Japan declares victory in war on floppy disks

The government of the world’s fourth-largest economy has declared victory in an unequal battle against a digital relic from the late 20th century.

Two years after declaring war on floppy disks, Japan’s Minister of Digital Affairs, Taro Kono, announced that the battle was now over and the government had won.

At the beginning of this undertaking in 2022, Japan still required floppy disks, CDs, and MiniDiscs as submission mediums for about 1,900 types of business applications and other forms.

By the middle of last month, however, the country’s Digital Agency had managed to scrap all 1,034 regulations governing the use of the diskettes, except for one environmental stricture related to vehicle recycling.

"We won the war on floppy disks on June 28!" Digital Minister Kono said in a statement to Reuters on Wednesday (July 3rd).

Appointed in 2022, Kono has made it a key priority to bring Japan out of the analog age, where fax machines and “hanko” ink stamps for signatures are still widely used.

The limitations of bureaucracy based on paper filings and out-of-date technology was felt particularly acutely during the COVID-19 pandemic when testing and vaccination efforts stumbled as a result.

In response, the government set up the Digital Agency in 2021 and tasked it with the digitization of state services. The process has not always been smooth, including a slower-than-anticipated rollout of My Number digital identification cards due to repeated data mishaps.

IBM released the first commercially available floppy disks in 1971, and Sony introduced the improved 3.5-inch version in 1983. The use of floppy disks peaked in the 1980s and 1990s. Sony, the last manufacturer of floppy disks, stopped making them in 2011.