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Why the Floppy Disk Just Won’t Die

When Mark Necaise recorded his last four floppy disks at a horse race in Mississippi in February, he began to worry.

Necaise goes to horse shows across the state, offering custom embroidery on jackets and vests: “All winners will receive a coat and we will write the ranch or horse name or whatever is on it,” he said.

Five years ago, he paid $18,000 for a second hand machine, made in 2004 by Japanese embroidery equipment expert Tajima. The only way to transfer the designs from his computer to the machine was through a floppy disk.

“We started with eight discs, but four of them stopped working, which made me very nervous,” he said. “I tried reformatting them to get them working properly, but it didn’t work. I worry that I won’t be able to continue my embroidery work.”

Back when Necaise’s Tajima machine was manufactured, floppy disks were still in mass production—and were especially popular in Japan, where they were used for official government formalities until last year. . Although the last major floppy disk manufacturer discontinued them in 2010, the machines that rely on them—from embroidery machines to plastic molds, medical devices to airplanes—continue to exist, relying on them. into a dwindling disk supply that will one day run out.

“I personally think the floppy disk should die,” said Florian Cramer, a writer and filmmaker who, in 2009, shrunk every Oscar-nominated movie from that year to animated GIFs on two floppy disks. , as a commentary on Hollywood’s crackdown on digital piracy. “Objectively it is a malicious means. It’s basically plastic waste… It’s really something that shouldn’t exist anymore.”

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Most of the companies still using floppy disks are small businesses or narrow profit companies who simply have never upgraded their equipment or found it too expensive.

Davit Niazashvili, maintenance manager at Geosky, a cargo airline based in Tbilisi, Georgia, still uses floppy disks to apply critical updates to two original, 36-year-old 747-200s. delivered to British Airways in 1987: “When an update was released, we needed to download it to two 3.5-inch floppy disks. None of the computers had a built-in floppy drive anymore, so we had to source it outside,” says Niazashvili. “We then brought the disc on board to update the flight management system. The surgery took about an hour.”

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