Floppy Disks

Flop It Like It’s Hot: Floppy Disk Sales Are Heating Up In 2018

Having lived through the 90’s, I regret to inform you all that floppy disks are coming back. I wouldn’t so much call this a comeback. I would call it a micro-novelty among people who have forgotten the horrors of using them. That or people too young to have experienced needing to use them in any serious capacity. This weeks blog post goes out to every grade school teacher I’ve ever tried to pull the “I finished the paper, but the disk it was on is corrupt” line on. It’s also dedicated to a close friend of mine and label co-owner who’s dipping their toe in the pool. The same friend who me a pencil case with a multi-part RAR archive split over twenty-some-odd disks. Without a doubt, the third to last one was unreadable. Let’s begin.

The Floppy Disk Resurgence

Rolling Stone, the CBC, and others have reported, floppy disks are coming back! Sort of. While it is true that the number of floppy disks selling is increasing, it’s a microscopic market. For the past few years, roughly 170 floppy disks have sold per year. In comparison, roughly 20,000 vinyl records sell per day here. That’s definitely a selling point for some. This is especially true if you’re the type that’s looking for something unique to collect. It would seem that it’s the time to get materials & functioning floppy disk drives before they dry up. That or the floppy resurgence will be a footnote in quirky music format history.

Resurgance in Floppy Disk Sales by Year 2006-2018

In Defense of the Floppy Disk

Defending modern floppy disk releases is much the same argument for defending cassettes. Cassette tapes can hold two hours of recorded sound. Floppy disks have a little less than 1.4 megabytes of data. This is room for roughly thirty seconds of a 320kbps MP3. That or hours using obscure file compression techniques. I thought floppy disks were cheap. A cursory search shows they cost roughly a dollar each in bulk. This is a little bit less than twice the cost of bulk C30 cassettes from NAC. If you want to play these things, you’ll need to do some homework as Windows 10 no longer support floppy disk drives. Not a problem, there are still external floppy drives with drivers that run on modern systems. Mac fortunately, seems to still have some limited support.

Kyroflux Floppy Disk player

To me, the biggest killer is that the longevity of this medium is fleeting at best. I recently went through the effort of trying to preserve what’s left of my childhood. I bought a Kryoflux and was only able to archive about half of the disks I owned. I have high hopes that these new disk releases have a better chance of surviving than mine did. Magnetic media has a habit of not doing so great. If you do have old floppies, consider donating them to someone who can get them saved before it’s too late. New releases? Enjoy them while you can. Until next time, tell me how wrong I am down below.

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msuci appreciator
  • Jul 22,2018 at 13:06

    Please don’t forget about other formats like ‘.mod’. Using this format I was able to store 6 tracks (length: around 20 minutes) of my last year’s album on a floppy —> https://remute.bandcamp.com/album/limited
    And I also think that a 3,5″ is quite reliable – even some 25 yeear old crappy ones.
    Using floppy disks regularly for my DJ-sets and never experienced any problems loading files from it. To be honest: I’ve experienced more trouble with old CD-ROMs getting unreadable than with floppy disks…
    In my opinion the floppy disk as a format makes much sense as storage for executable file formats like ‘.mod’ – small, sexy, floppy. :)
    You can do a lot with 1,44 MB and having this limitation in mind I get a lot of inspiration artistically…

  • Jul 20,2018 at 22:59

    Floppies are absolutely and wildly unreliable. I should know because the company I work for has old machines on our manufacturing floor that accept CNC programming only on floppy disc and finding blank media that is reliable is a world of pain.We have as few as 1/4 that are usable. And we are buying them New In Box 100 at a time. Quality control in their manufacture at this point is probably nonexistent. May I propose a move to ca. 2000 IBM vintage “DiskOnKey” flash drives? They were only 8MB capacity. Still room for less than 1 minute of CD quality audio, and they have the IBM logo on the cap! I think that these might prove to be a better compromise for the vaporwave market. Not as Miami Vice as a 3.5″ floppy, but when Vaporwave cross pollinates with Berlin Techno*, these could be just the storage medium!

    * has this already happened?

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