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Hard end for the floppy disk

That mainstay of computing storage throughout the 1980s and early 1990s, the floppy disk, came a step closer to extinction today as Sony announced its decision to stop selling them by March 2011.

Invented by Sony in 1981, the 3.5in floppy enjoyed its heyday in the mid-'90s, when the most popular type, the high-density 'HD' disk, offered 1.44MB of storage space.

The floppy's tiny storage capacity saw it sidelined by the release of CD-Rs and CD-RWs, with a capacity of 650MB or more. But the real death knell for the format came in 1998, when Apple decided not to include a floppy drive in its iMac G3.

Recent years have seen writeable DVDs and USB Flash memory drives becoming the media of choice for swapping data between computers, though the advent of mobile broadband has seen the need for removable storage as a whole diminish, with users instead swapping files wirelessly between machines.

The blow for floppy fans is hardly unexpected, then. UK retail chain PC World ceased to sell the disks in 2007. But with Sony’s withdrawal from the market, the floppy’s prospects may have withered beyond all hope.

Accounting for 70 per cent of floppy sales in its native Japan, the electronics giant's domestic market had drooped to just 12 million disks last year, with a total capacity of around 17TB of data – equivalent to fewer than 700 single-layer Blu-ray discs.

So long, little fella.