The death of the floppy disk?

For what seems like years now I’ve been touting the death of the floppy disk drive; when CD writable drives were released I was one of the first proclaiming that there would be no need for the ridiculous storage capacity of a 1.44Mg floppy disk.The same was true when Zip drives came along, then the 120Mg floppy and the proliferation of other floppy disk ‘replacements’ that have hit the market and so not wanting to break with habit I’m doing it once again now that the age of affordable removable flash media is here.

With many of us using wireless networks and high speed broadband connections, one would have thought that the market for removable media was somewhat limited but like it or not there will come a time where you will wish to physically take a file from one machine to another.In an ideal world the floppy disk would be a good use for this as all computers have a floppy disk drive built but they suffer a number of rather large drawbacks.The main issue for me is that they are notoriously unreliable; I’m still amazed by the number of people who store their only copy of an important document on a floppy disk which is then left in the back of a car or on top of a large magnetic field such as a disproportionately sized speaker.They also suffer from the ability to store very little data as a rather pathetic megabyte and a half is not really suitable nowadays for anything other than small documents.

USB powered flash media provides a nice solution to this problem – Basically, for your money you get a custom size of memory fitted into casing that’s small enough to fit neatly into your shirt pocket.One of the most popular and cost effective units is the 128Mg version which comes in at under £40 from most reputable sources, myself included.Straight out of the box you just plug the unit into the USB port on the back of your machine (or the front of your computer if your machine has the appropriate slots) and the unit will be instantly picked up by Windows 2000/ME/XP and will be ready to use just as you would a normal disk drive.These units are unfortunately not compatible with Windows 95 as this operating system has notoriously shaky support for USB devices, even in the final release that Microsoft made and with Windows 98 you will need to install a driver before your machine is able to use it.Once you’ve finished with the device simply remove it from your computer and away you go; many of them are able to be fastened to a key ring so that you always have the ability to transfer files to and from the majority of machines at any time.

The main drawback, as I stated above is that you need a driver for Windows 98 and the lack of support under Windows 95 but this is problem that unfortunately cannot be helped as when these operating systems were developed the technology wasn’t around so Microsoft didn’t anticipate the need to include the facility to use them straight out of the box.These two operating systems are getting slightly long in the tooth now anyway so this shouldn’t pose too much of a problem to the majority of PC users.

The bulk of these devices are designed to work under USB 1 which means that their transfer speed is restricted by the amount of data that can be physically shifted through the connection to the unit but there are a number of USB 2 devices coming out which offer far greater transfer speeds.To be realistic however, the speed of transfer is a little bit inconsequential as even the slowest of these devices are leaps and bounds ahead of the floppy disk counterpart.

So, I’ll say it once again – I do envisage a time when floppy disk drives are no longer even thought about when a modern computer is being put together as the technology is so antiquated that I’m surprised it has lasted as long it has and personally I will not be sorry to see the back of them.


About the Author – Chris Holgate works for Refresh Cartridges who supply a wide range of printer cartridges at the UK’s lowest prices.