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Floppy disk spins its way toward graveyard.

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Long the most common way to store letters, homework and other computer files, the floppy disk is going the way of the horse upon the arrival of the car: it'll hang around, but never hold the same relevance in everyday life.

And good riddance, say some home computer users. The march of technology must go on. Like the penny, the floppy drive is hardly worth the trouble, computer makers say.

Dell Computer Corp. stopped including a floppy drive in new computers in spring 2003, and Gateway Inc. has followed suit on some models. Floppies are available on request for $10 to $20 US extra.

"To some customers out there, it's like a security blanket," said Dell spokesman Lionel Menchaca. "Every computer they've ever had has had a floppy, so they still feel the need to order a floppy drive."

A few customers have complained when they found their new computers don't have floppy drives, but it's becoming uncommon as they realize the benefits of newer technologies, Menchaca said.
Most new laptops don't come with a floppy.

More and more people are willing to say goodbye to the venerable floppy, said Gateway spokeswoman Lisa Emard.

But, "As long as we see customers request it, we'll continue to offer it," she said. "We'll be happy to move off the floppy once our customers are ready to make that move."

Some people may hesitate to abandon the floppy just because they're so comfortable with it, said Tarun Bhakta, president of Vision Computers near Atlanta.

At his store, the basic computer model comes with all necessary equipment, but no floppy.

"People say they want a floppy drive, and then I ask them, `When was the last time you used it?' A lot of the time, they say, `Never,"' Bhakta said.

But plenty of regular, everyday computer users don't want to let their floppies go.

"For my children, they can work at school and at home. I think they're a pretty good idea," said shopper Mark Ordway.

"I just want something simple for me and my husband to use," said Pat Blaisdell.

The floppy disk has several replacements, including writeable compact discs and keychain flash memory devices. Both can hold much more data and are less likely to break.

Even so, floppies have been around since the late 1970s. People are accustomed to them. They were the oldest form of removable storage still around.

In a sense, it's amazing floppy disks have hung around for this long.

They only hold 1.44 megabytes of space — still enough for word processing documents, but little else.

By comparison, CDs store upward of 700 megabytes, and the flash memory drives typically carry between 64 and 256 megabytes.

And it's been a long time since floppy disks were even floppy. They used to come in a bendable plastic casing and were 5.25 inches wide, but Apple Computer Inc. pioneered the smaller, higher density disks with its Macintosh computers in the mid-1980s.

Then Apple become the first mass-market computer manufacturer to stop including floppy drives altogether with the release of their IMac model in 1998.

"It's not officially dead, but there's no question it's a slow demise," said Tim Bajarin, principle analyst for Creative Strategies, a technology consulting firm near San Jose, Calif.

"You had a few people . . . who were screaming, but in a short time, they adjusted."

It may not be too many years before floppy disks are joined by DVDs. Microsoft founder Bill Gates recently predicted the DVD would be obsolete within a decade.


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