Why the Floppy Disk Just Won’t Die

    PLR created a few base models that can be configured to work on nearly 600 machines. Their list includes looms, stage lighting consoles, circuit board printers, oscilloscopes, digital printers, electrocardiographs, vector signal analyzers, injection molding machines, tube and pipe benders, dicing saws, wire cutters, plasma cutters, metal presses, sounds samplers, musical instruments such as pianos and keyboards, and computer floppy drives from the likes of Sony, Panasonic, and NEC—as well as dozens of embroidery and CNC machines. 

    Most of these cost thousands of dollars, and some aren’t even that old, so owners will want to keep them around for as long as possible: “A lot of this equipment was never upgraded to USB even when USB was predominant,” says Paschal. “They are still stuck with floppy drives, especially embroidery machines. That left a big opportunity in the market to upgrade these people.”

    People come to PLR for upgrades not just because they can’t find disks, but because they can’t get hold of replacement drives. “Even when we started selling these devices 12 years ago, floppy drives were getting hard to find, so I can’t imagine now,” Paschal says. Sales are dropping, but Paschal says the company still sells between 2,000 and 3,000 units a year. 

    The floppy disk may never truly die out. “There are people in the world who are still busy finding and fixing up and maintaining phonograph players from 1910, so it’s really hard for me to believe that the floppy disk is just going to utterly disappear,” says Lori Emerson, a professor at the University of Colorado Boulder and the founder of the Media Archaeology Lab.

    The lifespan of some of the industrial machines that rely on floppy disks can be 30 to 40 years, and many are only 20 years old, says Tom Persky, who runs, a site that specializes in sourcing and selling floppy disks in several formats. 

    Persky sells about 1,000 disks a day—mostly 3.5-inch ones, many brand new—from a stock of hundreds of thousands in a California warehouse. He says that 20 or 25 years ago, he could buy a container of disks for as little as $0.07 each. Today he sells the most common type, the 3.5-inch, for $1 apiece.

    Supply constraints normally result in an increase in prices, but as this pattern progresses the supply itself will become so constrained that the economics will force more and more people to upgrade or replace their equipment, making the market collapse in on itself.

    At least one type of floppy disk, the ancient 8-inch introduced by IBM in 1971, seems on the verge of extinction. “There aren’t any left, and we sell the ones we have for $5 [each] in boxes of tens,” Persky says. As for the 3.5-inch floppy, he can’t say how many more disks are out there. 

    “There’s a worldwide inventory of disks that were manufactured 10 or 20 or 30 years ago,” Persky says. “That inventory is fixed. We’re just blowing through it day by day. I really have no idea how big it is. It’s probably unbelievably huge, but dispersed. There isn’t anybody with half a million disks, but there are half a million people with a 10-pack.”

    Persky isn’t planning on waiting for the singularity to occur. He’s 73, and says he’ll only work another five years. He doesn’t think there’s anyone “foolish enough” to take over the company from him. “I’m 50 miles out from the airport, in an airplane, and I’ve run out of gas,” he says. “My job is to land the plane.”

    Read the full article here

    Recent Articles

    Related Stories

    Leave A Reply

    Please enter your comment!
    Please enter your name here

    Stay on op - Ge the daily news in your inbox