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Japanese Government Will Finally Stop Using Floppy Disks and CD-ROMs

Hannord
(Image credit: Hannord/Amazon)

IBM started to ship diskettes in 1973 and this type of removable storage media eventually become so popular that Japanese government agencies imposed a rule to submit data on diskettes and over time on CD-ROMs. Apparently, this rule is still valid, so officials have been using diskettes and CD-ROMs — instead of emails or cloud storage services — to submit data to this day

Some of Japan's Ministers of State think that it's time to move forward.

"Where can you buy floppy disks these days?" Taro Kono, Japan's Minister of Digital Affairs, asked reporters rhetorically on Tuesday, reports Nikkei. "We will change [these rules] promptly." 

At present, Japanese laws contain 1,900 provisions requiring the use of obsolete storage media, such as 3.5-inch diskettes or CD-ROMs. Going digital will make Japanese government agencies more efficient overall as file transfers via the Internet are quicker. But, like other authorities, Japanese government agencies must follow rules meticulously — and so the Japanese government has created a task force to revise the rules set decades ago. 

Nowadays it is not only hard to obtain diskettes (as they are barely manufactured by anyone), it's also difficult to use them to store anything, because modern text and spreadsheet files require much more space than their predecessors from the 1980s and 1990s. There are still applications that rely on file formats (and even software) released 30 or 40 years ago — and can therefore be stored on diskettes and/or CD-ROMs — the world has mostly moved on to USB flash drives, Blu-ray discs, and cloud storage services, all of which have larger capacities and are more efficient and reliable.  

That said, there are some industries that use diskettes and will continue to use them for a while. For example, some Boeing 747-400 planes use 3.5-inch diskettes for avionics software. Also, some of military equipment and sections (such as nuclear forces) continue to use not only 8-inch diskettes, but even punched cards. 

With thousands of laws requiring usage of diskettes or CD-ROMs, we assume it will take quite some time before the obsolete storage media goes extinct. Until then, one can still enjoy an external 3.5-inch diskette reader even on Windows 11 machines for as little as $20 (opens in new tab) — though it does require a special driver from Microsoft. 

Anton Shilov
Freelance News Writer

Anton Shilov is a Freelance News Writer at Tom’s Hardware US. Over the past couple of decades, he has covered everything from CPUs and GPUs to supercomputers and from modern process technologies and latest fab tools to high-tech industry trends.

  • Kurdain1
    Now if the DMV in the US would stop using fax machines and clay tablets.
    Reply
  • Eximo
    Probably outdated, but I was under the impression that a lot of nuclear launch stuff was still running on 10" floppy. But I also recall that they did a readiness study and a huge number of facilities were either not knowledgeable enough to perform a launch or the hardware wasn't in working order. Fired the general in charge as I recall. All started because they basically caught all the soldiers handing the answer sheet around during their certifications.

    Sadly, fax machines are still the only officially acceptable medium for things like Law, Healthcare, and Government. Until that changes they will be around. I blame Xerox lobbyists.
    Reply
  • Sippincider
    Hey I actually like faxes! Just for the fact when you’re on the phone with someone (business environment), it’s a LOT easier to give a phone number than spell out an email. Which more often than not gets misunderstood…

    Yeah we can text PDFs etc., but I haven’t seen anyone in this area who can do it from their work computers.
    Reply
  • Kamen Rider Blade
    You know we have this thing called Blu-Ray & BD-R's.

    They should also bring back DVD-RAM & BD-RAM.

    This way they can treat it like Floppy Discs, but much larger & Faster.

    And give them a nice Cartridge to protect them and allow double sided usage.
    Reply
  • Gary Salisbury
    Eximo, I think you may be mistaken. (No offense) I am unaware of there ever being a 10" floppy. The first floppies were 8", then came 5¼", and 3½". There were some oddball 1½"micro-floppies but they never made a splash because CDs came out and held more data. I have been in the computer business since 1969 so I have seen the entire progression of removable storage. My latest removable storage device is a 2TB SSD. What a long way from the 8" floppy!
    Reply
  • Sangheili112
    Gary Salisbury said:
    Eximo, I think you may be mistaken. (No offense) I am unaware of there ever being a 10" floppy. The first floppies were 8", then came 5¼", and 3½". There were some oddball 1½"micro-floppies but they never made a splash because CDs came out and held more data. I have been in the computer business since 1969 so I have seen the entire progression of removable storage. My latest removable storage device is a 2TB SSD. What a long way from the 8" floppy!

    It was the 8" being used for nuclear or the large ones.
    Ironically it's little more secure when it comes to data privacy and security other then the Japenese guy who lost a usb flash drive that had all the names in a city.

    But floppies not to many have readers anymore even the nuclear codes are using a old language from 1990s? Might be older that only few knows now
    Reply
  • DougMcC
    Kurdain1 said:
    Now if the DMV in the US would stop using fax machines and clay tablets.

    I imagine many states are behind the times, but almost every transaction with the CA DMV these days is online. The exceptions are mostly stuff where the laws require them to see you, e.g. I had to visit the DMV to take my real ID picture. That was the first time I physically visited them in the last decade.
    Reply
  • watzupken
    It is quite interesting to hear floppy disks even now, especially when we are talking about the supposedly technologically advanced Japan. Besides the fact that floppy disks don't offer a lot of storage in today's context, I feel they are very reliable storage. As I recall, this was still a common storage solution at least 2.5 to 3 decades back, and they don't fail, unlike today's flash drive that may die suddenly.
    Reply
  • TerryLaze
    Gary Salisbury said:
    Eximo, I think you may be mistaken. (No offense) I am unaware of there ever being a 10" floppy. The first floppies were 8", then came 5¼", and 3½". There were some oddball 1½"micro-floppies but they never made a splash because CDs came out and held more data. I have been in the computer business since 1969 so I have seen the entire progression of removable storage. My latest removable storage device is a 2TB SSD. What a long way from the 8" floppy!
    The number of inches doesn't have any impact until you see bro derrick look like a DJ trying to use a floppy. Well, I guess actual DJs would get it since singles are usually 7"
    Kamen Rider Blade said:
    You know we have this thing called Blu-Ray & BD-R's.

    They should also bring back DVD-RAM & BD-RAM.

    This way they can treat it like Floppy Discs, but much larger & Faster.

    And give them a nice Cartridge to protect them and allow double sided usage.
    Bah, they should upgrade from floppies to zip drives..
    Reply
  • KyaraM
    Sangheili112 said:
    It was the 8" being used for nuclear or the large ones.
    Ironically it's little more secure when it comes to data privacy and security other then the Japenese guy who lost a usb flash drive that had all the names in a city.

    But floppies not to many have readers anymore even the nuclear codes are using a old language from 1990s? Might be older that only few knows now
    I mean, if you transport a USB stick with sensitive data on it apparently completely unencrypted, then you are the security issue, not the USB stick... not as if it's very hard to encrypt them, either. And in all honesty, that applies to any and all media.
    Reply