People Who Won't Give Up Floppy Disks


Slashdot reader Quonset writes: The last floppy disk was manufactured in 2011. Despite no new supplies being available for over a decade, there are still people and organizations that rely on floppy disks. Each has their own story as to why they rely on what is essentially 1970s technology.

From BBC:


Tom Persky, an American businessman, has been selling “new”, such as discontinued floppy disks, for years and still finds this business lucrative. He runs Floppydisk.com, which makes disks available for about US$1 (£0.80) each, although some higher capacity versions cost up to US$10 (£8) per disk, he says. Persky has customers all over the world and you can split them about 50-50, with hobbyists and enthusiasts like AspenCraft on one side, and industrial users on the other. This latter category includes people who use computers at work that require floppy disks to function. They are, essentially, locked into a format that the rest of the world has largely forgotten.

“I still sell thousands of floppy disks to the airline industry,” Persky says. He declined to elaborate. “Companies are not happy when I talk about them.” But it is well known that some Boeing 747s, for example, use floppy disks to load critical software updates into their navigation and avionics computers. Although these older aircraft may not be so common these days in Europe or the US, for example, you might find one in the developing world, Persky hints. There are pieces of factory equipment, government systems – or even animatronic figures – that still rely on floppy disks.

And in San Francisco, the Muni Metro Light Railway, which launched in 1980, does not start every morning until the employee in charge picks up a floppy disk and inserts it into the system that controls the railway's Automatic Train Control System, or ATCS. Don't put it in the computer. , “The computer has to be told what to do every day,” explains a spokesperson for the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (SFMTA). “Without a hard drive, there is nowhere to install software on a permanent basis.”

This computer, he says, has to be restarted so frequently – it can't just be left running for fear of damaging its memory.

The article also includes this quote from a cybersecurity expert at Pen Test Partners. “If floppy was the only interface, the only way to get malware would be [the computer] This will happen through the said floppy disk. This is quite a limiting factor for the attacker…”

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