I read the news today, oh boy. The Mainichi Daily News carried two stories describing the end of two unrelated eras. The first story is that the Kabuki-Za Theater in Tokyo’s Chuo Ward had its final performance today after 59 years. A crowd of people stood and stared.

1646   Photo from Mainichi Daily

The second story was not entirely unexpected. But still the news was rather sad. Sony, the inventor of the 3.5-inch floppy disk, which isn’t very floppy, announced it would discontinue sales of the disks in Japan by the end of its fiscal year, in March 2011. As a longtime Mac user, and a Lisa user before that, I mourn the passing of this classic format. But I admit 30 years is an amazingly long run for any single format in the computer industry. (Just let me dig out my old SyQuest cartridges from the basement.)

sony-floppy-discs-vertical    Photo from CBC

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When I was working on the college newspaper, we made the transition from outsourced punched tape typesetting to in-house computerized typesetting using a Compugraphic machine on campus. Prior to having a Compugraphic machine available, we sent all of our copy to a print shop across town. They generated yards of punched tape and fed it into the photoimager to generate the galleys which were then developed. The whole place reeked of photographic fixer. Then, if there were any changes, we had to set additional lines of type and used X-Acto knives and wax to cover over the older lines. Sometimes, if you were in a hurry, you just dug through the pile of scrap galleys and cut out individual letters or words and pasted them into place.

Using the Compugraphic wasn’t much different. You still couldn’t edit stories after they were saved to the 8-inch floppy disks. However, it was a bit easier to request a new printout of a story that contained the one or two lines with your desired change. The real improvement was it saved the drive across town, a major concern on days it snowed, or when finals were coming up. Ah, those were the days.

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