Monday, April 7, 2008

computers: old storage media

Remember 3.5" floppies? Here are 90 of them, free for the taking.
90 3.5" floppies plus a 5.25" floppy and a 2GB microSD card
Ignore the “2.0 MB” label, these actually store about 1.44 MB. So that stack represents all of 132 MB, or less than a fifth of a CD-ROM. I remember when these first came out for the Mac and cost $10 each.

Those floppies are junk, you can't even give them away. I consolidated the information from them to a few MB on a network drive. Many were backup and transit disks (so-called "sneakernet") with only slight differences between directories and files. I couldn't find a good tool to help me consolidate them. I wanted a split view explorer that would show floppy details (including bootable or not, DOS version, hidden files, etc.) in one pane and in the other pane intelligently search a hard drive for likely matching files and directories. Probably a DOS version of such a tool was on one of the floppies!

Several of them are installation disks for nifty integrated phone answering machine +FAX software like Ring Zero and QuickLink that came with modems. Back then the mental stumbling block was “Your computer can be your telephone,” just as now the stumbling block is “Your computer can be your TV.”

The disk in the IBM sleeve on the left is a 5.25" floppy from 1983 or so that stores 360KB. I have several dozen of those I still need to archive. I also have an 8" floppy with some documents I made on an IBM Displaywriter, plus a 3.5" magneto-optical disk, a Jaz disk, and a Sun 1/4-inch cartridge. Compared with the 80s and 90s, we are in a period of incredible media stability.

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