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From floppy to hard
April 26, 2010 4:06 AM   Subscribe

The floppy disc is about to go to the great slot drive in the sky. Japanese sales of floppies have dropped from a record 47 million disks in 2002 to 12 million in 2009. So why not use those discs to make a bag, celebrate dead media by hacking together a Game Boy and a 3.5" drive, or admire the sleeve of New Order's Blue Monday?

If all this dying technology worries you, then perhaps it's time to go back to pen and paper.
posted by mippy (145 comments total) 11 users marked this as a favorite

 
First they came for the 8 inch floppy drive, and I did nothing, then they came for the 5 1/4 inch floppy drive, and I did nothing...
posted by three blind mice at 4:11 AM on April 26, 2010 [6 favorites]


.
posted by cmonkey at 4:14 AM on April 26, 2010


My first computer - in 1997 - took 5 1/4 inch floppies. It also had a dot matrix printer, which as you can imagine made my GCSE coursework look like it was from THE FUTURE.
posted by mippy at 4:14 AM on April 26, 2010 [1 favorite]


Is it just me or do those numbers seem weird? 47 million seems a really low high, and 12 million a really high low.
posted by howfar at 4:15 AM on April 26, 2010 [15 favorites]


Double-link in that the Game Boy link directs to the "make a bag" again.

That floppy-disc bag looks really cool, but also looks like it'd be uncomfortable to carry.
posted by explosion at 4:16 AM on April 26, 2010


You can also make a neat model of the Starship Enterprise with a 3.5" floppy.
posted by Aversion Therapy at 4:21 AM on April 26, 2010 [4 favorites]


Some googling backs up my suspicion that there is something wrong with the numbers in the linked article. An estimated 24 million PCs were apparently in use in Japan in 2001, with 9.84 million new units shipping in 2002. Was each computer really only getting through 2 disks a year at peak consumption?
posted by howfar at 4:27 AM on April 26, 2010


I just bought a Sony digital that uses the floppy. I really like it.
posted by JohnR at 4:29 AM on April 26, 2010


When the cassette tape dies, then I'll mourn.
posted by DU at 4:30 AM on April 26, 2010


It's pretty hard to find a place to buy blank cassettes in the UK.
posted by mippy at 4:32 AM on April 26, 2010


Make reverb with your old floppy drives!
posted by chillmost at 4:32 AM on April 26, 2010 [4 favorites]


who bought all those disks? 12 million? I haven't had a computer that even reads floppies in years.
posted by caddis at 4:33 AM on April 26, 2010


I think it's going to be a long time before floppy disks stop being available. Way to many legacy applications written to expect them. They still sell ZIP disks and drives because so many companies started using them to backup their stuff. Although I'm surprised they haven't all died from the click of death.

This article is only about Sony's disk sales, that's just one company. Sony doesn't have a monopoly on floppy disk production, obviously.

And You can get a USB floppy drive on newegg for $22

Floppy disks are going to be around for a long time.
posted by delmoi at 4:45 AM on April 26, 2010 [1 favorite]


delmoi, ah yes, all makes sense now.
posted by howfar at 4:53 AM on April 26, 2010 [1 favorite]


Unicode has no symbol for floppy disk.
posted by ryanrs at 4:53 AM on April 26, 2010 [4 favorites]


Way to many legacy applications written to expect them.

Name 3.
posted by DU at 4:54 AM on April 26, 2010


mippy: the internet, it has eaten niche retailers. But you can use it instead, so that's OK. Oh, and Richer Sounds do them for a quid on ye Goode Olde High Street.
posted by jaduncan at 4:55 AM on April 26, 2010


.
posted by infini at 5:04 AM on April 26, 2010




I work on thermal label printers, and once in a while I come across a computer with no USB port, so I have to dig out an old blank floppy disk if I want to copy files. Heck, some of the printers I work on only have a serial port for communication. As long as cash-strapped and/or cheap companies keep re-using old computers, floppy disks will still be in demand.
posted by spoobnooble at 5:13 AM on April 26, 2010


12 million floppies sold in 2009? Not bloody likely. Raise your hand if your computer even has a floppy drive. I'm guessing that they meant 12.
posted by zardoz at 5:25 AM on April 26, 2010


Can't even remember when I last touched a floppy or even a machine that had a floppy drive....

Ba-bye.
posted by fluffycreature at 5:28 AM on April 26, 2010


Raise your hand if your computer even has a floppy drive.

I have a serious computer at work. Purchased mid-2009, it has 4 dual core 2GHz Xeons and 16 GB of RAM. I can compile all of PostgreSQL in about 20 seconds (using make -j4 or more). It also has a floppy drive.
posted by DU at 5:31 AM on April 26, 2010 [6 favorites]


Our local church has a FDD on the church organ. There's always a floppy disk in the drive but heaven knows what its for.
posted by JtJ at 5:31 AM on April 26, 2010


Next thing, you'll be telling me 8-tracks and my Jaz drive are obsolete.
posted by Mcable at 5:34 AM on April 26, 2010


NEVER FORGET.
posted by loquacious at 5:35 AM on April 26, 2010 [8 favorites]


If you want to find lots of floppies go to a quilt store. Many quilters still use embroidery machines that take floppy drives. My mother recently upgraded her machine and no longer uses floppies but considering she spent over $10,000 on her new toy I can see why many quilters hold on to their older models long after the technology is obsolete.
posted by MaritaCov at 5:37 AM on April 26, 2010 [1 favorite]


So how long until the "Save" icon on every application ever changes to something else? Or will it remain forever, like the term "carbon copy"?
posted by bondcliff at 5:46 AM on April 26, 2010 [17 favorites]


Name 3.

What? You don't think are millions of old PCs still being used in business around the world running custom software or operating systems that can't be upgraded? Ones that use floppy disks? I don't know the name of every COBOL program running on an IBM mainframe, but I know they're out there. I also don't know the name of every punch-card driven application, but they're still being being used (article from 99)

According to this article about the same thing (sony canceling floppy production)
Many of the remaining customers are legacy equipment users in the education and research sectors, said Sony.
If floppy disks weren't still needed, why would Sony be able to sell 12 million of them in 2009?

Lots of people use legacy hardware and legacy software, and lots of people use old Operating systems that won't work on new PCs. To say otherwise is just bizarre.

And no, I can't name the old custom-coded applications used in various business, why would I be able to?
posted by delmoi at 5:51 AM on April 26, 2010


You can still buy typewriter ribbons, too, in spite of the fact that a lot of people on this site will probably claim never to have heard of a typewriter.
posted by JanetLand at 5:59 AM on April 26, 2010 [7 favorites]


My oscilloscope has a floppy drive. Handy for saving screenshots of waveforms. (well, handier than the GPIB to ethernet adapter)
posted by ryanrs at 6:03 AM on April 26, 2010


You can still buy typewriter ribbons, too, in spite of the fact that a lot of people on this site will probably claim never to have heard of a typewriter.

Also derailleurs.
posted by DU at 6:10 AM on April 26, 2010 [9 favorites]


I had no idea floppies still existed.
posted by shakespeherian at 6:10 AM on April 26, 2010


I work for an IT department at a large university. Geosci researchers come in semi-frequently with cases of GIS data on ancient reel-to-reel magnetic tape that they need to read. Academics also rock up with 5 1/4 disks all the time. There is a *lot* of data sitting on dead media that people unexpectedly need.
posted by Thoth at 6:13 AM on April 26, 2010 [2 favorites]


I have some floppies from 1990 that still are readable. I wonder if my stack of burned CD-ROMs will be so in 20 years?
posted by Burhanistan at 6:28 AM on April 26, 2010 [1 favorite]


Why are you still using CDRs? Flash is the future.
posted by mccarty.tim at 6:32 AM on April 26, 2010


Anyone here remember using Zip disks and thinking they were the coolest thing ever?
posted by mccarty.tim at 6:35 AM on April 26, 2010 [11 favorites]


I still have a desktop machine with a 3.5 inch drive that I occasionally boot up (a surprisingly robust Sony VAIO from 2002 or so), and I still have a few data diskettes from the 90s which I really should archive elsewhere soon, but I haven't even touched a 5 1/4 inch floppy for many, many years.

I still remember going into my grad school lab in 1993 and being delighted that the computers had both 5.25 and 3.5 inch drives, so we could switch from our old floppies to our new flippies (a term that never really seemed to catch on).
posted by maudlin at 6:36 AM on April 26, 2010


I'm sitting at home, next to two computers with floppy drives. Mind you, they've been upgraded over the years, so they're not the newest kits from some major company. My wife wants her floppy drive, because she still has a bunch of old computer games on floppy. She was thrilled to find Mo'Slo.

I was checking on Dell's site, and thought I saw a floppy drive, but it was a front plate for multiple flash formats. When you can store a whole isle of a library shelves on something smaller than a dime (assuming it's just text), trying to stretch the abilities of a floppy to 2MB seems like a lot of effort. But back in 1996 or so, I did this, and ran a sneaker-net across my house, because I didn't have enough cat5 cable to hook up my computer.
posted by filthy light thief at 6:38 AM on April 26, 2010


Yeah, I upgraded to the 2.3" floppy format years ago, never looked back.
posted by Nelson at 6:41 AM on April 26, 2010


Anyone here remember using Zip disks and thinking they were the coolest thing ever?
posted by mccarty.tim


Oh hell yes! They were so much faster and relatively error-free than my damn back-up tape drive. I never remembered to run each tape all the way forward then all the way back to "re-tension" it. If I didn't do that, it wouldn't work on the other machine I was transferring to. Ay carumba.
posted by Ron Thanagar at 6:48 AM on April 26, 2010


I do miss the days of popping in a floppy, hearing a big mechanical CLICK, and then GRIND GRIND GRIND. Nothing said "something's happening" like a floppy. With quiet hard drives and silent flash memory, it's just not the same anymore. A blinking light is meaningless in a sea of blinking lights that is the modern office.
posted by mccarty.tim at 6:52 AM on April 26, 2010 [11 favorites]


Hm, I have a stack of 3.5" floppy discs in my desk drawer from the early 90's. All my college papers and work. I should probably figure out a way to get the information off them....
posted by Lucinda at 6:54 AM on April 26, 2010


Hey, the Zip drive can be liked on Facebook!
posted by mccarty.tim at 6:54 AM on April 26, 2010


My mom works as the office manager for a local auto parts store. She wanted an old 8" floppy I held on to for use in their old IBM minicomputer. They just recently upgraded to a newer machine, using 5 1/4" floppies. They've only made incremental upgrades to the hardware and software because they invested in the computer probably 3 decades ago and it just needs to work.

Everyone wondering "floppies? who uses them any more?" has obviously forgotten the adage "if it ain't broke..."
posted by johnjreiser at 6:55 AM on April 26, 2010


I've been wondering how long the floppy is going to stick around as a metaphor for saving. At this point you probably have younger kids who have no idea what the purple square means, but know that it means "save". At a transition point between the metaphor not making sense to a new generation of users, and the new generation still being used to using it, what do you do with a computer term that only makes sense in its metaphorical usage as a symbol?

Anyway, I can't say I'll miss floppies. I'm not sure if it's just my skewed memory, but they always struck me as being a very finnicky technology that was apt to corrupt suddenly and take out what was stored on there. I used to have 3 or 4 disks that I would use to transfer stuff between home and school computers, and I remember being tremendously pissed off when one corrupted for no reason (although, in hind-sight, it was probably user error, like I tried to eject it when it was accessing or something).

I also used to store porn on a floppy disk by making a MSWord document, putting all of my pictures into it, and then mass-resizing them to 1x1 pixels and then resizing when i want to look at them. I could store 14 jpgs that way! 14!


Also: The link to the game-boy / disk drive hybrid is the same as the link to the bag - anyone have that handy?
posted by codacorolla at 7:08 AM on April 26, 2010 [3 favorites]


You can still buy typewriter ribbons, too, in spite of the fact that a lot of people on this site will probably claim never to have heard of a typewriter.

At my work, we keep one working IBM Selectric around. Why? Because although all the forms we get are electronic, occasionally some overeager govt organization will send us an .pdf file that MUST BE FILLED OUT AND SIGNED but that they have locked, with a password, that no-one can find. And recreating the whole damn form is too time-consuming. So we have to print that out, type in the date or whatever information in the little box, and then get it signed/make copies.

As for Zip disks, the only thing I remember thinking about them is "F*(&, these things are expensive, what are they made of, platinum?" My husband's old Roland had to use Zip disks, and I remember shopping for them in 2002 and still being astonished that the prices had not come down--you'd think with CD/DVD media everywhere Zips would have been cheap in 2002, but no--those things were still effing expensive.
posted by emjaybee at 7:16 AM on April 26, 2010 [1 favorite]


I've been wondering how long the floppy is going to stick around as a metaphor for saving.

The problem is what do you replace it with? An image of a hard drive, something only people who put together PCs see, and are quickly being replaced with flash? A microSD card, which people probably only use with their PCs? A USB stick, that could look like anything and people mostly associate with transferring files, not permanent storage?
posted by delmoi at 7:23 AM on April 26, 2010


I found a box of old 5.25" floppy disks. Not having a need for them, I cut a slit in the top, pulled out the actual disk and used them as CD sleeves. Now I when I show up to fix a problem and need to use my Ultimate Boot Disk CD, I pull out this old floppy and they look at me weird. Then I pull out the CD and I am awesome.
posted by charred husk at 7:25 AM on April 26, 2010 [46 favorites]


Here's the link I was wondering about from the OP, by the way, from a French site fed through Google translate (via)

Link here
posted by codacorolla at 7:28 AM on April 26, 2010


Delmoi: aside from going out-of-computer lingo and abstract (a safe, maybe?) I can't think of anything either.
posted by codacorolla at 7:29 AM on April 26, 2010


The numbers sound all mixed-up to me as well. If Sony (or any company, for that matter) was still able to sell millions of floppies a year in Japan alone, why would they suddenly stop?
posted by Western Infidels at 8:02 AM on April 26, 2010


Save icon: An arrow pointing down into a folder?
posted by anthill at 8:05 AM on April 26, 2010


I've been wondering how long the floppy is going to stick around as a metaphor for saving.

WWJD*?

-----
*What Would (Steve) Jobs Do
posted by mazola at 8:05 AM on April 26, 2010


The problem is what do you replace it with?

Jesus.
posted by daniel_charms at 8:13 AM on April 26, 2010 [4 favorites]


The correct icon is no icon. New apps/devices should constantly auto-save.
posted by Burhanistan at 8:15 AM on April 26, 2010 [3 favorites]


From Mazola's link:

who ever “saved” a document he was writing on (by hand, that is)? — and making it the foundation of the products. There’s no save. As an icon designer, a burden might slowly lift from my shoulders.
Ummm... I do. On a regular basis. In case my power goes out, or there's some weird glitch that causes my system to die. There's file recovery, but that's not as reliable as saving on a regular basis. You also have to save something a first time, and I'd prefer to do it at the beginning rather than leave it up to the program to do it for me.

That was a pretty interesting article up until that point, and I'm dumbstruck that someone thinks getting rid of the save feature and having the program do it for you is a good idea.
posted by codacorolla at 8:17 AM on April 26, 2010 [1 favorite]


It seemed like floppy disks got worse and worse as time went on. Near the end of when I was using them, around 1999, I'd feel lucky if I could take a brand new floppy disk, copy something to it, and copy it off once before the disk collapsed into a seething mess of bad sectors and failure. Sometimes I'd take a box of floppies and test them, and like half would be defective. It was bad.

I normally feel nostalgia toward dead technologies, but I can't feel it for the floppy disk. They were just that unreliable. My feelings toward the floppy disk are more akin to 'good riddence' or perhaps 'see you in hell.'
posted by Mitrovarr at 8:24 AM on April 26, 2010


codacorolla: You missed the "(by hand, that is)" part. When writing something with pen and paper you don't really save copies of your work. There's no good non-electronic metaphor because 'saving' is a concept that originated with the computer.
posted by jedicus at 8:26 AM on April 26, 2010


Mitrovarr: I guess I misread that part as "by hand" meaning going up to the icon and clicking save on a regular basis. It makes more sense now.
posted by codacorolla at 8:30 AM on April 26, 2010


One thing I'll miss: getting all the AOL free trial disks in the mail. Free storage, delivered right to your home! I stopped buying floppies long before I stopped using them.
posted by brundlefly at 8:31 AM on April 26, 2010


Good riddance.
posted by wcfields at 8:34 AM on April 26, 2010


We have lots of oscilloscopes and logic analyzers at work that save their data to floppy, so my USB floppy drive gets a lot of use.
posted by rfs at 8:36 AM on April 26, 2010


My students stopped using floppies in the past year or so. They'd throw them in their backbacks and they would inevitably fail. Now they leave their thumb drives in the lab and walk off. I'm trying to show them how to use google docs/file as a backup, which should be pretty safe until the big one hits and google's data centers are sucked into the bowels of the earth.
posted by mecran01 at 8:43 AM on April 26, 2010


I remember installing ICQ on floppies in 2000 - all five of them.
posted by mippy at 8:51 AM on April 26, 2010


Some of my favourite floppy memories:

1. The 8" floppies we used at my first dev workplace, hanging off a Vax 11/780 that ran CP/M for our Z80 development systems (one two-processor Z80 card, plus an emulator that ran on the main computer and brought the entire system to its knees during a make. As a low-level Z80 hack, I was frequently the cause of this and thus Unpopular with the fifty-plus other users. But we were the only people making money for the company. Suck it up).

Occasionally, the drives would end up with heads loaded and spinning over a weekend, when the floppy would come out on Monday morning with a perfect circle of oxide-free transparent substrate where the directory used to be.

When the company folded in 1986 and the assets were sold to a competitor, I was the only person to move over with them. The source code and other bits were delivered to the competitor as a stack of 8" floppies, which as intended caused considerable consternation. That was fun.

2. The 5.25" Discovery floppy drive for my Spectrum. Tock. Tock. Tock. Loaded. Compared to bleeep-bleeep-tschshshshshshshshshshs tape loading error or whirrrr-whirrrr-whirrrrrrrr (ad infinitum) on the Microdrives, it was a vision of the future.

3. The second 3.5" floppy drive for the original Mac that we shipped over from the launch. The drive came months after the Mac. Remember trying to copy anything on a single-floppy Mac?

4. The second 3.5" floppy for my Amiga 500. Much better behaved than a Mac, but a second floppy was still a sparkling chukka-chukka-chukka hunka of joy. And, unlike my PC, the Amiga could do any number of independent floppy things without missing a beat on anything else it was doing at the same time. I miss my Amiga.

5. The 2" floppies on the Zenith Minisport laptop. So cute!

6. Diagnosing floppy code bugs by lightly touching the drive and feeling the head movements. Could also be done by ear.

And some of my least favourite:

1. The special hard-sectored 5.25" floppies on my DEC Rainbow workstation. Digital deserved to die.

2. The 3" floppies on everything Amstrad. They were OK, just useless for anything else. Alan Sugar cut a deal with (I forget. Hitachi?) which locked them into supplying the drives and media at a fixed discount to the cheapest Amstrad could source 3.5". When the deal was struck, 3.5" was still multo expensivo. When it concluded, 3.5" media and drives had become dirt cheap, and the poor manufacturer had had to keep production lines open - at a considerable loss, for years - just to service Amstrad. Sugar never sweetened a deal.

3. The HUGE pile of untouched 3.5" floppies on the top of my wardrobe, belonging to a late relative. I have a USB drive and can read the darn things, but everything's in some godforsaken Microsoft Write format (and a mixture of other early 90s formats) which I have yet to crack. I have another relative who reminds me, from time to time, that there's information on there which she'd really like to have.

4. Learning about all sorts of daft things when persuading a 765A controller chip to digest all those formats out there. That was a certain perverse fun, to be sure, but oh, those wasted months.
posted by Devonian at 9:03 AM on April 26, 2010 [29 favorites]


I upgraded to the Sony SuperDrive(tm) and never looked back!
posted by Mick at 9:07 AM on April 26, 2010


Years ago, I taught a computer class to a group of engineers at my company (I was one of 'em, but an early adopter/geek.) The first small computer we bought in the department was an Apple ///, with a 5mb hard disk and an IDS Paper Tiger printer, and that setup cost just shy of $10,000!
During the class, they learned how to "save" their work on a floppy disk, and they were each given a 5 1/4" diskie to store their work on. (Floppies were $40 a box then, ya just didn't toss 'em around freely!) They were told to be very careful with 'em, to keep 'em in the sleeves, and to put 'em where they'd be safe.
One day, one of the guys was having some trouble getting his floppy to read.... I walked over and shore 'nuff it did the clickety-clickety thing... turned out that he had indeed been very careful with his floppy, he'd put it where he could see it at his desk- stuck right to the back of the bookshelf with a great big magnet!
posted by drhydro at 9:09 AM on April 26, 2010 [3 favorites]


name 3

I can name one, very important one that I used this very morning. you can't install Server 2003 on a machine with a raid array that requires a non-inbox driver without one. even though the machine I installed it on has a Xeon 7560 and 8 SSD's in it, it still needs a floppy.
posted by Dr. Twist at 9:12 AM on April 26, 2010


Some of my favourite floppy memories: ...

To add to that: installing OS/2 2.1 from floppy. Twenty-some floppies, and if you have a brief power interruption and no UPS, you start from scratch!

I also have a huge pile of floppies that I should extract user data from. I keep planning to get to it, but now my main PC no longer has a built-in floppy drive. D'oh!

At my work, we keep one working IBM Selectric around. Why? Because although all the forms we get are electronic, occasionally some overeager govt organization will send us an .pdf file that MUST BE FILLED OUT AND SIGNED but that they have locked, with a password, that no-one can find. And recreating the whole damn form is too time-consuming. So we have to print that out, type in the date or whatever information in the little box, and then get it signed/make copies.


emjaybee, this is your friend! I get these password-protected PDFs all the time, and I use the crap out of this. It's $10 or so, and worth every penny.
posted by me & my monkey at 9:15 AM on April 26, 2010 [1 favorite]


I remember back in the early 80's I bought a floppy disk drive for my ZX Spectrum. It cost something like £150, which was 50% more than the actual computer. The unit was about the same size my PC is currently. It was the most astounding piece of kit I or any of my friends had ever seen. Suddenly games loaded in 30 seconds rather than the 4-5 minutes required from tape. Ah happy days.
posted by bap98189 at 9:24 AM on April 26, 2010


I remember being first-in w/the 3.5" floppy via the Mac and first-out w/the 3.5" floppy via the Mac (with my crowd anyway).

I remember much fun with the disk swapping shenanigans of the original single-drive Mac 128K. It should have been really annoying, but at the time it seemed futuristic (compared with the disk swapping shenanigans of the Apple ][e -- and yes there were those if you were brave enough to try and use Geos).

More amazingly is that there ever was a time where the system, application, and user data all fit on one floppy.
posted by mazola at 9:24 AM on April 26, 2010


My original 512K(!) "Fat" Mac had a variable-speed 400K floppy drive that was rather musical to listen to. When I upgraded it to Mac Plus specs the internal drive was also upgraded to a 800K constant-speed drive. Luckily I never upgraded my external drive so the music remains.

I boot it up every now and then. There's a certain satisfaction to having a 25 year-old computer that still works.
posted by tommasz at 9:24 AM on April 26, 2010


My least favourite floppy memory was installing Windows 95 from floppies. 36 of them, in fact. Imagine my frustration when the 35th floppy turned out to be corrupted.

Also: installing Slackware on a 486 laptop using floppies. And then installing Win95 on the same laptop after the Linux partition deleted itself for some reason. I don't miss those days at all. Although I do miss the 5 1/4'' drive on my ZX Spectrum that was blazing fast and could load any game up in just a few seconds.
posted by daniel_charms at 9:29 AM on April 26, 2010


This reminds be of when Dale Evans died. Had no idea she was still alive.
posted by Danf at 9:35 AM on April 26, 2010 [1 favorite]


The time I lost an entire hypercard stack of a hand-drawn (mouse-drawn?) Aliens-style scifi comic book animation thing to a bad floppy: how I learned not to trust them.

I think I finally threw out my cache of like fifty blank beige 3.5" disks when we moved into our house. I don't think I'd used more than two of them in ten years, pretty much only for linux boot disks on boxes I hadn't bothered with proper boot partitioning on or whatever.

I wouldn't mind a couple floppies squared off in lucite as beer coasters, though.
posted by cortex at 9:36 AM on April 26, 2010 [1 favorite]


Just popped in to mention that QRS, the last remaining maker of player piano rolls, apparently loads their music on 5.25" floppies on an Apple ][e. See it here. They're apparently big fans of the '80s, 1980s and 1880s.
posted by mhum at 9:41 AM on April 26, 2010 [6 favorites]


I should add another least favourite - the 1541 drive for the Commodore 64. I was doing some content creation for a C64-based online news/reviews service, the details of which are mercifully lost to my age-raddled brain, and got given a 64 and that drive.

Everything they said about it was true; it really was slower than a tape and not much more reliable. (For a vision of just how badly it could behave, the Wiki entry for the beast is a brief but educational window into that particular pain garden)

The "But it's got its own processor! It's really another computer!" arguments from the partisans did nothing to sooth my intense dislike. Quite the opposite.
posted by Devonian at 9:45 AM on April 26, 2010


Floppy disks are still used extensively at the research lab I worked at on campus. They did not have the budget to upgrade their computers to ones that could use USB drives.
posted by rebent at 9:51 AM on April 26, 2010



I should add another least favourite - the 1541 drive for the Commodore 64. I was doing some content creation for a C64-based online news/reviews service, the details of which are mercifully lost to my age-raddled brain, and got given a 64 and that drive.


I actually have one of those....A neighbor was cleaning out their garage and she thought I would be interested in this "Old computer" she had lying around. I thought it was going to be some POS gateway but it turned out to be a bona-fide C64 with a 1541 Drive! (In the original box too!)

Ecstatic, I took it home and opened up the manual. Underneath some file-copy commands someone had scribbled out one command, written in another, with "Dumb shits!" written in the margin.
posted by hellojed at 9:53 AM on April 26, 2010 [5 favorites]


Sony pioneered the 3.5-inch floppy disk in 1981

Christ. I feel really old suddenly.

That said, I have at least once in the last year made great sneakerware use of a 3.5" -- I was looking for an old document which I knew I once had a copy of but could not find it anywhere on any of the three or four computers I use regularly. I sat and stared into space for a while, trying to imagine where it might be. I suddenly remembered and rushed to off to find my dusty vintage-2000 modemless laptop, put the document onto a 3.5", moved the floppy to the most archaic desktop machine I had, and e-mailed it to myself. Ta-daaa!
posted by ricochet biscuit at 9:53 AM on April 26, 2010 [1 favorite]


When I built my current PC at home a few years ago I wanted to install WinXP Pro on a striped RAID array for better boot and application launch time. Turns out that the motherboard I had didn't allow for that without installing an external RAID driver during WinXP installation. Turns out not only did it require an external driver to be loaded but that driver could only be loaded from a floppy drive.
For a moment I was sitting there in disbelief... I couldn't even use a CD or DVD for this? A 3.5" floppy drive had most certainly not been part of my hardware configuration.
So I went to Fry's where I felt really weird about asking if they had floppy drives. Luckily they did and they even had blank discs.
It all worked out in the end but it sure felt like a trip back in time. Very odd.
posted by Hairy Lobster at 10:02 AM on April 26, 2010 [1 favorite]


>> I've been wondering how long the floppy is going to stick around as a metaphor for saving.
>
> The problem is what do you replace it with?

I vote for one of the simpler Egyptian Heiroglyphs. They're still readable after what, 5000 years? Give the media manufacturers something to shoot for.
posted by jfuller at 10:03 AM on April 26, 2010


JtJ: "but heaven knows what its for"

That's right.
posted by Drasher at 10:04 AM on April 26, 2010


I have a serious computer at work. Purchased mid-2009, it has 4 dual core 2GHz Xeons and 16 GB of RAM. I can compile all of PostgreSQL in about 20 seconds (using make -j4 or more). It also has a floppy drive.

Hey - me too! I never even noticed my machine had a floppy until I looked just now.
posted by GuyZero at 10:21 AM on April 26, 2010


My first computer - in 1997 - took 5 1/4 inch floppies. It also had a dot matrix printer, which as you can imagine made my GCSE coursework look like it was from THE FUTURE.
posted by mippy at 7:14 AM on April 26 [+] [!]


damn, mippy, did I sell you my old beater box? because the computer *I* had in 1997 had a 100MB hard drive, a 3.5 floppy drive *and* a cd-rom. and my shit was the fucking stone age then.

that was the computer that took a lightning strike direct to the modem and melted the motherboard during a marathon compuserve session.
posted by toodleydoodley at 10:24 AM on April 26, 2010


I still have an original, official Netscape 1.0 install disk on floppy, as well as AOL 1.0 and Acrobat 1.0. I will probably never stick them in a drive at this point, maybe once just to copy the contents.

Nearly all the 5 1/4" floppies from my old Apple ][e lasted a surprisingly long time, at least ten years, then my mom gave the computer and all the floppies away. Still bitter about that ...
posted by krinklyfig at 10:25 AM on April 26, 2010


I still have an original, official Netscape 1.0 install disk on floppy

Windows/286 and Excel 1.0. Borland Turbo C.

So many floppies... lost... like tears in the rain.
posted by GuyZero at 10:31 AM on April 26, 2010 [1 favorite]


One thing I'll miss: getting all the AOL free trial disks in the mail.

Yeah, I recall being distinctly miffed when they switched to mailing out 10 eleventy gazillion CDs because they couldn't be repurposed. I kept a pile of the CDs for a while, trying to think of an art project, or something, but nothing ever came to me.

As a sentimentalist, I still have my Aldus Freehand, Adobe Photoshop 3, OS 7.5.3, 100 fonts & ATM diskettes somewhere in the garage from my first big Mac purchase back in '93.
posted by Devils Rancher at 10:42 AM on April 26, 2010 [2 favorites]


On the Commodore 1541: Everything they said about it was true; it really was slower than a tape and not much more reliable.

I dispute this. I had to do with a Datasette for two or three years before I finally got a 1541 as a kid, and it was much faster. Also, you didn't have to rewind it, and disks seemed to go bad less often than tapes.

Of course, that doesn't change the fact that the 1541 was still much slower than it could have been. Nearly anyone who was serious about using the C64 for real work would end up using a fast load solution of some type.
posted by JHarris at 10:43 AM on April 26, 2010 [1 favorite]


Yes, come by my place sometime and you can watch a 1541 go head-to-head with a datasette on a C64. You could make a sandwich while you game loaded from disk, sure, but you could bake bread and cure a leg of ham in the time it took a game to load from cassette.
posted by GuyZero at 10:49 AM on April 26, 2010 [2 favorites]


> Some of my favourite floppy memories:

- When disk was still spelled "disc", the way Zeus and the gang intended.

- Sticking the Typing Tutor program cassette into the stereo and listening to the bitstream.

- Cracking the copy protect on Apple ][ floppies with a track/sector editor. Also, lots of copy-protect from that era required, as the final barrier, that the user's drive had to spin at the exact same speed as the manufacturer's drive the disk was written on. That would defeat even the our-program-copies-anything nibble copiers. Ever-so-slightly-different speed, no copy. The Disk ][ had a speed-tweaking set screw internally, so when you noticed somebody whose Disk ][ enclosure had a neat little screwdriver-access hole drilled in the side so they could adjust RPM without having to take the drive out of its case, you go "Here is a kindred spirit."

- Installing System V release 3.2 for x86 from forty 5.25" floppies. (That's just the command line stuff too, no X, no TeX, just bare-bones unix.) Insert disk 1, pray. Insert disk 2, pray..... Insert disk 40, pray.... AMEN, BRO! People bitch about dd but I can't begin to convey what a relief it was to get to the root prompt so I could dd an entire functioning system to SCSI tape. (Of course you also had to build a bare-bones unix boot floppy with dd and the SCSI tape device so you could dd it back in.)


> I can name one, very important one that I used this very morning. you can't install
> Server 2003 on a machine with a raid array that requires a non-inbox driver without
> one.

"If you need to install an external driver..." That's in XP also, so good luck if you're installing to a RAID or a SCSI drive or something else the minimal driver set in the XP or 2003 text-mode install phase doesn't support.
posted by jfuller at 10:57 AM on April 26, 2010 [2 favorites]


When I was in elementary school each one of us was issued a 5.25" floppy and protective sleeve (on which we all carefully wrote our names and, at least among all of my friends, covered in pictures of X-Wings and Tie Fighters) for computer class. We learned pretty quickly that if you were very careful you could open up the bottom of the floppy, take out the actual magnetic part, and put that back into another disk. If we were lucky this would work once or twice - usually it just ruined the disk (and in more dramatic cases got trapped in the drive and burned out the motor). Fun times.
posted by OverlappingElvis at 11:18 AM on April 26, 2010


I know I should come in a give a long aging scree on my desktop still having a floppy drive for the Rest of the World (tm)'s data and all, but I have a strong sense of deja vu that I've screeded that before somewhere somewhen on the blue already...

so instead I'm going to ask WTF do I do with all my MBA coursework being stuck in 100MB Zip drive optical disks.. how can I access that data?
posted by infini at 11:39 AM on April 26, 2010


(whoa... don't use keyboard after eating sweets, sticky fingers lead to bad typo's)
posted by infini at 11:40 AM on April 26, 2010


Anyone here remember using Zip disks and thinking they were the coolest thing ever?

I remember being one of many who joined the Click of Death Class Action Suit. :P
posted by zarq at 12:06 PM on April 26, 2010


so instead I'm going to ask WTF do I do with all my MBA coursework being stuck in 100MB Zip drive optical disks.. how can I access that data?

I still own a 250MB zip drive, but don't know if it's functional or if I have the right cable for it. Will check this weekend... if it works I'll MeMail you. Would be happy to let you borrow it and retrieve your data.
posted by zarq at 12:12 PM on April 26, 2010 [1 favorite]


Our public access computers still have floppy drives, but I haven't seen anyone use them in years. For that matter, the last couple of times I did, it was when someone came up to me with their sad little square of plastic and said that it was coming up unreadable, could I try to fix it because it was the only copy of their research that they had. And so I'd gamely give it a try, knowing already that it would be futile, before giving it back to them, offering to help them reconstruct their research, and trying to sell them on the virtues of solid-state USB drives and using Gmail as an accessible-anywhere place to store files.

Still, even though they've long been obsolete, I do have some lingering nostalgia for them. My first (and in many ways, still my favorite) computer game, Marathon, came on floppies. I probably still have the disk that Clay Shirky gave me back in the early nineties that had utilities that I needed in order to get my first personal internet account to actually work. Plus, of course, the excitement that I felt when I first saw one in a Mac 128K ad back in '84--you could put it in a shirt pocket!--and realizing that this was something like the storage cards that Kirk and Spock used on the Enterprise.

Ave atque vale, little square friend.
posted by Halloween Jack at 12:18 PM on April 26, 2010


thanks zarq and I'll look into checking out where they have been oh so carefully stored away for the ...uh oh... past decade ;p and two continents ago
posted by infini at 12:22 PM on April 26, 2010


Anybody remember the punch tool sold in the back of Byte to allow you to convert single sided 5.25" to double sided?
posted by werkzeuger at 12:22 PM on April 26, 2010 [5 favorites]


yes and also being taught how to "reformat" after using a real magnet to clean up a Verbatim floppy :)
posted by infini at 12:23 PM on April 26, 2010


No love for floppies here. I've hated them with a passion since installing OS/2 1.4 from a stack of about 25-30 floppies. CD-ROM drives were just beginning to show up, but the PS/2 Model 80 had none. Then I got to do the same thing the next year when Warp came out.
posted by sfred at 12:29 PM on April 26, 2010


No worries. :)

Are you using Mac or PC?

I had:

An internal Zip250 drive
An external parallel port Zip250 drive.
An external SCSI port Zip 250 drive
An external Zip100 Drive. (I definitely don't have this one any more.)

Assuming I have any of the others....

I believe the internal drive fits a standard IDE internal floppy cable and pc internal power cable. So if I have it and you're computer-savvy, you could easily install it into a tower.

I don't believe either of the externals has a USB connection, but will check.

The parallel port drive uses a cable which fits into an old-style printer parallel port, that looks like the first photo on this page. We should check to see if you have one before I send. :)
posted by zarq at 12:38 PM on April 26, 2010


No love for floppies here. I've hated them with a passion since installing OS/2 1.4 from a stack of about 25-30 floppies. CD-ROM drives were just beginning to show up, but the PS/2 Model 80 had none. Then I got to do the same thing the next year when Warp came out.

I remember that. The discs came in a binder. :P
posted by zarq at 12:39 PM on April 26, 2010


I had an external zip ... my biggest problem with data has been moving through three continents since May 2007 and not knowing if the left hand glove is in the same country as the right hand glove... let me MeMail you in a bit once I figure where stuff is or can ask mom to take a look for me (with phone instructions on what exactly she's looking for ;p). still gotta update the mefi usa meetup threads as well since we're now approaching takeoff soon :)
posted by infini at 12:46 PM on April 26, 2010


No worries. Take your time. I won't have time to look for the drives and parts until this weekend anyway.
posted by zarq at 12:56 PM on April 26, 2010


A second 3.5" drive in mi Amiga 500 changed my life.

These are my favorite floppy disc stories.

The Gaussian Grading Curve.
In Junior high we took Logo classes on networked BBC Micro computers. Everyone was given a floppy to save their work on. The discs were kept on a stack to the left of the drive, and at the start of every class, the teacher would load them one by one, "send" the contents to your terminal, and put the discs on a stack on the right. At he end of the class the process would be repeated right to left and the day's work saved on the floppy.

Instead of drawing hexagons inscribed in circles, I spent the last trimester generating random fart noises and exploring list processing and recursion. In logo. I was going to fail the class if I did not do something. My solution was to break a public telephone handset with a piece of concrete, take the magnet and tape it under the teachers desk close to the drive before the last class.

All the discs got corrupted, the teacher never admitted anything, and our final grades were the average of the previous 2 (way easier) trimesters. I have never told this story before, so if you were in that class, you are welcome for the nice final grade.

The Windows Backpack:
For about 3 months in high school I made a lot of extra money upgrading people's computers to Windows 95 and installing Word (or was it Works?) and some games. My equipment consisted of a bicycle and a backpack with some 60 floppy discs. My job consisted of riding to someone's house, sitting on a chair with a book and swapping discs every few of minutes for a few hours. One of my customers paid me with a Sound Blaster card (woot! Descent with sound!) and a pair of speakers. Which I put in my backpack, on top of the discs. Only the second to last Windows install disc got corrupted and you can figure out the rest.
posted by dirty lies at 1:06 PM on April 26, 2010 [13 favorites]


I am now feeling old, thinking about editing papers and writing crude PL/C programs as a freshman on Terak computers with their 8-inch floppies. Moving on to the PC-ATs and their 5-1/4 disks (and WordStar!) seemed like such a luxury.
posted by aught at 1:14 PM on April 26, 2010


I was being a bit free and easy with the 1541's load time versus tape, but only a bit. There were turbo tape loaders that could beat the unassisted 1541; there were also numerous software patches that could speed up the 1541 by up to 20x (or thereabouts - I can't find any good references, but I'm not that motivated to try).

It was not a good design. It was, however, better than the ZX Microdrive.
posted by Devonian at 1:28 PM on April 26, 2010 [1 favorite]


I have a 5 1/4 floppy stuck to my cube wall with a giant magnet. I feel sort of sad like it is hanging up there dying then I remember that I loathe them and it deserves to be stuck up there.
posted by msbutah at 3:03 PM on April 26, 2010


Anyone here remember using Zip disks and thinking they were the coolest thing ever?

On my first trip to Japan, in 2001, I headed to an internet cafe with my Zip disk to do some work. I asked them if they had a Zip drive and the counter guy didn't know what it was. So I pulled it out and his eyes narrowed. He was stumped as to what it was. He called over some co-workers and asked them, and they all had that "WTF is that?" look on their faces. I was surprised that Japan didn't have Zip disks, and I remember thinking that these guys were lucky at being able to see one for the first time, that they'd be using them before long. Ha.
posted by zardoz at 3:04 PM on April 26, 2010 [1 favorite]


I skipped Zip and bought a SparQ drive. Which made a click-o-death Zip drive look a whole lot better by comparison, and essentially put SyQuest out of business on the strength of its shittiness.

But it provided a lot more megabytes-per-dollar, for the brief period those megabytes were accessible. So, hey!
posted by cortex at 3:46 PM on April 26, 2010


I skipped Zip and bought a SparQ drive. Which made a click-o-death Zip drive look a whole lot better by comparison, and essentially put SyQuest out of business on the strength of its shittiness.

Which is a shame because the EZ135 was all kinds of awesome. I always felt bad-ass hauling around 100+ MB data (reliably!).
posted by mazola at 3:51 PM on April 26, 2010


I work in a machine shop and most of our old Haas and Fadal CNC machines have 3.5 inch floppy drives on them. I honestly don't know how they even function what with all of the metal particles that cover every square millimeter of our shop. The two new machines use USB thumb drives and I don't see how those keep working either.
posted by cropshy at 4:03 PM on April 26, 2010


I used a floppy disk today! (I worked at a pharmacy that's been using the same software since 1986.)
posted by little e at 5:24 PM on April 26, 2010 [1 favorite]


Somewhere in the old computer room of my parents house there is a red floppy disk with a green striped label containing naked pictures of the Pink Power Ranger. It was a gift for my 13th birthday from the only kid in my class whose Mom didn't care if he looked at porn.

It was a seminal event. I promised myself I wasn't going to make that joke. AND THEN I DID!
posted by GilloD at 5:49 PM on April 26, 2010 [4 favorites]


Anyone here remember using Zip disks and thinking they were the coolest thing ever?
Yup. And, hardly surprising if you, like me, had to move LARGE eps files to a print shop every other day, the birth of Zip drives is also my happy floppy disk memory.
posted by _dario at 6:09 PM on April 26, 2010


Man. I remember building a person-sized costume and walking around as a 3.5" floppy disk one Halloween. It was fun stuff, but in retrospect it helps explain why I didn't have a girlfriend.
posted by verb at 6:11 PM on April 26, 2010


but in retrospect it helps explain why I didn't have a girlfriend.

Hey, you were just saving yourself.
posted by cortex at 6:17 PM on April 26, 2010 [11 favorites]


Then she came along and corrupted him.
posted by Decimask at 6:41 PM on April 26, 2010 [3 favorites]


For some reason I am reminded of Zen Master Greg.
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 6:47 PM on April 26, 2010


My favorite floppy memory: loading Ancient Art of War on the PC from a pirated copy. If you knew what to listen for, you could open the drive door at just the right time and simulate the error the loader was looking for. Good times!
posted by DrumsIntheDeep at 6:48 PM on April 26, 2010 [1 favorite]


2002. Poorly performing member of a for-profit university study group claims she sent study group weekly project contribution via email, but no other members of study group received it. I see her old laptop has a floppy drive, and offer to let her copy her contribution to floppy, so I can load it to our P2P cooperative workspace (Groove).

She didn't know what the floppy bay in her laptop was "for." I showed her, after plugging in the USB-based accessory floppy drive on my Winbook, and formatting a blank 3.5" floppy for her copy, in Windows Explorer. She was enthralled, and moved to tearfully admit, to the rest of us, that she'd never done her project contribution for that week.

We sympathized, as she was a 36 year old mother, with a demanding job, and a 4 month old newborn, and we stayed in our study group until 1:00 a.m., and helped her finish her contribution, and called her husband to let him know what was up, and got his acceptance to care for the littlest kid she had, until she came home, and propped her up with great coffee, and saved it all to floppy disk, off her machine, and then loaded it to our Groove P2P workspace on my machine, and thanked her, for her ultimate honesty with us, and later efforts before us, while she cried,

and later, I e-mailed it all, to our instructor, a day late, without explanation, and we got graded down a bit for delay, and up a lot for depth and scope.
posted by paulsc at 6:53 PM on April 26, 2010 [5 favorites]


Don't copy that floppy ...
posted by juiceCake at 7:42 PM on April 26, 2010


Some of my favourite floppy memories:
1. The 8" floppies we used at my first dev workplace, hanging off a Vax 11/780...
posted by Devonian at 9:03 AM on April 26 [8 favorites +] [!]


Eponysterical?
posted by neuron at 8:21 PM on April 26, 2010


I use 3.5" discs all the time, with my Roland MC-300 sequencer.

At some point I suppose I'll have to figure out some new technology, but for now my Roland is still chugging along, and it does what I want it to do tolerably well.
posted by Karlos the Jackal at 9:11 PM on April 26, 2010


You don't know pain unless you've installed novell netware off 5.25" floppies on a single-drive machine. There mustve been 50 discs, and some were needed on many nonconsecutive occasions.
posted by jewzilla at 12:16 AM on April 27, 2010


I was given a 1541 drive for my Commodore for Christmas in 1986. My stepdad leaned close and said in awe "Take good care of that. It cost more than the computer did!"

The following year, in the 3rd grade, we were all given a 3.5 floppy disk of our very own to use for our weekly computer classes. I remember being really impressed by its size and relative hardiness compared to the 5 1/4 disks. That was the same year I used a touchscreen for the first time, velcroed to the monitor.

1995, I took ROP computers instead of typing. I always finished my projects early, so I goofed off a lot and played games and caused trouble. Thereby earning the C I received when every 3.5" I touched for the last 3 weeks of the semester failed spectacularly and wiped out my work. My teacher may have been more sympathetic had I not been as much of a little shit about being bored.
posted by annathea at 1:52 AM on April 27, 2010 [1 favorite]


p.s. I had a Zip drive for a year (1998), it ate everything, I chucked it into the dumpster without a second thought and went back to burning CDs for hours instead.
posted by annathea at 1:53 AM on April 27, 2010


We had a Bernoulli drive back in the day, and an external CD drive that required you to put CDs in cases first so they acted like floppies, with a metal plate that slides out of the way as it goes in the slot.
posted by emeiji at 2:08 AM on April 27, 2010 [2 favorites]


Devonian: I have a USB drive and can read the darn things, but everything's in some godforsaken Microsoft Write format (and a mixture of other early 90s formats) which I have yet to crack. I have another relative who reminds me, from time to time, that there's information on there which she'd really like to have.

For this person's sake, I hope you realize that you can always copy the files off and zip them into a single archive to figure out later. Floppy disks do fail eventually, you know....
posted by JHarris at 6:34 AM on April 27, 2010


...but everything's in some godforsaken Microsoft Write format (and a mixture of other early 90s formats) which I have yet to crack.

MS Writer's .wri files can be opened with any modern version of Wordpad, or Word 2007 with the .wri import tool, and there are freeware converters out there. For stranger things, try Data Viz's MacLink Plus - it does a fantastic job of converting oddball file types to something more readable.
posted by Slap*Happy at 7:30 AM on April 27, 2010 [1 favorite]


Plenty of people still use floppies - the technology illiterate. I teach computer classes at an employment office and have had to break the news about a broken floppy many times.

I try to convince everyone I teach to switch to a USB.

Me: "You can buy one for $7 at the library!"
Them: "$7!? This *holds up floppy* cost a less than a $1!"

However, the Seattle Public Library has stopped supporting floppy disks. This has been forcing many people to change. Yay!
posted by soupy at 8:43 AM on April 27, 2010


Nothing was cooler than the external 3.5" floppy we had for our Apple ||c. It made such a warm, pleasing sound.
posted by gjc at 9:25 AM on April 27, 2010


How I Met Your Motherboard
posted by brundlefly at 9:41 AM on April 27, 2010 [1 favorite]


oh the irony...

brought all my data that I could burn on the desktop (which has an FDD as well) back on the last continent on CDs and brought an external CD drive for the netbook. didn't need it till yesterday when I discovered that there's no way to plug the firewire cable into the netbook. and when I walked into the local shop holding hte cable the two salesmen pointed and laughed at me. seriously. then I tried the store they recommended for an adapter where before I could even approach the helpdesk he said nope, no way to convert that firewire thingie to a USB.

GRAR

I hereby walk away from all my data. its over, Data, it not me, its you.
posted by infini at 10:18 AM on April 27, 2010


this is on my cube right now
posted by Mach5 at 11:46 AM on April 27, 2010


infini: They are correct you can't really go USB -> FireWire, but if your machine has any sort of expansion card slot at all (PC Card, ExpressCard/16 or ExpressCard/32) you can almost certainly get a FireWire card for it. That would take care of the problem.

Alternately, and perhaps more easily / cheaply, you could just get a portable HDD and then take it to a computer with a CD-Rom and copy everything onto the disk. Then you'd be set for a while (just don't forget to spin the drive up occasionally).

Fairly recently — almost embarrassingly so — I finally got around to archiving all the floppy disks I had sitting around that had somehow evaded past backup roundups. It was probably about a hundred disks or so, including not only my stuff but a lot of stuff from my family as well.

The way I did it was basically:

1. Make images of all the disks, without even mounting them. (I was doing this on an old machine that I booted into Linux for the purpose of just copying these disks to a portable hard drive. I didn't save the script but it just copied /dev/fd0 to a sequentially-named .raw file on the hard drive.) This makes sure I get every disk, even if it's some strange format. The only thing it won't get is disks that are physically incompatible with the drive, like some old 800k ones. But most people have very few, if any, of those.

2. Catalog all the information that's written on the disk label. I used a digital camera to snap photos of each one as I pulled it out of the computer, once it had been copied. That way if I ever need "that green disk with the yellow typewritten label" or "that AOL 2.0 disk with the cat drawn on it in Sharpie" (my filing system left something to be desired in the 90s) I can find it by going through in iPhoto and finding the photo, and then knowing which one it was. There are probably more elegant methods of doing this, but I was lazy and didn't want to type a lot of stuff in.

3. Mount and extract all the actual files from the disk images. Because I am lazy and was doing a bunch of these at once, I wrote a small script to do this part. You can get it here. (For those who don't want to click the link, it just mounts each .img file in a directory as a loopback device and then copies its contents to a folder. It's an overgrown one-liner, really.) This will only work for disks that your computer knows how to mount, which will probably be most of them, but I had a few disks from old word processing systems that didn't work. You can still archive those by grabbing raw images of them though — and I would definitely do that. Storage is absurdly cheap and you never know, someone down the road might write a program to parse that word processor or synthesizer proprietary disk format, and then you'd have your data. It costs practically nothing to at least save the raw bytes, if you can.

4. That's it, you're done. Sort of. I'd say that you should immediately copy your nicely archived disks onto a couple of different pieces of media (say another hard drive and an optical disc) for storage, and you might want to comb through the actual files and insert them into your current filing system if you care about actually referring to them or finding them easily. But that's up to you.

Anyway, hope maybe that encourages some people to go and archive all those 3.5" FDs they have sitting around. It took me probably about two hours total to do around 100 disks; the longest part is just doing the raw copying. If you do it while watching TV or browsing the Web it goes pretty quickly; it's a totally mindless job.
posted by Kadin2048 at 3:34 PM on April 27, 2010 [2 favorites]


"I can name one, very important one that I used this very morning. you can't install Server 2003 on a machine with a raid array that requires a non-inbox driver without one. even though the machine I installed it on has a Xeon 7560 and 8 SSD's in it, it still needs a floppy."

I think you can, actually, by injecting the driver into the installer using a program called nLite.
posted by archagon at 5:15 PM on April 27, 2010


My mother called me a few weeks ago, to ask me if I had any use for the hundred-odd 5.25" Atari floppy disks that I used back in the early-to-mid 80s. I didn't bother to call her back and answer that question.
posted by davejay at 8:31 PM on April 27, 2010


Kadin2048 - that's an elegant and obvious solution - DUH :) I had transferred the contents of a full fieldtrip to sub saharan africa onto a portable HDD because i needed those pix asap but hadn't thought of transferring everything. I'm on my second HDD now and finding that's very convenient and easy to simply carry the contents of every eeePC and the desktop around with me. Now I'll promptly go and transfer the CD's as well - wondering if I should invest in another HDD and make a back up as well. the CD's are primarily fieldwork photos from around the developing world and irreplaceable in any practical terms.

thank you.
posted by infini at 10:17 PM on April 27, 2010


posted by werkzeuger:
"Anybody remember the punch tool sold in the back of Byte to allow you to convert single sided 5.25" to double sided?"

Yeah, I remember thinking, "Hell, I have a perfectly fine pair of scissors, and a one-hole punch!" Instant doubling of (unreliable/unverified) space for all the C64 games I leeched off BBS's.
posted by not_on_display at 1:10 PM on April 28, 2010


Gah, always late to these things. Oh well, someone reading the archives might get a chuckle.

When working at an educational software company in the mid-eighties we would get support requests from teachers all the time. Comp literacy was nowhere near what it is now for educators; we had all kinds of hand-holding user walkthroughs ready for them. But we weren't prepared for 'Erma'.

Erma was having trouble with a dataset diskette for one of our teacher modules. We spent hours on the phone troubleshooting - nothing we tried with her seemed to be working. So we asked her to make a copy of the diskette and send it over for us to check over.

Erma's envelope arrived three days later, with a photocopy of a 5 1/4" floppy enclosed. A site visit ensued.
posted by Hardcore Poser at 6:38 AM on April 29, 2010 [3 favorites]


Erma's envelope arrived three days later, with a photocopy of a 5 1/4" floppy enclosed. A site visit ensued.

that does deserve a LOL ;p


I have a worse one. One of ladies at HP India who was convinced that all the software resided in her monitor where she could see it, right there, in front of her nose, not in that box on the floor under her desk.
posted by infini at 11:45 AM on April 29, 2010


zarq- oh yes, the click of death! (zip -and in a relative manner, floppy). The look on lab-users faces when I told them what that meant, priceless.
posted by uni verse at 10:04 AM on May 9, 2010


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