December 7, 2023

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Japanese minister declares war on floppy disks |  Multimedia

Japanese minister declares war on floppy disks | Multimedia

Japanese Minister of Digital Affairs Taro Kono has declared war on floppy disks. He literally tweeted himself. Wondering “Where can you even buy floppy disks today?” Kono also wants to rid Japan’s bureaucratic office culture of other outdated technical aids, such as fax machines. He says he has the support of Prime Minister Fumio Kishida for this.

We know Japan as a leader in technological progress. You might boldly think that the state is almost entirely automated, right? This perception is not entirely correct. Japan’s government administration still appears to be peppered with now-outdated technology.

According to Digital Affairs Minister Taro Kono, there are still “about 1,900 government actions that require the use of storage media such as floppy disks, CDs and small disks for companies to submit applications and other forms.” He’s committed to changing that on Twitter so that citizens can do all that online in the future.

Who still knows the floppy disk, the square or rectangular disk that Sony stopped making since 2011? It’s a magnetic stripe data carrier that saw the light of day in the late 1960s. Floppy disks are so named because early copies that were larger than 8 and 5 inches (20.3 and 13.3 cm) in size could actually be bent. Subsequently, smaller 3-inch (8.9 cm) versions appeared on the market. Today they are also somewhat known among younger computer users as a typical icon of the classic save button in all kinds of programs and applications.

Three different floppy disk sizes: 8″, 5.25″ and 3.5″. © Getty Images

But at the end of the last century, this type of storage media was neglected, as new, more efficient and convenient technologies appeared. The storage capacity of aging carriers was well below that of the next generation. More than 20,000 old floppy disks would be needed to match a 32GB USB stick, as we know it today.

Minister Kono, a conservative politician named as a possible candidate for Japan’s premiership, said he wants to get rid of not only floppy disks, but fax machines as well, he said at a press conference on Tuesday. Kono repeated has been planning this for some time and wants it to continue. But it doesn’t seem so obvious. Along with the fax machine, he also tried to abolish the use of the Hankou seal, an old tradition of presenting certain official documents with a mandatory red seal as an additional signature. It didn’t work: The use of the fax machine and the hanko are still common in Japan today.

The explanation has already been made that the Japanese stubbornly cling to their bureaucratic culture with conservative customs, but also that the aging population often does not know enough to handle modern digital advances. In 2018, Japan’s cybersecurity minister himself admitted that he had never used a computer. He relied on his employees for IT tasks. And it wasn’t until 2019 that the last Japanese supplier of pagers, known as pagers, disappeared.

But it is not only Japan that still has such amazing customs. The United States didn’t scrap an 8-inch floppy disk computer system until 2019 to manage its nuclear arsenal. Bonus for this method: the hackers were there for the effort.

Minister of Digital Affairs, Taro Kono.

Minister of Digital Affairs, Taro Kono. © AP

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