Posted by: jgurner | April 27, 2010

Yet Another Storage Format Bites The Dust

You have probably seen the news already that Sony will stop manufacturing 3.5 inch floppy disks. While not a surprise, the news does make the computer geek inside me just a little bit sad.

I mean think about it. How long have the little square plastic disks been around? I’m sure I could look up the exact answer, but I know it’s more than 20 years. I remember buying my very first 3.5 inch disk at the Ole Miss Bookstore back in 1988. It was a single sided disk and held less that 1MB of data, yet it took me forever to actually fill it up. (It wasn’t until a year or so later that I actually bought another disk. By that time I was in Dr. Husni’s magazine classes and I filled up a bunch of disks.)

Over the years, a lot of formats have come and gone, and more will come and go, but it will be interesting to see if any lasts as long as the 3.5 inch disk. (I hate calling it a “floppy” because, unlike its predecessor, it’s not floppy at all.) The CD-ROM is still around, but has taken a backseat to DVD-ROM and USB drives. The ZIP drive, which along with a ton of disks takes up space in a storage box somewhere in my house, didn’t last very long. I never bothered with a JAZ drive or other tape drives, unless you count the cassette drive I used to use with my TI-99/4A.

Sadly, I recently got rid of the last few 3.5 inch disks I owned in a massive purge of useless storage technology. Most of the data from those disks has been saved elsewhere for years, though a good bit of it isn’t necessarily usable. I’m not sure if I have a way to open a MacWrite file, but I just couldn’t bear to get rid of my magazine business plan and prototype from Husni’s classes. And who knows. Maybe one of these days I’ll download an OS 6 emulator so I can play MacFrog again.

The techo-visionaries have been saying for a while that the familiar forms of storage such as DVDs and even optical hard drives are already on their way out in favor of flash storage, which has the advantage of no moving parts. They talk about cloud storage and software downloads and such which basically make any form of physical storage format obsolete.

That’s fine and dandy, but I’m still one of those people who wants to be able to put my hands on something. I don’t buy MP3s because I want t have an actual CD. And not just for backup. I like the idea of being able to look at my music collection or my movie collection. And don’t get me started on books. While I may listen to music digitally and have a few digital copies of movies stored on my iPhone, I doubt I’ll ever really get into reading books on an iPhone, iPad, computer or other electronic device. It’s just not the same. But that’s another discussion entirely.

And while the idea of cloud storage does seem like it has its advantages, I just feel a little better knowing that stuffed into my desk drawer is a stack of DVDs that contain essential data such as photos, writing, music, etc. just in case the wost case happens and my computer goes kerplooie. Okay, maybe thats a bit of an exaggeration. There are <i>some</i> DVDs, but mostly everything is backed up on an external hard drive, which could easily give out and lose everything. It’s happened before. But, really, how else am I going to back up a Terabyte of data?

I’m sure at some point I’ll get used to the idea of a non-physical backup. I made the transition from 3.5 inch disk to DVD and everything in between okay.

However, it won’t be the same. I just don’t see Farmer Ted talking Samantha into loaning him her panties for five minutes in order to be able to afford some nebulous space in an information cloud instead of floppy disks.



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