There are fewer than 20 Boeing 747-200s still in service worldwide, and only in cargo or military configurations. The U.S. Air Force has six of them, two of which are Air Force One. It’s unclear if they still use floppy disks, too, but until 2019 the U.S. military didn’t use the older 8-inch floppy disks in its arsenal.
Several other types of commercial aircraft also use floppy disks, including newer variants of the 747 and 767, older Airbus A320s, and some business jets, such as Gulfstream aircraft built before the 1990s. It’s possible to upgrade from a floppy disk to a USB stick, SD card, or even wireless transfer, but doing so can cost thousands of dollars — and means making changes to something outdated but known to work.
“We find ourselves in some other weird evolutionary dead end because everything has to bow to the gods of aviation reliability,” says Brian Ford of ACI Jet, a California-based aircraft maintenance company. “We’re still using PCMCIA cards and Zip disks, and they’re getting harder to find. Our design cycles are much longer [they’re] Getting behind consumer devices, but we’re catching up. “
After the rodeo incident, Necaise decided to finally upgrade, but not to a whole new machine—just to a floppy-to-USB emulator. The devices, which cost about $275 each, replace the floppy drive with a simple USB port and are custom-built by a handful of companies.
“Embroidery and CNC [computer-operated industrial tools for cutting materials such as metal or wood] says Joshua Paschal of PLR Electronics, a Texas-based emulator sales company.
PLR created several basic models that can be configured to work on nearly 600 machines. Their list includes looms, stage lighting consoles, circuit board printers, oscilloscopes, digital printers, electrocardiographs, vector signal analyzers, injection molding machines, tube benders, cutters, wire cutters, plasma cutters, metal presses , sound samplers, musical instruments such as pianos and keyboards, computer floppy disk drives from companies such as Sony, Panasonic and NEC, and dozens of embroidery and CNC machines.
Most of these cost thousands of dollars, and some aren’t even that old, so owners want to keep them around for as long as possible: “A lot of these devices never got upgraded to USB, even when USB was dominant,” says Passover . “They’re still stuck with floppy drives, especially embroidery machines. That leaves a huge opportunity in the market to elevate these guys.”
People come to PLRs for upgrades not just because they can’t find disks, but because they can’t find replacement drives. “Even when we started selling these devices 12 years ago, floppy drives were getting harder to find, so I can’t imagine that now,” Paschal said. Sales are down, but Paschal said the company is still selling 2,000 to 3,000 units a year.
Floppy disks may never truly die. “There are still people in the world busy finding, repairing and maintaining phonograph players from 1910, so it’s really hard for me to believe that floppy disks are going away,” said Lori Emerson, a professor at the university. Founder of University of Colorado Boulder and Media Archeology Lab.
Leave a Reply