That delightful 1.0 website is owned by Tom Persky, who believes himself to be “the last man standing in the floppy disk business”. Who are we to argue? By the way, Tom has had that address since about 1990 – evidently that was when a cyber-squatter offered the domain for $ 1,000, and although Tom made fun of paying up to $ 1 for any URL, his wife withdrew the booklet. checks and he has had to thank her for it ever since.
My business, which used to be 90% CD and DVD duplication, now sells 90% blank floppy disks. It is shocking to me. – Tom Persky
In the course of writing a book all about your favorite less-than-stiff medium, authors Niek Hilkmann and Thomas Walskaar sat down to talk to Tom about what it’s basically like to sell stroller whips in the age of the electric car.
Tom also owns diskduper.com, where he started with floppies, duplicating them. In the 1980s and 1990s, being in this industry was a bit like churning out legal tender in the basement. As time went by and more companies stopped selling floppies or simply went bankrupt, Tom’s company’s focus shifted from duplication to sales. While the business was once 90% duplication and 10% floppy sales, in 2022 those percentages went to flop if you will.
So who’s buying floppies anyway?
While most of Tom’s income comes from hobbyists, who tend to want working records, and artists, who probably prefer to use broken ones, his biggest customers are commercial ones. He estimates that about half of the world’s airliners fleet is over 20 years old and still uses floppies in avionics. Raise your hand if you were still using floppies in 2002. I know, even though I also had one of those 100MB ZIP drives at home.
Tom also cites outdated medical equipment that still uses floppies, industrial companies that use floppy-based cameras, and his biggest client of all: the embroidery business. There are thousands of fancy automatic wire painting machines out there, and they were mostly made when the 3.5 ″ floppy disk was the pinnacle of data storage technology. That’s just the way it goes.
Then there are the hobbyists, the artists and the “other” category. The “hobbyists” obviously include the retrocomputer crowd, which probably intersects a bit with “other”, represented by the number of floppies that have been used as conference badges. Tom says he sold “a lot of discs for that, especially the recycled discs that couldn’t be reformatted”. Do you want to bet?
‘Floppy Disk’: an elegant name for an elegant medium
In this excellent interview, Tom points out that while CDs and DVDs look futuristic and sophisticated, they are almost as easy to produce as pouring plastic into a mold. Floppies, on the other hand, have several components, about nine of which are unique.
Unlike CDs and DVDs, floppies were a special piece of technology with a complicated manufacturing process. And although older media like vinyl and cassettes have seen a resurgence, Tom believes floppies do not await such a fate.
It could be argued that cassettes are also quite complicated. But consider that data centers and server ranchers have never stopped with tape backups, even though they have often been relegated to the fourth line of defense.
While the tapes aren’t quite the same as the Alice In Chains EPs we consumed in middle school, the tools and equipment to make plastic items containing magnetic tape running between two reels have never quite gone away. The same cannot be said of the floppy disk tools and equipment, which Tom says would cost about $ 25 million to raise from the dead. I can see it now: Phoenix Floppy. They will be fire.
Are floppies definitely obsolete?
While the move to unibody plastic circle-shaped rigid media and then USB drives was obviously positive for the sake of more storage, looking back it looks like a tech lure and a switch – a subtle step backwards disguised as progress in come on. Hey, check out this shiny new camera series as we take out the headphone jack. The problem, of course, comes when the rest of the industry adopts this kind of nonsense, and then companies slowly but surely stop making headphone jacks, or some other sleek, electromechanical thing that has served us well for decades. I don’t want to be right about this.
At 72, Tom has no plans to leave the floppy disk business. When asked why he still likes them today, he jokes that it’s because he forgot to go out, but it’s obvious that Tom likes floppies more than a little. This is a great interview with a great guy who sounds just like one of us. “Me, I just like getting up in the morning, having people ask me questions and trying to solve problems.”