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It's funny to talk about the 20 year old hackers who didn't ever have the experience of installing Word Perfect 5.x from 30-40 floppies, but let me tell you that those kids are going to feel just as old pretty soon. My daughter, who is about to turn one, is puzzled by why my Macbook Air doesn't do anything when she touches the screen. She doesn't recognize my dad's old Treo, which he gave her as a toy, as a phone, but will put a thin slab block up to her ear. We don't have cable at home, so she watches all her shows on Netflix and iTunes.

Novell Netware 2.15 came on 49 360k floppies. I remember generating individualized network clients based on the chipset of your network interface card with SHGEN-1 and SHGEN-2. To this day I have no idea why the last disk it asked for was SHGEN-2 and then it said, "Your shell is now on SHGEN-1."

Wow. What would happen if one of those floppies were damaged or unreadable? Would the whole process be a waste of time?

Back in My Day when people had POTS modems [0], I once downloaded the ~20 disks of the b'a'se and 'n'etwork slackware disk series in windows 95 and rebooted to install, hoping that none of the disks were bad.

It turned out that all of those disks were fine, so I continued downloading the other disks in the series by minicom'ing to my ISP's shell account, ftping them to the remote disk, and zmodem'ing them to my local disk. I played nethack on another virtual terminal while this was working.

Well, I switched back about 5 minutes later to check on the progress and it was just crawling, like 4KB every few seconds. I moved the mouse to hit the 'cancel' button on the zmodem transfer window, and the transfer rate shot up just then. I thought "well, okay..." and went back to nethack.

A few minutes later same thing happened. Move mouse, transfer speed goes up. I didn't understand IRQs at the time but I grasped apparent causality. I decided I'd try moving the modem to a different IRQ but that required a reboot. I wanted to finish the current disk set, so I sat there with a book in one hand, twirling the mouse in little circles with the other.

That's my hand-crank modem story.

To this day, whenever the network is slow, I twirl the mouse in little circles subconsciously.

[0] like these ( http://az413224.vo.msecnd.net/img/40934/m_40934_1.jpg ) not these ( http://images.yourdictionary.com/images/computer/_ACUPLER.GI... ).

I logged in to upvote this story because I encountered the same problem on a military communications system once (!) There was an interaction between the system beep() function and message processing throughput. If a large number of alerts ever queued up, communications slowed to a crawl as the CPU spent all its time going "beeeeeeep...beeeeeeep...beeeeeeep..." for a few minutes. Moving the mouse caused a rapid-fire "bebebebebebebebebebebeeep" as the buffers flushed and throughput returned to normal.

Even worse was illegal software. There were 720KB (Double Density) and 1440KB (High Density) 3.5" diskettes (amongst other sizes). The disk drive would detect the difference by an extra hole in the disk.

People would buy cheaper double density disks, drill a hole in it, so that the same diskette could be used as a 1440KB disk. Of course, they were of a far lower quality, and 'arj' (which was popular at the time) would often fail after the n-th disk.

Edit: heh, there is even a reference to drilling holes on the Apple website ;): http://support.apple.com/kb/TA39910

I used an Xacto knife to create an extra notch in Commodore 64 5.25" disks back in the day so that I could take the single-sided disks and make them double-sided.

I would take one disk flipped over the other, mark the notch with a permanent marker, then cut out the outline. Most disks, like Elephant Memory, would work fine. You just flipped the disk over and inserted back into the 1541 to read the reverse side.

I had a special square cutter tool specifically designed for this purpose. Just slot the disk in the tool, punch, done.

It helped when you were putting out hundreds of disks of pirated games on a regular basis.

I had a little switch to bypass the optical notch-detector on my 1541 drive.

I still think the single-sided disks were from the same production line as the double sided ones, and it was all market segmentation.

I did the same. And disks were a bit expensive to a kid like me, so I'd even do the cut on various game disks I had, since many of them were single side only, and it was like getting a free disk.

standard paper hole punch worked too, given enough hand strength :)

"... flipped the disk over..."

They called them flippy disks...

Haha, yeah, there was this thing that was advertised as a "disk doubler", and all it did was drill a hole through your 3.5 single density disk. In retrospect it was quite the ingenious scam.

I'm guessing that 3.5 disks were binned, so maybe you could get away with it once in awhile? Of course, the only way you could find out was to actually lose data...

Later on in the 90s, AOL started sending 3.5" disks in the mail, totally free. How convenient was that?

Yes. It was usually the last disk.

Yea, pretty much. That's why you had backups of any important software (copying floppies was a really fun process). Once the disk died, you were screwed if you didn't have a backup copy of it.

That's why you had a backup set of those disks.

Many of the MS disks used weird methods and formats, making copying the discs not easy.


Sad that a 1 year old has "all her shows" to watch.

[Non-valuable contribution, removed]

Edit: I apologize for the rudeness of my comment. However, it is my understanding that the evidence available today points to things like TV being damaging to the development of the very young (1-3 years old)

My wife and I practice evidence based parenting. We do whatever is most convenient for us unless we can find substantial evidence indicating we should do something else. That's a challenge when it comes to parenting, because parenting is driven by hysterics, group think, and paranoia more than anything else.

When it comes to television, studies have shown some negative correlation. But they disappear when you adjust for socioeconomic status and parental education: http://www.cnn.com/2009/HEALTH/03/03/babies.watch.TV.

What the data really indicates is that poor people and single parents let their kids watch more TV, and since IQ is highly heritable, TV watching ends up being linked to lower cognitive performance. But it doesn't seem to be a causal relationship, or at least the data doesn't clearly support that conclusion.

Obviously its important to engage with kids, and parking them in front of an iPad could get in the way of that. But at the end of the day, there are no prizes for making parenting harder than it already is.

As with all parenting topics this one is a bit more complicated.

There's not much science. That science is poorly reported by mass media. It's misunderstood by many readers. And most people have fierce cognitive biases anyway.


Basically, "talk to your children. watching tv stops you talking to your children". I guess that's reasonable, except you can't talk constantly at children. Not everything is a learning opportunity. The parents and the children need some down time. The science doesn't say anything about exhausted stressed parents deprived of human contact and the impact that has on children, or the possible benefits of TV to that parent.

Do you even have kids?

That is sadly how parents raise their kids these days...

I remember installing Borland C++ with stacks of floppies, it felt like 50 but probably more like 30 or so. It took half a day.

But when you got it installed, finally, you felt like you earned it.

Oh man, yea...I never installed anything with THAT many disks...I think the biggest one was 7 or 8 floppies...which took several hours.

I kinda miss those days. Sometimes.

My uncle told me that two of its nephews play "phone" together by putting their whole hand flat against their ear instead of the usual thumb/pinky finger gesture...

Not everybody missed out -- I may not have done 40 floppies of WordPerfect, but I did install my first Debian (3.0 Woody) from a boot floppy, a root floppy, 4 driver floppies, and 20 base system floppies. http://www.debian.org/releases/woody/i386/ch-appendix.en.htm... http://archive.debian.org/debian/dists/woody/main/disks-i386... http://archive.debian.org/debian/dists/woody/main/disks-i386...

Oh man. Same experience, different distro. Slackware was a bunch of disks too (but I don't remember exactly how many)

It came on different disk sets; you really only needed the 'a' (base) set, but the 'n'etworking set was useful if you wanted the thing to connect to anything else.

IIRC there were also

    d:   development (gcc, make, etc)
    e:   emacs (I think; I used vim at the time)
    x:   X11 base system
    xap: X applications
    y:   bsd games
probably several more

I'm only in my mid 20s and I already feel totally left behind by the rise of mobile computing. Every experience I've had of the web on a mobile device has been incredibly frustrating. The idea of a phone or tablet as one's primary computing device makes me feel about 90 years old.

Dude, my copy of SCO Unix was only maybe 15 floppies....


brap brap brap eeee errrr eeeeeee errr brap brap aehhe aaaaeheh

insert disc 2/15


The really annoying thing about SCO Unix is that it didn't use BIOS so trying to install it on a system with an unsupported floppy disk drive controller would invariably have it unable to find the floppy disk after booting the first one, and if the video card was not supported, the screen would just go black after booting off the first disk.

Oh those were the days.

OS2 came on 32 (thirty-two) 5.25" disks. I remember loading that beast.

I remember OS/2 Warp on 3.5" disks being even worse. They had al kind of supplemental disks and IIRC something that resembled Microsoft Works (BonusPak, maybe it was a demo).

To get an impression, I found this on eBay:


Windows 1.0 was a little bit less : http://twitpic.com/39kbjz but you need to install first DOS: http://twitpic.com/39kaxd

Humorous image of thousands of floppies if you were to install windows 8.1 with that media: http://i.imgur.com/g0Zgf6q.jpg

lol I'm a 36 year old hacker who forgets quickly myself. After 4 iPhones, I used a Galaxy S3 for a few weeks. When I got the iPhone 5S, for several days I kept pushing the right lower side expecting a back action.

On my iPad mini, I keep trying to unlock it with my fingerprint.

I'm still on my first smartphone and it's an HTC Android phone. Using iphones and ipads that weren't mine, it took me a while to figure out that you can double-click the single button to get it to do something different. Trying to interact with it with only one pressable button kind of feels like having flippers instead of hands. I haven't quite grokked the one-button doctrine.

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