Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Hello USB Drives; Good-bye Floppies!

The end of the floppy disk drive era is rapidly approaching! For several months now, PAC users have seen signs on the monitors announcing the end of floppy drive support as of February 1, 2007.

The most popular floppy, the 3.5", has been on the market since 1987. And believe me, we regularly see patrons using heirloom diskettes that their grandmothers used in college when Ronald Reagan was President.

Even under the best circumstances, a floppy is highly vulnerable to environmental degradation. After a decade or two under the front seat of the car, or floating around in a purse, the magnetic media within the floppy's cover is damaged by dust, dampness, and static electricity. Their reliability in WPL PACs has been dismal. Patrons are annoyed by the loss of data; library staff are frustrated by damaged or failed drives.

We're well-prepared to make the change: Each of our PACs has front-accessible USB ports linked to a desktop shortcut. Usually, a flash drive will be automatically recognized within 30-60 seconds of insertion. Rarely, the drive will only be accessible via browsing with an application such as Word or Excel. In any case, the flash drives are more reliable, have greater capacity, and when the cost per megabyte is calculated, far more economical than the floppy.

The library plans to set up a floppy-to-flash drive transfer station for those of you who need to move files. Or, if you insist on continuing to use floppies, you may bring your own external USB floppy drive. External drives can be purchased either online, through catalogs, or at local discount stores. As of this moment, the library does not plan to sell flash drives. If there is enough popular demand, the Friends of the Library may be persuaded to add them to their FriendShop inventory.

If you're looking for a good deal on either flash or external floppy drives, keep an eye on the Sunday morning newspaper inserts. You'll find the flash drive to be a great advance over the floppy. Once you've made the move, you'll wonder why you waited!

c 2007 Waterloo Public Library

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