23/09/2020

billbaud.net

Life in 8-Bit

The great 5.25″ Floppy Disk get rich quick scheme

One thing you never see these days, are floppy disks.

And it totally makes sense.  I mean, it’s even becoming rare to see CDs.  In fact, you are more likely to find vinyl records on someone’s shelf these days than CDs.  And someone using a CD in a computer? Even rarer.

But nothing compares to how rare floppy disks are.  Do a search on eBay or Gumtree, and see for yourself how rare these things are.  

And there’s even rarity’s within rarity’s – if that even makes sense.  So let me explain, with a really quick history lesson.  And I promise, I am not going deep here so please bear with me.

In the very early days of portable storage, there was this revolutionary new data storage medium called floppy disks.  And they were big, and flat, and floppy.  And they were available in any colour, as long as it was black.

The first mainstream (and I use the term loosely) floppies were 8 inches across.  These became popular in the burgeoning computer industry by the early 1970s.  In the late 70s however, technology leapt forward as it always does and floppies shrunk to 5.25 inches.  

By the time disco was dead and the 80s rolled around, floppies had one again shrunk to 3.5 inches.  And in case you are wondering why I am using imperial measurements, nobody, but nobody ever called them 20.3 cm, 13.3cm or 8.9 cm floppies.  

And I really want to end the history lesson here.  Because after that, it was yada yada yada Iomega Zip disks, CDs, DVDs and USBs, and that mysterious thing they call The Cloud.

So as you can imagine, the further back in time you go, the rarer the media.  But, there is a sweet spot.  8 inch floppies are clearly the rarest, and you’d be lucky to find one anywhere for sale.  But equally, nobody has anything that uses the 8 inch floppies, so there isn’t really a market.

And while the 3.5 inch floppies are the most practical, and reasonably rare, there are still quite a few of them floating around at garage sales, gumtree and eBay.

Which brings me to the 5.25 inch floppy disks.  There is currently a revival of all things retro, particularly in the tech world.  And one of the coolest are most sort after computers out there is the Apple II.  And the Apple II range of computers such as the II, II+, IIE and IIC use the 5.25 floppy disks.  And not just any 5.25 floppy disks, but the Single Sided Double Density or the Double Sided Double Density disks.  Try saying that with a bag full of marbles.  The later High Density 5.25 inch floppy disks do not work in the Apple IIs.  I plan on doing another whole video on how much vintage tech can be extremely painful and annoying to use.

If I look at eBay right now, 5.25 inch floppies are selling from around $5 to $20 for a single disk, if you can find them.  That’s like at least 2c per Kilobyte.  That would be like paying $640 for a 32GB USB drive. Wait, is that right?  I don’t know and it probably doesn’t matter.  What matters is that these floppy disks are as rare as hen’s teeth and there might just be a stack of them sitting in your Uncle or Grandma’s basement.  I have seen a box of 10 5.25 floppy disks sell for over one hundred dollars.  So find yourself a big old box of these and cha-ching!

And since no-one is manufacturing these, and retro computers are becoming increasingly cool, the price of floppies will continue to rise.

So there you have my one and only tip for possibly making a quick buck.  The only other time was back when I suggested to my wife that we should buy some BitCoins which were less than $100 each at the time… but that’s another story.