RIP Floppies

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    Posted: 26 April 2010 01:55 PM

    Yes floppies have not been on Macs for around a decade. But at one time they were big. The original SuperDrive was a floppy drive on a Mac that could read both PC and Mac formatted disks. Go even farther back and the earliest Mac had no hard drive, just a floppy drive. You had the Mac OS and your application and your documents on a floppy. Later came more powerful systems with 2 floppy drives. More storage and an end to floppy swapping. Finally, I think it was on the SE, you had the OPTION of two floppy drives or a floppy and a hard drive.

    I remember a freelance job I had. I spent a whole Saturday in an office updating a dozen computers (Quadras and Centrus’s if I remember correctly) to the latest MS Office. Piles of floppies at each desk. I felt like one of those old ‘plate spinner’ acts on the Ed Sullivan show. Put disk 1 in the first machine, put disk 1 in the second machine, put disk 1 in the third machine, put disk 2 in the first machine put disk 1 in the fourth machine put disk 2 in the second machine put disk 2 in the third machine, put disk 3 in the first machine, put disk 1` in the fifth machine, and so on. There were something like 30 disks for each machine and a lot of running around. It was tiring but fun.

    So why am I blathering on about the floppy? Because Sony just announced that they are discontinuing production. This should kill them once and for all as I don’t believe anyone else is making them any more.

    Not surprising. There is little call for them, indeed few machines can even read them any more. The quality went down in the last few years so you don’t dare trust them. They just aren’t big enough to do much of anything with. But at one time they were THE standard for portable media. The article says they were used in one form or another for 41 years. Not a bad run.

    RIP Floppy.

    So what’s your floppy story? The time finding a floppy saved your dissertation. When a corrupt floppy took that critical file and you had you do a presentation with sock puppets. When you patched a whole stack of servers with a floppy. When the professor tried to use a paper cutter to trim a 5” floppy so it would fit in the 3” floppy drive (I actually ran into this). What’s your floppy memory? Will you raise a glass or dance a jig at their passing?

    [ Edited: 26 April 2010 03:00 PM by geoduck ]


    The mark of the immature man is that he wants to die nobly for a cause, while the mark of a mature man is that he wants to live humbly for one.
    J.D.Salanger/Wilhelm Stekel

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    Posted: 26 April 2010 05:45 PM #1

    3.5” and 5.25” floppies? They were nothing. In my day, when men were men and sheep were nervous, we had 8” floppies.


    I had a customer in Invercargill, about 800km away. Anyone remember telexes? She was having problems on her Sharp PC (running a version of CP/M), so I asked her to take a copy of the disks and send them to me.

    Two days later in the mail (you can see this coming, can’t you?) I got a photo-copy of her disks. And in those days the photocopiers were powerful beasts - the floppies - umm - flopped. And since she didn’t have any backups, she lost all her data.

    Ah, happy days.


    Laurie Fleming - the singing geek


  • Posted: 27 April 2010 01:09 PM #2

    geoduck - 26 April 2010 04:55 PM

    What’s your floppy memory? Will you raise a glass or dance a jig at their passing?

    I’m quite glad they are gone. Even dual-layer DVDs seem anemic for data storage these days. But I do look on floppies with a certain nostalgia. Those were different times indeed.

    I think the next archaic technology to axe should be modems. It’s been years since I had a landline to which I could even connect a modem!

    PS. The 80’s called, and they want their FAX machine back.

    [ Edited: 27 April 2010 01:19 PM by David Nelson ]      
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    Posted: 28 April 2010 05:50 PM #3


    So what?s your floppy story?

    I began using Macs exclusively in grad school, around 1990. On a single 3.5” floppy, I remember keeping a copy of my novel-in-progress, and my word processor of choice: T/Maker’s WriteNow. WriteNow was so efficiently coded that both the application and my novel fit on a single floppy with room to spare, meaning I could carry both around with me and use any Mac on campus (all had Microsoft Word, of course), while using my favorite word processor, not just on my home Mac (Classic).

    Today, every time I use the bloated behemoth that is Word (which now weighs in at 63.7 MB), and every time it capitalizes something I don’t want capitalized, indents text for no apparent reason, creates hyperlinks I don’t want, and generally acts as if it’s possessed, I fondly recall WriteNow, a perfect application that I always could carry with me in my shirt pocket.

    That all said, good riddance to floppies. May horrifically slow optical drives go next!


    mrmwebmax (formerly mrmgraphics)
    Max out your site!

  • Posted: 29 April 2010 02:34 AM #4

    Despite the fact I haven’t used floppies in years, they keep surfacing at random intervals. Just yesterday I was searching through the shed and found some floppy installers for a Newton. Spellchecker software.

    My favourite floppy story involves a Mac that was being used in the imaging department of the newspaper I worked at. The floppy kept getting stuck in the drive. The imaging dept manager went through the usual procedures to get it out, including the usually reliable paper-clip technique. But that floppy would only come out for one person. Me.

    Every now and then, maybe once a month, I’d get a call to make the mercy dash.

    Floppies. They made me feel useful.


    Karate ni sente nashi

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    Posted: 03 June 2010 10:09 PM #5

    Wierdly enough, I don’t have a lot of Floppy memories.

    We jumped from Commodore datassette drives with the PET and VIC-20 to the Mac Plus, which used the 800KB 3.5” disks. I had one disk with MS works, the OS and all my school reports and home-made RPG character sheets all to myself, and one with Aldus SuperPaint and my early attempts at art. There were always a few games like Dark Castle and Skyfox which needed to boot off the disks to run (Skyfox actually had no finder files on the disk; you had to hard-eject it with a paper-clip once you were finished with the game.) It wasn’t long before we got a SCSI hard drive, and floppies were relegated to backup duty. It was a paid-for chore in our house to back up the computer.

    And that’s pretty much it. We were already moving away from the floppy in the early 90’s towards CD-ROM for software installation, home networking for sharing files and printing, and SyQuest removable drives for backup and personal storage space. By the time I began to need file transfer out of the house, we were online with an excellent ISP, with plenty of web-space for uploading and downloading shared files, and a CD burner at the school for the big stuff.


    -Jon Roth

    Instant Philosopher; Just add hot topic and stir.

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    Posted: 04 June 2010 01:17 AM #6

    My first MAc, a 512Ke, had a single floppy drive.  I bought a 10-pack of floppies at the same time I got the computer.  That sucker cost me 60 smackeroos.  Hard to believe.


    Great wits are sure to madness near allied.—John Dryden, "Absalom and Achitophel"