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The Floppy Disk Rebels

13 May 2024 9:32 AM | Anonymous

Here is an article that is not about any of the "normal" topics of this newsletter: genealogy, history, current affairs, DNA, and related topics. However, it describes the changing technology around us, a topic often of interest to genealogists. It also has to do with history, which IS a topic often described in this newsletter. Besides, I found it interesting and decided to share it.

2011 saw the last floppy disk produced. There are still individuals and organisations who use floppy disks even though new supplies haven't been available for more than ten years. Everybody has a different explanation for why they use technology that is basically from the 1970s.

Selling "new," that is, unopened, floppy disks for years, US businessman Tom Persky continues to make great profit from the business. He is the owner of, which sells disks for around US$1 (£0.80) each, however certain larger capacity models can cost up to US$10 (£8). Customers of Persky are found all over the world, and you could divide them about 50/50 between industrial users and hobbyists and enthusiasts such as Espen Kraft. The latter group includes those who utilize floppy disk-requiring PCs at work. They are basically stuck with a format that most of the rest of the world has since forgotten.

Still, Persky continues, "I sell thousands of floppy disks to the airline industry." He won't elaborate. Companies are unhappy when I discuss them. It is commonly known, though, that some Boeing 747s, for instance, load vital software upgrades into their avionics and navigation computers using floppy disks. Persky suggests that although these older planes may not be as common in the US or Europe these days, you might discover one in a developing nation. Other government systems, industrial equipment, and even animatronic figures still use floppy disks.

And the 1980-launched Muni Metro light train in San Francisco won't start up every morning unless the responsible personnel pick up a floppy disk and insert it into the computer that runs the Automatic Train Control System, or ATCS. "Every day the computer needs to be told what it's supposed to do," a San Francisco Municipal Transport Agency (SFMTA) spokeswoman said. "There is nowhere to permanently install software without a hard drive."

This computer has to be restarted in such a way repeatedly, he adds — it can't simply be left on, for fear of its memory degrading.

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