Floppy disks may soon be history
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Floppy disks may soon be history

The popularity of e-mail and giant hard drives with facilities of swapping is said to be the cause of the shrinking sales of floppies.

india Updated: Jan 31, 2007 13:07 IST

The floppy disk, which revolutionised home computing in the late 20th century, seems to be on the verge of becoming history itself, with British computer stores chain PC World deciding not to sell the diskettes after their current stock is sold out.

The fears of their disappearance from the shelves are due to a new generation of technology, which have made the floppy disk obsolete.

Data from the Recording Media Industries Association of Japan show that more than two billion 3.5in disks were sold worldwide in 1998, while their sales have plunged to 700 million units now.

The popularity of e-mail and giant hard drives with facilities of swapping and storing data is said to be the cause of rapidly shrinking sales of the floppies.

Some people, however, feel that despite being a part of technological history, the floppy disk have failed to earn the affection of computer users.

"Floppy disks are the computing equivalent of cassette tapes. They were part of our lives but I don't suppose they have captured the imagination in the same way as vinyl records. They have been just a temporary technology, a means of storing data until such time as more efficient systems came on the market. They have no intrinsic value," the Scotsman quoted technology writer Nick Clayton as saying.

"The only ones who might lament the passing of floppy disks will be film directors, because action movies like Matrix always seem to feature a special disk that contains some sort of vital information," he added.

The floppy was invented in 1971 by IBM engineers in California led by Alan Shugart and replaced old-fashioned punch-cards, which made computer systems too vast to be used by all but the largest of businesses.

Apple was the first major mass-market manufacturer to drop the floppy drive from a computer model altogether, with the release of the iMac in 1998, while Dell made the floppy drive optional in 2003.

"The sound of a computer's floppy disk drive will be as closely associated with 20th century computing as the sound of a computer dialling in to the internet," said Bryan Magrath, commercial director of PC World.

"The pace of technological change is relentless and it is now increasingly standard for computer users to transfer data via the internet or with USB memory sticks, some of which will store the equivalent of 1,000 times the capacity of floppy disk. With that amount of memory available in such a small and convenient device, the floppy disk looks increasingly quaint and simply isn't able to compete," he added.

First Published: Jan 31, 2007 13:07 IST