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Japan’s government has only just stopped using floppy disks

Decades after their heyday, Japan's Digital Agency says it's now "won the war on floppy disks," and finally moved its systems online.

A selection of 3.5-inch PC floppy disks, including games

The government of Japan has just ditched over 1,000 regulations in a bid to rid itself of the tyranny of floppy disks. Until this point, the archaic storage devices were still in regular use in Japanese government bureaucracy, but the country’s digital minister Taro Kono has now proudly proclaimed that Japan has “won the war on floppy disks,” and banished the flimsy magnetic media to the past.

A staple of PC games hardware in the 1980s and early 1990s, floppy disks took several forms over the years, from massive 8-inch disks to the mini 3.5-inch disks that became synonymous with the Save icon in software. The latter only held 1.44MB of storage space in their high-density form (and 720KB in the previous double-density form), and they’re notoriously hard to buy new now. That’s less than a millionth of the space found on some of the best microSD cards right now.

You can see why Kano was keen for the Japanese government to move on. Speaking to Reuters, Kono stated that, as of June 28, Japan’s Digital Agency had removed 1,034 regulations in which floppy disks still played a part, although there is apparently still one lurking in the bureaucratic haystack, which concerns vehicle recycling.

Japan’s Digital Agency was originally set up in September 2021, during the Covid pandemic, with a mission to modernize Japan’s local and national government systems, which were still heavily reliant on paper filing, fax machines, and old tech. In August 2022, a post on X (formerly Twitter) from Kono said he was declaring “a war” on the archaic media used by the government.

Taro Kono war on floppy disks tweet screenshot

“There are about 1,900 government procedures that requires business community to use discs, i.e. floppy disc, CD, MD, etc to submit applications and other forms,” he stated, adding that the Digital Agency was in the process of changing those regulations to favor online systems.

Changing the infrastructure of government is an enormous amount of work, involving the creation of new regulations and procedures, integrating new systems, training staff, and of course buying the new tech, all on a massive scale. It’s easy for governments to fall behind, but if you keep delaying it you end up still using floppy disks in 2024.

On a personal level, I still have a bit of a soft spot for floppy disks, and still have some of my old disks from the old days, along with a USB floppy drive. The disks make a satisfying clunk when you put them in the drive, and you can feel and hear the chugging motor in the drive as it works. I wouldn’t want to use one for anything serious, though.

If you have a similar love of old PC hardware, check out our guide on how to build a retro gaming PC, which includes advice on hooking up an old floppy drive.