Posted tagged ‘Sony’

Farewell, old floppy

May 8, 2010

When I open my version of Microsoft Word, there is a toolbar at the top which contains various icons that represent actions I can take. One such set of icons looks like this:

If I click on the third little image from the left I get to save my document. But if you were to show this to a younger computer user five years from now, they would probably have no idea what the image represents. It is of course the floppy disk, that standard storage device used for many years – but not for much longer, because the largest remaining manufacturer, Sony, have announced they will cease production next year. Nobody wants them any more, and indeed it is hard to see what use they might still be as they only hold a pathetic 1.5 MB or so.

In fact what we are talking about here is the 3.5 inch disk that began to appear in the second half of the 1980s. Before that, and on some computers for a while afterwards, the standard storage device was the 5.25 inch disk, which really was ‘floppy’: looking at it sharply was likely to bend and crumple it. The smaller but sturdier 3.5 inch disk with its larger capacity was a wonder back then. But now?

Well, what puts it all in perspective is this comment in the magazine PCWorld. Last year, the report tells us, 12 million floppy disks were sold in Japan. But even when you add up all the capacity of these 12 millions disks, it only gets you to 17 GB of data. Nowadays you can get that from two or three memory sticks.

As for me, I have a whole drawer full of floppy disks accumulated from the 1980s and 1990s. There I have 5.25 inch disks, and 3.5 inch disks. I’m not even sure how many. But I know that it is highly unlikely that I’ll ever again be able to check what’s on them. Not a single computer in my house now has a floppy disk drive. But my disks will have a dignified old age, even if I can no longer understand them.

The Kindle in Ireland (and Europe) – a PS

March 5, 2009

Postscript, October 2009

As this post gets a lot of readers, it may be worth noting here that the position has changed since I wrote it, and that the Amazon Kindle is now available to Irish (and European) customers. You can see the details in my more recent post, here. Furthermore, in another more recent post I have also speculated on the arrival of Apple in the ebook reader market.

And January 2010

Amazon has just announced that the larger screen Kindle DX will be available from January 19, 2010, to non-US customers also. And Apple has unveiled its ‘iPad’ device, which will also be an e-book reader (amongst many other things – more details here).

The original post

Following on from my post of yesterday about the Amazon Kindle, it occurs to me that I should add a couple of words about using it in Ireland (a topic I have addressed before, but a while ago). The Kindle is sold on Amazon’s US website, and they will only deliver it to a US address. So in order to buy one, you need to have an American address which you can use for these purposes. There are commercial services that provide addresses and mail forwarding, for relatively little money.

Once you have the Kindle, you cannot in Ireland use the ‘whispernet’ wireless technology; this essentially uses mobile phone networks to provide direct access to Amazon’s online Kindle shop, and allows you to browse the shop and make purchases, which are then directly downloaded to your device. But not outside the US. The first generation Kindle used the standard US mobile network technology which doesn’t work outside North America at all. As far as I can tell, the new Kindle uses G3 access, but it does not appear to allow roaming, so again it doesn’t work here.

There is a workaround. As a Kindle customer, you can choose to download books from the Amazon store to your computer (and this you can do here), and then transfer the files (i.e. the e-books) to your Kindle via the USB cable. The only snag is that in order to do so you need to be using both a US address (but if you have the Kindle you’ve already got that, presumably) and US payment methods. Until recently I thought that required a US credit card, but a reader of this blog kindly drew my attention to the fact that an Amazon gift card will do the trick, and you can buy these online with your Irish (or whatever) credit card.

Phew! Seems like way too much trouble? Perhaps. Maybe the Sony device (which is somewhat more basic, but which does work in Ireland) is a better choice? Perhaps – but not if (like me) you’re a Macintosh user – it only works with Windows. And there is one other bright spot. Thousands and thousands of books, including pretty much anything out of copyright (i.e. all the classics) can be got free from various websites, in Amazon Kindle format. And you can also (although again this requires a workaround) transfer any pdf document to the Kindle.