Floppy Drives

Question: How is a floppy drive important to education?

The IT Guy says:
This is an interesting question. True "floppy disk drives" really haven’t existed since the 1980s, when the true "floppy" – a 5 ¼" disk – was replaced by the stiff 3 ½" 1.4 MB disk. Apple Computer stopped shipping its new computers with floppy drives in 1998 when the original iMac computer was introduced. Floppy disks have remained important for Windows users because they can be used as "boot disks" for re-imaging hard drives or killing troublesome virus infections. But software is now distributed either on CD or by Internet download, and floppy disks seem to be going the way of the dodo.

The old slogan "don’t copy that floppy" seems quite out of date today, with mp3 music piracy, digitized motion picture piracy, and concern over data theft with large capacity removable media devices like key drives and iPods ndash; see "iPods are the latest security risk" ndash; making headlines worldwide.

Conceptually, floppy disks are important to educational users and others because of the file portability they offer. Of course, floppy disks are also significant to education because they can be a source of viruses to computers on school networks. All school computers with floppy drives should have antivirus software installed and have it configured to automatically scan all floppy disks as they are inserted into the computer.

Floppy disks still can be a viable way for students to transport files back and forth between home and school, including PowerPoint and Word files. Floppy disks are very cheap, which is good, but they also are very susceptible to damage if they are dropped.

Recently a friend asked me to update her daughter’s old laptop computer, and I realized one evening that I didn’t have any new floppy disks in my house at all. I have entirely stopped using floppies, except in a rare occasion when someone else gives me a file on a disk. Most often, when someone needs to provide me with a file they either Email it to me or provide it to me on a CD or keydrive / thumbdrive. I would expect that, slowly, the rest of the computing world will follow suit with this trend away from using floppy disks entirely.

When today’s kindergarteners are graduating from high school, I am sure they will be amazed that anyone actually used floppy disks in the past. 1.4 megabytes? What could you even fit on that, they will ask. The answer: a lot of text! But not many photos, movies, or mp3 files; that is for sure!

Next Tip: Is the title "computer teacher" still current?