Removable media, such as floppy and optical disks, are still used in many sectors because they are considered secure. But when the drives – typically now obsolete – fail, the practice of using removable media need not stop.
Magnetic floppy disks were introduced in the 1970s (8-inch in 1971 and 5.25 in 1976) and the 3.5-inch, more rugged and compact floppy disk appeared on the scene in 1982, the same year optical compact disc (CD) came to market.
The use of floppy disks, in the workplace and at home, declined in the late 1990s as a result of improved computer networking. Optical disks, with their much larger capacities, faired a bit better until solid-state solutions such as USB sticks and CD cards became very popular.
However, in many industrial sectors, these yesteryear technologies were designed into systems intended to provide decades of service. Moreover, their use was built into procedures that must still be followed today. For example, in September 2022, thenationalnews.com ran an article entitled ‘Who still use floppy disks? Japan’s digital minister declares war on outdated’ in which a tweet from the minister was cited as saying some 1,900 government procedures require the business community to use discs (floppy disc, CD, MD, etc) to submit applications and other forms.
The continued widespread use of discs in Japan is set to come to close. However, that’s the business community we’re talking about. Many industrial sectors around the world still use floppy discs; as was highlighted in a recent HubSpot Hustle article entitled ‘The floppy disk is still kickin’’. It says some airplanes (such as the Boeing 747 and Airbus A320) and certain medical equipment still use floppies.
In our blog ‘Suffering From a Lack of Drive?’ we discussed how the lives of host systems with failing and now obsolete drives can be extended, and user confidence restored, through using solid-state based form-fit-function emulators.
Such emulators are configured to match the requirements of the host system, so it can be a simple case of fit and forget; and with our emulators the solid-state memory is always a Compact Flash (CF) card.
In the majority of cases the card can be ejected, which means it can be treated in the same way as the old media and used for backups and system restoration. Also, unless requested by a customer, our cards use multi-level cell (MLC) Flash technology (as opposed to single-level cell, SLC) to provide high capacity. And although MLC is not as fast as SLC, it is still faster than the magnetic or optical technology it replaces – and the emulator is configured to operate at the read / write speeds expected by the host system.
Though CF cards were introduced in 1994 (by SanDisk) they still remain popular and are designed into many industrial products. They are also a favourite with professional photographers, who prefer them over SD and microSD cards (as used in lower to mid-end cameras and a host of other commercial products).
Also, the IT community likes CF cards too, as a bootable CF card (one with a compact operating system), enables a crashed computer to boot so that further recovery measures can be taken.
Emulators that use CF cards are lifesavers to anyone wishing to keep their host system operational when the original drives fail and are no longer available (and the media is getting harder to source too). CF cards will, like most solid-state memory devices, evolve over time (higher capacities, faster speeds..) while retaining their durable and rugged form factor.
And if the emulator has an Ethernet port, well… that opens up a whole world of opportunities, which we’ll discuss in a future blog.