Two thirds of children don’t know what a floppy disk is

Matthew SmithHead of Data Journalism
April 25, 2018, 11:00 PM GMT+0

YouGov Children’s Omnibus asked kids whether they recognised technology their elders grew up with

According to a (likely apocryphal) story that has been floating around the internet, a parent once showed their child a floppy disk for the first time and was met with words to the effect of: “cool, you 3D-printed the save icon!”

Now a new YouGov Children’s Omnibus survey of 2,011 children aged 6-18 has examined how far kids are familiar with technology from previous generations ­– from floppy discs and video cassettes to Ceefax and overhead projectors. We showed children photographs of 12 different technologies and asked them to name each one. If they thought they did, we asked them to write down what it was.

The results show that fully two thirds (67%) of children either do not know what a floppy disk is or incorrectly identify it. And yes, several children did in fact identify the object as a save icon.

Of the 12 pieces of old technology we showed children, the hardest ones to identify are pagers and Ceefax/Teletext, which 86% of children cannot identify or mislabel.

Overall, four pieces of technology are not recognisable to the majority children of today. Aside from the three devices mentioned above, 71% of children are also unfamiliar with overhead projectors, a former mainstay of classrooms across the country. However, in a sign of how classrooms have changed over the last decade or so, it is worth noting that OHPs' familiarity jumps up among the oldest children: only 25-32% of 16-18 year olds didn't know what one was, compared to 64-95% of children aged 6-15.

LPs are more recognisable than tapes

Vinyl fans will be pleased to see that the youth of today still recognise records with only 26% unable to name a photo of a record on a record player. In fact, they are even more recognisable the more recently invented music cassettes, which 40% of children can't place.

With Britain’s oldest postcard firm closing late last year because of declining sales, it might have been a fair bet that kids these days are not familiar with the items. However, only 23% of children said they don’t know what they are when shown a photo.

Despite growing up in the smartphone era, children are still familiar with older telecommunications devices: only 4% cannot identify an old mobile phone – of the type that would these days be considered a “dumbphone” – and all but 5% are able to identify a rotary phone. (Note, in both cases we accepted the answer “phone”).

Finally, one of the 27% of children who can't identify a typewriter gave our favourite answer of the survey, describing it as “a thing that you write movies on”.

Photo: Getty

See the full results here

Find out more about YouGov Children's Omnibus research

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