Are Floppy Disks Dead Technology?

Looks like the answer is to that is “nope, not yet!”

Alasdair Allan
3 min readJul 18, 2018

There is a rule of thumb in computing that, just when you think you’re finally done with an older technology—and you’ve thrown out all the ageing and ‘useless’ cables, connectors, and adaptors that go with it—you’ll suddenly need it again.

While I’m actually pretty ruthless about getting rid of old technology I have a carefully curated collection of ageing display and storage hardware. Because every time I’ve throw any of that stuff out, it has proved to be a horrible mistake.

But having pulled the contents of the last of my 3.5-inch floppy disks off and squirrelled it all away in the cloud—because while I might be ruthless when it comes to hardware, I’m a hopeless pack rat when it comes to data—I was starting to feel that it was time to get rid of my last working 3.5-inch drive.

However, while I’m not in to Vaporwave—not to be confused with the far more common vapourware, which regrettably I’ve been involved with more than once—the arrival of music on the retro medium of the 3.5-inch floppy has me worried all over again.

West End Galleria — After School 3.5" Floppy Disk. (📷: STRUDELSOFT)

Of course 3.5-inch drives aren’t quite dead technology, yet.

You can still pick up USB floppy disk drives that work out of the box with your PC, Mac, or Raspberry Pi, and if you want, or really need to, you can go to a bit lower level you can still drive non-USB drives using an Arduino.

Connecting an IDC interface to an Arduino. (📷: jeffctown)

Perhaps a little bit more interestingly, if you‘re feeling retro—but not retro enough that you want to wait around for 30 seconds to read 1.44Mb of data—you can go in the opposite direction. You can hack a 3.5-inch floppy drive to ‘read’ a modern SD Card. Which is exactly what one maker did for his retro 1990s computing build.

Hacking a 3.5-inch floppy drive to work with an SD Card. (📷: DrModdnstine)

Although the fact that the mid-90s is now ‘retro’ has me a bit worried.

In any case the folks at Strudelsoft have left me feeling a bit paranoid about the fate of 3.5-inch floppies, and I’m starting to feel that not only should I hang on to my last USB floppy drive for a little bit longer, maybe I should pick up a spare while the going is still good?

While I’m feeling paranoid, anyone got a source of USB connected 5.25-inch and 8-inch floppy drives? I’ve now got a sneaking suspicion that I’ll need them soon.

[h/t: Rolling Stone]