Beta

Slashdot: News for Nerds

×

Welcome to the Slashdot Beta site -- learn more here. Use the link in the footer or click here to return to the Classic version of Slashdot.

Thank you!

Before you choose to head back to the Classic look of the site, we'd appreciate it if you share your thoughts on the Beta; your feedback is what drives our ongoing development.

Beta is different and we value you taking the time to try it out. Please take a look at the changes we've made in Beta and  learn more about it. Thanks for reading, and for making the site better!

The History of the Floppy Disk

Soulskill posted about 2 years ago | from the once-upon-a-time dept.

Data Storage 204

Esther Schindler writes "Ready for a nostalgic trip into the wayback? We had floppy disks long before we had CDs, DVDs, or USB thumb-drives. Here's the evolution of the portable media that changed everything about personal computing. 'The 8-inch drive began to show up in 1971. Since they enabled developers and users to stop using the dreaded paper tape (which were easy to fold, spindle, and mutilate, not to mention to pirate) and the loathed IBM 5081 punch card. Everyone who had ever twisted a some tape or—the horror!—dropped a deck of Hollerith cards was happy to adopt 8-inch drives. Besides, the early single-sided 8-inch floppy could hold the data of up to 3,000 punch cards, or 80K to you.'"

cancel ×

204 comments

Read Error (4, Funny)

zippo01 (688802) | about 2 years ago | (#41162931)

I/O Error, Try again.... I/O Error, Try again. Damn it! Now how am I going to play Oregon Trail.

Re:Read Error (1)

Cockatrice_hunter (1777856) | about 2 years ago | (#41163009)

Slide the cover blow on the magnetic disk whilst spinning. Maybe it was just a dust bunny that crawled in your disk.

Re:Read Error (2)

rjr162 (69736) | about 2 years ago | (#41164727)

Slide the cover blow on the magnetic disk whilst spinning. Maybe it was just a dust bunny that crawled in your disk.

Um... most of us I'm sure played Oregon Trail on some variant of the Apple ][, which used these:
http://www.ivanexpert.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/2009/03/525_floppy-300x300.gif
Please explain what cover I am suppose to slide?

Re:Read Error (4, Interesting)

hairyfeet (841228) | about 2 years ago | (#41163213)

What was "fun" was some of the later OS installs that came on floppies. Anybody remember how many floppies Win95 took? And it never failed that one of the floppies, usually one of those needed at the very end, wouldn't work.

Still I remember how excited I was when I got my first CD burner...no more floppies yay! And I could overburn too! I for one was damned glad when floppies finally bought the farm, I always seemed to end up with the damned discs dead and my data toast, no matter how much I babied the stupid things.

Re:Read Error (2)

Theophany (2519296) | about 2 years ago | (#41163219)

28 floppies if memory serves. Win98 was like comparative nirvana for me; a floppy to boot and a CD to install.

Re:Read Error (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41163337)

My memory served me 15, but it seems that it was 13 pieces of 1.7 MB floppies, source http://blogs.msdn.com/b/oldnewthing/archive/2005/08/19/453612.aspx

Re:Read Error (4, Informative)

nospam007 (722110) | about 2 years ago | (#41163449)

Netware 2.15 came on 40 floppies and could not be installed from the originals, you had to make a backup copy first, which needed half a day alone since each disk had to be switched several times during the copy process.
Then during install, you noticed that the 40th copy was bad.

Re:Read Error (1)

Impy the Impiuos Imp (442658) | about 2 years ago | (#41164921)

> Anybody remember how many floppies Win95 took?

Yes, actually. It was so bad Microsoft actually started selling 80 MB drives with it pre-installed.

Re:Read Error (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41165213)

Windows 95 did not take all that many floppies. I was working with the Chicago Beta, and practicing installing it on different hardware. A great way to pass the time. I got the whole thing running on a system with 4 Meg of RAM and 50 Meg hard drive. (trick is, install stripped down system, "double" the hard drive and then reinstall with the extra pieces. Loved the DriveSpace Happy Box that indicated success)

Re:Read Error (1)

cusco (717999) | about 2 years ago | (#41165919)

28 floppies was for Office 4.2, which had the most delightful bug. It wouldn't ask for the installation code until disk 9, and if you typed it in wrong even once you had to start the process all over again. Fortunately that was fixed in 4.3, but by that time we had figured out how to dump the whole installation on my server's enormous 2 gb hard drive.

Re:Read Error (1)

Errtu76 (776778) | about 2 years ago | (#41163303)

Yep. I also remember paying close to 20 guilders (let's see .. that's about 8 euro .. or 9-10 dollars?) for a 650M CD recordable. Not to mention the re-writables that costed me twice that amount.

Re:Read Error (1)

troc (3606) | about 2 years ago | (#41163365)

I remember the "fun" of installing Office from floppy in the 90's when it came on something like 44 discs.

aaaargh the nightmares.....................

Re:Read Error (1)

Nikker (749551) | about 2 years ago | (#41163941)

Ahh the nostalgia of trying to back up software from its home directory. DOS was easy, Win 3.x was easy the rest was something else. But did I stop? Not a chance ;)

Re:Read Error (2)

CodeheadUK (2717911) | about 2 years ago | (#41163367)

Anybody remember how many floppies Win95 took?

I still have my box of Win95 install floppies. There are 39, but mine were created at first boot by the OS. A slight money grab by the supplier (PC World), they wouldn't provide OS install media, but would sell you 4 boxes of floppies to create your own backup.

Re:Read Error (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41163771)

Hey.... i just bought an android smartphone.... guess how many floppies are required to install android? :-)

Re:Read Error (2)

shippo (166521) | about 2 years ago | (#41164473)

At work we had an installation of Windows NT Server (3.5, perhaps) that came on floppies. There was over 40 of them. We had many other OS installations on floppy too. Banyan VINES (which we resold) had about two dozen, and as Banyan were compartively late in supporting CD media for installation, and even then didn't support IDE CD-ROM drives, many servers had to be installed and upgraded this way well up to the late 1990s. We had other operating systems on floppy, too, including several versions of OS/2, Netware and SCO Unix. Then there was that floppy installation of Slackware I made for in-house installation on test PCs, as most of our test boxes lacked CD drives.

Re:Read Error (1)

byrtolet (1353359) | about 2 years ago | (#41164525)

The internet solved this problem for me long before I got my CD writer.

Re:Read Error (1)

dreamchaser (49529) | about 2 years ago | (#41164715)

My first Linux install was Slackware on about 40 diskettes. I ftp'd them all over a weekend via my lowly 9600 baud modem. I know that sounds like I'm spinning a 'we had to walk in the snow uphill, both ways' tale but it's true.

I remember the first time I installed an OS from CDROM. I believe it was OS/2. I was amazed.

Re:Read Error (2)

rjr162 (69736) | about 2 years ago | (#41164743)

Yes! I remember installing OS/2 Warp on my grand father's old Swan 486 (which sadly ran Windows applications faster than Windows 3.1 did on the same machine...)

That was a ton of floppies + if I recall correctly there were about 7 to 10 more with "Printer Drivers" or something along those lines

Re:Read Error (1)

rjr162 (69736) | about 2 years ago | (#41164763)

Comment just to add that was OS/2 Warp v2.x

Re:Read Error (1)

rjr162 (69736) | about 2 years ago | (#41164805)

damn... my memory is bad! I guess it was v3.x, not v2.x as v3.x was the version labeled as "Warp"

Re:Read Error (2)

Tore S B (711705) | about 2 years ago | (#41165423)

What was "fun" was some of the later OS installs that came on floppies. Anybody remember how many floppies Win95 took? And it never failed that one of the floppies, usually one of those needed at the very end, wouldn't work.

That's nothing. The Norwegian company that delivered the computing hardware and software for the F16 flight simulator, Norsk Data, was actually required by the US Air Force to deliver their software as punched cards for quite a few years after punch cards had really gone out of fashion.

Every software patch was the same - requiring staff to manually collate the source code punched cards - basically, manually merging patches.

Yeah , they were pretty unreliable (1)

Viol8 (599362) | about 2 years ago | (#41163609)

Which made them frankly fairly useless for data storage and backup. Any company IT dept worth its salt used tapes and your average user just had to make sure he backed the same thing up on enough floppies that after N months/years at least one would hopefully still work. And as time went by and manufacturers cut costs to make up for falling sales reliability got so bad that in boxes of some of the last floppies to be produced at least 1 or 2 disks wouldn't even work to start with if my experience was anything to go by!

I miss some things about computers of the past but floppy disks are not one of them. Thank god for USB sticks and SD cards.

Re:Yeah , they were pretty unreliable (1)

DarwinSurvivor (1752106) | about 2 years ago | (#41164023)

To this day I don't fully understand why tape is so much more reliable than floppies. Aren't they essentially the same medium (magnetized substrate) but just in a different shape (long-long-long rectangle vs donut)? Is it a density thing, or is the material actually that much different (I know floppies are stiffer, but I always figured they were just thicker).

Re:Yeah , they were pretty unreliable (3, Informative)

Viol8 (599362) | about 2 years ago | (#41164071)

Data density was much higher on a floppy disk than tapes of the day (if you think about it , and entire floppy disks surface area is probably only equivalent to a few inches of tape) so consequently minor faults that would do nothing to data on a tape could cause complete data loss on a floppy disk.

Re:Yeah , they were pretty unreliable (5, Informative)

rs79 (71822) | about 2 years ago | (#41164121)

It wasn't. 9 track tapes lasted a few years and at that point the oxide flaked off. Ever wonder where Google's Usenet archive came from? DejaNews. Wonder where that came from? Archive.org (I think it's all still there somewhere in 4 of the biggest files on earth). Wonder where they got it from? I sort of arranged them to get a copy from magi@uwo who had taken Henry Spencer's tape backups made because a friend of his wanted rec.birds ad it was easier to just store all of it. magi told me at the worst point they'd run a tape for a foot, then have to stop and clean all the flaked oxide off the heads and keep going. It took, I think, two summers to read them all that way.

Tapes were ok if you used them the same year or next, but if you were serious about data, you kept it on disk packs, either 2314 single platers or 2311 packs or multiple platters.

8" floppies may have been introduced in 71 but it wasn't really anywhere close to common until the late seventies and never had much traction with large computers. More so with minicomputers but still fairly useless given the volumes of data. Where they shone was with micros, their 8-bit cpus and low data requirements made them ideal; you could easily boot an O/S off one and have all your data on the other and this lasted until about the early to mid 80s when 5" floppies - much less reliable - took over.

IBM introduced them and they were called "flexible diskettes" and nobody thought they would work or work reliably if they did, which really wasn't too far off the mark.

You know all those gaps in Google's Usenet archive? That's where the oxide flaked off and that data is just plain extinct. No, tapes sucked but then, as now, expensive dick drives had outstanding longevity.

Re:Yeah , they were pretty unreliable (5, Informative)

Tore S B (711705) | about 2 years ago | (#41165303)

You're describing "sticky shed syndrome", or hydrolysis of the polyurethane binding layer between the oxide and the base. Some tape brands are more susceptible to it than others. Storage conditions are another significant determinant.

Basically, humidity reacts with the glue that keeps the rust sticking to the plastic. If there was archival data of such significance, the tapes should have been "baked" - that is, slowly heated to a precise temperature which would re-dry the glue. After that, the tapes would probably mount fine.

If you had conferred with some people like the Computer History Museum (just down the block from the Googleplex), they would have helped you out.

Re:Yeah , they were pretty unreliable (1)

donaldm (919619) | about 2 years ago | (#41164459)

To this day I don't fully understand why tape is so much more reliable than floppies.

Are there still people today that use floppies? :)

Basically for any professional backup service tapes are always the best and this is still the case today. Even back in the early 1980's any decent system admin would never consider using floppies for system and data backups since they had limited capacity and weren't that reliable. Of course floppies were relatively cheap in comparison to tapes however when you consider a 1.2MB 3.5" floppy (I have seen 10" floppies) verses a 100MB plus reel to reel tape and later cartridges (current LTO tapes have capacities of over 1.5TB) it makes much more sense to use magnetic tape since it is easier to store them on or off site than something like a floppy, CD, DVD, BD or even a hard disk.

Today it must be noted that if you have a PC and want to back that up the cheapest way is to use one or more external hard disks since you can get these relatively cheaply with capacities up to 3TB.

For many businesses DLT and LTO tape cartridges are still the best backup media, however a total solution must be put in place and this may not be cheap. Two of the first questions I always ask companies that are contemplating a backup solution for their business are "What price do you put on your data" and "How long can an outage for recovery purposes take before it impacts the business". There are plenty of other questions to ask but those two are a good start.

Re:Yeah , they were pretty unreliable (1)

isorox (205688) | about 2 years ago | (#41164523)

Are there still people today that use floppies? :)

Yes, we have various old bits of equipment which use floppys to store settings etc. Astons and vision mixers come to mind.

Re:Yeah , they were pretty unreliable (1)

JasterBobaMereel (1102861) | about 2 years ago | (#41164733)

Hard Disks - Expensive (in comparison) but large and quick
Flash drives - Very Expensive and small
Tape - Cheap and reliable and big enough for most
Cloud - Slow (unless you have a huge pipe), and expensive (cost per month)

A bunch of tapes in a safe off-site is still the best solution for most people .... your mileage may vary

Re:Yeah , they were pretty unreliable (2)

jmauro (32523) | about 2 years ago | (#41165901)

Are there still people today that use floppies? :)

Yes. I click on them all the time to save documents and files.

Re:Yeah , they were pretty unreliable (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41164527)

It was all about the write current at the head. You see, tapes are always single-sided.
Floppies (originally single-sided too), are double sided. Too much write current and you
write-through the floppy and affect the data on the other side. So it became a balance
of write current vs. double sided reliability. Yes, the single sided floppy was much more
reliable - just as good as a tape. Seems that factoid was forgotten.

CAPTCHA = creator

Re:Yeah , they were pretty unreliable (1)

zmollusc (763634) | about 2 years ago | (#41164277)

I yearned for a floppy disk drive while i pissed around with audio cassettes. Booting and running dos 3.3 from floppy (many years later) was sheer joy.

5.25" floppies were really reliable (1)

gay358 (770596) | about 2 years ago | (#41163749)

My experience was that 5.25" floppies were really reliable. I had hundreds of 5.25" floppies and I don't remember any of them ever failing. I had some failures with 3.5" floppies, but not too often. IMHO, USB flash drives are much more unreliable than floppies were (although capacity of USB flash drives is much larger than floppies).

It would be interesting to check if the floppies that I used over 20 years ago are still readable. I have to try that some day...

Re:5.25" floppies were really reliable (1)

donaldm (919619) | about 2 years ago | (#41164511)

My experience was that 5.25" floppies were really reliable

From personal experience I would have to mostly agree (I have seen embarrassing failures) however there is nothing worse than some clueless git using them as a coaster or worse spilling their coffee on them. I have even seen people fold them and don't ask what a hot summers day can do to one. The 3.5" floppies mainly stopped the coaster issue but it still did not stop abuse.

Floppy disk drives are not history... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41162959)

I still teach students about Foppy Disk drives, their interfaces, the PC architecture, index hole, write protect notch, clamping notch, tracks, densities, FM and MFM recording to students in Engineering. This is still included in syllabi of most Indian Universities. We are able to get hold of 5-1/4" floppy diskettes to show to the students, but the 8" media is very very hard to find.

Re:Floppy disk drives are not history... (2)

Anne Thwacks (531696) | about 2 years ago | (#41163055)

You might want to have them read http://www.amazon.com/dp/B006QMXYEA [amazon.com] "The Floppy Disk Story - which describes the evolution of the FD from the user's end

Re:Floppy disk drives are not history... (4, Funny)

djjockey (1301073) | about 2 years ago | (#41163669)

That, and if you don't teach people about them they won't know which icon to click to save their work.

Re:Floppy disk drives are not history... (1)

isorox (205688) | about 2 years ago | (#41164547)

That, and if you don't teach people about them they won't know which icon to click to save their work.

People used to save their documents on floppys. In those enlightened days the average joe knew the difference between files and programs.

Nowadays many people save things "into word", and have no concept of a file.

I remember the old floppies well (5, Interesting)

Chrisq (894406) | about 2 years ago | (#41162969)

One thing I remember was a colleague spilling sweet hot coffee on a 5.25 inch floppy that had just arrived in the post. We all thought he would have to tell head office that we had just destroyed our latest update disk and get them to send another, but he opened the envelope, took out the actual disk, rinsed it under the tap, and carefully dried it. Next he got a blank floppy, opened this, and substituted the internal disk - finally sealing it with sellotape down the edge. We all said "it will never work", but it read perfectly - the first thing he did was take a back-up of course.

Re:I remember the old floppies well (3, Interesting)

JosKarith (757063) | about 2 years ago | (#41163399)

First step - make a back-up.
Second step - put the originals somewhere safe and use the back-up disks
We got tripped up with this on a graphic design program for the Archimedes at school. We made a copy of the original and ran off that for a while. Then the copy went missing so the teacher grabbed the original and tried using that. It refused to work. We thought that it had somehow gotten fried but someone dutifully ran off a copy anyway and that worked fine. We were all really confused till we realised that the original had the write-protect tab set. The program needed to write back to the disk occasionally nut the manufacturer had assumed that everyone who used the program would run off unprotected copies... fun times.

Re:I remember the old floppies well (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41164273)

My grandfather bought a new version of TRS-DOS on floppy, I wasn't around, so he stapled it to the inside of the three-ring binder where he kept all the papers for the computer. Yep, stapled it right through the floppy sleeve, and the floppy itself..... I was pretty disappointed, then I decided to see if I could fix it, I rotated the disk until the holes appeared in the window, with the burr side (where the staple exited the media), put a piece of paper over it and rubbed it with a pencil eraser.

Yep, it worked, at least well enough to make a couple of copies. Bits must be pretty big on a 5.25" single sided, single density disk...

Get off my lawn!

I got what I came for (2)

skipkent (1510) | about 2 years ago | (#41162985)

"Wang needed a smaller, cheaper floppy disk."

Glad floppy dick is gone (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41163021)

It's just not very satisfying...

Re:Glad floppy dick is gone (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41163089)

I've been coming here a long time, but it's the comments like this one that keep me coming back... They're just simple and funny.

Re:Glad floppy dick is gone (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41163469)

I've been coming here a long time, but it's the comments like this one that keep me coming back... They're just simple and funny.

Why are you replying to yourself?

Re:Glad floppy dick is gone (1)

antifoidulus (807088) | about 2 years ago | (#41163531)

Thats why I browse at +6 off-topic, they are usually the best /. has to offer(though unfortunately spammers have been ruining that, /. needs a separate binspam moderation)....and since this post is off-topic I expect it to earn a 5 on my screen.

Yes I still have my BBS... (2)

Jonah Hex (651948) | about 2 years ago | (#41163075)

... unfortunately it's only on a single set of 3.5s just like my ASCII/ANSI artwork. Probably unrecoverable by now. Windows for Workgroups and the rest are just minor nostalgia pieces I haven't trashed yet as I find it finny to run across them in my old hardware boxes. - HEX

Re:Yes I still have my BBS... (1)

Jonah Hex (651948) | about 2 years ago | (#41163081)

Yes I stand by my use of the word finny, fucking hell stupid typo. - HEX

Re:Yes I still have my BBS... (1)

blahbooboo (839709) | about 2 years ago | (#41164661)

... unfortunately it's only on a single set of 3.5s just like my ASCII/ANSI artwork. Probably unrecoverable by now. Windows for Workgroups and the rest are just minor nostalgia pieces I haven't trashed yet as I find it finny to run across them in my old hardware boxes. - HEX

Why unrecoverable. 3.5" drives are easy to come by, and are still supported in Windows 7.

5.25" USB Floppy Drives? (1)

Vandil X (636030) | about 2 years ago | (#41163093)

I still wish someone would make (and sell) a USB 5.25" floppy drive. I still have a few 5.25" floppies kicking around that I'd love to get data off of, if they're still readable.

Re:5.25" USB Floppy Drives? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41163243)

Sounds like a kickstarter project waiting to happen.

Re:5.25" USB Floppy Drives? (1)

u38cg (607297) | about 2 years ago | (#41163271)

USB doesn't supply enough power to run a 5.25" drive, but this might help, [deviceside.com] though it might be easier just to find an ancient functioning 286 and do it that way.

USB to ST-506 interface! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41163477)

I want a USB ST-506 adaptor, so I can transfer files over sneakernet on a 20MB Miniscribe. OMFG! That would be the awesomest show-and-tell ever!

that smell of 3M 5" disk (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41163105)

still remember it...ahhh

Re:that smell of 3M 5" disk (1)

pegdhcp (1158827) | about 2 years ago | (#41163241)

Just when I was thinking that I am really old. I always wondered that if it was a natural (!) odor of components, or if it is an intentional addition to the box. That smell was the smell of joy and despair, as in the anticipation of a new game, and suspicion of a problem happened during the (naturally illegal) copy process...

Re:that smell of 3M 5" disk (1)

jones_supa (887896) | about 2 years ago | (#41163577)

That smell was the smell of joy and despair, as in the anticipation of a new game, and suspicion of a problem happened during the (naturally illegal) copy process...

Back then copying (commercial) games and software was so relaxed. We still knew it hurt the producers, but there wasn't worries about Pirate Bay being blocked, MPAA/RIAA, and no severe ethical issues. It was just nice to have games. Maybe my friend bought Secret Weapons of Luftwaffe, of which I made a copy for myself, and let him have a copy of my original Kings Quest V.

Oh yes, the memories... (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41163191)

Who is General Failure and why is he reading my drive A:?????

Transforming DD into HD (3, Informative)

andyteleco (1090569) | about 2 years ago | (#41163211)

I remember taking bunches of old DD 3.5'' floppies and drilling a hole on the lower left side in order to later format them as HD (1.44 MB). Of course many of them were destroyed or ended up with lots of defective sectors in the process.

Aaaaah, the good old days!

Re:Transforming DD into HD (1)

troc (3606) | about 2 years ago | (#41163387)

And before that we took single-sided 5.25" floppies, carefully removed the disc, cut some extra holes in the case, carefully replaced the disc and, if we were lucky, had a double-sided disc instead!

Re:Transforming DD into HD (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41163585)

Amateur! I had one of those specially designed square notch punches.

Re:Transforming DD into HD (1)

swb (14022) | about 2 years ago | (#41164105)

All you needed was a paper punch. And some reasonable hand strength No disassembly required.

Re:Transforming DD into HD (2)

ag0ny (59629) | about 2 years ago | (#41163677)

I remember doing the opposite. In the late 90s I was still using 8-bit computers from the 80s as a hobby (MSX, relatively popular everywhere but the U.S.). Because the communications software was limited, we used to download software from local BBSs via our PCs, and then copy into floppy disks to use on the MSX.

The problem was that the PC didn't accept that I was trying to format 2HD disks in 2DD format, so in my MSX disks I always covered the little hole. This was either under MS-DOS 6.22 or OS\2 Warp (I didn't really use Windows much even back then).

Aw, I remember taking demo disks to school... (1)

RoboJ1M (992925) | about 2 years ago | (#41163287)

"For data storage it used—I kid you not—a cassette tape player."

Do people not know that personal computers used audio cassettes to store data any more?

09
0A
0B
DATA!
BLOCK!
Please Rewind Tape!

Re:Aw, I remember taking demo disks to school... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41163733)

"For data storage it used—I kid you not—a cassette tape player."

Do people not know that personal computers used audio cassettes to store data any more?

09
0A
0B
DATA!
BLOCK!
Please Rewind Tape!

Yep, and those of us who still have our MSX computers or whatever that uses tapes have found that portable CD-players are pretty useful. Every program gets its own track.

Ahhh memories! (3, Interesting)

Jahta (1141213) | about 2 years ago | (#41163351)

I worked in tech support in the 1980s and 5.25" floppies were a great (unintended) source of fun.

For example, in response to "can you send me a copy of that floppy?" I was sent (a) a photocopy the floppy and (b) a floppy with a covering note stapled to it!

But best of all was the time I asked a user if they had a backup of some important documents. She pointed me to a 5.25" floppy - attached to the side of a filing cabinet with a fridge magnet.

Happy days!

Re:Ahhh memories! (3, Funny)

ag0ny (59629) | about 2 years ago | (#41163703)

Ah, those urban legends that didn't happen to you either, but everybody says they experienced them first person. :-)

Yeah, those didn't happen to me either, but I've heard them many times.

Re:Ahhh memories! (1)

1u3hr (530656) | about 2 years ago | (#41163881)

I worked in tech support in the 1980s and 5.25" floppies were a great (unintended) source of fun.

Sure, you did. I've heard those same stories a million times.

My own true anecdote is the first time I used a Macintosh at university -- the first or second generation -- 128 kB RAM, no hard disk, just ran on a floppy. I borrowed a system disk from a tutor and inserted it to boot it up.The message appeared "Initialise disk?" Since "initialise" means "begin" I of course agreed, and it reformatted the floppy and wiped out the tutor's files.

Re:Ahhh memories! (1)

rs79 (71822) | about 2 years ago | (#41164139)

Either these three things happened in more than one company or we worked at the same place. I saw all these things too, exactly.

"Loathed"? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41163355)

I remember cards, and they weren't loathed. They were... cards. Just tools of the day.

You're one cheap writer. Please get off my lawn.

Differentiating the 5.25" and the 3.5" disks (3, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41163361)

We would call the big ones "floppies" and the small ones "stiffies" (for obvious reaons) to keep them apart. And we would do it with a straight face.

This seems to have been a local thing in South Africa, however, since I have only heard it there.

Re:Differentiating the 5.25" and the 3.5" disks (4, Informative)

gl4ss (559668) | about 2 years ago | (#41163465)

We would call the big ones "floppies" and the small ones "stiffies" (for obvious reaons) to keep them apart. And we would do it with a straight face.

This seems to have been a local thing in South Africa, however, since I have only heard it there.

lerppu(floppy) vs. korppu(hardy).

of course hard disks were then called kovalevyt so.. but we had that distinction in finnish too. maybe english is the only language where it doesn't exist?-D

Re:Differentiating the 5.25" and the 3.5" disks (1)

jones_supa (887896) | about 2 years ago | (#41163601)

lerppu(floppy) vs. korppu(hardy).

Later computer magazines also tried to root the term "romppu" for CDRs, but it was mostly used by lamers only.

Re:Differentiating the 5.25" and the 3.5" disks (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41164063)

I think it was only 1999 or so when I discovered that foreigners called 3.5" diskettes "floppies" - I was mildly surprised because I had thought that the term died out with 5.25" disks. I think people here were always uncomfortable with calling disks "floppies" because that word was a racial slur, whereas "stiffy" hadn't quite caught on as slang for erection until after "stiffy disks" had already become commonplace.

Stiffies (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41163377)

Here in South Africa we used to call the 3.5" Floppies with the hard plastic cases stiffies.

Re:Stiffies (1)

wcrowe (94389) | about 2 years ago | (#41165489)

I could never be proud of having a 3.5" stiffie.

Floppy disk music (1)

humanrev (2606607) | about 2 years ago | (#41163455)

There's only one good use for a "modern" floppy disk drive - MUSIC!

Doom's E1M1 soundtrack on eight floppy drives:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7a7-5WYOKxE [youtube.com]

Guy also has plenty more tracks. Makes me want to break out the Arduino again...

This brings back memories... (1)

thomas8166 (1244688) | about 2 years ago | (#41163493)

The only type of floppy I remember handling is in 3.5" (I'm still a young'un), but I still remember a kid's science magazine (not published anymore here in Taiwan) teaching us to insert the 5.25" floppies all the way to the bottom, flip the drive bay latches 90 degrees to lock it in place, and boot from A: using MS-DOS. I still have a 5.25" drive cleaner (where the magnetic material is substituted with some kind of textile and packaged in a standard casing) lying around, though I have no actual disks.

Not all punch tape was fragile (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41163497)

If you wanted an archival medium today, you could do worse than mylar punch tape. That stuff was damned near indestructible. You couldn't tear it if you tried. We kept all our important/frequently used data and programs on it.

EP`?? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41163527)

The Sector Wars (4, Interesting)

mbstone (457308) | about 2 years ago | (#41163721)

Y'all forgot, there weren't just 5.25" and 8" floppy drives, there was also no agreement among OEMs on whether diskettes should be soft sectored or hard sectored, and there were maybe 30 formatting schemes in use -- hard sectoring required punching holes in the media, sometimes several.

Even after the IBM-PC (which adopted 5.25" soft-sectored disks as the standard) there were attempts to use punched holes, or nonstandard data written to the disks, either as a copy protection scheme or in order to require computer purchasers to purchase the OEM's own diskette media (DEC Rainbow).

Re:The Sector Wars (1)

Tore S B (711705) | about 2 years ago | (#41165373)

Actually IIRC the DEC Rainbow just didn't have formatting capacity on its floppy controller. There is software to get PCs to format RX50 diskettes, and there is a single DEC with an RX50 that can be triggered to format RX50 floppies. Part of me wants to say that it was the Rainbow - that or the Pro 380...

3.5 inch? Really? (2)

Kapiti Kid (1003167) | about 2 years ago | (#41163809)

I was always under the impression that they were actually 9 cm discs. Being Japanese (Sony) in origin, they were in rest-of-the-world measurements, not American.

Re:3.5 inch? Really? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41164387)

Wikipedia confirms that. Curiously, even in the rest of the world (Germany here) we call them 3.5 inch floppies.

NeXT (1, Flamebait)

MojoRilla (591502) | about 2 years ago | (#41163829)

Yes, Steve Jobs popularized floppies with the Apple II, but he wasn't always so lucky. At the time the NeXT Computer came out, the lack of a floppy drive was a serious problem. Sneakernet was alive and well in those days, and uploading files via the network required bizarre things like Kermit and ZModem. And the NeXT magneto optical drive was horrendous. NeXT did eventually introduce a floppy in 1991, pretty late in the game. Of course, NeXT was way ahead of its time, the computer that the world wide web was invented on. and a precursor to OS X and iOS.

3.5" floppies are the worst (1)

Blaskowicz (634489) | about 2 years ago | (#41163895)

I was pretty amazed that I could read floppies from the 80s and very early nineties flawlessly, those were 5.25". I was collecting crap back then so I ended up with an Apple II and a PC/AT (where I added a VGA card, and a null modem cable for transfers).

3.5" were at least more physically robust, though you could bend the metal latch and at worst destroy the drive when you get it stuck in it. but, it was so incredibly unreliable! back then too, a home computer was only useful for gaming and the floppies were used for piracy. no used had a modem or used a BBS, because the costs would have been prohibitive. it was a US thing. as a kid I really wondered where these cracked versions of games were coming from.

IBM Cards (1)

fm6 (162816) | about 2 years ago | (#41164101)

I'm pretty sure that 5081 refers to a specific single-field layout [flickr.com] , not to 80-column punched cards as such. There were many layouts [uiowa.edu] . I seem to recall using something very similar to this FORTRAN card [uiowa.edu] even when I wasn't doing FORTRAN, and I don't think they had "FORTRAN STATEMENT" printed on them.

I don't recall anybody loathing punched cards. They were a simple, reliable, if somewhat bulky medium. It is true that magnetic discs represented a great improvement. In my case, floppies were never more than a backup medium, since the systems I worked with always had hard disks.

Re:IBM Cards (1)

RabidReindeer (2625839) | about 2 years ago | (#41164621)

I'm pretty sure that 5081 refers to a specific single-field layout [flickr.com] , not to 80-column punched cards as such. There were many layouts [uiowa.edu] . I seem to recall using something very similar to this FORTRAN card [uiowa.edu] even when I wasn't doing FORTRAN, and I don't think they had "FORTRAN STATEMENT" printed on them.

I don't recall anybody loathing punched cards. They were a simple, reliable, if somewhat bulky medium. It is true that magnetic discs represented a great improvement. In my case, floppies were never more than a backup medium, since the systems I worked with always had hard disks.

Yep. Dug into the closet and only the "blank" cards say 5081 on them. The yellow Assembler cards have a different number (two of them actually, since they're not Genuine IBM), blue COBOL cards are 3393 and the pink FORTRAN (sic) cards have a 88157 on them.

I recall being disgusted because after too many trips through the RJE card reader, a quarter-inch wide notch would wear out in the top center of the cards (where the picker pushed them) and quite a few incidents of woe from dropped decks, but the only floppy I ever got near on a mainframe was the one that held its microcode. For actual data and program entry people were either using punched cards or key-to-disk/disk-to-tape systems.

Abort, Retry,Ignore Fail (1)

gnalre (323830) | about 2 years ago | (#41164213)

Ahh, floppies. The very definition of optimism knowing that when the following message came up

Not ready reading drive A
Abort, Retry, Fail?

That you were screwed, but you would still choose one anyway

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Abort,_Retry,_Fail%3F [wikipedia.org]

Re:Abort, Retry,Ignore Fail (1)

The MAZZTer (911996) | about 2 years ago | (#41164951)

For me that just meant I accidentally took the floppy out while it was still using it. Stuck it back in and hit retry and you were good.

I don't recall having nearly as many problems with floppies as others seem to have had. I guess I just took good care of mine.

I used Xtree Gold a lot as a kid. (1)

AbRASiON (589899) | about 2 years ago | (#41164399)

I was a dodgy little software pirate too, I was constantly formatting floppy disks and checking for bastard CRC errors. I only had a 20mb hard disk to begin with.

So that is why the pin for my ATM card is 145766412139
(I can't fit the 52 at the end, they max out at 12 digits here, not 14)
Sad, I know.

The 2 combined numbers there, which you might be more familliar with in Ztree are.
1,457,664 BYTES FREE
1,213,952 BYTES FREE
No CRC errors on those bad boys, every block is working :)
Oh and I have an 8" floppy stuck up on the wall of my nerd cave :( although I never got to work with them, the bank I was working in used them for transactions from offices only about 10 or 12 years ago - which really is pretty recent when you think about it.
(A lot of our Aussie companies here purchased used hardware from the US to set themselves up, I believe Coles supermarkets used US based registers and ANZ banks used some kind of US based banking hardware - both second hand)

In conclusion: I don't miss the sound of drive heads seeking on cheap floppies with cheap drives, but I do fondly recall some aspects of them.
730,112
362,496

bios changed so as not to recognize 5.25 floppies (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41164509)

I keep an old Compaq 500 mhz box in my basement so that I can read 5.25 floppies on a 1.2 meg floppy drive (I don't often, but I can.). The bios changed after that, and (in my experience) wouldn't recognize any floppy drive other than the 1.44 meg.

Their death I remember (1)

spectrokid (660550) | about 2 years ago | (#41164955)

Loading Windows & Office on a new PC using more than 60 floppies, spending all afternoon praying God the last one wouldn't fail...

Track 0 rattle (1)

Stavr0 (35032) | about 2 years ago | (#41165193)

I remember both Apple ][ and Commodore floppies would seek past the end of the rail to recalibrate track 0. The apple made a noise on power up but 1541s made a scary noise whenever formatting a new disk or trying to recover a read error.

After a while the rattle actually threw the head out of alignment as the pulley was slipping on the axle. I connected the read head to the microphone input of a tape recorder to listen to the signal strength as I adjusted the stepper motor alignment.

After a while the screw threads were worn and I had to tap&die them. Then I got tired of realigning the heads and drilled in a cotter pin to stop the pulley from slipping.

Good times.

80K is a lot more than he thinks it is. (1)

wcrowe (94389) | about 2 years ago | (#41165447)

FTA: "Besides, the early single-sided 8-inch floppy could hold the data of up to 3,000 punch cards, or 80K to you. I know that's nothing today — this article uses up 66K with the text alone – but then it was a big deal."

There is no way that the text ALONE in this article could take up 66K. That would be something like 200 pages.

Ahh, the good old days (2)

EmagGeek (574360) | about 2 years ago | (#41165485)

My first computer was that 1977 TRS-80 Model I, with the 600 baud cassette tape player. It finally bit the dust around 1990.

My favorites, though, were the Tandys I had. In 1985, my dad brought home a shiny new Tandy 1000A. He spent the money to upgrade it to dual 360K floppy disks, and bought the DRAM on the aftermarket to upgrade it to 640K. It took a lot longer to boot with 640K than it did with the factory 128K it came with.

DOS 2.11 was the O/S at the time, and DeskMate was something revolutionary to my 10 year old eyes.

He added 1200bps modem to the mix for his business in 1988 or 89, and it was then that I discovered the online Bulletin Board System. I spent the next couple of years monopolizing the PC, starting my own BBS that ran on floppies, running MiniHost.

So in 1990 for my birthday, I came home to find a new Tandy 1000TX sitting on the desk in the basement. I had originally thought he had just bought a 3.5" floppy drive for the existing PC, but I was elated to learn I had received a new PC for my birthday.

The 3.5" floppy was amazing. With the companion 5.25" floppy, I was able to copy everything over no problem. My new PC had its own 1200bps modem in it. Having the larger floppy meant I could put a few precious more programs on my BBS, which ran Phoenix RCS. I installed a couple of door games, and even a sub-BBS since Phoenix could do that. I also borrowed a 2400bps modem from a friend who had an extra one, and expanded my BBS to consume 2 of the 4 phone lines we had in the house, primarily for my dad's business.

When I was 15, my brother "handed me down" an old rusted out Honda Accord that I could fix up and use for a car when I turned 16. I promptly traded it to a guy at school for a 40-megabyte hard card that was compatible with the TX. It used a Miniscribe 8450 RLL Hard Disk, and an ST-412 RLL controller.

Boy, that was epic. My BBS could finally store files! I started leeching everything I could from other BBSes in the area: Tiny BBS, PC Paradise, The Works, The Outer Limit, The Open Door, and many others. Tiny in particular had become a huge BBS in the Hudson Valley - I think he grew to 3 or 4 phone lines, two of which were reserved for donators.

I would have friends over and stay up all night downloading from two different BBSes on two computers and phone lines. I was so officially a nerd by then, also having gotten my ham radio license in 1987.

When 1990/1991 rolled around, I had gotten my drivers license and a car, and was getting to the point that my juvenile computer pursuits were falling by the wayside in favor of being outside more. But, I still worked on the BBS, and spent late nights writing code in BASIC to do various things, and playing with things like DESQview, bimodem, MNP/5, and other cool things that came about during my formative years.

1992 brought about graduation from high school and a move away from home for college. I had built myself a 286 machine over the summer, with 1MB of RAM and QEMU on it. So, I left a lot behind. The Tandy 1000TX stayed home, but the hard drive came with me, so the BBS was no more. The 2400bps modem I had borrowed went back to its owner as well, but that didn't matter since the dorms at Ga Tech had their very own DB25 with a direct serial connection to Hydra - it was like being on a 9600bps BBS all the time! And this email thing - whoa - it was instant, too.

I dabbled in BBSes here and there, especially after I moved out of the dorm and could do it again, but it was never the same. By 1996 the Internet was starting to take shape in a big way, and I realized that BBSes were to quickly become a thing of the past, in favor of this World Wide Web thing everyone was talking about.

In 1997, I still had floppies in my computer. By then I was still in school, having taken the requisite year or two off to get in-state tuition. I started playing with Linux, and built myself a whopping dual-CPU machine. Floppies were still handy, as I'd still had all of the ones I had used on the old Tandy 1000 to rape the Hudson Valley BBS world so many years ago, and those came in handy when I discovered DOSEmu. But alas, it was just nostalgia at that point. Another move was coming, to another dorm, and being tired of lugging everything around with me, I abandoned most of my PC equipment, and put those floppies in storage at my folks' house.

Fast forward 15 years to this year, my dad and I discovered a box full of floppies from the heyday. There wasn't much there - but a collection of 5.25" and 3.5" from the Tandy years. I had originals for many of the old Sierra games, and loads of floppies from dad's old business - all of which were unreadable by this point due to the fact that magnetic media just doesn't have infinite data retention. It was hard enough finding disk drives to read them, but fortunately we had some ancient PCs at the office that still had 1.2MB drives in them. It was worth a try, anyway.

I think every generation of dorks looks back fondly upon the technological advancements of their time. Those of us in our late 30s who remember the advent of the first PCs will always remember those days and the cool things they brought about - my like my father's generation will remember things like color TV, solid-state amplifiers, and radial tires as they think back to THEIR heyday of black and white TVs, tube amplifiers, and bias ply.

Quizz question (1)

openfrog (897716) | about 2 years ago | (#41165509)

The typical terabyte hard drive is equivalent to how many punch cards, and how much would they weight?
--
Ah, the smell of punch cards in the morning!

Zip drives? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#41166121)

No mention of the Zip & Jazz disks that were an attempt to keep the portable "floppy" magnetic disk paradigm alive? I remember using the Zip drive with a parallel port connection, and the 'Guest' program so you could use these on other computers.

Load More Comments
Slashdot Account

Need an Account?

Forgot your password?

Don't worry, we never post anything without your permission.

Submission Text Formatting Tips

We support a small subset of HTML, namely these tags:

  • b
  • i
  • p
  • br
  • a
  • ol
  • ul
  • li
  • dl
  • dt
  • dd
  • em
  • strong
  • tt
  • blockquote
  • div
  • quote
  • ecode

"ecode" can be used for code snippets, for example:

<ecode>    while(1) { do_something(); } </ecode>
Create a Slashdot Account

Loading...