Meet the Man Who Still Sells Floppy Disks


design in mind is the official blog of the US-based professional graphic design organization AIGA. You’ve just published a fascinating interview with Tom Persky, who describes himself as “the last man in the floppy disk business”.

He is the venerable founder of floppydisk.com, a US-based company dedicated to the sale and recycling of floppy disks. Other services include disk transfers, a recycling program and the sale of used and/or defective disks to artists around the world. All of this makes floppydisk.com a major player in the small but profitable contemporary floppy scene….

Perkins: I was actually in the disk duplication business. Not in a million years did I think I would ever sell blank floppy disks. Disk duplicating was as good as printing money in the 1980s and early 1990s. It was incredibly profitable. I’ve only started selling blanks organically over time. You could still go to any office supply store or any computer store to buy them. Why would you try to find me when you could just buy floppy disks off the shelf? But then these bigger companies stopped running them or went out of business and people came to us. So here I am, a small company with a disk inventory, and I see myself as a global supplier of this product. My business, which used to be 90% CD and DVD duplication, is now 90% selling blank discs. It’s shocking to me…

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Q: Where does this focus on floppy disks come from? Why not work with another medium…?

Perkins: When people ask me, “Why are you into floppy disks today?” The answer is, “Because I forgot to get out of the business.” Everyone else in the world looked to the future and concluded that this was a dying industry. Since I had already purchased all of my equipment and inventory, I figured I’d just keep this income stream. I stuck with it and didn’t try to expand it. Over time, the total number of floppy users has decreased. However, the number of people providing the product dropped even faster. If you look at these two curves you can see that there is growing market share for the last man in the business and that man is me….

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I made the decision to buy a big batch, a few million records, and we’ve basically been living on that stock ever since. From time to time we are very lucky. About two years ago a guy called me and said, “My grandfather has all this disk stuff in the garage and I want it out. Will you take it?” Of course I wanted to take it from him. So we went back and forth and negotiated a fair price. Without going into specifics, he ended up with two things he wanted: an empty garage and a sum of money. I ended up with about 50,000 disks, and that’s a good deal.
In the interview, Perkins reveals that he stocks around half a million floppy disks – 3.5″, 5.25″, 8″ and some fairly rare floppy disks. We give people the option to send us floppy disks and we recycle them instead of sending them to a landfill. I was really surprised by the sheer volume of disks we get, sometimes 1,000 disks a day.”

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But he also appreciates that its use is more widespread than we realize. “Probably half the world’s aircraft fleet is over 20 years old today and still uses floppy disks in some areas of avionics. That’s a huge consumer. There are also medical devices that need floppy disks to read the information in and out medical devices….”

And in the end he seems to have a real fondness for floppy disk technology. “There’s this joke where a three-year-old little girl comes up to her father with a floppy disk in her hand. She says, ‘Daddy, Daddy, someone 3D printed the memory symbol.’ The floppy disks will forever be iconic.”

The interview is an excerpt from a new book called Disk Fever: The Strange Afterlife of a Flexible Medium.

Hat tip for finding the story on The Verge’s redesigned front page.



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