Meet the Man Who Still Sells Floppy Disks (aiga.org)
Posted by EditorDavid on Saturday September 17, 2022 @10:34AM from the storage-spaces dept.
Eye on Design is the official blog of the US-based professional
graphic design organization AIGA. They've just published a fascinating interview with Tom Persky, who calls himself "the last man standing in
the floppy disk business."
He is the time-honored founder of floppydisk.com, a US-based company
dedicated to the selling and recycling of floppy disks. Other services
include disk transfers, a recycling program, and selling used and/or
broken floppy disks to artists around the world. All of this makes floppydisk.com a key player in the small yet profitable contemporary
Perkins: I was actually in the floppy disk duplication business. Not
in a million years did I think I would ever sell blank floppy disks. Duplicating disks in the 1980s and early 1990s was as good as printing
money. It was unbelievably profitable. I only started selling blank
copies organically over time. You could still go down to any office
supply store, or any computer store to buy them. Why would you try to
find me, when you could just buy disks off the shelf? But then these
larger companies stopped carrying them or went out of business and
people came to us. So here I am, a small company with a floppy disk
inventory, and I find myself to be a worldwide supplier of this
product. My business, which used to be 90% CD and DVD duplication, is
now 90% selling blank floppy disks. It's shocking to me....
Q: Where does this focus on floppy disks come from? Why not work with
Perkins: When people ask me: "Why are you into floppy disks today?"
the answer is: "Because I forgot to get out of the business."
Everybody else in the world looked at the future and came to the
conclusion that this was a dying industry. Because I'd already bought
all my equipment and inventory, I thought I'd just keep this revenue
stream. I stuck with it and didn't try to expand. Over time, the total
number of floppy users has gone down. However, the number of people
who provided the product went down even faster. If you look at those
two curves, you see that there is a growing market share for the last
man standing in the business, and that man is me....
I made the decision to buy a large quantity, a couple of million
disks, and we've basically been living off of that inventory ever
since. From time to time, we get very lucky. About two years ago a guy
called me up and said: "My grandfather has all this floppy junk in the
garage and I want it out. Will you take it?" Of course I wanted to
take it off his hands. So, we went back and forth and negotiated a
fair price. Without going into specifics, he ended up with two things
that he wanted: an empty garage and a sum of money. I ended up with
around 50,000 floppy disks and that's a good deal.
In the interview Perkins reveals he has around half a million floppy
disks in stock - 3.5-inch, 5.25-inch, 8-inch, "and some rather rare
diskettes. Another thing that happened organically was the start of
our floppy disk recycling service. We give people the opportunity to
send us floppy disks and we recycle them, rather than put them into a
landfill. The sheer volume of floppy disks we get in has really
surprised me, it's sometimes a 1,000 disks a day."
But he also estimates its use is more widespread than we realize.
"Probably half of the air fleet in the world today is more than 20
years old and still uses floppy disks in some of the avionics. That's
a huge consumer. There's also medical equipment, which requires floppy
disks to get the information in and out of medical devices.... "
And in the end he seems to have a genuine affection for floppy disk
technology. "There's this joke in which a three-year-old little girl
comes to her father holding a floppy disk in her hand. She says:
'Daddy, Daddy, somebody 3D-printed the save icon.' The floppy disks
will be an icon forever."
The interview is excerpted from a new book called Floppy Disk Fever:
The Curious Afterlives of a Flexible Medium.
Hat tip for finding the story to the newly-redesigned front page of
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