A CNC machine cannot function without a program. And a program cannot make its way to the machine without an effective data transfer system. So, what are the methods of data transfer and how effective are they in conveying data from one point to the next?
The first data transfer method is the punched tape. It consists of a long strip of paper with holes punched in it to store data. The holes represent a set of data that tells the machine how to move and what to do.
This method has proven to be very versatile and very useful. It has proven to withstand the test of time as numerous magnetic storage devices have deteriorated over time even to the extent of being unreadable while punched tape has been shown to be fine decades and perhaps even centuries later. Repair is also not a problem as specially designed splices can put two end together virtually unchanged. Furthermore, punched tape can be visually decoded should the need arise. This means that human accessibility is also not a problem.
While punched tape is quite a long roll of paper, a floppy disk is a small magnetic storage device that is more space efficient than punched tape. It can also be used to store simple programs.
Floppy disks virtually revolutionized the way data could be stored and transferred from one point to another. It allowed users to store and transfer data faster than punched tape allowed. Furthermore, the data within a floppy could be easily edited at any point as long as you have the proper program to read it. However, this method has proven to be quite problematic in the long run as floppies have a tendency to degrade alarmingly fast. A floppy could be unreadable after only 3 years.