View Full Version : The floppy disk is on its way out.

check two
04-26-2010, 08:10 PM

Sony's decision to end 3.5-inch disk production is just another signal that local storage media and platforms cannot be trusted with your precious data.

The history of data storage and backup is littered with the corpses of dead formats. Seven years ago I wrote about the beginning of the end of 3.5-inch floppy disks. At the time, it was still a popular portable storage medium, and I was derided as a heretic. Now, Sony has finally decided to stop making 3.5-inch floppy disks, which pretty much marks the end of the format.

It's worth noting the demise of any popular format because it has a ripple effect on the technology world. In 2003, when Dell decided to stop putting 3.5-inch floppy drives in its computers, we were already seeing the proliferation and use of USB drives. Back then, they had capacities that, while many times greater than the best floppy disk, were still miles away from where they are now (these days, it's not unusual to carry around a 4-GB USB drive).

Personally, I don't know anyone who still uses 3.5-inch floppies, but I bet if I asked you or anyone else, you'd admit to still having a box or two stashed somewhere. Most are probably filled with data that you always promised yourself you'd migrate to another medium. You probably did the same thing with the old truly "floppy" 5.25-inch disks. That data is trapped on its obsolete format as well.

Perhaps that's the real story today: Another once-popular format plays Dodo and we start worrying about what happens when there are no more drives available to read the medium.

In my house, I have a computer, with an old 3.5-inch floppy drive (my only one), an Iomega Jaz Drive, and a ZIP drive. Packed away somewhere in a box, I also have a system with a 5.25-inch floppy drive. I keep all this on hand in the futile hope that I'll finally get around to recovering all that data that's trapped on a various extinct mediums.

I suspect that my scenario is not all that unusual and not worth much discussion. However, it should give us all pause; with so many storage mediums now gone or on their way out, what's next? At the tail end of my 2003 column, I mused that I could move all of my 3.5-inch data to a CD-R drive. Optical drives had reached ubiquity by the late 1990s and writable drives were the norm in 2003. Still, I worried about what might happen if the CD-R drive fell out of favor. I even considered moving my data to the next big thing in personal data storage (at least it was in 2003): DVD-R drives.

The fact is that storage mediums and the drives that read and write them are not permanent like Mt. Rushmore. Instead, they're more like our sandy beaches, which seem permanent but are slowly but surely washing out to sea. One day you'll come back for a swim and they'll be gone entirely. In 2003, CD-Rs seemed pretty permanent, but it was only a few years later that I was actually recommending that manufacturers stop putting optical drive in laptops. Downloadable software meant I no longer needed the drives for application installation, and my portable storage needs were covered by thumb, or USB, drives. No manufacturer has pulled optical drives from desktops, but many laptops are sold without them.

As space on USB keys and flash media, such as SD and Micro SD cards, reach the storage levels of hard drive, optical drives' fortunes may come tumbling down. Blu-ray drives still outstrip, by a country mile, the storage capacities of all other consumer optical mediums and most flash media, but the cost for the media is prohibitive, and most computers do not sell with Blu-ray writers.

I think it's fair to say that optical storage will someday meet the same fate as the 3.5-inch floppy. USB drives and SD and Micro SD cards could, someday, too.

This is the natural progression of technology. That said, consumers and businesses face a tough decision: Where do you put your data? Keeping outmoded technology can become expensive and is usually a losing game, since the software often ends up leaving legacy storage mediums behind. Case in point: I will never forget when Windows XP essentially bricked all of my 1-GB Jaz drives.

Interestingly enough, when cornered, we all often fall back to one of the original storage mediums: the spinning hard drive.

Yet, even hard drives have a technology nipping at their heels—Solid State Drives (SSD). Like their flash-based cousins, SSDs don't spin, and they cost more per gigabyte than traditional hard drives. On the other hand, the lack of moving parts could mean that they have a longer lifespan than hard drives, which inevitably fail. Theoretically, we could all be using SSD-only PCs by 2020. Then again, maybe we'll be storing data in a completely different medium altogether like holographic storage.

The only sure thing in technology is, as we all know, change. So what should companies and consumers do? The former, at least, probably have the resources to upgrade their storage methods continually; though recent tough economic times may have put storage upgrades at the bottom of the priority list. Consumers usually don't change storage methods until it's too late. Sometimes they never do at all, and they end up leaving data on all sorts of orphaned storage media. You could, I guess, do as I and many others have done and try and keep every kind of media reader/player in your house, so it becomes a sort of technology museum. Yet, I think there's a better way.

As I see it, it's time to take the task of managing storage platforms out of the hands of consumers and individual businesses. It's time for everyone to consider cloud-based options seriously. I know that people fear the cloud. What if the Internet goes down? Okay, maybe you'd lose access for an hour or even a whole day. It's highly unlikely you'll lose access for any longer than that. What more, I'm not proposing that all storage happen in the cloud, just backup (real-time mission critical files will usually have to be local). Instead of people and companies using ad-hoc media and putting it in a drawer, let's back it all up to companies whose job it is to store data. Amazon's S3 business, for example, has to keep up with the latest storage technologies and will always migrate your data to the next best thing. So will online backup companies like Mozy and Norton Online Backup. Consumers and businesses would never again have to worry about losing critical files because they can't find a drive to read the data or they've learned, to their horror, that the software they use to read an old drive has just corrupted the entire thing because of compatibility issues.

Putting all of your data in the cloud may sound crazy, but it's certainly much smarter than storing on eventually-to-be-obsolete media, which is akin to putting your memories in a lock box and throwing away the key.


04-26-2010, 08:28 PM
long overdue.

storing something on media that only holds 1.44mb has no place in society anymore.

Dr. Simon Hurt
04-26-2010, 10:01 PM
^^^basically, i thought they stopped making those things like 10 years ago lol
cds are next

Lex Lugor
04-26-2010, 10:45 PM
Didnt floppys hold like 3.14 mb or something like that? Anyway im old enough to watch the floppy disk live and die. 2002, 13 years old at the library breaking up snes roms in multiple archives and rockin a few floppy disks to bring em home. Yea bwoy.

04-26-2010, 10:55 PM

1.44mb and 3.5 inches

Uncle Steezo
04-27-2010, 02:28 AM
oh...floppy DISK....


Frank Sobotka
04-27-2010, 06:46 AM
Consumers usually don't change storage methods until it's too late. Sometimes they never do at all, and they end up leaving data on all sorts of orphaned storage media.I should open a store converting the data from media.

Jet Set
04-27-2010, 01:16 PM
Last year Pioneer already cancelled the production of Laser Disc Players. We are really coming to a close on this world. I believe we can still get cassette tapes & VHS though, even Zip disks.

check two
04-27-2010, 01:18 PM

Yeah, I just bought a pack of VHS tapes at the store last night.

Jet Set
04-27-2010, 03:02 PM
One time I had this woman in store and she was a bit off. She wanted to buy a blank VHS tape and I talked about how she was lucky that we still carried them, and who knows when they will be discontinued. Next thing you know she buys twenty of them for a total amount of 100 euros.

Cassete tapes, MC, are hard to come buy. I believe Maxell is still making them, but I am not sure about TDK. We had a problem with out supply of 90 min tapes. We only got 60 min for about three months.

Frank Sobotka
04-27-2010, 03:02 PM
Funny how vinyl is still around tho

Jet Set
04-27-2010, 03:06 PM
Vinyl and anaolgue audio in general is going through a rebirth. Loads of stuff is getting re-released on vinyl, due to improper cd-releases amongst others. And offcourse the collection. It's an emotional thing.

04-27-2010, 03:34 PM
haha 1,44 mb...its ridicolous if you think about it...but when i was young i was like...daaamn i can save 2 pictures and 1 word document :D

04-27-2010, 05:08 PM
Vinyl and anaolgue audio in general is going through a rebirth. Loads of stuff is getting re-released on vinyl, due to improper cd-releases amongst others. And offcourse the collection. It's an emotional thing.

This is all true.

Yet it won't necessarily turn out the same way for other formats. CD's won't get the same love because they are cheap and deteriorate quicker.

Dr. Simon Hurt
04-27-2010, 05:49 PM
Vinyl and anaolgue audio in general is going through a rebirth. Loads of stuff is getting re-released on vinyl, due to improper cd-releases amongst others. And offcourse the collection. It's an emotional thing.

it's not just emotional, the audio sounds different. there is less compression and loss of information and 'warmth' sonically on analogue. i'm sure there are other people here who can go into more detail.

04-27-2010, 05:57 PM
Recent studies were done which demonstrated this new generation of music listeners prefer static compressed audio as opposed to richer sounds.

It's pretty weird how the mp3 shaped things. That's the complete opposite direction things should be heading.

Dr. Simon Hurt
04-27-2010, 06:03 PM
that is interesting...kids weaned on 128 kBps mp3 files think extra treble and compression sounds natural

my first musical memories was hearing 'wish you were here' and 'funkentelechy vs. the placebo syndrome' on my dad's quadrophonic system(lol)...so i can hear the difference, and i'm sure anybody else who grew up hearing records can hear how even professionally mastered cds released by major corporations are eq'd weird, compressed, and sound like shit.

can i get a link to that article? i can use that for a sociology paper i'm doing lol

04-27-2010, 06:12 PM
Digital music news might of put it out ... but I'm sure if you google the right term several studies will show up.

04-27-2010, 06:16 PM
ahh here it is:


BTW O'reilly is a book publisher / content outlet for Technology NOT to be confused with the old man @ FOX.

Dr. Simon Hurt
04-27-2010, 06:31 PM
thanks, i would rep but have to spread it like whore legs first.

Uncle Steezo
04-27-2010, 06:53 PM
hip hop saved vinyl

check two
04-27-2010, 07:39 PM
Well then hip hop should try to save cassette tapes also.

Dr. Simon Hurt
04-27-2010, 08:04 PM
i wish hip hop would've saved my parent's marriage...sigh...fucking asshole...that's why he's dead now.

04-27-2010, 08:15 PM
something tells me DJ's will be manipulating music in holographic form @ some point.

check two
04-27-2010, 08:33 PM
I'd like to see DJ Pauly D laying down some tracks in holographic form while Vinny and the others beat the beat up on a Qbert style dance floor.

04-28-2010, 12:01 AM
Well then hip hop should try to save cassette tapes also.
Exactly! The way porn saved VHS :nonono:

Jet Set
04-28-2010, 02:55 AM
it's not just emotional, the audio sounds different. there is less compression and loss of information and 'warmth' sonically on analogue. i'm sure there are other people here who can go into more detail.Like pointed out, the hearing of the people has changed. With audio, it is always a bit of emotion. There is such a big difference in honest sound and beautifull sound.

04-28-2010, 03:23 AM
I have tons of music on Mini Disc format, but no working MD player anymore.
Lots of "then" exclusive Wu-related stuff, but as I had two computer crashes and no backup volume 8 yrs ago, I'm locked out from listening to it... :yessad:

check two
05-09-2010, 06:20 PM
-Return of the audio cassette

Just when you thought it was dead, the audio cassette is catching the imagination of music fans again. So what's making us pause and rewind?

During its heyday, the audio cassette was easy to take for granted. It was cheap, portable and simple to duplicate but, unlike a vinyl album, never a thing of beauty. It always seemed so disposable, and was prone to unspooling in a spew of magnetic spaghetti, thus requiring laborious restoration with the aid of a pencil.

But just as it is facing extinction, the clunky old cassette has been reborn. Last year, feted indie bands Deerhunter and the Dirty Projectors both took the unusual step of putting out albums on cassette, and Universal made the celebrity poetry album Words for You Britain's first major-label cassette release in six years. The 6 Music DJ Lauren Laverne celebrates old compilations on her regular Memory Tapes feature. In the US, there are hundreds of underground labels that specialise in the format and package it with a degree of artistry never witnessed in the old Woolworths bargain bin. In the era of iPods and bitrates, the cassette has become the fragile repository of a generation's affection for the analogue age. You can buy iPod cases, T-shirts, computer hardware and even jewellery that pays tribute to its iconic shape.

British record labels began releasing cassettes in October 1967, shortly after the electronics giant Philips perfected the design, and it took off as a mass-market medium after the introduction of the Sony Walkman in 1979. Between 1985, when it overtook vinyl, and 1992, when it was eclipsed by CDs, it was the most popular audio format in the country. But sales collapsed towards the end of the 90s and major labels abandoned the cassette in 2003.

Universal's decision to press 4,000 cassettes of Words for You was prompted by requests from older listeners who didn't use CDs, let alone MP3s. But specialist cassette labels, which have boomed over the last two years, are born out of choice rather than necessity, quixotically running off limited-edition tapes on stacks of secondhand decks. The low cost is just one factor. Once derided by audiophiles, cassettes are now cherished for their imperfections. The way the sound subtly warps and mutates over time does no favours to Lady Gaga, but it breathes extra vibrancy into lo-fi, experimental music.

"I grew up listening to tapes," says Canadian Al Bjornaa, who set up his label Scotch Tapes in 2008. "It was kind of cool how each tape sounded different depending on what cassette deck you used." Bjornaa even reuses old cassettes as well as fresh blanks. "You can sometimes still hear the original music playing behind the new tracks. It adds a certain something that makes each cassette unique." And unlike MP3s, which encourage the listener to dismantle albums into their constituent tracks, the cassette "helps preserve the notion of 'the album' as a complete work of art."

Bjornaa admits that nostalgia plays a part. People old enough to remember the importance of cassette labels in the post-punk years (one indie genre, C86, even took its name from a tape sold via the NME) are aligning themselves with a long DIY tradition. They are also the home-taping generation. An iTunes playlist, easily burned on to multiple CDs, can never be a labour of love in the same way as a mix tape brought to life through hours hunched over the pause button, perfecting clunk-free segues.

Children of the 80s, too, are affectionately revisiting the format on which they first discovered music. "What you grew up with just sounds right," says 22-year-old Brad Barry, a student at the University of Texas who hosts a weekly cassette-only radio show called C60 Radio. Meanwhile, people who sport cassette-themed Urban Outfitters' T-shirts or iPhone cases are just using it as a retro prop in the never-ending 80s revival.

Clearly, nostalgia alone won't reverse the cassette's commercial nosedive, but that's rather the point. While an MP3 can travel around the globe within hours of release, tapes inhabit the cloistered world of the true underground – although, ironically, most are sold online. "It keeps it from becoming mainstream," says Barry. Faced with the bloodless convenience of digital music, it is human nature for some people to hanker after the cumbersome, the labour-intensive and the fallible – to pause and rewind. The record industry, too, might have reason to look fondly on those plastic rectangles, now that the alarmist slogan "Home Taping Is Killing Music" is just a retro T-shirt design and digital piracy is wreaking financial devastation. If only they'd known.


check two
05-09-2010, 06:21 PM
--Turning Heads: Cassette Tape Sales On The Up

Three years ago, everyone was predicting the end for the humble cassette but something surprising is happening. Instead of withering - sales of blank tapes are on the up.

TDK, the market leader, said it had sold one million blank tapes in the first four months of this year alone.

"We're pretty surprised actually because tape sales seem to be holding up very, very well," TDK's Craig Hill told Sky News.

"We thought that they would tail off dramatically, year on year. In the last 12 months, we've seen a resurgence."

Tape players were everywhere 20 years ago. In the home, in the car, even on the move. Tapes were where we put our music.

By 1988, we'd bought over three billion of them. But the CD had been invented and pretty soon, it took over.

In 2007, sales of blank tapes had plummeted from 50 million a year to just 5 million.

Naturally, everyone thought by now the format would be dead and buried and the factories shut.

But instead - demand is increasing.

There are a few reasons for the rise, but the main one is lots of people still have players either in the car or at home.

They haven't upgraded because of the credit crunch (or simply because they can't be bothered) and so they need blank tapes to record their music on.

It means business is good for tape sellers like Andy Borthwick from aandcaudio.co.uk.

He shifts around two thousand blank cassette tapes every month from his warehouse in Dunfermline.

He said: "Cassettes for us over the last few years have actually increased in sales, for various reasons.

"There's a lot of people looking for them and they're not available on the High Street, so they're coming to specialist companies like ourselves."

Another sector still relying on blank tapes are the police. Lawyers don't trust digital technology for interviews - so cassettes are still the industry standard, all adding to sales.

So the format that everyone had written off - for now at least - keeps on rolling.