Japanese gov celebrates demise of the floppy disk — 1,000+ regulations requiring their use have been scrapped

Floppy disks today
(Image credit: Future)

Japan’s Digital Minister, Taro Kono, is celebrating the demise of the floppy disk. "We have won the war on floppy disks on June 28," Kono told Reuters earlier today. The milestone, decades after the storage medium’s heyday, was reached as the scrapping of 1,034 official regulations that required the filing of floppy disks was enacted.

Back in January, we reported on the Japanese government's planned abolition of the floppy disk as it sought to modernize. Thus, these last few months have been the final hurrah for the iconic magnetic media format in Japan. As of June 28, only one official regulation requires a floppy to be filed—an environmental stricture related to vehicle recycling.

Japan’s Digital Minister, Taro Kono (Image credit: Taro Kono)

As you can see from his 2.5 million followers on Twitter/X, Kono is something of a character. He seems to relish his role in modernizing Japan’s creaking bureaucracy. He has been vocal about the elimination of long-in-the-tooth formats like floppy and optical disks and has also been dancing on the graves of fax machines and other analog technologies.

Floppy disks were first introduced over 50 years ago, and the largest capacity commonly available disks would hold just 1.44MB of files. This might still be sufficient for simple textual data, but richer content can easily overwhelm it. The hero image in this article was a 3.92MB file before being downsampled and cropped, for example.

The retail availability of floppy disks and a lack of supporting hardware in modern devices will also have encouraged their elimination. Sony, the last floppy media maker, stopped making diskettes over a decade ago. On a personal level - I have access to lots of computers, but none have a floppy disk drive or an optical drive. However, I keep a USB DVD-RW drive for the odd occasion that I need to dig out an old file.

We think eliminating the need for floppy disks and drives from Japanese bureaucracy is a good thing. However, there are still old pieces of equipment ranging from avionics and healthcare to embroidery segments – as well as hobbyists and retro computing folk – that will want to keep their precious floppies. If you own or run a useful and serviceable piece of equipment that uses floppies for data storage or transfer, then why should you abandon it? The same goes for transport systems like the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency’s Caltrain – but there are safety worries concerning the potential failure of their old mission-critical hardware.

Mark Tyson
News Editor

Mark Tyson is a news editor at Tom's Hardware. He enjoys covering the full breadth of PC tech; from business and semiconductor design to products approaching the edge of reason.

  • Neilbob
    It's astonishing to me that anyone in the world still uses this media/storage format. It was always so unreliable, even in ideal situations.

    The mention of Taro Kono's vendetta to abolish faxes puts me in mind of a job I had a few years ago (story time here):

    I worked for a place that often required patient details to be sent by the NHS (UK), and they absolutely insisted these details had to be faxed. I'm talking as recently as 2018 here. The reason given, when I got the opportunity to ask was that 'email isn't secure enough for such information'.

    Seriously? A fax that gets spit out on a piece of paper that dozens of people could potentially get hold of is more secure?

    As it happens, I had a PC specifically set up to receive faxes old-style, but they didn't know this. Had to use an ancient Windows XP machine with a dial-up modem because I never could manage to make Windows 7 work properly, but I wanted so badly to just ditch the whole faxing monstrosity and be done with it. Except for those patient details, the only other thing we received was incessant adverts from Dell, of all places.

    I hope this is no longer the case, but I wouldn't be surprised if it is.


    Yeah, I know this has very little to do with the article... but I like being that creaky old granddad who sits all day in an overstuffed armchair relating tales of yesteryear to relatives who pretend to be interested while exchanging long-suffering glances behind my back.
  • ehkuso
    "He has been vocal about the elimination of long-in-the-tooth formats like floppy and optical disks and has also been dancing on the graves of fax machines and other analog technologie."

    Fax is a digital technology.

    Most "fax machines" I see in Japan are multi-function devices that can scan and print. Fax reception may be POTS but can also be Internet.

    US healthcare depends on "fax machines" as does law and architecture.

    As a Japan citizen and voter, I regard Kono Taro as a clown. He appeals to some non-Japanese because his comments about use of fax in Japan allows them to think they are superior to the Japanese.