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Last Monday, the last major manufacturer of floppy disks, Sony, announced they were stopping production. In spite of the fact that the original iMac began the slow decline of the floppy into obsolescence, you may not realize that the floppy disk was one of the reasons for the popularity of the Apple II, the company's first mass-produced hit product.

In those days, most home computers used audio cassettes to save and load programs. If you ever had to load a program from audio cassette, you know what a pain it was. If the volume wasn't just right, you might get most of the way through loading a program when it would abort – and you'd have to try again (and often again and again). This was also the only way to save off your data – so if you wanted to save off a file, you connected up the cassette recorder and dumped it to tape. 

Floppy drives might have been an alternative, but floppy controllers were complex and expensive. Steve Wozniak, one of the founders of Apple Computer, designed a controller with far fewer parts, substituting software for some of the things done by hardware. This less-expensive controller allowed Apple to sell a (relatively) cheap floppy drive to go with the Apple II.

Now, I've had plenty of floppies go bad, but they were never as frustrating as fooling with those cassettes. Moving to floppies felt like moving into the future! 

 

 

But years later, Apple left the floppy drive off of the iMac, and helped bring about Monday's announcement. At the time, it was considered a radical move, but nowadays it's getting pretty tough to find a new computer with a floppy drive. I'm guessing few will mourn the passing of this once ubiquitous tech. Some of you may never have even used one! 

So the next time Apple makes a radical move, making some technology obsolete, pause for a moment before passing judgement and think of the old floppy.

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  • When I saw an article about this the other day I was surprised, I thought they had already stopped making floppies.

    And now I have Talking Heads playing in my head, this is a good thing.

  • Pingback: Making Flippy Floppy | MacNews | Mac On Steroids()

  • Nice article Jack. My external floppy disk drive I bought when I had my iMac is now another relic. I am wondering if Zip drives are next?

  • Jack

    I never found Zip drives to be reliable for me even when new. They seemed to fail on me a lot.

  • In case I sounded sarcastic, I didn’t mean to be. I liked the article.

  • Jack Beckman

    Didn’t sound that way to me, Kirk, no explanation necessary.