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Reading disks from 1988 in 2018 (sixcolors.com)
108 points by Doubleguitars on Jan 13, 2018 | hide | past | web | favorite | 48 comments

For me the interesting part of this article was the author discovering that he barely recognised his old self. I wonder how common this is? When I reflect on myself, I have a notion that there's a kind of continuity to my ego over the years that - despite the changes in the intervening years - I would recognise. But I'm not a diary writer nor do I have a stack of old disks from a distant part of my personal history, so I can't confirm either way.

Has anybody else experienced what this author describes?

I have written quite a bit over the years. And some cartooning. I feel amazingly in tune with my fourty years younger teenage self.

Its easy to check, just go to gmail and rewind to first emails you ever sent.

Your comment makes me smile :) I was 49 when it was released from Beta. Luckily i kept a journal for most of my twenties. I am making a concerted effort to get back in the habit now. It is great fun to see what my concerns and day to day events were 25 years ago.

Welcome to my age range :)

Yes, Gmail is one of those recent things. Google is one of those recent things.

Though that is not my reason for using neither.

I did that once and felt really creepy reading emails from my 16 year old self. Like I was intruding on a different child.

Not really. I'm somewhat less of a twit (I think) than I was ten or twenty or thirty years ago, I've learned more, and a lot of my opinions have changed, but I can go back and reread old high school essays and not find them particularly embarrassing - not up to the standard I require of myself now, to be sure, but not so poor as to be unrecognizable, especially after 10th grade honors English under a teacher who regarded errors of grammar and usage the way a Puritan parson regards sin, and who used not wholly dissimilar methods in their extirpation.

Coincidentally, I was going through my Amazon "Wish List" this morning and, as it turns out, I have items I added going back to 2002.

It was definitely a trip seeing what I added over the years.

...Ah, yes, that was my pepper phase...

I've had this experience a couple of times reading source code. Thinking to myself "this stuff is pretty crafty, I wonder who wrote it?". I check revision control metadata and discover who wrote it : me.

Let me leave a plug here for the rare hacker news commentator that has Apple II nostalgia, C++ skills, and Linux or Windows GUI knowledge.

After having tons of fun getting my Go Apple II emulator basically working, I realized my efforts would be better spent improving an existing emulator than bringing mine up to parity, and switched my efforts over to working on OpenEmulator.

It has a portable emulation library at its core, and a relatively thin layer of Mac OS GUI to show the windows, etc.

If someone with the right skills helped to create GUI layers for Windows and/or Linux, I believe it would become much more popular, and start attracting more development to add functionality, peripherals, etc. It already has some of the best disk emulation, and almost certainly the most accurate CRT emulation of any Apple II emulator.

If you'd like to try it out, try 4am's build: https://archive.org/details/OpenEmulatorSnapshots

This is great! But it's delaying me from hitting the grocery store for coffee and bacon. I'll definitely be playing with this some more. I haven't touched BASIC since high school.

Just as an aside, there is another [great] project with a similar name "OpenEmu": http://openemu.org/

What does it offer over MAME (which merged in MESS), the grand-daddy of multi machine emulators?

Areas where OpenEmulator is better: GPU-shader CRT emulation that looks almost just like a real CRT (I have real monochrome and color CRTs for my Apple IIe, and did a lot of comparisons while implementing double hires support for OpenEmulator). Also, better disk emulation that (because of a quirk of how it works) can handle some copy-protect schemes better.

Areas where MAME is better: cross-platform, and you can set breakpoints and debug etc. More devices. Probably more positives, but I'm not super familiar with it. I mostly used it to compare bugs while working on https://github.com/zellyn/a2audit :-)

Just pulled it down and ran it. Very nice.

Just to be clear, all the great parts are the work of the original author, Marc Ressl… :-)

As a contrast in backwards-compatibility, PC floppies from 1988 (MS-DOS, FAT format) would be immediately usable in a newish PC, just connect a suitable floppy drive.

For some definition of 'newish' - motherboards have stopped including a floppy controller years ago. There's nowhere to plug it in.

You'd have to get a USB floppy before everyone stops manufacturing them.

The Intel DQ67OW motherboard has a floppy connector and an LGA1155 socket for Sandy Bridge (maybe Ivy Bridge too).

3.5 GHz Core i7 with a floppy drive is not too shabby.

It also has both PS/2 and serial ports if you would like to plug in a mouse.

Yeah, I think that's the last generation when they included 3.5" floppy controllers. I'm on an Ivy Bridge mobo and there's no floppy.

5.25" controllers were gone a long time before that though.

I recently did a deep dive into all the 5.25" disks I could find around. I do sort of remember some of the stuff I found, but some of it was rather foreign.

I now have a handful of "flippy" disks and have to set up an old 1541 drive to read these.

I was surprised how much of it was readable, the amount of dust and bad smell these things developed over the 25 years in a basement, but also that I only had about 200 megs of data at the end of the multi-day process.

I also spent some time digitizing Super 8 film too, so it has been a nostalgia trip.

Some time ago I listened to my old casette tapes. I was amazed by the 'CD' quality some still had.

Tape is more durable than I thought.

Also: most floppy disks have dust cleaners. So they are not affected by dusk that much.

Also remember drilling holes in the disk for more storage? ;)

About 5 years ago, I got a 1541 drive and an XA1541 plugged in the parallel port. The purpose was to 'rip' some disks (last used in 1997) I found in my mother's loft.

Most notably, I found an old story I thought was lost, and a trove of insane Boulderdash caves/levels I wrote with a friend - in the Boulderdash level editor - in about 1993.

I'm amazed that the disks survived. But finding the lost story - and some letters from high school - was great.

Find instructions here:


He would've been better off buying a Kryoflux board. https://kryoflux.com/

He used an emulator anyway, why not using a faster and easier method, that even has error correction?

I had a slightly easier task when I found some of my old 3.5" PC floppies, and I recovered some old ASM and Turbo Pascal work.

The best part was rediscovering the ASM code for a PC program that wrote out the current time in words - I was inspired by a similar program by the late Jim Button (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jim_Knopf), and I remember that at the time I had some fun working how to shave the code down, saving a few bytes here and there by using different coding or optimising the storage of the text data.

There's also a map editor for the PC game 'Rockford', although, sadly, it doesn't work with the only version of the game I've found still available, which seems to be a 'gen 2' clone using a different PC game engine and a different map format.

Anyway, I put my nostalgia here:


I had a similar adventure about ten years ago. That story is here:


Also the USB FC5025[0] controller, which unlike kryoflux reads floppies* like floppies and does not create multi-hundred-megabyte flux-transition maps requiring post-translation but instead gives you a bit level disk image, for many common disk formats.

Also the Device-Side page is very HTML 1.0 and should appeal to HN peeps.

*5.25” floppies.

[0]: http://www.deviceside.com/fc5025.html

If you're interested in reading old Apple II disks, track down John Morris' recent AppleSauce work. It's fantastic. He's @DiskBlitz on twitter, and gave a talk at the last KansasFest about AppleSauce: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RMrOiYCEuxc

What I want to know is how I can get all my old term papers off these floppies I used in the DEC Rainbow PCs in the computer center.

Find some hardware that can /physically/ read the disks, then find some version of Linux that runs on it and some way of connecting it to a network.

Failing that, get an older POSIX compatible OS of some sort and cross-compile any tools you need.

They can probably be read by any CP/M or DOS system (depending on which mode you used it in). Though this article says "don't bother."

It was actually meant as a joke, the Rainbow used odd disks (SSQD) and a somewhat unique drive. I'm sure extracting the data would be possible but likely much more awkward than in the posted article.

Acornsoft sold their games in 5.25" floppies inside some very nice black plastic covers. I found that floppies that had been stored inside these covers had survived, while those that were in the typical paper or cardboard sleeves had not. This was about 10 years ago, when they were about 25 years old.

Such articles show how useful cloud solutions for storage can be : the data is disconnected from the underlying hardware.

When hardware progress occurs, files are transferred to new hardware and you could expect that 30 years from now, your files will still be there.

True -- if the service stays up. In practice, I've lost more data from online services shutting down than I ever did from old disks in my possession. Gmail and Facebook are probably going to be around forever, but the rest, who knows. The web itself isn't even 30 years old yet, so I don't feel confident predicting my data is going to survive there another 30.

When a disk format is obsolete, I can throw the disk in a shoebox and come back a couple decades later. When a web service shuts down, I have months/weeks/days (or maybe no chance at all) to get my data out, and then it's destroyed.

Well the ide interface has been there for quite a long time.

Yes, but disk drives (readers) are harder and harder to get.

I have 5.25" floppy disks with some awesome software I wrote at the university which is now probably lost (even if I had a drive the content is probably gone). Same for 3.5"s, zips,...

Unless you left them near something magnetic at some point, allowed them to mildew, or left them in a very hot car, they're quite possibly still readable. They are remarkably stable over time. See all of 4am's work for examples :-)

Interestingly, I still have the monitor from my IIc. I no longer have the computer, but the monitor is sitting in my garage. Sadly though I think it has water damage.

Do you still want the monitor?

I have no need for it, but I would be VERY surprised if it is functional

Are you in the SF Bay Area?

No, Chicago

Ah - make sure it goes to a good home

Just yesterday I acquired 3 5440 ibm disk cartridges.. I have no clue how/if I'm ever going to be able to read them, but some day I will try:)

Contact Jason Scott at the internet archive and he'll put you in touch with someone.

I have a pile of similar stuff, including Zip disks (I still have an IDE drive for that, but nowhere to plug it in). Need to clear those out some day...

That might be a herculean task - Iomega zip & jaz disks suffered from notoriously poor data integrity/longevity, and I'm pretty sure device drivers do not exist for any version of Windows newer than XP.

I intend to hook that up to a USB adapter and try it on a Linux box. I'll post a writeup if I get it working.

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