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Saying Goodbye to Floppy Disks in 2024 is the Latest Measure Approved by Japan to Modernize its bureaucracy

Japan, known for the leadership of its technology sector, is also a nation attached to its traditions. But, What happens when technology also becomes tradition and they insist on continuing to use a storage medium decades after the rest of the world has already abandoned it due to its inefficiency?

Whether it surprises you or not, the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI) of Japan has just announced a revolution in its bureaucratic procedures by deciding to end the use of floppy disks when submitting official documents. Yes, you read that right: floppy disks.

Floppy? Oh really?

The use of floppy disks, introduced commercially in 1971 by IBM and popularized in the 1980s and 1990shas been a topic of discussion in Japan due to its limited storage capacity of 1.44 MB (when was the last time you downloaded something that small?): such a limitation makes them unsuitable for many modern data types such as high-resolution images or long documents.

But that factor has not been the only one that has influenced the decision to abandon the format: the difficulty in finding them has also weighed on top of this, since Sony, the last major manufacturer, ceased production in 2011. We assume the company left a lot of stock in storage 13 years ago.

To put in context when this technology began to die commercially in our country (and forgive the ‘grandfather onion’ subsection), the first time this writer went to a store and the person on the other side of the counter frowned and said “Floppy disk? No idea… you’re not talking about a CR-ROM?” was a few months after we stopped using pesetas.

Does Japanese bureaucracy deserve seppuku or a Kamehameha?

Buro Kata SanWell: until now, approximately 1,900 administrative procedures required the mandatory use of obsolete storage mediawhether floppy disks, CD-ROMs or MiniDiscs, so that citizens and companies could validly present documentation to the public Administration.

This change has been promoted by the Minister of Digital Transformation, Taro Kono, who In August 2022 declared a “war on floppy disks” to give the spotlight to more current physical media (and, of course, to the cloud).

But think about this: despite that ‘declaration of war’, the Japanese government has taken a year and a half to announce this measure… and now he will give a whole year of margin so that the administration can adapt to such a technological revolution. Things grind slowly.

The reason for this slow pace of change is that there has been resistance from some local governments and government agencies to Kono’s modernization efforts. Furthermore, despite being a world leader in new technologies, Japan still maintains a peculiar relationship with legacy technology a country of cash payments and use of fax machines.

The truth is that even today, and not only in Japan, some industrial sectors still depend on floppy disks. This includes aerospace, medical (the oldest medical devices that still use this format), or computerized embroidery. And well, until five years ago, the US nuclear arsenal used 8-inch floppy disks even older.

Mark Tyson
Mark Tyson
Freelance News Writer. Always interested in the way in which technology can change people's lives, and that is why I also advise individuals and companies when it comes to adopting all the advances in Apple devices and services.
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