Where Apple goeth, the industry will follow . . .
October 4, 2001 2:21 PM   Subscribe

Where Apple goeth, the industry will follow . . . eventually. "Intel is finally inciting the death of the floppy drive and is calling on PC manufacturers big and small to stop supplying the once-capacious 1.44MB removable drive in the latter half of 2002." I remember the first 3.5 inchers (weren't they 400k) with my first Mac in '84. Yet another era passes.
posted by fpatrick (42 comments total)
This is a stupid, stupid idea. The lack of a floppy drive always kept me away from the new Macs. How are you going to transfer files if you don't have a CD-Burner or an internet connection. I know it seems like most everyone has one or both of these, but say your modem craps out, and you need new drivers, what then?
posted by thewittyname at 2:39 PM on October 4, 2001

What if your modem, cd-burner, internet connection, AND floppy drive crap out? I guess your PC maker better get cracking and find a solution for that eventuality.

I think the point is that by the end of 2002 the world will have moved on, wittyname: more broadband connections, more CD burners.

And speaking as a Mac user: What's a driver, anyway? (just kidding)
posted by bcwinters at 2:48 PM on October 4, 2001

There will always be a place for the legacy floppy drive or it's equivalent. I use mine on a reguar basis to sneakernet drivers from machine to machine. Until someone proposes a viable alternative I can't see floppy drives going anywhere. Brand name boxes might drop them but the rest of us that don't use brand name machines will need them in the forseeable future.
posted by Dillenger69 at 2:48 PM on October 4, 2001

I don't know. I haven't had a floppy drive in use at home in a few years, and I have never really missed it too much. Of course I have my own little network going, a situation which is not too uncommon and only becoming less so. I need it at the office though because there is this one guy who can't get it through his head to use the network to transfer files. And we sometimes get files from some of our very old-school clients that they cobbled together in CorelDraw 2 on their 386. I remember Windows 95 didn't come with a CD driver at first and so I had to use a floppy to boot up to install it. And I know floopies and serial ports are both important in a lot of Linux applications, as well as Lego MindStorms.
posted by donkeymon at 2:51 PM on October 4, 2001

Before moving to a template/database driven/web-interface system, I updated my website with the help of floppy disks from computers all around, from my work PC to to cybercafes in London and Paris and Kinkos in Dayton, OH and Costa Mesa, CA. Floppies have saved my professional butt on a few occasions when the office printer is down and a document had to go out that day -- there are always situations where an e-mail/internet/CD solution is not feasible or more than is necessary. Killing them off altogether just seems. . . extraneous. Why not just make them optional?
posted by Dreama at 3:04 PM on October 4, 2001

People still use floppies? I haven't so much as touched one since 1997. They were too unreliable even back then.
posted by donkeyschlong at 3:07 PM on October 4, 2001

Uh, another of those pesky Mac users - my life is divided between my desktop (now venerable beige G3 minitower Zip and floppy drives) and my Powerbook (so I can sit on the sofa and refresh Metafilter all day. No floppy drive, USB external Zip), and the only thing that the floppy drive is used for is conveying files to my ex-girlfriend's Jurassic Performa 630 and my father's PC (a total of four or five uses in the last year).

Instead of floppies I (and all the other Mac users I know - primarily designers) have used Zips - essentially the same thing, but it can cope with file sizes that people will actually use. If you think you'll need it, a USB Zip is, frankly , a modest expense.
posted by Grangousier at 3:10 PM on October 4, 2001

but say your modem craps out, and you need new drivers, what then?

What is your PC and Windows craps out?

Predicted last bastion of floppy drives? LAW FIRMS: GET ME OUT OF HERE.
posted by ParisParamus at 3:11 PM on October 4, 2001

Well in Windows XP, the CD is bootable, and contains a recovery program. The OS allows you to make a startup disk for DOS, but if your drive is using NTFS you won't be able to do much.
posted by riffola at 3:20 PM on October 4, 2001

I say good riddance to 'em, but what irks me is that whenever I provide a ZIp DIsk for a job, they are never returned (no matter how many times I indicate I need it returned). Gets pricey!
posted by sharksandwich at 3:20 PM on October 4, 2001

I'm a lawyer and as far as I can remember, the last time I used or even saw a floppy used for any purpose in a law firm was 1998. I do have a floppy drive, and I assume it works, but everything I do I do over the net. Any software to bulky to transfer over the net would never fit on a floppy anyway. I do use my zip drive at home, a bit, but far less often then I though. (Mainly to do backups.)
posted by MattD at 3:24 PM on October 4, 2001

Um. Just because a computer doesn't ship with a floppy doesn't mean you can't install one yourself if you really feel the need for one. Add an internal drive to your tower or attach an external drive via USB (thewittyname: USB external floppies are available for Macs).

Me, I probably wouldn't bother; I'm barely aware of my A:\ drive as it is.
posted by mcwetboy at 3:26 PM on October 4, 2001

of course, this means that loading alternate os's is more of a pain. beos and atheos will only work for me from a floppy. and i don't always want to muck around with lilo in linux, especially if i'm installing a different version for testing. i always use the floppy boot method in that case.

overlooked in the conversation is the loss of the serial port. my workplace would have to look elsewhere for pc's, or buy extra cards because serial port availablity is a must have. we only have one radio shack dumb terminal left.
posted by lescour at 3:38 PM on October 4, 2001

In my opinion floppy drives become obsolete long ago - they are simply too small to be useful anymore and have been for many years. For about the same price as an add-on drive you can pick up a flash card reader and a 16mb card or an el cheapo CD burner either of which is far more useful.

but say your modem craps out, and you need new drivers, what then?

Does anybody actually put drivers on anything but CDs anymore?
posted by RevGreg at 3:40 PM on October 4, 2001

A tiny few Windoze programs insist on the presence of a floppy drive and disc, like Jaws, the screen reader. One found this out the hard way while trying to run Jaws under VirtualPC on a Girl Power iMac. Naturally, one could add a floppy drive.
posted by joeclark at 3:49 PM on October 4, 2001

This seems impractical to me, disc drives only cost around 10 bucks. Computer stores give them away for free if you ask. You can't use a boot disk if you don't have a disk drive. As was said before, it looks like WinXP will support CD Booting, and since this will only be on NEW computers, nobody will be installing anything before WinME.

Many programs use floppy disc boots now (Partition magic, System checking tools). I install linux with a floppy (I know you can burn it, but enh). What about those? It seems to me that Intel is just trying to be an "industry leader" and follow a stupid, stupid trend. Even without the floppy discs, computer manufacturers are still going to charge the same, because, well, they're as plentiful as DIRT (the floppy drives, not the manufacturers).

Oh, and how will I be able to play my old 286 games? Mmmm, sweet sweet CGA...
posted by starduck at 3:56 PM on October 4, 2001

Where Apple goeth, the industry will follow . . .

That's not the case for the one-button mouse, or AppleTalk, or the idea that you can't physically eject removable storage--you have to drag it to the trash can.
posted by ktheory at 3:58 PM on October 4, 2001

I'm given 1meg files all the time that people want burned on a cd. I make them take floppies instead. Most clients bring us copy on floppies, some bring in vector-based artwork or logos, which easily fit on a floppy.

Computer literacy is still pretty low in general, and while everyone in my office [video, advertising, multimedia] survives without floppies our clients don't...i guess it depends on what industry and where.

which reminds me, Sony floppies SUCK. Barely work half the time. buy Imation.
posted by th3ph17 at 4:04 PM on October 4, 2001

What about shcools? There are still people who don't even own PC's...and a lot of people who do (me w/ a new laptop and NO burner) don't have any other way to transfer their files besides at schools. This is especially big at high schools and lower levels as students need to bring floppies to school as not all kids a) have burners and b) not all school computers (or school for that matter) have PC's with CD-ROMs...
posted by jmd82 at 4:16 PM on October 4, 2001

Floppy drives are invaluable to those who actually work with PCs as opposed to home users. Network boot disks, boot images, etc all come in handy. Considering they add something like $8 to the price of PC, but to buy separately and install on your own will cost you double that plus time. I know intel isn't quick to do this to corporate PCs, but lots of us have home networks and we like to make disk images now and again.

Second, it isn't the end of just the floppy its the end of serial ports and ps/2 connections. Now that's even more absurd. Lots of equipment use serial ports - modems, PDA's, direct connection, etc. I'd hate to give up my USB ports for a USB keyboard and mouse especially considering I've got some PS/2 stuff I just love.

The PC world isn't as hardware controlled as the mac world and legacy is the name of the game here. If this does happen expect upset consumers that have to buy all these add on cards just to use 'old' equipment like a palm pilot cradle or a ps/2 infra mouse.

Sounds like an attempt to make cheaper motherboards and help out the lagging PC hardware market.
posted by skallas at 4:31 PM on October 4, 2001

I'm given 1meg files all the time that people want burned on a cd. I make them take floppies instead.

Why? The CD is faster to read, faster to write, and cheaper, even if 639MB of it are wasted.
posted by kindall at 4:41 PM on October 4, 2001

Don't forget gadgets that use PS/2 as a power source. Like a Slim Zip Drive aimed at the laptop market. Bring your toys over to your friends house and his new PC won't be able to use them. Blah. Intel frequently aggravates me.
posted by Nauip at 4:51 PM on October 4, 2001

every single floppy disk in my house has a virus (i don't know how it happened, but it just did.). the name of it escapes me, but it's one of those that scrambles the fdisk thing if you accidentally leave the disk in while booting the computer up.

to hell with floppies. i love my 250 zip drive. and with my cracked version of MacOpener, i will be an unstoppable force!
posted by lotsofno at 5:18 PM on October 4, 2001

People worried about the same things when Apple stopped shipping floppy drives. None of them turned out to be problems. Those few Mac users who really, really need to store miniscule quantities of data on pathetic, slow, unreliable media can buy add-on floppy drives, but most don't bother.

Give it a few years. Not only will you have found something else that does better the job floppies once did, you'll wonder why you ever thought they were a good idea and laugh at the people who refuse to move on.

posted by Mars Saxman at 5:21 PM on October 4, 2001

starduck said: "As was said before, it looks like WinXP will support CD Booting, and since this will only be on NEW computers, nobody will be installing anything before WinME."

Okay, first of all, the bootup process happens before WinXP even starts, so saying "WinXP will support CD Booting" is just...wrong. It's your computer's hardware that supports CD booting -- specifically, the BIOS -- and it's been possible for years now (that's the "second of all"). Win98SE (and probably Win98) CDs are bootable, and contain the same set of tools as an emergency boot floppy on the boot image.

That having been said, I'd love to see the floppy drive finally die, but it doesn't need to be gotten rid of, it needs to be replaced. CDs are great, but the burning process is still too cumbersome. I'd love to see them replaced with LS-120 drives -- you can still read and write floppies, but you've also got 120mb disks.

and skallas said: "Second, it isn't the end of just the floppy its the end of serial ports and ps/2 connections."

That's a little scarier, IMHO. I love USB, but I still don't entirely trust it for the "essentials" (keyboard and mouse). Of course, most BIOSes support USB keyboards for their setup programs, and Linux has decent USB support now (not that I use it, but I like it), so I'm not sure what my concern is. Especially since I have a USB keyboard and mouse (just using them with the PS/2 adapters). I just don't like it.

And getting rid of serial ports? That's just wrong. Where am I going to plug in my external modem? And don't even get me started about USB modems.

I know PC manufacturers have been wanting to get rid of these "legacy" connections for a while now, but they're still used. A lot.

At least they're still keeping the parallel port for a while (although par port cards are cheap)... making people replace keyboards, mice, and removable media is enough, they don't need new printers too (or those USB->LPT adapaters).
posted by CrayDrygu at 5:31 PM on October 4, 2001

Sorry, but this sucks. I don't have a home network right now and it is much faster to transfer a text doc or a few jpegs from desktop to laptop via floppy than by emailing or burning a cd. I don't use floppies for backups, but I find them invaluable as a cheap, easily reusable means of moving files around. I have a zip drive, but hoo boy those cartridges are expensive and far from reliable.

Most companies I have worked with end up having to buy peripheral floppy drives for their Macs. It kind of ruins the design-y look when you have all this extra gear laying around.

This makes me crabby...
posted by missmerrymack at 6:15 PM on October 4, 2001

I do Mac tech support to pay my bills; since the abandonment of the floppy drive by Apple, none of my clients who use Macs have bought a single extra floppy drive.

I myself have used the free floppy drive that goes in my PowerBook bay, oh, maybe six times since December 1998, usually to recover a trashed eight-year-old floppy disk belonging to someone who thinks it's pretty cool they fit in your back pocket all day long. Zips are far more reliable than floppy disks.

My file transfers are easy: email, ethernet, crossover ethernet, Zip. How many more ways do I need?
posted by Mo Nickels at 8:05 PM on October 4, 2001

Yay to all the people I agree with! Boo to all the people I don't!
posted by thirteen at 10:32 PM on October 4, 2001

Ah I remember the removable media that came with my first PC - a cassette tape deck. Yes the mighty mighty TRS-80 Model III with it's capacious 16K RAM, 127x47 resolution in a glorious 2 colours, and blistering cassette drive.

I tried fooling it into thinking a Rolling Stones tune was a program once. It didn't work. More's the pity.

Yep, I'm that old.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 2:38 AM on October 5, 2001

Yay to all the people I agree with! Boo to all the people I don't!

This is the greatest comment of all time.
posted by yerfatma at 4:44 AM on October 5, 2001

Mac users surely rejoice. I remember when Apple announced that they would remove the floppy, at the time no one thought it'd be a good idea. But the more you think about it, the more sense it makes. The most popular usage of the floppy is transferring text files, such as in school. But text files are incredibly small and you have endless amounts of alternatives. You can copy and paste your document into an e-mail and send it out to any of the billion free e-mail accounts you may have, you can get some free space on an ftp server, use the free hosting places like geocities, use the free file hosting space, such as even apple's own apple tools.

What about this? It could be an interesting program that would teach the students of the Internet and all it is. Setup some servers that would be used to store accounts for each of the students where all he has to do is enter the login/password and upload/download his files. On school systems setup a custom ftp client that would not store the usernames/passwords and would expire each session in 5 minutes, as not to allow misuse. It's not a downside, it's an upside, this way you'll have more protection, for you wouldn't believe how many floppies are in the 'lost' bin all over libraries and computer halls. They're easy to forget.

As far as PCs and boot disks, I have found them nothing but trouble, they're easy to misplace, making you search for the CD and then the floppy. They might be corrupt, I don't know how it happens, but it does. Bootable CDs are much better, everything you need is on one CD, it's faster than a floppy and also the boot disk can be more versatile, you can have more options, recovery, access to different tools and whatnot, stuff you could never fit on a floppy.

Windows, for some reason always insists on checking all the drives, even the floppy, in which it would take 10-20 seconds going on about. It's sometimes annoying.

Serial ports are even worse. Sure they were useful when they came out, but now they're just problems. You have a plug with many pins, those are easy to damage, it's bulky and usually there are screws involved. When you installed it, you have to reboot. Each time. Then you hope that windows found the device, but it's always tricky, depends on what it is you're connecting, even if it is plug and play. Then you have to find the drivers and make sue the irq settings are not messed up.

The best thing I think apply did was use USB as soon as they did. Of course now every pc comes with two ports, and that's great, the difference between any other type of connection and usb is night and day. Plug in, plug out, plug in, plug out, it's works, it sets up the drivers, applies all the settings and works immediately. Of course I think there are problems with Linux and such, but with that platform you're never looking to make things easier. Another thing, pc and Mac peripherals/hardware can finally work on both platforms, or so I have found the case. Sure the packaging may say pc required or macos required, but I have yet to find anything that would give me any trouble at all, be it a macally keyboard to 6 mice, to printers, to even modems.
posted by tiaka at 5:59 AM on October 5, 2001

Ha ha, remember 8 inch floppies?! Those were hilarious!
posted by bob bisquick at 6:14 AM on October 5, 2001

On my PC, I did use my floppy drive - for boot disks, and to look through old, archived files. That's it. With my Mac, I have no floppy, and I don't miss it.


There's a lot more control on the Apple side when it comes to hardware. On the PC side, I could have an Asus motherboard, a WD hard drive, Joe Bob's PCI Card Thingamajig, and fifty other things by fifty other manufacturers. Intel is simply trying to control more and more of what goes on in the PC market, because they've got a huge share of the market.

Doesn't anyone see that this is a lot similar to, say, Microsoft? MS has the OS, and quickly spread to the applications, the browser, the other applications.... Intel has the CPU, and quickly spread to the motherboard, the memory, and now, the entire guts of the box.

What's AMD gonna do? If they're wise, AMD might take this opportunity to note continued support for the floppy drive, and maybe say, "We don't ram all sorts of specs down your throat, like Intel" (although they might do so, anyway).

The removal of PS/2 and serial ports face the same problems: too many hardware manufacturers to simply say, "That's it, it's over." One thing to consider is that Belkin sells a series of USB serial port adapters.

One quote from the article: PC types seem to hang on to their outdated technologies with rather more passion than their Mac counterparts

I'm not sure. I know Mac people who are using Really Darned Old peripherals... but the point is, they still work. It's going to take a heck of a marketing muscle for Intel to provide a compelling reason to dump their existing stuff. Good luck!
posted by hijinx at 6:59 AM on October 5, 2001

OK, ktheory, wake up and smell the OS! Macs have been able to eject removable media since OS8! To eject a floppy, CD or ZIP, simply select the disk then press command(apple key) + E. Voilà. Please don't bitch about an OS that you obviously do not use!

PeeCee users have relied on floppies due to the aforementioned lack of support for CD boot up on the antiquated motherboards.

Apple has once again pushed the computer industry to move forward with both the design of boxes and the use of newer technologies such as USB and even ethernet. As far as I know, most PeeCees to this day don't ship with NICs installed. What's up with that??

It seems to me that people who have an irrational attachment to the crappy media of a floppy are being held back by a basic lack of understanding about how to use a network for file transfer AND by the Microsoft side of the computer industry that still supports antiquated technologies such as serial and floppy.

I've had many clients who couldn't imagine file transfers without some sort of sneakernet, simply because they had not been trained about it. ALL Macs (for years) have had ethernet capability (or at least phone net) and therefore could be networked together. PeeCees have not, and still don't come with networking, so most users have no clue about transferring files without a disk of some kind.

It's an educational matter for the most part, I think. I have spent a lot of time training my clients about USB and how to transition from SCSI and ADB to USB.

I also agree with the comment by hijinx that PeeCee people are very very attached to old technologies and they don't like change. I read an essay just the other day by an older guy who still thinks that colors for computers are inherently bad and all computers should still be beige - like his computer that he uses a command line with.

Whatever. Personally, I prefer TITANIUM. :-)
posted by misangela at 2:36 PM on October 5, 2001

I read an essay just the other day by an older guy who still thinks that colors for computers are inherently bad

Link! Link!
posted by kindall at 2:42 PM on October 5, 2001

"To eject a floppy, CD or ZIP, simply select the disk then press command(apple key) + E. Voilà. Please don't bitch about an OS that you obviously do not use!"

I believe the key word that you missed in his post was "physically." Software != physical.

"As far as I know, most PeeCees to this day don't ship with NICs installed."

Actually, most do. I work at Best Buy, and I think the only computers we have -- including the laptops -- that don't come with ethernet are the eMachines, which are crap anyway. Unless I'm actually *working* at Best Buy when you ask me, then they're great.

"I also agree with the comment by hijinx that PeeCee people are very very attached to old technologies and they don't like change."

Just like all black people are great gospel singers, and all gay men are sissies.
posted by CrayDrygu at 3:54 PM on October 5, 2001

misangela: I also agree with the comment by hijinx that PeeCee people are very very attached to old technologies and they don't like change.

bzzt! Slight misinterpretation of my post.... My opinions may vary on the PC/old tech thing; I was simply quoting the article linked to in this thread. In fact, I'm still unsure if it's true.
posted by hijinx at 6:56 PM on October 5, 2001

CrayDrygu: By that reasoning, Macs have no power switch. Oh no, the design is flawed, Macs suck. What exactly is a keyboard if not a physical device, anyway?

And anyway, if you can be pedantic so can I: Macs have had a "physical" eject button since the very first day. It's kind of hidden inside the case, and you can't get at it very easily, but that's a good thing for a dangerous, possibly data-destroying function that really shouldn't be used unless you're in an emergency.

Stupid platform wars are so much fun...

posted by Mars Saxman at 7:46 PM on October 5, 2001

"CrayDrygu: By that reasoning, Macs have no power switch. Oh no, the design is flawed, Macs suck."

Alright, first things first here. Don't put words in my mouth. Not once have I ever said Macs suck, and I can say that with full confidence, because I don't think they do.

And while we're apparently being "pedantic" (gee, I'm sorry for pointing out a difference between hardware and software), I haven't seen a computer with a power switch in ages -- they have buttons. Macs just have 'em on the keyboard, which really is a more sensible place, what with towers being placed under desks and slightly out of reach now.

But that's aside from the fact that I don't get your logic at all. I said -- no wait, ktheory said it, so why are you bitching at me? -- that Macs have no physical floppy eject button. And they don't -- it's done in software. By that reasoning, Macs have no power button? Well, no, because there's a physical button you push, and the computer turns on and off.

"What exactly is a keyboard if not a physical device, anyway?"

Or are you claiming that "Command + E" is an "eject button?" Well, by that same logic, my computer comes with all sorts of neat buttons. I have buttons for copy and paste (Ctrl + C and Ctrl + V), a button for opening a new Explorer window (Win + E), a button for the "log off/lock screen/shut down/etc" screen (Ctrl + Alt + Del)...oh, and a power button! (Win -> U -> Enter)

I thought it rather obvious that by "physical eject button" he didn't mean Cmd+E -- he meant button attached to a mechanism that pushes the disk out of the drive. And the emergency eject doesn't count as an eject button any more than the emergency hatch in an elevator counts as a valid exit.

"Stupid platform wars are so much fun..."

You're the one who's having a platform war here. Like I said, I don't give a shit if you use a Mac or PC or TRS-80. I fail to see how saying "Macs don't have a physical eject button", especially when they don't, makes a platform war.

I swear, reading comprehension is sorely lacking around here...point out the difference between software and hardware, and all of a sudden you're accused of saying Macs suck and starting a war...
posted by CrayDrygu at 10:55 PM on October 5, 2001

Er...just to clarify a bit...that "eject button" could even be like what's on CD drives. The act of pushing the button isn't what ejects the disk, but there's a button, one whose sole purpose is for ejecting the CD. One that doesn't use a software method of ejecting, so it works even if you've, say, blown away MacOS and you're running Linux on your iMac. Hmm, Cmd+E doesn't seem to eject my floppy in BASH.

Oh no, I mentioned linux. Would you like to call me a communist Penguinista now, Mars?
posted by CrayDrygu at 11:02 PM on October 5, 2001

i'm kinda surprised no mac user has mentioned the bent paperclip trick.
posted by patricking at 1:19 AM on October 6, 2001

PeeCee people are very very attached to old technologies and they don't like change

teehee ...you couldn't make this stuff up.
posted by normy at 1:44 AM on October 6, 2001

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