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What's the Oldest File You Can Restore?

timothy posted more than 3 years ago | from the drag-out-the-file-boxes dept.

Data Storage 498

turtleshadow writes "Now that it's almost 2011, a question for anyone who's kept backups since before the Y2K non-event: Have you personally/professionally had to recover something from 10+ years ago? If so, please share the interesting 'hows,' especially if you had to do multiple media transfers and file formats to get data into a usable file format on a modern hardware platform of your choice. Native solutions are rated higher than emulation. Also, what are your plans for recovering in 2021? Street cred goes to the oldest, most technical and complex restores ... that are of course successful. I'm working the night shift Christmas/New Year's; I ask everybody still stirring and hardcore SysOPs."

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cool topic (0, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34671112)

but /me /join #whogivesashit

slashdot (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34671118)

why do I bother coming to this site anymore :(

Re:slashdot (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34671264)

Really. I don't quite understand the question.

Re:slashdot (1)

neokushan (932374) | more than 3 years ago | (#34671378)

I believe the above anon coward was asking a rhetorical question. This may be why you do not understand it - there's nothing to understand.

I can still restore autoexec.bat manually (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34671120)

I used this 15+ years ago
@echo off

ZX Spectrum anybody ? (3, Interesting)

Vapula (14703) | more than 3 years ago | (#34671278)

I can still recover my files from my ZX Spextrum (and my sinclair +2). These files are from 83-93 (I switched to PC during 1993), some of the files from tape, other from disquettes

Among these files, all my programs on HP48SX (and my home made kermit transfert system for Spectrum) and some other.

Well, the fact that both my Spectrum 48K and my Sinclair +2 still work do help.

I've got files from a PDP-11 circa 1974 (4, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34671122)

Over time they've been migrated with the rest of my data through various 8, 16, and 32 bit PCs, and currently reside on my x86-64 Fedora box. The original hardware is LONG dead. I could probably get them natively off anything going back to my Model 4P, but that would be annoying and require using an RS-232 cable.

Re:I've got files from a PDP-11 circa 1974 (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34671418)

RSTS or DOS? :-)

Chapter 1 (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34671126)

September 16, 1991. Today it finally began! After all these years of talking and nothing but talking we have finally taken our first action. We are at war with the System, and it is no longer a war of words.

I cannot sleep, so I will try writing down some of the thoughts which are flying through my head.

It is not safe to talk here. The walls are quite thin, and the neighbors might wonder at a latenight conference. Besides, George and Katherine are already asleep. Only Henry and I are still awake, and he’s just staring at the ceiling.

I am really uptight. l am so jittery I can barely sit still. And I’m exhausted. I’ve been up since 5:30 this morning, when George phoned to warn that the arrests had begun, and it’s after midnight now. I’ve been keyed up and on the move all day.

But at the same time I’m exhilarated. We have finally acted! How long we will be able to continue defying the System, no one knows. Maybe it will all end tomorrow, but we must not think about that. Now that we have begun, we must continue with the plan we have been developing so carefully ever since the Gun Raids two years ago.

What a blow that was to us! And how it shamed us! All that brave talk by patriots, "The government will never take my guns away," and then nothing but meek submission when it happened.

On the other hand, maybe we should be heartened by the fact that there were still so many of us who had guns then, nearly 18 months after the Cohen Act had outlawed all private ownership of firearms in the United States. It was only because so many of us defied the law and hid our weapons instead of turning them in that the government wasn’t able to act more harshly against us after the Gun Raids.

I’ll never forget that terrible day: November 9, 1989. They knocked on my door at five in the morning. I was completely unsuspecting as I got up to see who it was.

Read more... []

what? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34671132)

I "recovered" a 5.25" floppy disk from the early 80s a couple weeks ago.

Re:what? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34671154)

I recovered a stone tablet containing schematics on how to build a punch card controlled mainframe last week...

and all I got was this lousy t-shirt.

Re:what? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34671386)

Ditto. Oldest file restored of mine was from Dec 1982 on 80s' 5 2.5" floppies with NO READ ERRORS.

Cred to the most complex? (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34671134)

And here I was thinking that most operations-people would rather cred the LEAST complex solution to the problem.

Just restored a 1998 backup from a DLT4000 cartridge, using tar. Oooh. Nothing fancy. ...

Just did... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34671136)

...a restore the other day of an entire dos database program. Had to restore from tape to hdd, usb hdd adapter to flash and then to customers to put on a winxp machine running the program in a dos box.

They plan on sticking with the dos version :-/

MacWrite 1.0 (1)

deodiaus2 (980169) | more than 3 years ago | (#34671142)

I have some old files on discs I wrote on a MacIntosh using MacWrite 1.0
I was able to read them with Word, but lost the font info. I also had some stuff in MacDraw and MacPaint, but that was hard to read. MacWrite stored the font info based on the installed fonts on the Mac. E.g. it would reference the 3rd installed font. Obviously, this was a problem if you added fonts. I hear that this was fixed in MacWrite 2.0, but never confirmed!
ASCII forever!!

Commadore Pet 2000 (2)

deodiaus2 (980169) | more than 3 years ago | (#34671186)

I have some tape cassettes made by a Commadore Pet 2000 made in 1979. Even if I were to restore them, I don't know how to transfer them.

XLO computers in CA (1)

deodiaus2 (980169) | more than 3 years ago | (#34671194)

I have some of my father's programs from 1972 made on paper tape. Does anyone want to know what's on them!!

Re:XLO computers in CA (1)

stkpogo (799773) | more than 3 years ago | (#34671322)

I think my paper tape files have a variation of a Basic 'Dragrace' game and a Basic program I wrote that printed out a spreadsheet table of total board widths from a combination of different sized boards, i.e. to make a solid width of x inches, you need n 1x12 + n 1x10 + n 1x8 + etc...

On a HP mini with a teletype printer

Re:Commadore Pet 2000 (2)

Nikker (749551) | more than 3 years ago | (#34671274)

At the very least you could grab an old cassette player and record the tape to WAV on your computer. It would likely have to be cleaned up and you would need to read the file format but you would still have the raw data.

My permanent archive... (2)

dentin (2175) | more than 3 years ago | (#34671148)

I have disk copies and files from my IBM PC in the 1985 time frame. That's the oldest data I personally owned/created that I have records for; prior to that it was TRS-80 BASIC on cassette tapes and extremely hard to retrieve/use. I've got it in my permanent data archive, which is sometimes fun to browse around and see what I was doing 20+ years ago.

I haven't been able to recover SCSI drives. (1)

elucido (870205) | more than 3 years ago | (#34671172)

Mainly because while all other drive formats are cheap, those damn SCSI drives require specialized equipment which still seems to cost hundreds of dollars.

Re:I haven't been able to recover SCSI drives. (2)

jawtheshark (198669) | more than 3 years ago | (#34671444)

They do? SCSI cards cost what now? 50$ Which is nothing compared what they used to cost. I've got a truckload of PCI SCSI cards out of dumpsters. SCSI is wonderfully versatile. Attach the disk, the scanner, the optical drive or the tape drive and chances it will just work. Your chances are better with Linux than with Windows these days, but often it's just complaining from Windows. We have a SCSI Dia Scanner device, which used to turn up with a yellow triangle in the device manager on XP. Worked fine with the enclosed software, though. With Linux it works, but not with XSane... I have VueScan [] license (actually two, I have one, my dad has one). Works perfectly fine. Good software also for those unsupported scanners: Canon LiDE 20. No support on Mac OS X, but with VueScan... No problem. I'm getting offtopic though.

My experience is that SCSI disks will do just fine attached to a modern SCSI card and I still have my Iomega Jaz 1GB which works just fine.

The two PCMCIA SCSI cards I have though don't work well: not at all under Windows IIRC, and very badly under Linux.

Anyway: best I probably can do for "esoteric" is some Computer Architecture Projects I did back at the Uni on OS/2 Warp. Made on some IBM Office software that came with it. Those files are stored on one of the Jaz disks (Yes, the disks are still functional, I tested them a few months ago for kick 'n giggles when I found them back). Getting them from there is not hard (It's FAT32 after all), but reading the files might turn out problematic.

Second "hardest" is probably Wordperfect 5.1 files from even longer ago. I still have some letters I wrote with my teenage romance. Ah, memories... Those simply stayed in an archive folder that moved with me from computer to computer. They're zipped and I expect OpenOffice to open them just fine (or at least "readable").

Can't compete with those on esoteric material with weird filesystems on audio tapes and the like. I'm too young for that, even though I'm 34.

Re:My permanent archive... (1)

Grog6 (85859) | more than 3 years ago | (#34671226)

My earliest file is a version of the Chi Square algorithm I wrote in 1988 to check D&D dice, lol.


Re:My permanent archive... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34671366)

Similar story here. The oldest stuff I have is TI-99/4A BASIC code I wrote in 1982, stored on cassettes and recovered about 2 years ago. I was writing mostly game code back then. Was pretty damn easy considering I still have that computer, worked right out of the box. I can still play Tunnels of Doom off the cassette on that thing.

I still have a bunch of C64 5.25" floppies that work fine. Mostly BBS code that I wrote, some game stuff.

I have a some 3.5" floppies from my Amiga that still work. Again mostly BBS code that I wrote circa 1987.

More recently I had to recover some CD's I burned about 1995. They were the hardest to recover. About 1 out of 5 discs could not be read, fortunately I was able to get everything I needed anyway.

Also 3.5" floppies from the 90's time period, probably 75% of them can not be read or even written to. The older technology held up a lot better.

ten years? (1)

spazmonkey (920425) | more than 3 years ago | (#34671152)

More than ten years? I have had to do recovery from code stored on paper tape and Hollerith cards. I am sure that recovery of stuff 40+ years old is not all that uncommon actually.

Re:ten years? (3, Insightful)

Kilrah_il (1692978) | more than 3 years ago | (#34671192)

And on the other hand, I had a disc with a Sign Language dictionary. From just about 6 years ago. Problems? The videos were encoded with Intel Indeo. Surprise, Windows dropped support for this after XPSP1. After overcoming this problem, I wanted to use the movies without the program. So I had to find the file that linked between a word and its corresponding videos (which were, of course, numbered). Good luck figuring out it was made with Macromedia, getting the new Adobe Director, updating the file... and voila! No prob.
Let's see someone do that in 10 years.

Floppies (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34671156)

probably not the oldest format to be recovered but if you can get 15y/o with out data loss thats a win in my book

Better question is how overwritten was the restore (0)

elucido (870205) | more than 3 years ago | (#34671160)

I'd be interested in knowing what the record is for most overwritten restore.

I have reformatted by accident, reinstalled and then thought how can I get that one file I wanted from it? Obviously it's impossible now but I thought it was possible.

Fact: If you encrypt your file system and you lose the key, it doesn't matter if you give the file system to the NSA, nobody will ever decrypt it.

On the other hand if you just delete and overwrite it, who knows it might take a lot of effort but how much effort does it take to restore something casually over written?

Also what is more secure as a destruction process, encrypt and forget or zero the drive?

Re:Better question is how overwritten was the rest (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34671166)

I'd be interested in knowing what the record is for most overwritten restore.

I have reformatted by accident, reinstalled and then thought how can I get that one file I wanted from it? Obviously it's impossible now but I thought it was possible.

Fact: If you encrypt your file system and you lose the key, it doesn't matter if you give the file system to the NSA, nobody will ever decrypt it.

On the other hand if you just delete and overwrite it, who knows it might take a lot of effort but how much effort does it take to restore something casually over written?

Also what is more secure as a destruction process, encrypt and forget or zero the drive?


Re:Better question is how overwritten was the rest (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34671190)

Actually, services that recover physically damaged hard disk drives (including water and fire damage) are a dime a dozen. Physically smashing the drive would be slightly more effective than fire but twiddling ALL the bits to hell and back is the best way.

Re:Better question is how overwritten was the rest (1)

newcastlejon (1483695) | more than 3 years ago | (#34671224)

Also what is more secure as a destruction process, encrypt and forget or zero the drive?


No, you have to nuke it from orbit. It's the only way to be sure.

Re:Better question is how overwritten was the rest (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34671520)

No, you have to nuke it from orbit. It's the only way to be sure.

Tried that. The human race that sprang back is even worse than last time. The big brained ones lost out this time. I think others ate the backup DNA.

Sometime humanity seems such a mess, it feels like time to say "fork it".

Re:Better question is how overwritten was the rest (1)

Announcer (816755) | more than 3 years ago | (#34671232)

The most effective way to destroy data, is to physically destroy the media it's stored on. Running the drive through a fine grinding machine or melting it down completely, are two very secure methods.

Re:Better question is how overwritten was the rest (2)

SuricouRaven (1897204) | more than 3 years ago | (#34671246)

It used to be possible for an expert with a magnetic probe to read overwritten data from a hard drive. I don't think it's possible today, due to vastly higher data density. Smaller bits, tighter tolerances.

Re:Better question is how overwritten was the rest (1)

timeOday (582209) | more than 3 years ago | (#34671282)

On the other hand if you just delete and overwrite it, who knows it might take a lot of effort but how much effort does it take to restore something casually over written?

Normal OS commands don't enable you to overwrite a file; when you save a file, it might be written over the old one, or somewhere else on the disk (even though it still has the same filename), in which case the old version could still be recovered. Disk wipers, at least simple ones, just keep adding to a file until all free space is full to make sure they got everything.

But once that physical block is overwritten, the previous data is gone. Assertions to the contrary are nothing but urban legend and speculation. Nobody seems comfortable claiming that one pass with zeroes is sufficient, but I've seen no evidence that it isn't.

Re:Better question is how overwritten was the rest (1)

timeOday (582209) | more than 3 years ago | (#34671326)

PS. I was referring to modern media (hard drives, flash). Since this thread could reasonably include really sloppy, inefficient old media like audiocasettes with data encoded on them, I admit the possibility for recovering data from them is much greater.

Seriously? 10+ years? Oh my... (4, Interesting)

denzacar (181829) | more than 3 years ago | (#34671170)

...that is positively ancient.

FFS I think I have DVDs from that time. Even 20+ years is ridiculous. I have CDs burned in 1997-1998 that still work perfectly.

30+ years is a minimum. Back when the common storage medium was a cassette.

Re:Seriously? 10+ years? Oh my... (1)

0123456 (636235) | more than 3 years ago | (#34671196)

30+ years is a minimum. Back when the common storage medium was a cassette.

Nah, that's easy: 8-bit emulators can often load cassette files through a PC sound-card.

I was going to try that but I think all my old Sinclair tapes got thrown out a couple of years back.

Yeah... (1)

HalAtWork (926717) | more than 3 years ago | (#34671338)

Agreed, I have DVDs, from 10+ years, CDs from 15 years ago and floppies from 25 years ago that work fine. All that's in my archives are email and personal source code from when I was fiddling around trying to learn a few things, nothing too interesting. Don't even know why I keep it. Source code from when I was a kid is fun to look back at, I kept all of my iterations so I can track what I was learning, but nothing too useful and certainly not very relevant today.

Ancient? (1)

wfstanle (1188751) | more than 3 years ago | (#34671358)

I find your comment about ancient somewhat troubling. The writings of Confucius or Aristotle are ancient. Of course, most of the stuff we keep on computers is not important but there are some things that we want to recover. Some stuff might be quite valuable. Yes, the pace of technology is very quick but that is irrelevant to the value of a file.

Re:Seriously? 10+ years? Oh my... (1)

mariushm (1022195) | more than 3 years ago | (#34671360)

True...I'm looking right now at a CD that sits in the drawer of my desk - burned in 2001. I'm sure I have in some cardboard box some CDs that I burned on an external HP CD writer, connected through the parallel port to the PC. But the metal reflective layer on those already had some pin sized holes - luckily it was only shareware and some music on those.

Re:Seriously? 10+ years? Oh my... (2)

JoeMerchant (803320) | more than 3 years ago | (#34671468)

Yeah, I just cleaned my wife's e-mail "attachments" folder, with live files from 1999 forward... they were migrated there from 2 previous machines, but she's used Eudora continuously since about 1999, so all the attachments were there - figured since we hadn't looked at any of them in 10+ years, we could use the 3GB of space for other things.

5.25" Floppy (1)

WoodburyMan (1288090) | more than 3 years ago | (#34671178)

A customer came to my place of work, a local workbench, and asked if we could recover a file from a 5.25" Floppy. Luckily coworker managed to dig up a working 5.25" from our junk bin, and put the floppy in.. and it worked. The last modified date on the file was from 1991, and it was a CAD design for some Microwave device the company used to make back in the day.

Re:5.25" Floppy (2)

ColdWetDog (752185) | more than 3 years ago | (#34671318)

I just sent a 5.25" DSDD disk with system files from a 1982 Otrona Attache to someone else who noted I had the disks.

Grabbed the machine out of storage (took a while to figure out where I stuck it). Put the disk in and booted up. The horizontal sync on the Attache video is getting a bit wonky, but the disks and computer worked fine.

PIP A=B *.*

Re:5.25" Floppy (1)

jawtheshark (198669) | more than 3 years ago | (#34671454)

I still keep a few 5.25" drives handy... Just in case. They should still work on modern computers.

Apple II+ disks from 1982. (2)

drerwk (695572) | more than 3 years ago | (#34671184)

I connected the printer out to a linux parallel in, wrote a Linux reader and did a PR#6 on the apple. I've heard of people using the audio out in a similar manner. I'm amazed that the Apple II+ disks seem to be in readable condition.

Re:Apple II+ disks from 1982. (1)

Osgeld (1900440) | more than 3 years ago | (#34671334)

yea its a no brainier over RS232

but then I have an apple //C sitting on my desk right now, so maybe I have lost my amazement

Get Off My Lawn, Astro Division (5, Interesting)

Bemopolis (698691) | more than 3 years ago | (#34671198)

When I was in graduate school one of my tasks was to read old astronomical CCD images that were written on magnetic tape (and there were a lot of them, since my advisor had been testing CCDs for the Hubble). So for a couple of months I sat in a small workroom with the department's only working Kennedy drive reading tapes.

Because of age and prior use, many of the tapes were shedding oxide, making the drive rock back and forth over many segments in an attempt to retrieve the blocks thereon. After every few tapes I had to wipe the oxide from the read heads. Then, just to make the process a little more tedious, the data itself had to be byte-swapped. As a reward for all of that, I found one image to use in my dissertation.

The data was written to CD-ROM in the late 90s, so I expect there's someone right now trying to figure out how to read the data off of the decade-old, decaying archive. If they're lucky, they'll find the backup DATs in the filing cabinet and the last working drive in the department.

Re:Get Off My Lawn, Astro Division (5, Interesting)

mug funky (910186) | more than 3 years ago | (#34671414)

bake the tapes in a slow-cooker before you even think about playing them!

in my broadcast days i encountered a guy with the last working 2" J-format video deck in this side of the world. he actually had about 10 of these decks, all the size of an industrial fridge. he'd use parts from all 10 to keep one working.

he built a room-sized oven to slow-bake the tapes to re-activate the adhesives that had broken down, otherwise he'd destroy the tapes and mess up his only working machine.

he's still transferring 2-inch reels of old TV shows...

Commodore 64 (5, Interesting)

Announcer (816755) | more than 3 years ago | (#34671206)

The last time I needed my resume' was in the mid 1980's. Therefore, it was stored on a 5 1/4 floppy for my Commodore 64, in "Speedscript" format. After getting the Speedscript word processor loaded into the C64, I saved it as "ASCII" in a SEQ file. Then I booted "HDD64" on an old P200 PC, and connected the 1541 drive to it, thru an "X1541" cable. Once saved to the PC's HD, I booted Windows 98. Once done, I brought it across the LAN into my WIN2000 box, and then re-worked it in MS Word 2000. That is the format it remains in until WORD becomes obsolete! ;)

I had typed Speedscript in, byte-by-byte, from a COMPUTE! Magazine article, years before. For a 6K (yes, six kilobytes) program, it did an absolutely outstanding job! I used that program more than any other on my C64 for years.

Re:Commodore 64 (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34671372)

it was a resume. why would you do so much to recover it? you could have just retyped it and had it done faster.

Re:Commodore 64 (1)

rubycodez (864176) | more than 3 years ago | (#34671402)

nice! but maybe you should also save a .RTF file from Word 2000, just in case. Every word processor seems to read those.

Re:Commodore 64 (2)

JabberWokky (19442) | more than 3 years ago | (#34671426)

Actually, I think you just pinned the earliest and easiest format to use.

Go grab a copy of Creative Computing from the mid 1970s, or one of David Ahl's compilation books and sit down at an emulator. Type in the program. Run it.

Dead trees are still surprisingly good at being read many many decades after they were "saved". In addition, making a copy is pretty easy as well. Putting it onto long term media (aka acid free paper) will ensure you can type your nuclear reactor simulator or non-real-time lunar lander game into whatever we're using in 2100. That way, your descendants can solve the Towers of Hanoi in a clunky text mode interface over a neural interface.

10 years? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34671210)

By that metric, everyday? My computer is 10 years old. PIII 866 on a 440BX. Win2K. So what?

QIC (5, Interesting)

nojayuk (567177) | more than 3 years ago | (#34671214)

Last year I got given a QIC-150 tape written in 1995 to see if I could recover someone's old email archives. First I had to locate a QIC drive but a bit of hunting on the local Freecycle group got me an external SCSI unit weighing about 40 pounds with a tape drive and a full-height 500MB hard drive included. The tape drive didn't work, in that it talked SCSI-II all right to the BSD box's controller and the motor went round and round but no data came out.

The first inkling of bad news was realising that someone else had been into the tape drive mechanism before me when I saw the chewed-up screws holding the covers on. The really bad news was seeing the capstan roller on the drive -- or rather the motor shaft where the capstan roller used to be. It had gone missing sometime in the past and the bodger who had been in before me figured that a bunch of rubber bands would make a suitable replacement for the roller. This was some time back, judging by the condition of the rubber bands which were now a sticky mess of perished semi-liquid rubber.

I rummaged in my junkbox and pulled out an old lump of solid rubber, a platen roller from a daisywheel printed I had junked decades ago. I measured up the motor shaft, made some educated guesses and machined a replacement roller on the workshop lathe. After degunking the motor shaft with a scalpel and needle files the new capstan roller was driven into place and after that the data came pouring off the tape like it had been written yesterday as good old-fashioned CSV-delimited tarball archives. The owner of the tape got back the first emails he ever exchanged with the lady who he had since married and there was much rejoicing.

Win98SE (1)

Fri13 (963421) | more than 3 years ago | (#34671216)

Well, I do not know will it be counted but I just week ago restored a Win98SE system image from old backup to old P3 500Mhz computer just to get Microsoft Sidewinder Wheel work as meant with Need For Speed 5 Porche Unleashed game.

I had changed a 3D card from GF2 to GF4 card and I needed to search up drivers for it. Of course USB 2 memory stick did not work with the computer (Win98SE did not recognize it as it was 8Gb) and I needed to transfer driver with DVD-RW disk from other computer as win98 machine did not have internet (and will not have such).

It was fun to play a such great driving game with working wheel since that times. Even that the image was from 99 and from the need at that time to make a full system installation with all wanted apps and updates + drivers and then make a easy restore image as the Win98 (and SE) usually corrupted itself now and then so the restoration was then faster and easier than doing a re-install by typical way.

Dead Media Project (5, Interesting)

Doc Ruby (173196) | more than 3 years ago | (#34671218)

This story's challenge sounds like a contest held by the Dead Media Project [] that SF/futurist author Bruce Sterling started in a 1990s mailing list. Though it's really about "extinct media", but Sterling is an SF author.

I'm amused to see that today the DMP [] itself is down. I hope they've got a backup - and a restore device that works.

Oldest file? (4, Insightful)

Weirsbaski (585954) | more than 3 years ago | (#34671228)

Files you can restore? How about what's the youngest file you need that you can't restore?

MFM (1)

gearloos (816828) | more than 3 years ago | (#34671230)

Well back around the mid 80s I had the brilliant idea to use all my old 10 or 20 mg hard drives to store data like floppys. I put some stuff on them that was fairly important like student loan and other stuff. I recently had to get that data about a year ago and it was really fun. I had to build a box with an MFM interface and load an old copy of DOS on it. Took like 25 tried before I had a complete set of DOS 3 floppys. Seemed like every time one of or all three of the set had some file gone. Then I had the fun of trying to find a copy of wordstar or thinking should I just use edlin to read it. Joy- never again (I hope).

Re:MFM (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34671422)

Wow, you had hard drives that weighed 20 milligrams? That's portable! Don't sneeze though lol!

Apollo Guidance Computer (4, Interesting)

0123456 (636235) | more than 3 years ago | (#34671236)

Actually, this wasn't something I did myself, but the Apollo Guidance Computer source code must be one of the oldest 'backups' to be recovered. Old assembler printouts saved by the programmers were OCR-ed, then fixed up by hand where the OCR couldn't read the text, then assembled, then checksummed and cross-checked with the binary dump in the printout, then run on an emulator: []

Amiga diskettes (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34671238)

When I bought Amiga Forever not too long ago, I broke out the old A1000 and imaged around 150 or so 3.5" diskettes dating back to between 1985-1989 using Cloanto's Amiga Explorer tool and the appropriate null modem cable. Of all the disks I had, there was only one that I was unable to read, and I'd had problems with that disk way back then too. I've also got a couple of Mac disks from 1984 that my Classic II appears to read just fine. When I get around to getting motivated enough to put a 5.25" drive in my machine, I've got a set of Windows/286 disks that I'd like to image as well. They've been maintained well so I'm pretty optimistic about it.

Controllers and emulation. (1)

Oasiz (1017554) | more than 3 years ago | (#34671240)

Got a catweasel MK4+ floppy controller, it advertises a pretty broad catalog of different floppy formats so I think I've got that side covered :)
Emulation takes care of the rest. Just image old medium and read them.
But really, the oldest stuff I ever run to is 3½ floppies these days. (Except c64/etc.. stuff)

Likely still the hardest for me is video, no matter what the year is it's still hard to get realtime video capture working at times. Simple stuff like VHS/cam to avi. Hardware is somewhat ok, software never wants to work like it should and computers rely on a dice in whenever to work properly.
I have seen expensive equipment with mac pro's, and scalers, even those have their share of problems.. Altough a lot less than cheaper solutions.

And to stay a bit on-topic, the oldest restore for me has been files from a old old drive (200mb I think). Floppies are something I deal with somewhat frequently as well, be it either reading old stuff or writing so it can be used on older systems.

Oh and I hate recovering stuff from old cd's, I hate optical medium so much. Those who have dealt with this probably knows what I mean.

1980's? (1)

valnar (914809) | more than 3 years ago | (#34671242)

I have files since the 1980's. Not the original media of course.

just 10? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34671244)

I'm sure I have some UV EEPROMs laying around somewhere

I used to play with my mom's punch tapes as a child, I hope she didn't need to restore those... ;-)

Psst., if you were bright and wikileaked it back then, you could just google for you data today!

The best way to recover files that old from an hdd (1, Interesting)

MindlessAutomata (1282944) | more than 3 years ago | (#34671250)

The best way to recover files deleted that long ago from a hard drive is probably one of these three options:

1) Invent a time machine and travel back in time to when the file was on the hard drive (or at least deleted and not yet had the sectors written-over);
2) Go underground in the world of dark magicks to discover a sinister ritual involving virgin sacrifice to resurrect the long-dead files;
3) Use an Ouija board with simply "1" and "0" on it and reconstruct the file from the afterlife bit-by-bit.

These are the likeliest and easiest solutions to your problem. I wish you luck.

Interesting problems using old data (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34671270)

I do graphics and I find I have problems when I try to use some 10+ year old models. Not all older models will work in all software even if they support the format. The proprietary model formats have changed over the years and they get dicey after a while. I've even found that with standard image formats. Sometimes converting them to a different format can avoid issues but I've often found that what was causing the problem would migrate to the new format. With text files if you have problems try converting to a format that lacks formatting. It's generally the formatting symbols that are causing the problems.

Re:Interesting problems using old data (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34671310)

You probably need to follow the version numbers of the software instead of quantum leaping 10 years. Eg, you shouldn't go from ver 1.1 to ver 2.0, but rather try to find 1.2, 1.3, etc... At least you can find where it breaks.

First program written, 1996? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34671292)

It does not seem I've ever lost something of value (well, something of value, I once lost a couple of pron movies that seemed interesting because I couldn't remember the disk encryption password where I saved them and needed the space so I re-formatted the partition), anyway, the oldest thing around here is a revision of more or less the first program I've ever written, which is a Turbo Pascal DOS program that lists how much free space there is on each partition and drive, which was fairly important in 1996 when hard drives were roughly the size of a sincle compact disc. Revision control back then would have been nice, so I could step through each of the changes I've made to make it work or make it better; I suppose I have a couple of backups of older versions on encrypted DVDs, but it would indeed by kinda cool if all of it was available and I could, say, make a video that'd replicate my efforts from back then, showing the many compile failures, utterly wrong results, and so on, until I got it right.

5&1/4" floppys (1)

HotNeedleOfInquiry (598897) | more than 3 years ago | (#34671296)

I've pulled data off of real floppies that were at least 20 years old. I keep an old ISA/pre ATX motherboard, power supply and drive for such work. It's worth noting that there is vast quantities of old DEC mini and mainframe software preserved on the web, much of it from long-gone formats such as Dectape, paper tape and 7-track magtape.

Voyetra Sequencer4 Gold (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34671302)

I have a lot of music I wrote using Voyetras Sequencer 4 and a propitiatory file format along with an EISA-midi card in DOS. I still have a 486 to use the stuff.

The DOS application is very responsive though ;)

HP-35 ROMs (1)

NixieBunny (859050) | more than 3 years ago | (#34671314)

A crazy guy cut off the top of some TO-5 can style ROMs for the HP-35 calculator and extracted the bits by taking photos and doing some image processing.
Film at 11 []

Kids today (5, Insightful)

93 Escort Wagon (326346) | more than 3 years ago | (#34671344)

10+ years? Seriously - you consider that old? My website is older than that. I've got outdated copies of my resume (my wife's as well) older than that. I've got saved email messages older than that.

Re:Kids today (1)

Xugumad (39311) | more than 3 years ago | (#34671458)

I've got my old Amiga HD's contents around somewhere. It moves with my from system to system. I probably left it on a thumb drive somewhere...

Re:Kids today (1)

omglolbah (731566) | more than 3 years ago | (#34671466)

Hell, I have emails from 97 and I'm 26 years old...

I have my father's punch cards from his university days in a box somewhere.

Then again, at work we have systems that still use 5.25 floppies for backup purposes (oil rig control systems... scary huh? :p)

OnStream (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34671348)

I still have onstream tapes from the mid 90s and a windows 98 PC in a VM and a parallel port Onstream drive for access to it.

I beat you all (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34671352)

I once photographed a bunch of cave paintings in France. To my surprise, when I tried to play them as a slideshow, they compiled and auto-ran an application offering to cure my erectile disfunction.

1980's ftw! (1)

Nyder (754090) | more than 3 years ago | (#34671356)

I have Apple II software, C64 software, and even TRS-80 Model I & III software, on disks from back then that I have to sometimes work to get the data off.

But not that often, seeing as most the software from those systems I also have downloaded from usenet for emulators for my collections.

I also have a pair of 360k 5.25" floppy drives in an old pentium system I use for some systems, like the TRS-80's for reading/writing the info into the PC world.
If i only had a 486 or earlier computer still, i'd be in heaven (though i do have some 486 plug in cards for a mac or 2 i have, but that don't count.

cp (2)

pz (113803) | more than 3 years ago | (#34671362)

my-desktop:/home/me> cp /home/me/machines/mit/rts-23/hacks/attraction.lisp .

I keep everything on-line. The amount of stuff I keep is coincidentally always substantially less than the current batch of reasonably priced large hard drives.

And the file above? From 1986, if memory serves. I wrote it while working at MIT, and it became the basis of the Attraction screen saver in Linux (JWZ's version that's in the screen-saver package doesn't reflect the slow gracefulness of the original, though; someday I need to submit a patch to fix that). It's a Lisp file from a TI-Explorer Lisp Machine (named RTS-23) that was my desktop box in the late 80s.

I realize that not everyone generates the amount of data I do, and many generate much, much more, or have responsibility for potentially restoring much, much more, but for me, always keeping my stuff on spinning media has worked really well. Given the recent explosion of digital photography and ripping my entire CD collection, that means I've got about 2TB these days, but that costs only a handful of hundred dollars with the local and remote RAID backup systems so why screw around with tape or more complex systems?

Not so old recovery (1)

smellsofbikes (890263) | more than 3 years ago | (#34671364)

When I was doing backups from the 24 year old Amiga 2000 the other day, it was really a chore: I pulled out the SCSI drive and stuck it in the linux box, since linux can read the amiga file system without a problem. And the Amiga can read the 3 1/4" floppy discs from the old Mac. However I did have one tricky bit: the old mp3 player, a model I bought like 10 years ago, wouldn't fire up. I'd intended to copy a bunch of Underworld to the hard disc and put it behind the bathroom mirror so when the Party Switch is activated, and the disco ball starts spinning, "King Of Snake" comes busting out from the walls themselves. But it wouldn't start. I haven't run it in seven years, and I was kind of sad, so I started poking at it, and found that a hard drive that hasn't spun up in that long does much better if it gets thwhacked solidly on the side. I also had to reseat one of the socketed IC's. Then it spun right up and started cranking out old Beastie Boys tunes, until I rewrote the hard drive.

A much harder problem is the Hewlett Packard 4145A Semiconductor Parameter Analyzer, which uses a 5 1/2" disc, with a non-standard hardware interface and non-standard track spacing on the disc, and there I admit I'm pretty much hosed if the disc ever fails, since it reads boot information off the disc every time it starts, and checks for an intentionally damaged track as a copy-protection scheme.

Re:Not so old recovery (1)

smellsofbikes (890263) | more than 3 years ago | (#34671376)

I of course meant 5 1/4" and 3 1/2" discs, but it's been so long since I've used such things I reversed them.

Paper (1)

UDChris (242204) | more than 3 years ago | (#34671380)

Technically, the oldest file I've transferred from one -medium to another- so far was a 35-year old picture, going from Kodak photo paper to .jpg. I'm fairly certain this occurs quite regularly in projects that archive documents that date back thousands of years (now there's hard core data transfer.

In all seriousness, I used to write translation programs to go from 1980s proprietary formats to, sadly, late 1990s proprietary formats, so probably a 15 year digital to digital format transfer, give or take. These days I aim for searchable .pdf and have had pretty good luck.

Backup tape (1)

murcon (192204) | more than 3 years ago | (#34671382)

I have on my shelf my senior year backup tape, which contains all the files from college that I'd accumulated. I graduated in 1978. Fortunately I've not had any reason to attempt to restore any of this lovely SNOBOL or FORTRAN IV code.

restoration through emulation (1)

tverbeek (457094) | more than 3 years ago | (#34671384)

It's not really a backup/restore because the data was already sitting there on my current SATA system drive, but I had reason recently to dig through a couple layers of emulation/virtualization to get at some old files from my Psion Revo, a 1990s-vintage PDA. I have a backup of the Psion's entire file system as it was when I finally retired it, which I could theoretically restore to the device itself, but it's barely functional (expired battery and damaged hinge). Instead I access the files by running Psion's app development emulator, which runs under Windows XP. But I run mostly OS X these days, so I run Windows under VMWare Fusion on my iMac.

day of the tentacle (1)

bl8n8r (649187) | more than 3 years ago | (#34671392)

restored from cdrom in summer of 2010. Burned somewhere around 1995.

1960s archives (1)

Animats (122034) | more than 3 years ago | (#34671394)

I was dragged into helping to recover the Stanford SAIL-DART archives [] from the 1970s. Those were on 6250 BPI open-reel magnetic tape, which had been copied from the original 800 BPI tapes in a previous decade. The data was in a special character set only used at Stanford, and the format was nonstandard.

The first step was to just copy the tapes onto disks, with no translation. That was done with a tape drive used was from an old Sun-II rackmount system. It took about twenty minutes for each tape, and I was one of the people doing tape changing. The data was then shipped over the Internet to a big disk farm at IBM Almaden for further processing. Eventually, all the text files were converted to Unicode, and individuals were contacted to find out if it was OK to release their personal files from decades ago.

The oldest file I can find in that archive is this one [] from 1971. It's a list of the people responsible for each node on the ARPANET.

27 year old data (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34671398)

Heaven permitting, In 2011 I plan on making a back-up of my mother and father's 27 year old DNA dumps. The compression is lossy but I've a few million redundant copies.

Native solutions are rated higher than emulation

Sheesh, tell me about it.

Backup, or archive? (1)

unts (754160) | more than 3 years ago | (#34671400)

10 years is not that long, but more to the point, if I am looking for a file on media that is so old, then it must be archived not backed up. A backup is something you keep if you want to safeguard against loss of data on whatever you use as an active data store. An archive is somewhere safe you keep something when you no longer have a regular need to access it, but may still need it in the future. The methods and media for backups and archives are often the same/similar, but in the case where you have something archived, one would assume there is no "live" copy and therefore the archive should itself be backed up.

Given the rate of storage capacity expansion and my comparatively pedestrian storage requirements, my archive policy is that it stays on my computer, and simply doesn't get accessed. That way it's always backed up using my most current backup regime (rsnapshot at the moment), my "archive" isn't really an archive at all, and I don't have to worry about the media getting old, because it's guaranteed to be on my most recent media - the media I use daily.

Re:Backup, or archive? (1)

unts (754160) | more than 3 years ago | (#34671416)

On brief reflection, I realise this is a very personal response, and doesn't really work at a level where you're working in the capacity of sysop at a medium to large company. But the question is a bit ambiguous, and this is slashdot, so pleh!

TI99/4a address book (1)

jlrowe (69115) | more than 3 years ago | (#34671408)

Quite some time ago, I transferred my address list (about 100 records I'd guess) from a TI99/4a cartridge based program to IBM PC diskette. The cartridge based program stored data on cassette tape.

That data eventually went by way of comma delimited format into an early Palm Pilot [An IBM branded model], and then into later Palm Pilots. I still have that data, much amended, to this day and still on a Palm and in the PC based software for Palm.

I still have all that TI99/4a hardware, but haven't run it for a couple of decades.

i carve my data in stone (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34671424)

my stone tablets have a life span of around 2000 years +

Old floppy stuff (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34671432)

I have (in my old computer, which is still around) a floppy drive. The drive still works, and I just may keep at least the drive around, as I have very old disks kicking around here. The disks have data from the late 1980's and early 1990s. One 3.5" floppy has data that was put onto it from a 5.25 inch floppy (those floppies, disk drive, etc. went to the great bit bucket in the sky and recycling bin years ago). So *That* data was created about 1987 or 1988 ~22 years ago. In hind sight, its kind of pathetic that digital data is only 22 years old and people are saying "From a 5.25" floppy? From a 5.25" floppy?" and yet books written 3000 years ago are still around (Biblical Texts, Greek poets, ancient records). Sure, some of it was written on clay tablets, but the clay baked and formed a very long lasting archive. Digital data has a hard time being recoverable after 20 years or so. 20 years, that's it. Usually the medium changes to bigger and better, and even though 50 old disks fit onto 1 new one, few (me included) take the time to preserve old data. When archaeologists look at this period of history in 1000 years or so, will they regard it as 'the lost early digital period?" I describe it this way because NASA had a hard time recovering the original footage of Neil Armstrongs steps on the moon. It was recorded in a high definition slow scan format, (and also lo definition TV). The tv footage is common. The Hi-Def stuff was a bear to recover, because NASA had to build a format reader to read the old data, then record from the old media to new media. The pictures are (a lot) better than the TV archives. But in order to view them, they had to build from scratch a new reader, since the last of the old technology filled a landfill years ago. If they didn't have blueprints or plans, the data would be lost to history.

19 year old tape (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34671440)

About 5 years ago (2005) I went looking for some old software. Found it in tar format on a 4mm DAT backup tape created in 1986.
2005 - 1985 = 19

1985's C64 "Vizawrite" files... (1)

Luke_2010 (1515829) | more than 3 years ago | (#34671450)

The oldest files I've recovered are some text files written with Vizawrite 64 (Commdore 64) dating back to 1985 and imported on PC through a still working Commodore 1541 disk drive and a custom-made USB interface for it. For the records: yes, these disks are still working perfectly after 25 years, and some of them were not even branded. Of course this stuff works through emulation. For not emulation stuff, the oldest things I have are word processing files created with the Cloanto C-1 Text on a Commodore Amiga in 1989. They were copied on DOS standard 3.5 disks when I switched to Macintosh using a software on the Amiga that read / wrote DOS disks, and since then they have been copied on every system I brought through the years. Open Office sneezes a bit at them but eventually loads them correctly.

Old KSR33 printouts? (1)

A nonymous Coward (7548) | more than 3 years ago | (#34671452)

I have a printout of the source code to a program which ran on the XDS-940 prototype. This KSR-33 was the sole input and output to which I had access. Does that count?

I used to have some punch card programs (CDC 6400) but I don't think I still have them. At least I haven't seen them the last few moves.

2021 (1)

Xugumad (39311) | more than 3 years ago | (#34671470)

For long term archival we're looking at PDFs (compliant to PDF/A-1b - see [] for more information). Not quite sure what media will be... probably CD-RWs triple burnt and stored in different locations for redundancy.

Mostly, though, just try to remember to move stuff onto new media before the old becomes hopelessly old :)

100MB Zip discs (1)

Paracelcus (151056) | more than 3 years ago | (#34671482)

I have archived backups from 1990(s) on Zips

From about 1987 to 1989 (1)

mce (509) | more than 3 years ago | (#34671486)

The oldest file that I don't need to restore (but can obviously restore in case my disk crashes) dates from April 1, 1992.

The oldest file that I can restore easily, will most likely be from the summer of 1989. That would be the original source file of a public domain program that I wrote at that time (released first in the early nineties, but I have the complete history all the way back to 1989 on backup). But I also might still have a LaTeX copy of my master's thesis from earlier that year hidden somewhere.

The oldest file that I can restore at all, must date from about 1987. This, however, requires me to dig up a working DOS machine (doable, because my father still has one of those dinosaurs - now unused, but still booting if needed).

Tape or Disk? (1)

EETech1 (1179269) | more than 3 years ago | (#34671490)

I have some tapes with my VIC 20 that have all of the programs that I spent all night typing in from the code books I bought (still have also). These would be from christmas 1981 and beyond.I wrote some microcontroller code to decode the bits from a standard casette player, and my boss wrote some PC softwar in Matlab to decode it with the soundcard. We had a little christmas challenge back in 2004 to see who could do (code) it faster and decode it more accurately. Ahhh good Times!

I was lucky enough to find some LOGO files on a 5 1/4 floppy from the summer of 1980 that I opened a few years ago. I reapired this RRRFOld Compaq "Laptop Portable Computer" for work that had both types of floppy drive in it. I spent days going thru all of my old 5 1/4 stuff and putting it on 3 1/2 floppies, and then into my 3 backup drives.

My 1982 Small Engine Inventory database from 4th grade is as funny as it gets!
Engine : 7 Hp Tecumseh
Status : Big hole in block
Location: Behind garden in weeds

Happy Holidays!

Sorry to be boring but.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34671494)

I run Tivoli Storage Manager storing data on a DS4500 IBM Tape Library. We are now using LTO4 tapes and drives. We migrate every 5 years from the previous tape spec to the most current. There's a Petebyte or so of data that's more than ten years old, and has been migrated at least three times, once to a new tape library, three times across tape versions. Thanks to archives where I work that have to be kept for 25 years, it was a planning requirement.

The simple fact of archive retention is this, you migrate your data. Never let your media get old enough to be a problem. It's expensive and time consuming, but if you really want to keep it, *PLAN* to keep it.

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