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Retrieving Data From Old Amstrad Floppies?

timothy posted more than 6 years ago | from the but-I-thought-you-said-it-was-obscure dept.

Data Storage 323

Jeppe Utzon writes "Back in 1987, when I was a teenager in high school still, I spent most evenings, nights and weekends writing small programs in BASIC on my Amstrad CPC 6128. Some of these programs were simple games, some drew graphics, some could help me with math or train me in French — and most were utterly pointless. But I never had as much satisfying fun as when writing those programs — even if no one in my family understood any of it when I proudly displayed the fruits of three sleepless nights of labor. Now, 20 years later, I still have a sealed pack of about 15 disks with all my work on them (along with a few of my favorite games) and I was wondering if it was possible to get the data out somehow so that I could run it in emulation on my Mac. I know of the emulators, but have no clue what would be needed to extract the data — or if it is even extractable after all these years. I realize the chances of the data still being intact are quite low, but I'd like to give it a shot. So if anyone has any pointers it would be greatly appreciated." A large hurdle will be finding a drive to read the Amstrad disks at all.

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323 comments

Agreed on finding a drive (4, Interesting)

fataugie (89032) | more than 6 years ago | (#23339160)

I'm sure that will be the problem. Unless you search on Ebay or Craigslist for someone with one in their basement....good luck. I have a 5 1/4 floppy drive and some disks set aside for the exact same reason.....someday I'll want that info and then I'll be all set.

Re:Agreed on finding a drive (1)

MikeS2k (589190) | more than 6 years ago | (#23339192)

I used to have an old 3" floppy drive (in a ZX Spectrum, not an Amstrad) until it caught fire... :(
I also have a bunch of old 3" floppy disks that hold BASIC programs, the most complex of which was a wierd "treasure hunt" game (I was only young :-))

Re:Agreed on finding a drive (3, Insightful)

Chas (5144) | more than 6 years ago | (#23339330)

"I have a 5 1/4 floppy drive and some disks set aside for the exact same reason.....someday I'll want that info and then I'll be all set."

If bit-rot doesn't do you in first.

Re:Agreed on finding a drive (1, Insightful)

snowraver1 (1052510) | more than 6 years ago | (#23339518)

What did 5 1/4 drives connect with? ATA/33? Would you even be able to connect a flopppy from a 386 to a modern PC?

Re:Agreed on finding a drive (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23339550)

Many motherboards still have the floppy connectors, but with USB and SATA taking over, I doubt you'll find many new ones still supporting them. My last motherboard (this was 2001) supported the floppy, however it only supported an A: drive, no B: drive. So my dual-floppy reader was half useless.

Re:Agreed on finding a drive (2, Informative)

timbck2 (233967) | more than 6 years ago | (#23339588)

The really old ones (including the Commodore 64) connected via a serial interface.

Re:Agreed on finding a drive (2, Informative)

bhtooefr (649901) | more than 6 years ago | (#23339632)

It depends on the platform.

IBM-compatibles used a special floppy interface - the controller is on the motherboard.

And, if a modern PC has the hardware to drive a 3.5" floppy, it can drive a 5.25" floppy. So, yes.

But, the IBM-compatible floppy controller might not be able to handle these Amstrad disks.

Re:Agreed on finding a drive (4, Informative)

Dadoo (899435) | more than 6 years ago | (#23340008)

But, the IBM-compatible floppy controller might not be able to handle these Amstrad disks.

If that's a problem, get one of these controllers: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/CatWeasel [wikipedia.org] . Unless they have a driver already, you'll need to know how to write a program to decode data, bit by bit, but these controllers will read and write nearly anything. I have a MK3, and I was able to get it to read the data on old Ohio Scientific disks.

Now if I could just find a working 8" disk drive...

Re:Agreed on finding a drive (1, Interesting)

Chris Mattern (191822) | more than 6 years ago | (#23339692)

Assuming he means a PC 5 1/4 inch drive, 5 1/4 inch drives connected to the floppy controller, which remained basically unchanged in the switch to 3 1/2 inch drives. Modern motherboards still generally have a floppy controller; if your PC has a 3 1/2 floppy drive, it'll support a 5 1/4 inch drive. My PC actually has a 2-in-1 drive hooked up in it, so I can still read and write 3 1/2 and 5 1/4 diskettes even today.

Re:Agreed on finding a drive (1)

KillerBob (217953) | more than 6 years ago | (#23339942)

I've got a combo 5.25"/3.5" drive... fits in a standard 5.25" drive bay. Modern computers do support it, but only one of the drives is seen. I need to set a jumper on the drive to switch between the 5.25" being A: and the 3.5" being A: in order to use it.

I've used it as recently as a month ago, when it was the only floppy drive I had lying around and I needed to flash the BIOS on a new motherboard so it'd support a quad core processor.

Re:Agreed on finding a drive (1, Funny)

badboy_tw2002 (524611) | more than 6 years ago | (#23339780)

Seriously, if you want to actually access that info move it off now and onto newer medium. That whole stack could go on a thumbdrive or CD and be safe for the next 10 years or so.

Re:Agreed on finding a drive (3, Interesting)

ichthus (72442) | more than 6 years ago | (#23339916)

That could happen, but I had floppies for an Atari 8-bit that were written 23 years ago. They still worked fine last week...

then sold my 800, two drives and a bunch of other stuff. I'm now $100 richer, but I have to admit feeling a bit of seller's remorse. A part of me has died.

But, the point is (damn, I miss that 800 now. Why'd I do it?) *cough* magnetic media seems to be lasting much longer than was expected.

Find an old system (3, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23339366)

You're a programmer, get your hands on some old hardware and take advantage of what wikipedia says:

Serial port adaptor

Amstrad issued two RS-232-C D25 serial interfaces, attached to the expansion connector at the rear of the machine, with a through-connector for the CPC464 disk drive or other peripherals. The original interface came with a "Book of Spells" for facilitating data transfer between other systems using a proprietary protocol in the device's own ROM, as well as terminal software to connect to British Telecom's Prestel service. A separate version of the ROM was created for the U.S. market due to the use of the commands "SUCK" and "BLOW", which were considered unacceptable there.
Use a serial line to copy the data. I'm sure that it wouldn't be too hard if you can just get a machine that works.

Re:Agreed on finding a drive (5, Informative)

gigne (990887) | more than 6 years ago | (#23339384)

Yep, once you find one you are going to need to transfer it onto a PC. I never could find a drive, so I gave up, but here are some links that will help with the task.

This link http://www.fvempel.nl/3pc.html [fvempel.nl] has some good details on how to splice it onto a PC floppy cable. There are also loads of good links on his page for extracting the data.

The guys on http://www.cpczone.net/ [cpczone.net] were really helpful.

Good luck, you will need it!

Old Amstrad Computer (2, Interesting)

Midnight Thunder (17205) | more than 6 years ago | (#23340052)

If I remember rightly the drives were integrated into some models of Amstrads. Given this if you can find an old Amstrad you should see if you could create a serial link between the computer and your Mac. After that its a matter of using kermit or some other serial transfer protocol.

Re:Agreed on finding a drive (3, Informative)

B'Trey (111263) | more than 6 years ago | (#23339570)

Wow! Just how much is it worth to you?

$285.14? [ebay.com]

Seems a bit pricey to me but your nostalgic millage may vary.

Re:Agreed on finding a drive (1)

Hatta (162192) | more than 6 years ago | (#23339730)

What are the chances someone could hack themselves a disk drive that could read these? It seems like it would be possible to rig up some sort of magnetic scanner that could read the analog magnetic domains on the disk, and convert that to data in software. I'm sure it would take some crazy engineering, and it's probably not worth doing, but it at least seems plausible.

If this guy [huji.ac.il] can convert an LP to audio with an optical scanner, why not?

Simplest way... (4, Insightful)

Joce640k (829181) | more than 6 years ago | (#23339856)

Try emailing the people who write those emulators you mention.

Re:Agreed on finding a drive (1)

DerekLyons (302214) | more than 6 years ago | (#23340074)

I have a 5 1/4 floppy drive and some disks set aside for the exact same reason.....someday I'll want that info and then I'll be all set.

Assuming that the drives haven't died and the disks haven't suffered from bitrot or aging effects on the materials they are made of.

VMware (-1, Offtopic)

Lord Apathy (584315) | more than 6 years ago | (#23339166)

I don't know what OS that amstrad ran but if it ran DOS of some type could you not run it with a VM of some type. VMware comes to mind. Or you could scare up a copy of dos in a box for linux, me thinks.

Re:VMware (4, Funny)

Free the Cowards (1280296) | more than 6 years ago | (#23339250)

Yes, because VMWare will totally help you run a system that originally ran on a Z80, and used utterly non-standard disks which no other drive will accept.

Re:VMware (4, Funny)

0racle (667029) | more than 6 years ago | (#23339284)

Well VMware is pretty damn awesome.

Re:VMware (1)

Lord Apathy (584315) | more than 6 years ago | (#23339542)

Well there you go then. Problem solved. Here are a couple of free sarcasm tags for you too.

Re:VMware (1)

AKAImBatman (238306) | more than 6 years ago | (#23339828)

VMWare will totally help you run a system that originally ran on a Z80

Just to be snarky for a moment, the Z80 *was* a clone of the Intel 8080...

Re:VMware (2, Informative)

Aardpig (622459) | more than 6 years ago | (#23339308)

No, Amstrad's ran AMSDOS as the default (load-from-ROM) operating system. They could also load CP/M from a floppy, since they were based on Z80 CPUs (backward compatible with the 8080).

Floppy-wise, they used a non-standard 3" drive, which may have been made by Shugart. That's going to be the real hurdle.

My own Amstrad lasted me through to my college years, when I used to use it to solve physics problems. My favorite was getting it to calculate anomalous Zeeman effect splitting profiles.

Re:VMware (1)

Lord Apathy (584315) | more than 6 years ago | (#23339388)

Then that is not the amstrad I was thinking of. The Amstrad I was thinking of was DOS based and had a 8088 in it. I don't even know if VMware will run a 8 bit system anyway. It was just a guess.

Re:VMware (2, Informative)

bhtooefr (649901) | more than 6 years ago | (#23339794)

Amstrad did make some IBM PC compatibles, but that'd be too easy - IIRC, they used standard (well, as standard as you can call it back then) 360 kiB 5.25" floppies, too.

And, all VMware does is virtualization (not emulation) of an x86 PC.

This guy needs to find a working Amstrad that can read his disks, and then use it to create disk images. I don't know if there's a utility to automatically do that for the Amstrads, though. (For Apple IIs, it's stupid easy to make disk images, thanks to ADTPro [sf.net] and cheap serial cables.)

Find somebody with a working Amstrad. (4, Funny)

Chas (5144) | more than 6 years ago | (#23339190)

Otherwise you're pretty boned.

Re:Find somebody with a working Amstrad. (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23339264)

Re:Find somebody with a working Amstrad.
LOL. That is an oxymoron if I've ever heard one!!

Alan Sugar the Gerald Ratner of the computer world.... :)

Re:Find somebody with a working Amstrad. (1)

Chas (5144) | more than 6 years ago | (#23339590)

I was trying for a +1 "Funny" modifier.

Re:Find somebody with a working Amstrad. (1)

Lord Apathy (584315) | more than 6 years ago | (#23339944)

I was trying for a +1 "Funny" modifier.

Then you got boned....

Re:Find somebody with a working Amstrad. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23340022)

Here you are :*

Reading 26 year old disks (5, Informative)

Steve1952 (651150) | more than 6 years ago | (#23339226)

I was recently able to successfully read data from my old Apple II+ elephant memory disks from 1981-1982. It worked nearly perfectly, with only a few tracks out of ten disks being unreadable. Of course the old disks only stored about 140K per disk, so the tracks must have been huge by modern standards.

I used disk2fdi for this. You can get this at: http://www.oldskool.org/disk2fdi

you missed the point. (1)

the brown guy (1235418) | more than 6 years ago | (#23339234)

Back in 1987, when I was a teenager in high school still, I spent most evenings, nights and weekends working with my 3' floppy

Fixed that for ya.

Re:you missed the point. (5, Funny)

oodaloop (1229816) | more than 6 years ago | (#23339444)

working with my 3' floppy

Three FOOT floppy? Hate to to see it when it's not floppy.

Re:you missed the point. (1)

NekSnappa (803141) | more than 6 years ago | (#23339826)

I'm not even interested in seeing it when it is floppy!

Re:you missed the point. (1)

Theoboley (1226542) | more than 6 years ago | (#23340038)

They call him "Mandingo"

In same situation with Apple // disks (1)

athloi (1075845) | more than 6 years ago | (#23339240)

Have a ton of old code, writings, etc. on 3.5" disks -- I had the brains to copy over the 5.25" data back when I had an Apple, apparently.

I don't really want to go buy a retro //gs and all the stuff that comes with it and have it around the house, and am not even sure how to get all of these files to PC or BSD-friendly formats. Some are text. Some are Appleworks.

I copied over everything I had on a Mac platform, but didn't have a SuperDrive, so couldn't read the // 3.5" disks.

Anyone up for a LAN party where we all convert our old stuff to current formats?

Archiving was easier when everything was in universal formats. (No MS-XML formats for me.)

Re:In same situation with Apple // disks (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23339576)

Anyone up for a LAN party where we all convert our old stuff to current formats?
I was about to tell you how much of an interesting idea that was, then I remembered that I spent most of my highschool weekends having lan parties, not engaging the opposite sex. Never again!

the captcha was "smells", how topical.

Proposed solution (2, Funny)

athloi (1075845) | more than 6 years ago | (#23339806)

LAN party at noon, then pubcrawling to midnight engaging the opposite sex?

I see a market here (5, Funny)

wsanders (114993) | more than 6 years ago | (#23339242)

In addition to the usual hapless corporate customers needing to restore 10 year old backup tapes at the request of lawyers, forensic data recoverers can now market to nostalgic boomers looking to relive their C64 and Sinclair ZX-80 experiences.

There is big money here - look at the motorcycle industry, which used to be pitched to outlaws, kids, and the outdoorsy, and is now aiming for the Viagra and $100-bottle-of-wine crowd.

I still have a huge library of Fortran code on 1/2" tape. If I ever want to see that code again will somebody please kill me.

Re:I see a market here (1)

cpricejones (950353) | more than 6 years ago | (#23339492)

By "huge" you mean kilobytes, right?

Re:I see a market here (2, Informative)

curmudgeous (710771) | more than 6 years ago | (#23339556)

I think he was referring to physical dimensions, not capacity.

Re:I see a market here (1)

m0nkyman (7101) | more than 6 years ago | (#23339514)

I don't know about big money, but there is definitely room for a business to specialize in this field, given that international shipping and the internet allows the market to be worldwide. Definitely someone could make a decent living at it.

Re:I see a market here (1)

deanoaz (843940) | more than 6 years ago | (#23339526)

>>> I still have a huge library of Fortran code on 1/2" tape. If I ever want to see that code again will somebody please kill me.

Yes, after what you said about motorcycle enthusiasts, somebody surely will if the need arises.

Re:I see a market here (1)

Frederic54 (3788) | more than 6 years ago | (#23339658)

I still have a huge library of Fortran code on 1/2" tape.

I still have a couple of COBOL program on a 8" floppy, I am wondering what would be the cost to retrieve them!
They come from a Bull Mini6, like this one:
http://www.histoireinform.com/Histoire/+infos2/chr4infe.htm [histoireinform.com]

Damn I'm old :-(

Seems pretty possible (1)

Weaselmancer (533834) | more than 6 years ago | (#23339244)

Google found me this emulation site. [cpczone.net] So emulation seems possible. Dunno about a Mac port, but people are writing code to emulate.

As for getting the data off, my first idea was to try to find a full system off of eBay. Then you'll need to write something to pull raw sectors off the disks. And a terminal program - something to push the info down a serial line. On the other side hook up your Mac and write something there to collect the data.

I'm doing something similar with an old Amiga 2000 and my old programming projects.

recovering your old programs.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23339252)

Use the google.... I'm sure there's a way.. I also had the same nostalgia, but from years before that on the ZX81. Lots of emulators for that, including hooking up a tape recorder to my iMac to get the programs off! Lots of good fun there.

Good luck..

Hardware is easy to find (5, Informative)

Alioth (221270) | more than 6 years ago | (#23339290)

It should be trivially easy to do, given a short BASIC program and five minutes on ebay.

Just search ebay for an Amstrad CPC6128 or a Sinclair Spectrum +3 or an Amstrad PCW. There are still plenty of them around. (I have a Spectrum +3 with a working 3 inch Amstrad floppy drive as it happens, the floppy drive is quite handy for restoring the firmware on the Spectrum ethernet card I'm developing if I blow some non-functional code onto the flash ROM and can't reprogram it any more over ethernet). It would be best to get a CPC6128 - if you get a Spectrum +3 or a PCW you may have to write some low-level software to read CPC formatted discs.

The CPC, if I remember right, has an RS232 port. Write a short BASIC program to send your data to a PC via RS232.

Incidentally, the most common fault on the 3 inch Amstrad drives is a broken belt - you can buy new ones from rwap software: http://www.rwapsoftware.co.uk/ [rwapsoftware.co.uk] - while this firm caters for the Spectrum, since the later models were built by Amstrad with the 3in drive, they carry parts for 3in drives.

The other good news is most floppies seem to hold up well - while the 3in discs don't seem to do as well as 5.25 in discs (I have only one faulty disc in many 20+ year old ones for my BBC micro, but rather more faulty 3in discs - all pre-recorded game discs) - so I suspect your discs will all read fine.

Re:Hardware is easy to find (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23339602)

Depends on the maker, Sony 3.5" had a high failure rate, eating homework like mad. Other brands did a lot better, even if dusty.

I used 'double' my 3.5" as well, punching the extra hole with a pocketknife so the computer would sense 720k as 1.44m. Didn't work well for Sony discs, their quality was already marginal. never had a problem with others though!

Re:Hardware is easy to find (1)

pjt33 (739471) | more than 6 years ago | (#23339700)

The fault on my family's 3 inch Amstrad drive was my youngest sister pushing the foil from an Easter egg into it. I think it was not long after that that I bought my first Amiga.

Re:Hardware is easy to find (3, Interesting)

Frederic54 (3788) | more than 6 years ago | (#23339760)

Incidentally, the most common fault on the 3 inch Amstrad drives is a broken belt
True, and my latest repair was made using a rubber band :)
It's easy to find old Amstrad HW in Europe anyway.

"The CPC has an RS232 port." (1)

Joce640k (829181) | more than 6 years ago | (#23339892)

Yes, but does your modern PC...?

>"rather more faulty 3in discs - all pre-recorded
> game discs"

If you saw how they duplicated those disks you wouldn't be very surprised...

This might help (1)

zifn4b (1040588) | more than 6 years ago | (#23339300)

A quick google search found this site [fvempel.nl] . Helpful?

Google is your friend... (4, Informative)

klubar (591384) | more than 6 years ago | (#23339304)

There are a number of companies that do media conversion. They can read old floppies, 9-track tapes, tape cartridges and other obsolete media.

Try:
http://computer-convert.com/index.htm [computer-convert.com]
http://www.vintagetech.com/?section=conversion [vintagetech.com] (they also do 7-track tape, paper tape and punch cards!)

Google: http://search.live.com/results.aspx?q=media+conversion+floppy+tape+&src=IE-SearchBox [live.com]

However, you may find looking on ebay is cheaper and more fun.

Re:Google is your friend... (5, Informative)

Digi-John (692918) | more than 6 years ago | (#23339428)

Vintage Tech is run by a friend of mine; he has a HUGE warehouse full of various old computer systems here in Livermore, CA. I'd suggest sending an email; he'll probably get back to you within a few hours and could let you know if he can do it. I'd be amazed if he doesn't have an Amstrad system somewhere.

Jasmin drive (3, Interesting)

Frederic54 (3788) | more than 6 years ago | (#23339328)

Easy, I have a standard 5 1/4 drive on my CPC6128. I even did the little hack to invert A and B so now my |A drive is the 5 1/4.

There is tools in cpm+ to use 800k floppy or transfer files etc. And it uses the same encoding (MFM?) on Amstrad or PC so on the CPC you can read and write PC floppy. PC use 40 tracks by default and Amstrad use 80 tracks for the 800k floppy iirc. Anyway, it works, try to find the schematic to hook a 3 1/2 or 5 1/4 drive on an Amstrad.

Once the hurdle of finding a drive is cleared.... (1)

Mipsalawishus (674206) | more than 6 years ago | (#23339378)

As I'm not a betting man, I would still have to say your chances of getting the discs to read after 21 years aren't very good. Not knowing what conditions they have been exposed to, it's really hard to say what to expect. Magnetic media can have a good shelf life in the right conditions (away from magnetic fields, heat,etc..)
Best of luck though. If you manage to get your programs, maybe you could post them on sourceforge!

Re:Once the hurdle of finding a drive is cleared.. (2, Informative)

Megane (129182) | more than 6 years ago | (#23339688)

If a floppy is properly stored and kept indoors, it should still be readable after all that time. I have some TRS-80 floppies from the early '80s which read just fine a couple of years ago with a Catweasel board. There were some read errors, but those were probably there back in the day. So 25 years is certainly not unreasonable.

But it's still not too hard to find 5 1/4" floppy drives in relatively good condition. Good luck finding an Amstrad drive. Is there even an Amstrad users group in the US?

Iron filings and a scanner (5, Funny)

flyingfsck (986395) | more than 6 years ago | (#23339382)

Sprinkle the disks with iron filings and scan them on a flatbed scanner. Then write a new and absolutely pointless program to retrieve the data from the scans.

Re:Iron filings and a scanner (1)

$RANDOMLUSER (804576) | more than 6 years ago | (#23339554)

Absolute genius. There's a special place in heaven for you.

Re:Iron filings and a scanner (2, Interesting)

frovingslosh (582462) | more than 6 years ago | (#23339788)

This actually isn't as insane or absurd as you wanted it to seem. There are actually products like MagnaView that have very tiny magnetic particles suspended in a solvent, and will clearly image the magnetic information on a mag tape, credit card magnetic stripe or even a floppy disk. And considering that someone has already written a program to play analog audio off of a scan of a vinyl record, extracting the data from a floppy "developed" with MagnaView shouldn't be that hard. Still,I would suggest tracking down an original Amstrad and just reading the disks. They were not extremely common in the US and might be harder to find here, but were pretty common in Europe. I don't know where the original poster is. Once you can read the data, the next trick would be to get it to an emulator. No problem if the Amstrad has the serial port option, if it does not there are still plenty of ways to get the data to another system, with options including flashing the screen and picking up the data with a webcam, encoding it as audio and capturing it with a soundcard, and even printing it out in a dense binary form and then scanning it back in again.

Data recovery services (2, Informative)

spazdor (902907) | more than 6 years ago | (#23339406)

If you get desperate, there are data recovery services you can hire (at pretty ridiculous expense I'm sure) that can retrieve data from busted hard drives and floppies. Given that they have to do things like mount naked platters and floppies and read them as-is, it seems likely that their gear can accomodate a range of different sizes and sector layouts and whatnot.

The media may be dead by now (1)

John Jorsett (171560) | more than 6 years ago | (#23339464)

I've attempted to read 10-year-old 3.5" floppies and had pretty bad luck. The magnetic media became unreadable, at least on my standard equipment (which I tested and works just fine with fresh media). Perhaps a sophisticated lab could get the data off, but I sure couldn't. You may find that your disks are unreadable by now, even if you had equipment capable of reading them.

Re:The media may be dead by now (1)

NotInfinitumLabs (1150639) | more than 6 years ago | (#23339696)

Not necessarily. He says that the disks were sealed for the past 15 years. If he also stored them in a cool, dry place, there's a good chance that the media is still good. I've recovered data from ~15 year old floppies that have been stored like this.

Classic Computing mailing list (3, Insightful)

Digi-John (692918) | more than 6 years ago | (#23339468)

Just sign up for one of these [classiccmp.org] (I suggest cctalk) and ask around. Maybe somebody can convert them for you, maybe somebody else has an entire Amstrad system that they'll let you have cheap.

What about NeXT optical disks? (1)

LinuxParanoid (64467) | more than 6 years ago | (#23339516)

Anyone know where I can get an old NeXT optical disc converted to a PC-accessible modern format?

I googled around, sent emails and filled in 'contact us' forms on a number of archive-retrieval websites and never got any response back.

Re:What about NeXT optical disks? (1)

Maximum Prophet (716608) | more than 6 years ago | (#23339726)

Purdue University Computing Center used to have a bunch of NeXTs with optical drives. You might be able to find someone there that could do the conversion for you for a small fee.

solution (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23339546)

It is possible to connect an Amstrad 3" floppy drive to a PC computer. Both CPCs and PC computers use the same type of floppy disk controller. You can get a suitable drive by purchasing an old Amstrad PCW word processor device. Here is one application for reading the disk format on a Windows system:
http://www.cpcmania.com/cpcdiskxp/cpcdiskxp.htm [cpcmania.com]
Several other similar tools exist.

Here are instructions on connecting a 3" drive to a PC:
http://www.amstradcg.nl/econvers.html#3PC [amstradcg.nl]

I assume we are talking about the 3" disks (5, Informative)

daffmeister (602502) | more than 6 years ago | (#23339580)

In which case, I did this just last weekend. It's not easy though. Requirements were:
  • 1 Amstrad PC (with floppy drive)
  • 1 PC running Window 98 with parallel port
  • 1 copy of Locolink, which includes a parallel cable and transfer software

In my case we had an Amstrad PCW8256 in full working order, so that covered reading the disks. The Locolink software is hard to come by but I picked up a copy on E-Bay. It's designed for transferring and converting Locoscript [locoscript.com] files but will transfer other files as well just fine. It only works with Window 98 on the PC side though.


If you don't have an actual working Amstrad then your best bet is probably finding a hacked-up 3" drive that you can connect to a PC. You might be more likely to be able to purchase the whole computer.


If you're in the UK there are services that will transfer the files for you for 10GBP a disk. Here's a list [diskdoctor.co.uk] of them. In the US, try here [ukonline.co.uk] .


Good luck!

If You're REALLY Serious... (1)

FurtiveGlancer (1274746) | more than 6 years ago | (#23339586)

and independently wealthy, you can contact Kroll Ontrack in Minneapolis, Minnesota. They are the folks who amazingly recovered the data off a hard drive from the shuttle Columbia wreckage. [slashdot.org] Based on that performance, the Amstrad diskettes would be a breeze for them.

My experience of this (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23339594)

There was a pcw to pc copy cable and software can't remember its name the DOS end of it was pretty crappy, basically serial transfer, so slow.
Find an old Amstrad pcw word processor more common than the cpc 6128 and can read the disks and then the challenge is to find the cable (easy to make) and software(hard to find).
I did this many years ago to get someone's book off a Amstrad they had spent years writing on one, obviously the publisher couldn't read the disk so I was asked to help.
The main problem you may find is the rubber belts on the drives themselves loose there spring and then the drive doesn't spin at the right speed and doesn't read. Invest in a large selection of elastic bands :-)
We managed to find someone willing to sell the software, cable and an old pcw to do the job, several donor pcw's and elastic bands later and it was transferred.
It might be easier to find a Amstad enthusiast who still has the kit to do it for you.
G

The drive is the hard part (1)

Megane (129182) | more than 6 years ago | (#23339598)

Even though I never had an Amstrad to recover disks from, I somewhat regret not having bought one of the three or four I saw at thrift stores over the years. As long as the interface is compatible with the standard Shugart interface (which it should be), you could hook it up to a Catweasel card. I did buy a few Amstrad disks when I found them (they were small), but by the time I cared, I didn't see any more of the computers.

But I was a TRS-80 guy back in the day, so all my old disks are already imaged thanks to the Catweasel. And thanks to Radio Shack using standard FM/MFM disk controller chips. (I've also played around with code to read Apple II and Commodore disks, and Commodore's GCR doesn't re-sync very well.)

Basically, there were three 3" formats back in the day fighting for who would be the next floppy drive. There was one which got used by some typewriters and the Famicom Disk System, another which got used by the Amstrad, and... the Sony 3 1/2" disk which got used by Apple and HP at about the same time in 1983-1984.

BULLSHIT ALERT (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23339600)

I just got the feeling that this guy's story is too cozy and perfect . . . the kind of thing we are likely to relate to . . . I say this guy is some consultant somewhere trying to charge someone an arm and a leg for doing this while at the same time trying to get us to do his homework for him . . . for free . . .

Ebay... (2, Informative)

Plautius (626357) | more than 6 years ago | (#23339626)

Ebay has them galore but not exactly cheap:

Just the drive (got an old AT style PC) here: Ebay! [ebay.com]

Catweasel (1)

KC1P (907742) | more than 6 years ago | (#23339648)

I don't know what kind of interface the 3" drives have, but if it is or can be adapted to the usual 34-pin SA400-style interface then one of the Catweasel floppy controllers (made by Jens Schoenfeld A.K.A. Individual Computers) might be your friend. They can make reading almost any format a Simple Matter Of Programming(TM).

And don't listen to people telling you the media deteriorate. The older the better, really -- I've lost data on 3.5" floppies more and more lately (quality seems to be going down), but my old 8" and 5.25" disks read just fine. Same with 1/2" tape -- if only the drives were as reliable as the tapes.

What???? (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23339690)

Listen, this is America, and we speak American here, not Mexican. If you cant speak American go back to San Juan where they speak Mexican.

Might be a stupid idea, but.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23339694)

you could perhaps write a program on a working machine with the old 3'' FDD to output the bytes from a file to any available serial/parallel ports.
My old PCW8256 has the old 3'' form factor FDD, but is currently up in the loft, so I can't be too sure, but I believe that whilst there are no serial ports on it, there is a port for the printer that came bundled with it. Assuming that the printer port is indeed a parallel port, albeit perhaps in a different form factor, (i.e DIN instead of DB25), you could build a custom cable to link the data pins on the old machine, to any more modern machine that had a parallel port, then write software to run on the modern machine, to receive the data transmitted. A serial link could also be possible.
If the old machine has no output ports, but has a multi-tone speaker, you could even write code to emit a different tone from the machine for each character, or byte of information that is read from a given file, record it, then write the code to 'decode' it on a more modern machine, having inputted the sound, as say, a wav file.
You could even get the old machine to emit different colours or flash the screen, record that with a webcam, and get the data across that way, slow and complicated, but doable.
I'll be interested to see what other suggestions are given, as no doubt I'm making this horribly overcomplicated ;)

I HAVE a drive...... [somewhere up the attic] (1)

Qwrk (760868) | more than 6 years ago | (#23339732)

I've always kept odd stuff in boxes, knowing that one day there'd be someone like you yelling out for one. Once I get the kids to bed I'll start rummaging through them umpteen boxes.... BRB

Mine had audio tapes. (1)

stephdau (454502) | more than 6 years ago | (#23339744)

My Amstrad had a standard audio tape deck, not floppies... That sure made it easy to copy software: just pop it in your dual-tape boombox. ;)

i know what you mean (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23339768)

I'm still trying to find something compatible with my 8 inch Wang, so far the only thing available is Cowboy Neils mom.

The advantages of punched paper tape (4, Interesting)

mbone (558574) | more than 6 years ago | (#23339770)

My first programming was on punched paper tape, which I can still read. I am not saying I have a machine that could read it, but at least I can look at the punches and figure out what the characters were.

When I was in grad school, there was some data stored on punched paper tape, stored fan-folded. The tape had dried out and cracked where the folds were. (The cracks would be in the middle of a byte, especially a high one, as they would have more holes punched in them.) They wanted to save the data, so they hired a under-grad to spend all summer sending the tape through a reader, one 4 foot section at a time, figure out what the byte was where the crack was, type that in, and then proceed to the next 4 foot section. I still think that that must have been the worst IT job ever.

Amstrad PCW/CPC and Spectrum used the same disks (1)

giafly (926567) | more than 6 years ago | (#23339776)

The Amstrad PCW, Amstrad CPC and Sinclair Spectrum used the same disk drives. For example Level 9 published triple-format (!) disk versions of their adventure games that could be played on all the above. If you're looking to buy a second-hand computer to read your disks, this may increase your options.

Spectrums with disk drives were very rare... (1)

Joce640k (829181) | more than 6 years ago | (#23339928)

Amstrad put the disk drive on the Spectrum after they bought the company but the Spectrum was already in its death throes. I doubt they sold more than a few dozen of them.

Floppy discs... (1)

actionbastard (1206160) | more than 6 years ago | (#23339778)

PHHHT!

I have some of my first BASIC programs that I wrote -using my high school's PDP 8- on punched paper tape and the old Bell 212 terminal to go with it.

Now get off my lawn, damnit!

Druthers (1)

Dunx (23729) | more than 6 years ago | (#23339904)

Oh how I wish I hadn't thrown away my Amstrad CPC 464 three years ago, or I would have been able to actually help. I had an external 3" disc drive that was connectable to a PC in lieu of a 3½ floppy.

There just wasn't any way I was going to be able to get it back to the US from my parents' attic in Britain and I didn't have time to dispose of it properly on eBay, so off to the skip it went.

I feel sad.

Loserboy nerd... (1)

JockTroll (996521) | more than 6 years ago | (#23339966)

... Get a Catweasel controller.

CPC Websites (1)

bestinshow (985111) | more than 6 years ago | (#23339968)

Ask about on Usenet - comp.sys.amstrad.8bit, and on CPCZone http://www.cpczone.net/ [cpczone.net] and look on the CPC Wiki http://www.cpcwiki.com/index.php/Main_Page [cpcwiki.com] .

People there have working CPCs, and setups to get disk images from the CPC into a .dsk file on the PC.

I'd just... (2, Informative)

JustNiz (692889) | more than 6 years ago | (#23340000)

keep looking on ebay for an old cpc 6128 or PCW-8256 or PCw-8512 (they all had the same 3" Hitachi microdrive). You can probably pick one up for like 10 uk pounds or something,

The Hitachi 3" Microdrive which was intended to be a direct competitor to Sony's 3.5" format. (Unfortunately for Amstrad the Sony format was the one that won-out in the PC world). Because of that I'm guessing the possibility that the 3" Microdrive has a PC-compatable connector may be high (but I don't know for sure).

Of course even if you got the drive connected to your PC OK still the problem would still be to get your PC to recognise the AMSDOS file system on the floppy.

I guess another option (if you get your hands on an amstrad computer) would be to write some little program that implements a simple file transfer protocol via whatever ports (RS-232 etc) that are available on the amstrad you get, then connect it directly to a regular PC via a homebrew cable.

[SPS] Working solution for You. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23340002)

Ask SPS team http://www.softpres.org/
They already developed 3" drive interface:
http://www.softpres.org/article:hard:connect_3inch_drive_to_amiga

...If you love it, bring it with you (1)

SwordsmanLuke (1083699) | more than 6 years ago | (#23340034)

My first computer was a 286 running DOS, so I'm not in quite as much trouble WRT finding machinery to read my old code. That being said though, I've been religiously bringing my old data forward as different storage formats have become obsolete. My 5.25" disks got copied to single-sided 3.5", then dual sided 3.5", then CDs (briefly) Zip Disks and now I'm in the process of moving my archives to DVD. I'll be amazed if any of this crap is ever of interest to anyone but me, but I find it fun to go back from time to time and revisit some of my old favorite games and (terrible) code I wrote as a kid.

You can never go back... (2, Insightful)

Aaron32 (891463) | more than 6 years ago | (#23340048)

and if you try, you'll ruin your fond memories. I've done it a few times and have been thoroughly disappointed. Like any self-respecting computer geek I frequented the bulletin boards before Al Gore invented the Internet. I'd play co-op text adventure games with friends and be online for the majority of my waking time. I had a chance to buy one of the BBS' I would play on and I tried to get some old friends to get back with me so we could relish in the glory days. It was awkward, not that much fun, and really ruined my memories of the fun I'd had. Just enjoy your fond memories and don't try to recreate the situation/atmosphere/fun you had as a younger person. You'll be disappointed.
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