Technological evolution

30 April 2010
Sarah Campbell blog picSony is to stop producing the 3.5-inch floppy disc. European production of the once ubiquitous storage device ceased last year, but now the last big producer of the discs is phasing them out from the remaining market, Japan. At first this news struck me as simply the natural course of technological evolution. Certainly no one uses them any more… do they? Buyers are hardly going to be sent into a frenzy of buying up boxes of floppies while stocks last. Well, you’d be surprised. The BBC asked readers why a market for these 1.4MB storage discs exists at all – and got more than 1,000 responses. Some people apparently continue to buy them for their aesthetic value, to be used as beermats, in works of art and as fashion accessories. But for others, the dics have a serious application still. The software for cashpoint machines is apparently installed from floppy; much telecoms testing equipment logs its data on to the discs and, given that the equipment was built to last, will continue to do so for the foreseeable future. The UK rail industry backs up some data systems with them. Other BBC readers report the requirement in the UK and abroad for data to be sent to central government departments on 3.5-inch. The print industry is apparently a keen user still. So there must be some buyers out there who will be affected by this news. Is this you? What do buyers do when a product their organisation relies on becomes defunct?
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