Saturday, February 16, 2013

Things to do with a floppy disk

Blogger's note. I found this delicious article in a magazine called The Magazine (from somewhere in Britain, the BBC I think). As usual I was looking for something else. I got watching old documentaries on YouTube about the history of the computer, The Machine That Changed The World (including one made in 1992 that approached the subject with a mixture of spine-chilling awe and goggle-eyed dread). Then I got watching old Commodore 64 ads ("I adore my 64. . . I rate with it, create with it, telecommunicate with it" - one of the best jingles ever). 

Then I found those old IBM ads with Charlie Chaplin, charming little vignettes designed to take the trembling horror out of this "new technology". The Mad Men of Madison Avenue must have decided to reach deep into the past and use a hapless, harmless, hopelessly anachronistic charmer (one that everyone instantly recognized) to neutralize people's fears of a soulless and totally-mechanized future. Didn't work, but it was a good try.

Anyway, before I get totally sidetracked, this list of "40 ways we still use floppy disks" came out almost three years ago. I just could not post the entire 40, so I did a bit of editing and limited myself to the more intriguing and original uses. 

(Hey, the floppy may not be dead yet. The other day I was on a publisher's web site and, after telling me in a scolding tone that I must type my manuscript on 8 1/2" x 11" white bond paper, double-spaced, on one side of the page only, in 12-point pica type, they told me that if by some far-flung chance they actually decided to BUY my manuscript, I was required to mail it to them on floppy disks. So you see? Some people in the publishing business still get by with 20-year-old computers. That's economy, by Jove!)

40 ways we still use floppy disks 

Floppy disks: headed for the museum, or treasured home for your data? When Sony said this week it was halting the production of floppy disks, the Magazine set out to discover who still buys and uses this anachronistic computer storage medium. 
Here are (not 40 - just the good ones) explanations for why floppy disks are still needed. 

I regularly buy floppy disks. I own a pub with a retro theme and I use them as beer mats.
Shaun Garrod, Ashby de la Soul

I am an artist from London and I use floppy disks to produce my paintings. I tile them up as canvases. The personal information on each disk is forever locked under the paint, but the labels are left as a clue. I use the circular hubs on the reverse for eyes!
Nick Gentry, London 

Not as much a user as an owner of a great many floppies, I was planning to tile the roof of my shed with them (using the two existing corner holes to take the nails) until my wife forbade it.

Erik Ga Bean, Stevenage, England 

Have you seen the cost of clays for skeet shooting? Pull!
Paul Taylor, St.Helens England

Drilling holes on four sides and interlocking them with industrial clips, I have created a retro futurist sliding curtain for a client's loft. Monochromatic colour floppies with occasional accents of bright red and yellow give different moods on sunny days or ambient lighting by night. On them are stored formulas and theories of leading edge scientists...
Paolo, Montreal

My band released our first single on a floppy as a gimmick last year. It took us quite a while to find somewhere that actually sold them anymore.
Chris Bennigsen, Manchester 

I buy these little beauties for a quite different reason. The floppy disk costs an average of £3.66 for 200, however they have a resale value of £5.50 at any good computer recycling centre, so I buy them in bulk and simply sell them directly at a profit. Take that, Bill Gates.
Cynthia, Tamworth

I still buy and use floppies for my electronic organ and some older synthesizers. Many professional keyboardists still own older synthesizers for their unique design and sheer power.
Nick Chan, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

I put handles on them and sell them as spatulas. I sell thousands of them a year.
Stan Russell, Squatney, Delaware – USA 

I buy about 100,000 floppies per year as I have a business that makes them into drinks mats, fridge magnets and toast racks.
Ken Pork, London

I have a stack of old 3.5" floppies I keep in a box. They work perfectly for adjusting a bookshelf or the like set up on carpet. If the bookshelf tilts, I just slide floppies under the appropriate corners until it's upright.
Greg Goebel, Loveland CO USA

I've always used an old floppy disk as an ice scraper for the car, just the right combination of rigidity and flexibility. Just don't use the side with the metal sleeve on. They last about a year before they need replacing from my endless pile from the 1990s.
Chris, Swindon, UK

I use a multitude of coloured floppies as a fashion statement, as part of outfits I make. The pieces I create are for cyberpunk/goth outfits.
Alexandra "Chii", Yorktown, Virginia, USA 

Romania's fiscal agency still requests documents on floppy to process taxes. 
Jack, Bucharest

Sad to say but there are a lot of ancient computers in church and school offices, and the old lady at the church or the school runs it the same as she did 20 years ago, so the floppy is her tool of choice. I donated a couple of newer used PCs to the church and had to take the floppy drives out of the old systems and put them in the new systems for her. Simply amazing.
Barry, Dayton Ohio, USA

Recently I decided to lay down some new concrete walkways at my home, and came upon the idea to grind up floppies (along with some other plastics) to mix in with the concrete. The addition of the fibres makes for a stronger concrete, and looks interesting as well.
New Orleans, LA, USA


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