Japanese government says ‘sayonara’ to floppy disk

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The Japanese government is finally doing away with 3.5-inch floppy disks, almost two years after it announced its intention to scrap them.

“We have won the war on floppy disks,” Taro Kono, Japan’s digital minister, told Reuters on Wednesday.

Kono leads Japan’s Digital Agency, which was set up in 2021 when the roll-out of nationwide COVID testing and vaccination revealed that the government was over-reliant on paper filing and outdated technology, the Reuters article said.

He promised in August 2022 to do away with floppy disks and CDs in communication with authorities, and in January this year introduced new legislation to promote regulatory reform, as Computerworld’s sister publication Computerwoche reported. Until recently there were about 1,900 regulatory procedures in Japan that required companies to submit additional data in the form of floppy disks or CD-ROMs, Computerwoche said.

By the middle of last month the agency had “scrapped all 1,034 regulations governing their use, except for one environmental structure related to vehicle recycling,” Reuters reported, and now that too is gone.

Dwindling market

And not before time: It’s over 14 years since Sony, one of a handful of companies still selling floppy disks in Japan, said it would halt floppy disk sales in 2011 due to dwindling demand. In 2009, Sony had a 70% share of the Japanese domestic floppy disk market, which amounted to about 12 million disks in total — with a combined capacity of just 17 terabytes.

But there is still a market for these archaic removable storage media, according to  Tom Persky, who proclaims himself as the “last man standing in the floppy disk business.”

Persky is the founder of floppydisk.com, a US company that still sells formatted floppy disks and provides a floppy and zip disk transfer service as well as recycling services.

His customers include hobbyists who want to resurrect old computer games, operators of old manufacturing equipment, and commercial owners of aircraft that are at least 25 years old.

“If you are an airline and your passengers find out that you are using a floppy disk, that is not good PR,” he said. “But the issue is not whether it is attractive, the issue for me and my customers is, does it work? And does it work better and cheaper than anything else? And for my customers it works better and cheaper than anything else.”

As for the move made by the Japanese government, Persky said “I am not going to tell them that they are wrong. I am not going to tell them that the floppy disk is the future. What I am going to tell them is, it is a very stable, very well known, very robust, very practical way to solve a problem.”

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