Linux finally dropping floppy drive support

It was thousands of years ago when Linus Torvalds first revealed the Linux operating system. Or maybe 28 years; a long time, either way. And three decades later, things are very different – and so Linux is finally dropping floppy drive support.

The big reason for the move is that to test drivers, you need hardware to run the drivers on. And floppy drives are getting really hard to find. The latest update to the floppy project over on GitHub features a note from Torvalds himself.

“Actual working physical floppy hardware is getting hard to find, and… I think the driver can be considered pretty much dead from an actual hardware standpoint,” Torvalds writes. The few floppy drives that are still whirring away out there are mostly USB-based, Torvalds continues, adding that those don’t use the hardware floppy driver. The driver won’t be going away – it’s still available for use in virtual environments. Future maintenance, though, will require someone to step up, Torvalds writes.

This ultimately affects a small segment—of an already small segment—of PC users. These days, most of us have removed rotational drives of any kind from our systems. Many cases don’t even have optical drive bays anymore, let alone 3.5-inch bays. Floppy disks were a crucial part of the sneakernet back in the day, but thumb drives and ultra-fast internet connections have worked together to dwarf the 1.44-megabyte capacity and make physical data migration unnecessary for most of us.

But to think that floppy drivers are still being updated is amusing at the very least. It’s a little nostalgic, too. Intel dropped support back in 2001. ZDNet notes that Linux dropped support for 386 processors back in 2012.

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Xaeus
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although I don’t even use ODDs since quite a few years back, I still have an external FDD unit. It never knows when one may need one. I actually encountered some cases when it was needed and having it was gold.
It’s unclear what dropping support means: does that leave us with no option of connecting a FDD unit or it just means there will be no more default drivers for such things in the distros ?

anotherengineer
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anotherengineer

I still remember king’s quest on my buddies ol tandy 1000, please insert disk #2. Seems like an eon ago.

UberGerbil
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UberGerbil

I still have one of those LS-120 “SuperDisk” drives that read regular 1.44MB floppies but also their own 120MB disks. I think I still have a box of the disks, also. The drive went nowhere (wikipedia tells me they stopped making them in 2003 and the disks are “very hard to find” — hmm, maybe that box is worth something…) And the capacity today is of course almost as laughably small/useless as a regular floppy, despite being an order of magnitude larger (I’ve received give-away thumb drives that are more than a hundred times as capacious). But that thing was… Read more »

rudimentary_lathe
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rudimentary_lathe

“This ultimately affects a small segment—of an already small segment—of PC users.”

Shots fired!!! Grab your pitchforks and fire up your floppy drives… errr… grab your pitchforks, at least!

Erik must not have heard that 2019 is the year of (Windows Subsystem for) Linux (2) on the desktop.

Krogoth
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Krogoth

You kids and your fancy floppy disks. Back in our day, we did punch cards back and forth in the snow and we liked it!

dragondaddybear
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dragondaddybear

I remember running my own sneakernet back in the day when we only had one computer with a modem on AOHell. Good times.

usacomp2k3 (AJ)
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usacomp2k3 (AJ)

When they added internet sharing to…Win98 was it…that was a godsend. We had the modem on the family computer and then the bnc 10-baseT running to my desktop so I could “do research for school”.

AaronW
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AaronW

Likewise. Modem to the family computer (on an unlimited account) sharing over the 10-baseT to a hub (no, not a switch) I got for cheap and the machine I built in my room using the cheapest parts I could find. But it still let me do networked Descent/Quake/Duke3D/etc, and that’s all that mattered.

highlandr
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highlandr

Win98 sharing? My brother set up NAT on a linux box LONG before it was cool. We were rocking BNC through the crawlspace, playing Doom on the LAN together. The best part was that the local dial-up number was so close it was only $.05 per call, no matter how long. They would hang up after 8 hours, but the linux box would just redial. 90 calls a month, for unlimited 56k speed. The best part was that he did it using a Winmodem, which ran for over 2 years, then I gave it away later and it was still… Read more »

willmore
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willmore

They’re just dropping support for the ISA bus driver chip family commonly used for floppy drives. There will still be support for the USBfloppy devices–even if they are crap.

As a collector of old media, this saddens me.

neutronscott
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neutronscott

It literally said it’s not going away it’s just got no assigned maintainer.

Nono
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Nono

Just to add some context: USB support was added to win98, over 20 years ago.
If you still have a computer with Floppy and no USB, congratulations are in order…

Using a USB stick will be both faster, cheaper, more reliable and so much more storage that it is not even funny anymore. 8GB USB sticks are basically offered in cereal box nowadays and they are the equivalent to over 5000 floppies.

Klimax
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There are special adapters that allow use of flash disk as floppy disks. (Might need some reformatting of flash disk.)

BTW: There are drivers that allow full USB for DOS. The only case where I don’t know if there is USB available at all are ISA-only systems…

AaronW
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AaronW

I’ve been working on getting Gentoo running on a 1996-vintage Compac/DEC Alpha PWS 500a. No USB, no UDMA for the hard drive (chipset bug causes DMA transfers to get corrupted, so I’m stuck with 16.6MB/s PIO4 mode), but the floppy drive is still there. I stuck a USB2 PCI adapter in it a while back, but the USB chip/driver relies on DMA, so sadly I can’t actually stick a thumb drive in it without breaking things. For completeness, the Gentoo install is fully up to date, and it’s running the latest Gnome Shell desktop (with a PCI Radeon 5400). But… Read more »

Krogoth
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Krogoth

It seems like an odd decision to drop support for floppies unless Linux community plans on completely dropping the ISA bus (still used on legacy stuff) and other ancient x86 baggage.

chuckula
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chuckula

The only real problem (assuming you need floppy disk support) is that the newer USB drives are notoriously unrelia let since they were made to be cheap and… more cheap.

Having said that, you can always use an older kernel and the driver might still continue to work even in an unsupported state.

chuckula
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chuckula

“unrelia let”

That post brought to you by auto-incorrect combined with a USB floppy.

Oh and once again the ad link was due to hijacking.

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