The floppy disk, already abandoned by most computer users, has been pushed closer to extinction by a Sony decision to end manufacturing of the storage media this early next year.
Sony, one of a handful of companies that still sells floppy disk media in Japan, will end sales of floppy disks by March 2011 due to dwindling demand.
The Japanese domestic floppy disk market amounted to about 12 million disks last year, of which Sony had a 70% share, it said. A 10-pack of Sony 3.5-inch floppy disks costs $6 at a central Tokyo electronics store.
Many of the remaining customers are legacy equipment users in the education and research sectors, said Sony.
Demand for the disks peaked in the mid-nineties when the most popular type of floppy, the "HD" disk, offered 1.44MB of storage space, but it began to fall in the latter part of the nineties when the more durable and higher capacity CD-R and CD-RW formats reached the mass market. In contrast to the small capacity of the floppy disk, a CD could hold 650MB so offered obvious benefits to users. In recent years USB memory sticks have become popular for transporting data between computers.
To put the floppy market in perspective, consider those 12 million disks sold in Japan last year. Together they can hold about 17 terabytes of data, enough to fill about 700 single-sided Blu-ray discs.