A 1990s Relic, Floppy Disks Recycled for a Second Life by Orange County Company

Tom Persky with a floppy disk
Tom Persky with a floppy disk
Tom Persky, owner of FloppyDisk.com and disk trader, shows off a 3.5-inch computer disk at his warehouse in Lake Forest. REUTERS/Alan Devall

It has been two decades since their heyday, but one bulk supplier of the iconic 3.5-inch floppy disks used to store data in the 1990s says business is still booming.

Tom Persky runs FloppyDisk.com, a Lake Forest-based online disk recycling service that takes in new and used disks before sending them onto a reliable customer base — he reckons he sells about 500 disks a day.

Who buys floppy disks in an age when more sophisticated storage devices like CD-ROMS, DVDs and USB flash drives have been made increasingly obsolete by internet and cloud storage? Those in the embroidery, tool and die, and airline industry, especially those involved in aircraft maintenance, says Persky.

“If you built a plane 20 or 30 or even 40 years ago, you would use a floppy disk to get information in and out of some of the avionics of that airplane,” said 73-year-old Persky.

At his warehouse, shelves are packed with bright green, orange, blue, yellow or black disks sent from around the world. At one end sits a large magnetic machine with a conveyor belt that wipes out information on disks, while another machine slaps labels on them.

The warehouse also holds 8-inch floppy disks — an even older storage medium.

Despite being a relic in the modern world, Persky says floppy disks have several redeeming qualities.

“Floppy disks are very reliable, very stable, a very well understood way to get information in and out of a machine,” he says. “Plus, they have the additional feature of not being very hackable.”

Persky ended up in the floppy disk business after working in software development for a tax company in the 1990s that duplicated its software onto floppy disks. He says he fell in love with the business and took it on after it was spun off.

But he is not expecting it to survive another 20 years.

“When I see the ‘save’ icon, I see a floppy disk. But most people just see the ‘save’ icon,” Persky said.

“I’ll be here for as long as people continue to want to have these disks. But it’s not forever.”