Japan declares victory in ‘war’ over floppy disks

It took until 2024, but Japan has finally said goodbye to floppy disks.

Until last month, people were still required to submit documents to the government using outdated storage media, with more than 1,000 regulations requiring its use.

But these rules have now finally been abolished, according to Digital Affairs Minister Taro Kono.

In 2021, Mr. Kono had declared “war” on floppy disks. On Wednesday, almost three years later, he announced: “We have won the floppy disk war!”

Mr. Kono has made it his goal to eliminate old technology since he was appointed to the job, and had previously said he would “do away with the fax machine.”

Once seen as a technological powerhouse, Japan has lagged behind the global wave of digital transformation in recent years due to a strong resistance to change.

For example, businesses still prefer fax machines to email machines. Previous plans to remove them from government buildings were abandoned due to opposition.

The announcement was widely reported on Japanese social media, with one user on X, formerly known as Twitter, calling floppy disks a “symbol of anachronistic governance.”

“The government still uses floppy disks? That’s so old fashioned… I guess they’re just full of old people,” was another response to X.

Others reacted more nostalgically. “I wonder if floppy disks will start appearing on auction sites,” one user wrote.

The square devices were developed in the 1960s, but fell out of fashion in the 1990s when more efficient storage solutions were invented.

A three-and-a-half-inch floppy disk could hold only 1.44 MB of data. More than 22,000 such disks would be needed to replicate a memory stick storing 32 GB of information.

Sony, the last manufacturer of the drives, stopped producing them in 2011.

As part of its delayed campaign to digitalize its bureaucracy, Japan launched a digital agency in September 2021, headed by Mr. Kono.

But Japan’s efforts to digitalize may be easier said than done.

Many Japanese companies still require official documents to be provided with engraved personal stamps, called hanko, despite government efforts to phase them out.

According to local newspaper The Japan Times, people are switching from these stamps at a “snail’s pace.”

It wasn’t until 2019 that the country’s last pager provider stopped operating, with the last residential subscriber saying it was his elderly mother’s preferred method of communication.

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