The story of the last businessman still in the floppy disk business

Tram Ho

In early September, Japan’s Digital Minister shocked the tech world when he declared war on floppy disks, an outdated technology that has turned out to be still widely used in organizations. administration of this country. But it turns out that not only Japanese administrative agencies, there are many other sectors that continue to use this technology.

That’s why the business of, the American company that supplies and recycles floppy disks, is still alive today and its founder, Tom Persky, calls himself “last man in the floppy disk business”. In addition to floppy disks, Mr. Persky’s company provides other services including transferring data to discs, recycling and selling used or damaged floppy disks to artists around the world.

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All of this makes an important player in the small but still profitable floppy disk business.

Up to half of the world’s fleet still uses floppy disks

In a recent interview with AIGA, Mr. Persky revealed, it turns out that not only customers such as Japanese administrative agencies, many organizations from the industrial production sector are being “big customers”. the places with the most money” by Mr. Persky, especially the aviation industry. Why is that?

Imagine in 1990, you’re building a large industrial machine in the industry. You want to design it to last at least 50 years, and you want to use the best technology available today ,” said Mr. Persky. yes. At the time it was a 3.5-inch floppy disk .”

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Probably half of the world’s fleet is just over 20 years old and still uses floppy disks in some avionics. That’s a huge number of users. There are also devices. For medical equipment, it still needs to use floppy disks to get information in and out. But the biggest customer is the embroidery business.Thousands and thousands of those machines were built to use floppy disks and they’re still working. use them till now .” He added.

Not to mention hobbyists who collect floppy disks from all over the world – ” people who want to buy 20 or 50 floppy disks ” at a time.

Of course, the most requested type is still the standard 3.5-inch floppy disk, 1.44 MB each, which he sells for about $2 each. In addition to this popular floppy disk, Mr. Persky also offers 5.5-inch and 8-inch floppy disks, but demand for these types of floppy disks is very low. Not only thanks to the huge inventory of floppy disks, Mr. Persky also keeps a large number of old computers – computers still equipped with floppy drives – for floppy copying services, transferring data from floppy disk and vice versa.

“I just forgot how to get out of this business”

While customer demand for this aging data storage technology has turned out to be surprisingly high, it is fortunate that Mr. Persky and his company still have a large inventory of this technology. This old archive.

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It all started with Mr. Persky in the early 90s when he worked for a software development company. At that time, the only way to distribute software was by using a floppy disk. Then his company got a deal with a large company in the US and needed hundreds of thousands of floppy disks to copy and file tax returns for the company’s employees. And then when he noticed that the number of floppy duplication machines was only used once in 3 months, he decided to use it for his part-time job, as well as hoard more floppy disks and turn it into a business like nowadays.

At that time, when floppy disks were still ubiquitous, his company did not stand out from other vendors. But as the big companies began to stop making them and most other retailers quickly cleared their stock of floppy disks to switch to other products, people in need began to look to Mr. Persky and floppydisk. com when he was one of the last people to sell this old tech gadget.

Everybody in the world looks to the future and concludes, this is an industry that is dying, ” said Mr. Persky . out of this business ” – ” Because I bought all the equipment and inventory, I thought I would keep this business. I stuck with it and didn’t try to expand it either . ”

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Fortunately for Mr. Persky and, although the number of users of the floppy disk dropped, the number of people offering the product dropped even faster. As a result, despite the decline in this business, Mr. Persky’s market share in this area increased significantly. Admittedly he has never been a visionary, what he does is merely responding to customer trends and with a little luck, he has kept his business until now.

Although there are still about 500,000 floppy disks in stock, but for Mr. Persky, that is still not enough to meet the existing needs of customers, so not only selling blank floppy disks, he also provides recycling services. floppy disks – not only for 3.5 inch floppy disks but also rarer ones like 5.25 inch and 8 inch. It turns out that the volume of floppy disks that customers send in for recycling is “incredible”, sometimes up to 1,000 discs per day.

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At least 4 more years

The needs of users are not few, so why do manufacturers stop making them?

According to Mr. Persky, the last time he bought a blank floppy disk from a manufacturer was 10-12 years ago. Mr. Persky said the reason is simply business efficiency. Producing a floppy disk is much more complicated than a CD or DVD when it is made up of 9 different parts: plastic mold, disc core, spring, disc cover, etc. The cost is too high for the production of floppy disk, especially differentiated it from other storage devices of the time such as CDs or DVDs, while declining demand was the reason why floppy disk manufacturers stopped.

For now, the hope of restarting production of this technological device is even more remote. For more than 20 years now, the inventory of floppy disks still meets the world’s needs, there is no guarantee that the investment of $ 25 million in a new line to produce them will be profitable. Especially when the floppy disk machines will eventually stop working and there is not much demand for this old storage technology.

Now, Japan also declares war on the use of floppy disks in administrative offices. In 2019, the US Air Force also announced the replacement of floppy disks with another device in the nuclear weapons management system. Even Mr. Persky – after more than 20 years in the floppy disk business – believes the business will be around for at least another four years.

Maybe that’s when the floppy disk really ended its role in the world.

Refer to The Register,, Fastcompany

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Source : Genk