Tech

From Chuck E. Cheese to Boeing 747s, the floppy disk lives on


In brief: If you’re old enough to know that floppy disks are more than just save icons, nostalgically recalling pulling down write-protect tabs, scribbling on the labels, and those storage boxes with the lockable lids, then take heart in the knowledge that the 3.5-inch floppy is still clinging to life, even at Chuck E. Cheese.

The revelation comes from Chuck E. Cheese employee Stewart, who goes by the TikTok handle showbizpizzaman. His viral clip shows that the company is still using floppy disks, which can hold 1.44MB, to store the latest routines, lighting, and sync data for the mechanical animals; the one he loads is called ‘Evergreen Show 2023.’

Those who were around in the 1990s will likely smile with familiarity at how long the whole process takes as the disk is loaded into the “Cyberstar” rack-mount computer system that dates from around 1998.

@showbizpizzaman

How to install a new show at Chuck E. Cheese

⬠original sound – Stewart

As Ars Technica notes, the computer extracts .CEC files from a self-extracting file called EGREEN23.EXE that was compressed using the v2.50 shareware version of PKSFX by PKWARE, which was copyrighted in 1999.

Sadly for retro fans, Stewart says the video marks the last time Chuck E. Cheese will be using a floppy disk as the company is upgrading to a new file system for its animatronic creatures. Fewer than 50 of the company’s 600 restaurants still use floppy disks for the 25-year-old Studio C layout of animatronics.

Floppy disks were one of the entries on our ‘Once-Iconic Tech Products That Are Now a Fading Memory’ feature, but the archaic technology is still being used today. Wired writes that the majority of companies still using them are small businesses with tight margins that either never got around to updating their aging systems or simply can’t afford to.

One of the most famous areas where 3.5-inch floppy disks are still used is for applying software updates to older Boeing 747s planes still in service. Tom Persky, founder of floppydisk.com, last year confirmed that he still receives orders from airlines. “Probably half of the air fleet in the world today is more than 20 years old and still uses floppy disks in the avionics,” he said.

The military was also a long-term user of floppy disks. It was only in 2019 that the Pentagon stopped using 1970’s IBM Series-1 computers – complete with eight-inch floppy disks – as part of its nuclear weapons systems. The agency moved away from this method of storage and opted for SSDs instead; there are unlikely to be any floppy drives in the $75 million network the Air Force just acquired to protect its nuclear silos.

Floppy disks remain a common sight in other areas, such as medical devices and some government agencies, partly due to their reliability. But drives and the disks are becoming harder to find and thus more expensive – 8-inch floppies are almost extinct – so don’t expect them to be around for another 30+ years.



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