Future Tense: Floppy History

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legend-nyc

... you needed a file from a 5¼ diskette? I have dozens of these guys sitting in the back of a closet. I believe that I still have my first box of 360K unformatted floppies, which at the time cost $40. If I can get my hands on a combo 3½ / 5¼ drive it will allow me to transfer the files to current media.

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rwalker3k

Mine was a TRS-80 "model 1 "level 1. For around $700 I got a 4K Basic ROM, 4K RAM (Woo Hoo), No trig functions, 2 String Variables, 1 Array " A(number) single dimension". Six months later added $350 to jump to 12K Basic and 16K Ram. Oh and it had a blazing 0.77 Mhz Z80 Processor.

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praack

wow , I rmember saving my pennies, my first one was a C=64, by the time I went to the ibm compatable world I had two 51/4, two 3 1/2, q 2 gig memory expander, 1200 modem, color monitor daisy wheel and dot matrix printers, running GEOS

I rmember being a bit underwhelmed by the graphics and sound on the first pc I had

 

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shdwdragon7

If You guy's need Mod's to help control the spaming.  I'm here

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Wily_One

I remember the floppy days well, and you're missing a bit of the history by not mentioning Apple until 1984's Macintosh. 

Apple introduced the first affordable floppy drive back in 1978 for the Apple ][ - called the Disk ][.  The controller was designed by Woz himself, simplifying and improving on the Shugart design.  The Disk ][ could write 113K (and later 140K) to a 5¼-inch diskette. 

Without the capacity of the Disk ][, VisiCalc would have never been written on an Apple ][, whose success is what gave IBM the inkling there was market potential in microcomputers.  In short, the PC as we know it might never have been born.

 

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shdwdragon7

If You guy's need Mod's to help control the spaming.  I'm here

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piratebill2

Good article David, very good perspective on the tech advances we all likely take for granted.

CP/M is slightly before my time but the rest is clearly burned into our collective EEproms!

 

piratebill

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dgrmouse

I'm not sure how appealing this article would be for those who don't have first-hand experiences with the mentioned technologies, but I enjoyed reading this piece more than anything I've seen on this website in a very long time.  Well written!

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Bill1066

Remember the Vic 20? Talk about under powered.

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aviaggio

A few footnotes/comments:

*An 8" floppy can be seen in the 1983 movie War Games (at least I think it was an 8", might have been 12", I honestly can't remember)

*Due to the high cost of floppy drives in the late 70s some manufacturers, Commodore for one, opted for a cassette drive as a way to reduce cost. Now let's really talk about SLOW.

Apple introduced "the computer for the rest of us" in 1984. It was called a Macintosh. It came with a 9-inch b/w screen and 128K of RAM. (Reviewers considered it underpowered and overpriced.)

Nice to know things haven't changed much in 16 years.

*The best way to play old DOS games on a modern PC is with DOSbox (www.dosbox.com). It can also be done via an emulator like VirtualBox. You'll probably have to make images of your DOS disks on your laptop with the floppy drive (you can find a short list of image apps at http://www.petri.co.il/virtual-floppy-disks-vmware.htm).

Thanks again for another great article!

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Keith E. Whisman

I remember putting tape over the write protect slot on the edge of the floppy so I could erase and write to the disk that usually came in a magazine or mail. 

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aviaggio

I remember punching a hole in the opposite side of the disk so that I could use a single-sided floppy as a double-sided one. I usually used a single round hole punch or cut the square by hand, but I remember at the time you could buy a square hold punch for this express purpose.

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ez223

Ha, I still have one of those square hole punches.

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Keith E. Whisman

yeah I remember those... LOL...

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JohnP

 As a HP repairman for Test and Measurement for 25 years, I am still amazed at the leap of storage capabilities in the past 30 years. One of HP 1st hard drives was 10MB, 5 MB on a fixed platter and 5MB built in. It was the size of a dishwasher and cost 20K and the heads needed to be cleaned and aligned and the HEPA filters replaced every six months. 5 years later came a 10 MB sealed mechanism, still weighing in at 40 pounds and the size of a microwave oven. Tape cassettes were popular as well as the floppy drives. Floppies lasted for a LONG time, a good 15 years for some of the older instrument controllers. Long enough that the glue holding the read/write head failed and the head was left dangling. In the meantime, I watched hard drives gradually shrink. The toughest thing was to try to keep inventory of the older hard drives as the computer was married to a very expensive rack of equipment and could not just be upgraded like today. Eventually, all the proprietary contollers, cables, networking, interfaces, and operating systems started to become standardized. Microsoft/Intel has been maligned for a long time but the effect of having a standard operating system and compatible hardware has been one of the most productive things in the world of test and measurement and instrumentation. At long last, new hardware can be mated to older racks of gear and let technology upscale.

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strangelove9

Beautiful trip down the memory lane...

I'm almost tempted to forgive the author for his archaic views on copyright and piracy :P

(that's another story, and I don't encourage anyone to go off-topic)

 

Cheers!

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Respox

"Apple introduced “the computer for the rest of us” in 1984. It was called a Macintosh.  (Reviewers considered it underpowered and overpriced.)"

The more things change, the more they stay the same.

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pastorbob

I remember my first computer. It was a Heathkit H-89 with 32 kilobyes of SDRAM, a 2 Mhz Z80 and a SSSD floppy disk drive that held a whopping 100 Kbytes. I didn't have CP/M until a couple of years later. My system ran HDOS a proprietary operating system and I was able to do everything I needed to do on that. It was actually the release of Turbo Pascal in the early '80s that prompted me to buy CP/M. At the same time I upgraded to dual external floppy drive enclosure that held 1.2 megabytes per disk (I just threw those drives away last year). I actually had to rewrite the BIOS for CP/M and recompile so my system could run the drives. Somewhere along the way I redid the motherboard to allow 256K of Ram and a 4Mhz Z-80.

Anyhow those were the pioneer days of personal computing. Oh by the way Dave. DSDD floppy disks were available before the IBM PC was released. They just weren't readily available and they were expensive.

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