anything, you might have to configure some magic settings and best of luck finding the right ones.

    6. Henry Wertz 1 Gold badge

      Re: I'm surprised

      They have, you can get a device that plugs into the floppy cable, produces the exact signals of a floppy (the floppy controller on/in the computer determines head location and RPM, and the SD card to floppy controller sends back the type of pulses one would see if the head was over that track on the disk.) Some only support 1.44MB floppies and maybe 5 1/4" 1.2MB, but others allow all sorts of custom formats, have cables available for some non-PC flopppy pinouts, etc.; you give it a description file describing number of tracks, sectors per track, etc., and it simulates that type of disk,

      You pop in an SD card and use selector buttons to select which floppy image should be in the drive (usually they support #1 through #99 or #999). I think you can set write protect on it.

      I would urge people still using floppies for operational use to invest in one of these devices, get your floppies into disk images on an sd card and no more worries about floppies or the drive itself.

    7. DuncanLarge Silver badge

      Re: I'm surprised

      They have, although it uses any usb device.

      Its called Gotek

  10. mkusanagi

    Adapting new media?

    I wonder in how many of these cases a new type of storage device can be used. It would probably be costly, but I can imagine a Raspberry Pi connecting where the disk drive was and acting as a virtual floppy drive?

    Since I doubt this is a novel concept, I wonder if anyone is aware of places which have done something of sorts?

    1. }{amis}{

      Re: Adapting new media?

      I fitted one of these to a legasy warehouse control system about 10 yeas ago as far as i know its still running now :

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Adapting new media?

      There are Floppy emulators that take USB sticks. My father's company has converted multiple CNC machines over the years.

  11. martinusher Silver badge

    Older media still has its place

    A lot of softwre is obviously endlessly reininventing the (hamster) wheel since the prevailing sentiment seems to be "if its not the latest then its obviously no good". The problem wiht that mindset is that every time you update something you're stuck with verifying it (you do test your products, don't you?). For some types of product the testing and certification can take a lot of effort so unless there's a pressing need to update code you just don't. Not all software is an app for a smartphone or its desktop equivalent.

    When was the last time you updated your anti-lock brake software? Or your kitchen's microwave?

    1. Ken Hagan Gold badge

      Re: Older media still has its place

      Ah yes, but when was the last time you serviced your anti-lock brake system?

      If people still made floppy drives and media, probably to rather tighter tolerances than some of the older hardware, there wouldn't be a problem.

    2. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      Re: Older media still has its place

      "When was the last time you updated your anti-lock brake software?"

      Probably when the car last had a dealer service. They do firmware updates, often without telling you. Whether it actually was the ABS s/w is another matter.

  12. iron Silver badge

    I'm not surprised floppies are still in use in industry. Back in the early 2000s I was called upon to help the IT dept fix an old 386 that was part of a Flexographic printing press. They had figured out that the BIOS battery was dead but couldn't find it on the board because it wasn't one of the 10p coin type but was soldered on. I imagine that press is probably still running today with that 386 and the new battery I soldered on to the motherboard still working.

    1. Paul Crawford Silver badge

      We used to have an old Sun SPARC box that has the same issue of the CMOS clock was a chip with built-in battery so no practical option to replace it. Instead we had a laminated sheet of the boot parameters needed to get it going again if the power went off.

      To be fair to that box, it ran as our mail server for something like 20 years without issue, bar the odd UPS going "bang" and failing to do the single duty a UPS has...

      1. Henry Wertz 1 Gold badge


        Yeah and (if it as recent enough) you probably didn't even have to set the clock -- the system I booted a while ago (that had been off for 14 years...), booted up after a little coaxing, then about the time I was going to set the clock, it ran ntpdate and set it for me 8-).

      2. The Unexpected Bill

        Provided this was some kind of Dallas timekeeper package or one of the many, many can actually re-energize them if you're not afraid to employ some violence. (I recommend having a few spares to practice on. I lost a few before I got good at it. You can find the more common ones on certain popular auction sites.)

        I think one can still get the good old DS12887 brand new. Not so for the other variants often seen in EISA and Microchannel computers (like the DS1387 and DS1397). The only thing one can do for those is to re-energize them with an external power source, which is doable because there also existed versions of those chips that didn't come packaged with the battery and clock crystal. For the packaged ones, they just flipped those pins up, extended them to meet the battery and crystal, and then sealed the whole thing in epoxy.

        Carefully carve away the epoxy around the battery pins, puncture at least one of them to disconnect the internal cell and then connect your own external batteries. (I can't take credit for this procedure.)

        This has also worked on the various clones of these modules that I've found, like the Benchmarq bq3287mt and Twinhead's TH6887A. The only ones I never got around to figuring out were the STMicroelectronics Snaphat and Caphat modules, mainly because the only equipment I had that used them died of other problems.

    2. Richard Jones 1

      The other way round?

      I took the rechargeable battery from a 8086 and put it into the central heating controller as the old battery would no longer charge. That was before the internet accessed parts, that were impossible to find in normal channels. It ran the system for the next 10 to 15 years.

    3. Richard 12 Silver badge

      I hope you soldered on a standard coin cell holder so they could swap it themselves five years later.

      1. ChrisC Silver badge

        I hope not, at least not without first checking what the terminal voltage of the original battery was, and whether or not it was being recharged from the motherboard when the system was powered up...

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Wow, what old, obsolete technology!

    Now if you'll excuse me, I need to back up some data from SCSI hard drive to DDS3 tape.

    (We actually still use both at $WORK. If only those machines could use USB...)

  14. 20TC


    In the early 90s, NASA bought some 8" drives from a small surplus PC kit equipment shop in the UK for Space Shuttle operations.

    Sometimes just having a couple of spares of old, tried and tested kit it preferable to the risk of something going wrong 300 miles up with this 'new fangled PCMCIA card' ...

    1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      Re: NASA

      NASA run some very old hardware to support long term missions, Voyager probably being the most high profile. Some old stuff can be emulated, but much of it is original kit. Or at least original design. Some of it may be a bit "Triggers broom" :-)

  15. Binraider Silver badge

    I have an old system around with a 2.88MB floppy in it. VirtualBox was my go-to of choice for quite some time, though floppy image support (in the user interface at least) was removed a while ago, so having something that can handle physical media is very occasionally useful for legacy entertainment purposes.

    There is something cathartic about setting up Autoexec.bat & Config.sys that still amuses; for bizarre reasons that probably can only be rooted in familiarity and nostalgia.

    Which reminds me I have a PC DOS 2000 box to muck around with at some point.

    Still looking for a boxed copy of OS/2 warp 4 for similar reasons. Easy to find 2.0 or 3.0, but not so much the final release.

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    At the Goodword Festival of Speed a few years ago, I saw a number of historic racing cars being booted up from floppy drives installed in the dashboard.

    On order to keep these cars running, the owners need to keep old computers, software, cables, floppy disks and specialist mechanics that know how to operate it. The software particularly was often specially written for that particular car and is irreplaceable if it gets lost or corrupted.

    1. Ashentaine

      And in the case of some Formula 1 cars from the mid to late '90s the software is also designed to only work on one specific laptop with a bespoke hardwired cable that connects directly to the engine, to ensure that any engineers who departed between seasons didn't swipe a copy to take with them to whatever team they landed at later on.

      If anything from the connector on the engine to the cable to the laptop itself stops working, the car is effectively bricked because none of those parts have been made in over 30 years and no spares were ever created.

    2. Binraider Silver badge

      The McLaren F1 road car uses much the same, a specific model of Compaq laptop was needed.

      I believe a conversion of RPi has been done now to emulate that functionality, so certainly possible to find alternatives.

      I am sure the Aviation world is full of such things: I have seen floppies in the computer room of a 747 for data load. The certification to put the drive there in first place would be more expensive than trying to swap it to a GoTek or similar (with inevitable other issues for introducing a USB bus on the end of your otherwise certified system)

  17. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    LTO tapes...

    My company still has LTO tapes. Gen 1. But I think it read 1GB on them, not 100GB.

    I could be wrong, haven't seen those in a while.

    1. Miss Config

      Re: LTO tapes...

      Still available for sale via that new fangled internet.

    2. DuncanLarge Silver badge

      Re: LTO tapes...

      If it is 1GB then that isnt LTO1 as uncompressed LTO1 stores 100GB

      Maybe a DLT tape?

  18. Mike 16


    Tell that to the Coelacanths. Though to have died out over 60M years ago. Found living (under and assumed name?) in the 1930s.

    1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      Re: Extinct?

      Yes. Apparently, one of them did a double back flip in a fit of exuberance and this was interpreted by a passing alien space ship as "Help, save us from our giant lizard overloads", who lobbed a big rock over in aid and sympathy. The Coelacanths promptly did a runner and stayed hidden till the heat was off.

  19. Blacklight

    Many flops....

    At one point I was happy to have a PC that could read 5.25" 1.2MB, and a 3.5" that could read up to LS120. And an IoMega drive that could take ZIP100 and ZiP250. And a multitude of storage cards (yay, MagicGate).

    But the LS120 drive and Zip drives both died clickety deaths.

    And the cards are now nearly all microSD (with an SD or USB adaptor).

    It's like the BBC Domesday. Great until you can't read it.

    And a shame, as kit typically still works. My car has a PCMCIA slot. My PC has a ln LTO3, except I killed it and now can't read some tapes. Yay for cloud etc.

  20. Howard Sway Silver badge

    The company now has an estimated half a million disks in stock

    Let's see how many copies of Windows 11 they could distribute on floppy disk :

    18090 MB / 1.44 = 12562.5 disks per installation

    500000 total disks / 12563 = 39.8

    So, that's 39 full installations using all the remaining disks in the world.

    1. Boris the Cockroach Silver badge

      Re: The company now has an estimated half a million disks in stock

      Error reading disk # 12561: Abort, retry, fail?

      Until a few years ago, some of our stuff was still on paper tape readers, before being converted to new fangled RS-232 and then RS-232 to USB converters.

      Sometimes the USB can play silly buggers, but you need the right hammer to hit the laptops with to get them to work.(mostly caused by the staff using the laptop's 4 USB ports as handy charging sockets for phones, earbuds etc etc)

    2. Version 1.0 Silver badge

      Re: The company now has an estimated half a million disks in stock

      I could let you have my Windows NT installation, a box of about eight 3.5inch floppy disks

      1. Acme Tech Support

        Re: The company now has an estimated half a million disks in stock

        Think that was for Windows 3.1x? MT was probably twice that.

        NT 4 anyway, not sure about earlier versions

    3. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      Re: The company now has an estimated half a million disks in stock

      "18090 MB / 1.44 = 12562.5 disks per installation"

      IIRC, the last time Windows came on floppies, they used a special 1.6MB format.

      I forget the exact details now, but running a program called FDREAD would patch DOS (or intercept the floppy interrupt handler) and allow reading of differently formatted disks created with FDFORMAT. Handy for turning 40 track 360K DD disks into 80 track 720K disks on a 1.2MB floppy drive. (cheaper disks!) More if you were brave and added an extra sector per track and maybe an extra few tracks if the drive could handle it. Likewise, using the more expensive 1.2MB HD disks, you could safely get 1.44MB. On the later 3.5" HD disks, 1.7MB was doable.

  21. Winkypop Silver badge


    Must get my old Zip Drives working under Windows 10.

    How difficult could it be?

    : (

    1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      Re: Hmmm

      Parallel, SCSI or IDE/ATAPI?

      1. Winkypop Silver badge

        Re: Hmmm


      2. DuncanLarge Silver badge

        Re: Hmmm

        You forgot usb ;)

  22. Auntie Dix

    God Bless Invention and the Floppy Disk

    One of the most heartwarming experiences is to see someone make good, proper use of deprecated tools and technology from our not-so-distant past.

    It is inspiring to realize that inventions such as the floppy — in multiple versions, no less — have continued to be utilized productively for decades beyond their often sensationalized deaths.

    Let us rejoice in the continued use, restoration, and longevity of these wonderful tech achievements.


    Please do not forget to tip your server.

    Egads! I mean, waitress!

  23. PhilipN Silver badge

    What’s with these new-fangled 3 1/2” floppies?

    And what bloody use are they as place mats for coffee mugs?

  24. NightFox

    Up till less than 10 years ago I still found myself re-installing an old piece of legacy software that came on 14 floppies every time I updated my PC. However, the best part was, as was quite common back in the day, when you ran the installer it gave you the option to back-up your entire HDD to floppies before starting. I think last time I installed it I calculated I would have needed about 700,000 floppies and quite a bit of spare time to do so.

  25. tiggity Silver badge

    Floppy disks still used in our house

    We have a Yamaha electric piano.

    Still make use of floppies with it.

    Inbuilt floppy drive, you can easily record yourself playing and then play it back - good for practice*.

    Importantly the controls for record, playback are easy too use and easily accessible when sitting at the piano, which makes it the simplest and easiest option.

    Not worried if the floppy drive dies as plenty of outputs on the piano (partner has iPad connected to one output, lets her run an app where she plays along against a score and app marks accuracy of her playing, so would be easy enough to record and playback to the iPad if needed) - but due to its great convenience it will be used until it breaks

    *e.g. a piece of music where you are struggling on the right hand play - record yourself playing just the left hand on the piece and then play it back & practice your right hand notes. Means you can focus fully on just the one "struggling" hand, playing against recording of yourself means you are playing with the piece at your natural rhythm (lets face it, most amateurs do not get the pace of a piece 100% correct, especially on harder pieces, so using your own recording is easier to accompany)

    1. Binraider Silver badge

      Re: Floppy disks still used in our house

      Ahh, yes, I'd forgotten about that. I have access to an old Clavinova with one.

      I have to admit I only ever really used that feature to muck around playing the Falcon 3 midi files on something better than a Soundblaster; and that was a very, very long time ago.

      The immediacy of the electric piano is nice, but it is a sizeable lump of furniture and 99.9% of the time now I'm using a dumb midi keyboard to push a soft synth around now.

  26. TRT Silver badge

    If you're going to stand tall and proud in the world of floppies...

    You need to get your assets via Agra.

  27. anthonyhegedus Silver badge

    Windows 10

    WIndows 10 still prompts for the A: drive when you try and load a driver. It's almost as if Microsoft hasn't rewritten some of their code for 30 years...

    I think they got rid of that behaviour in W11 - I can't replicate it anyway.

  28. Plest Silver badge

    Imaging floppies

    I remember imaging floppy disks back in 1994 so I could store then on CDs, binned my last floppy around 1998! I have a couple as novelties up in the spare room. I can well imagine machines built 25+ years ago still in use out there that only have floppy drives, they were quite popular in the textile industry, modern versions of the old Jacqurd looms using floppies instead of cards.

    Funny how the only way we interact with floppies these days is some apps still have a floppy icon on the "Save" buttons and options.

  29. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I once acquired a Sharp small PC which had a floppy sized slot - but it actually was for a magnetic bubble removable "disk".

  30. hayzoos


    Last I remember using floppies extensively was during Y2K remediation. We used a boot floppy with test scripts, patches, and BIOS updates. We had so much varied computers that sneakernet was the most reliable method with the boot floppy. The biggest issue was misaligned heads. I could align the heads so quick after doing dozens of them and then return them to how I found them so the user could read their floppies written by that drive.

    We carried CD also but half or more of the computers either had no CD drive or could not boot from it.

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