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e-business: After 30 years Dell sounds the death knell for the floppy disk.

Byline: Chris Tomlinson

The once ubiquitous floppy disk is soon to be ejecting permanently from our lives.

Last week, Dell announced there's no longer a role to play for the humble 3.5' floppy disk drive in its high-end PCs. And, lesser manufacturers will be sure to follow, spelling the end for the much loved magnetic media.

The floppy disk has travelled a long way since its first 8' incarnation in the 1970s which, thanks to its flexible black plastic case, was indeed floppy. The current 3.5' still bears its predecessor's name - despite being distinctly un-floppy.

Even the onslaught of CDrom technology initially failed to wipe out the floppy completely. After all, it was - and is - always necessary to have some mechanism, however slow, to backup or transfer small files, particularly for installing and configuring operating systems. If you have ever been the owner of the classic I-Mac you'll know how indispensable even a pathetic 1.4MB floppy disk can be - as it was the first personal computer not to be sold without one! For those that are not familiar with the classic I-Mac, it was also the first computer that looked good from behind and subsequently found its way onto reception desk everywhere, despite its Microsoft-less-ness being a hindrance to the receptionists themselves.

Mercifully, the classic I-Mac, is about to snuff it too as Apple have announced it is to cease its manufacture. The CD drive fitted as standard to the new I-Mac, like most current drives, is a read and write device (CD-RW), removing the need for the floppy completely.

The Internet also features in the list of assassins too. The floppy was once the sole means of transferring files, and exchanging software of any significance involved using dozens of the things. These days, software is more commonly downloaded directly from the manufacturer's web site.

An estimated ten billion floppy diskettes have been produced since 1970, and to my knowledge none were made biodegradable, so what are we going to do with them all now?

We have as many drinks coasters as we need already thanks to AOL's free trial CD - and the plastic covers would melt anyway. Perhaps a modern art installation at the IKON could account for a few thousand.

Many millions could be inserted under the short leg of wobbly tables, finally ridding mankind of those ugly spilt soup incidents.

No doubt, students will wallpaper their flats with the things claiming they have insulating properties, or cunningly fashion them into interesting jewellery.

But the reality is, that like most redundant technologies, the majority will end up as landfill.

The Internet may have contributed to the extinction of the floppy, and the I-Mac may have dealt it its first major blow, but it seems it will be the all-powerful Dell that finally turns it into a stiff.

Chris is Managing Director of WebXpress and can be contacted at Previous unedited articles can be found at
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Title Annotation:Business
Publication:The Birmingham Post (England)
Date:Apr 8, 2003
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