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BlackViolet13
03-27-2008, 10:14 PM
A blast from the past LOL Remember those huge floppy black discs we used to have to use? Is it possible for me to take one to the Geek Squad to have the information transferred from the disc to a flash drive or other media? Or would I need to say, find somebody with really old school equipment hiding in their basement to do it? And would it be reasonable for the MC to have to leave it there for a period of time for the information to be transferred?

For my story I would prefer a bigger store like Best Buy so the MC can buy a few other things and use their corporate account for something else (yes, she's being a bad girl!), but if I have to improvise that's all right, too. I just want it to be accurate, whatever situation I end up using :D

Thanks in advance!

FinbarReilly
03-27-2008, 10:57 PM
Depends on the size of the floppy....The 3.5" discs should not be a problem, but 5-1/4" and 8" ones would be...Not only would they not likely have the hardware, but the information itself would be corrupted to the point of unusability...

FR

Mac H.
03-27-2008, 11:45 PM
For the sake of the story, it would be implausible that a mainstream shop would be able to easily read an old 5 & 1/4 inch floppy disk.

However, the guy behind the counter might be a TRUE geek .. and so be able to do it with his old Apple 2E or Trash-80 .. some old bit of equipment that he has at home. He'd probably explain gleefully the trickiness in transferring the data, while the the MC's eye's glazed over.

The geek would especially do it if the MC is female and he is male!

Mac

sassandgroove
03-27-2008, 11:49 PM
Yup. I married a geek who has geek friends. this weekend they were talking about the old computers they still have like treasures to be cherished forever.

miles111
03-27-2008, 11:52 PM
Is it possible for me to take one to the Geek Squad to have the information transferred from the disc to a flash drive or other media?

It depends (don't you hate that reply?). I have a newer PowerBook, but I still have an old floppy drive that will work with it. It's the 3.5" drive that was common for many years.

So, first you have to find someone (place) with the right size drive.

But then, you have to be able to open the files. Would the person owning the drive also own the right program (or a program with a translator that would work)? Some of the older programs used to create the documents might not be available today. And, if the files are in a proprietary format I don't know how they would be able to open such documents. Often all you get is garbled junk.

If the files are just plain text, retrieving the docs could be a piece of cake. And Word, for instance, will open many older M$ files (Word, Works, etc).

So those are some of the "depends": if you can find someone with the "right" drive, who also owns a program that can open the files, you'll be all set. Assuming the floppy is still readable.

Call Kinko's, big computer stores, computer repair shops, places like that. They should be able to point you in the right direction.
===
As for how long it would take, it would depend on where you end up taking it.

WriteKnight
03-28-2008, 12:12 AM
3.5 - sure, you can still BUY those drives. But 5 1/4 truly "FLOPPY" - I doubt it. Miles 111 is dead on regarding the likelyhood of such at a "Best Buy". (I had a Geeksquad friend) BUT you could wrangle it, with believability as he described. The Geek could 'take it home' and do it, or perhaps the Geek is a real afficianado of 'retro-tech' and she's in luck, he does have the old computer there in the store.

It's not impossible, not even improbable - you just have to finesse it.

I've GOT an old compaq in the garage, I think it'll still boot up on Windows 3.5, and it's got the old drive.

BlackViolet13
03-28-2008, 12:56 AM
Thanks so much, everyone! This is definitely helping me move in the right direction, and I appreciate your responses. I'm going to have so much fun with this now :D

rtilryarms
03-28-2008, 02:23 AM
This is embarassing. I still have a computer running here that has both 3-1/2 and 5-1/4. I keep it because it still runs and I got old discs.

you can still buy 5-1/4 TEAC's on ebay and they will work up to XP. I don't know anything about Vista but probably.

The old 8", 10" and 12's were proprietary and hopefully mainframe discs are not part of your story. same with reel-reel

HeronW
03-28-2008, 02:55 AM
As long as your MC's 5.5" isn't in Fortran or Cobol--that could be tricky switching to Word or Works

Richard White
03-28-2008, 03:35 AM
Or worse, have the document your MC needs to get off the disc turn out to be in Word*Star or Enable.

chevbrock
03-28-2008, 03:49 AM
Some of those old-skool computers are going for thousands of dollars, if you can find one to buy!

Black Violet, a suggestion: why don't you have your computer geek a real "retro old skool" type who shuns the fast-paced modern world in favour of all his old school stuff? Maybe have him so clever that he's worked out how to do it?

Medievalist
03-28-2008, 05:57 AM
For the sake of the story, it would be implausible that a mainstream shop would be able to easily read an old 5 & 1/4 inch floppy disk.

However, the guy behind the counter might be a TRUE geek .. and so be able to do it with his old Apple 2E or Trash-80 .. some old bit of equipment that he has at home. He'd probably explain gleefully the trickiness in transferring the data, while the the MC's eye's glazed over.

The geek would especially do it if the MC is female and he is male!

Mac

Err, no.

Those are both proprietary file systems. That's not gonna work.

Medievalist
03-28-2008, 06:00 AM
A blast from the past LOL Remember those huge floppy black discs we used to have to use? Is it possible for me to take one to the Geek Squad to have the information transferred from the disc to a flash drive or other media?

If you specifiy that it's DOS, you'll have a more believable context.

There are file transfer services and lots of geeks with old hardware and software.

I'm umm . .. well.

I could do it.

rtilryarms
03-28-2008, 06:16 AM
I'm umm . .. well.

I could do it.

I knew we were the perfect couple :LilLove:

benbradley
03-28-2008, 07:08 AM
You can bet your bottom dollar most of the workers at Best Buy have never SEEN a 5 1/4" floppy disk since they were in diapers. Most were dumped onto the Goodwill front door when they were in elementary school. And the IBM PC didn't come out until 1980, so anything else around or before that time using that size floppy would be basically unreadable by any other system (though I recall seeing a program on a Kaypro II that would read about 25-35 different CP/M disk formats (5 1/4" only, I didn't hear of anyone hooking an 8" drive to a Kaypro, though it was probably possible). Some drives CAN read other "proprietary" formats such as the Apple ][ or the Tandy - at least these ARE documented (though perhaps they intentionally weren't at the time they came out, I suspect all disk/file formats were eventually reverse-engineered. I've seen very detailed info on the Apple ][ format. It's an amazing story: Wozniak, not knowing any better, put much of the "disk controller" functionality in software, saving money over other disk drive interfaces), and sometimes a drive controller can be reprogrammed to read another file format. Worst case, a old computer freak person offering a conversion service would have a computer that wrote and read the format, and could do a serial port binary transfer to a modern computer to burn a CD on.

And even with "IBM PC Format 5 1/4" floppy" you've got the original 160k/180k/320k/360k formats, then the 1.2 meg IBM AT format (I still got one of those AT drives in a 200Mhz Pentium machine) that if you used that drive to WRITE to a 360k or lower-formatted disk, the track width it writes is smaller than the original drive, which then wouldn't read the floppy anymore. Semi-compatibility is one of life's little complications...

But MAYBE the Best-Buy manager is an old crusty person (kinda like me) who is old enough to remember USING 5 1/4" floppies, and just happens to have heard something about "format conversion" services, and could refer your character.

And the same guy who does this service (he can even read those 8" CP/M floppies, though I recall there were some proprietary microcomputer OS's that used those too. (Polymorphic Systems comes to mind, the computer store I worked at in college sold one to a writer who had a helluva time with computers with at least one "it ate my novel" story, but in spite of it managed to write and publish "Sharky's Machine"). And those 8" floppies were originally made by IBM for mainframes!), well...

Where was I? Oh, that same guy can convert your old BETA videocassette to any format you want: "Whatcha want it on? Old-fashioned DVD, HD-DVD (R.I.P), Blu-Ray, CD-video, mpeg on a CD or DVD data disc, VHS, U-Matic?" He might even be a freak and have one of the original Ampex videotape recorders first used by the TV networks, and can play back "original" copies of The Ed Sullivan Show.

Sorry you asked yet? I haven't even mentioned LP's, 45's 8-tracks, 78's, acetates (usually the brand is "AudioDisc"), nor Edison cylinders. I have the equipment to play back most of those...

Ben, your technical blast from the past...

BlackViolet13
03-28-2008, 08:15 AM
You guys are so incredible! I'm not only reliving computer memories as a kid (go Apple II and Tandy!), I'm also going to be able to use what you all have given me here to make this work out better than I ever thought. And of course I'm getting great ideas for new characters.

Medievalist
03-28-2008, 08:16 AM
There are three basic issues here:

1. Hardware that can "read" the data on the disk; I'd go with an Old DOS drive and computer.
2. Once you have the data read, and transferred to modern media, you still need to be able to interpret the data. The format of the data file -- what is it? A word processor file? A database? A spreadsheet? Word Perfect pretty much owned the word processor world, but there were alternatives. The file needs to be "translated" to something modern, and then likely will still need some basic formatting.

BlackViolet13
03-28-2008, 08:48 AM
Great questions, Medievalist. The data is scientific research, something that would most likely be on a spreadsheet/database file, so I would assume it would have to be translated to something like Excel or Access. Back in the early 90's a geneticist had conducted experiments on various subjects and had a big database of all of their information. She put it in the safe keeping of another party before she disappeared, and now it's in the hands of my MC.

If there is another type of format a spreadsheet or database file could be translated to, I am open to any suggestions. My thoughts behind transferring it to a flashdrive is so the MC can have a type of media that's easy to transport, and I'd pretty much assume she'd have easy access to the the Office Suite ;)

From the comments above, it does sound like making the original document come from an old DOS system would be the best way to go.

Medievalist
03-28-2008, 08:53 AM
I'd say a Lotus spreadsheet. Which would have been created on a computer running DOS and an old version of Lotus, which would then be translated to a tab delimited text file, and brought into Excel.

BlackViolet13
03-28-2008, 08:55 AM
AWESOME!!! Thanks so very much! :D

bluntforcetrauma
03-28-2008, 08:56 AM
Sorry for butting in, but this thread is fascinating. I had an old Tandy with a cassette tape drive.

BlackViolet13
03-28-2008, 09:00 AM
Sorry for butting in, but this thread is fascinating. I had an old Tandy with a cassette tape drive.

Butt right in, I'm loving it too. I don't remember having a cassette drive on the one we had. Did you mix music with yours?

Medievalist
03-28-2008, 09:03 AM
Sorry for butting in, but this thread is fascinating. I had an old Tandy with a cassette tape drive.

That would have been a TRS-80, I reckon, fondly called a Trash-80

bluntforcetrauma
03-28-2008, 09:06 AM
Butt right in, I'm loving it too. I don't remember having a cassette drive on the one we had. Did you mix music with yours?

No, I didn't. The portable cassette player connected with a couple of cables and the cassette was the memory, I think. I do believe it was a TRS 80. I remember programming a blinking Christmas tree onscreen per the manual's instructions. It was a horrible machine. Not much more than a glorified calculator.


I just found it on the web. It's a TRS 80 Color Computer 2. Here's the info and a pic (http://www.old-computers.com/museum/computer.asp?c=508).

BlackViolet13
03-28-2008, 09:27 AM
OK you have to love an online computer museum called Old Computers LOL Did you see they have a forum in there, too? I'm definitely checking that out.

Funny about using a cassette for memory...I can't get past thinking of them as 1) mix tapes, and 2) kindling when you got dumped by the guy who you made it for ;)

bluntforcetrauma
03-28-2008, 09:46 AM
The cassette tapes were just a compact form of the big reels computers used to use.

Here's a link (http://www.w3.org/History/19921103-hypertext/hypertext/WWW/TheProject.html) to the WWW's very first web pages.

Tsu Dho Nimh
03-28-2008, 11:18 AM
A blast from the past LOL Remember those huge floppy black discs we used to have to use? Is it possible for me to take one to the Geek Squad to have the information transferred from the disc to a flash drive or other media?

No - they won't have the 5.25" drives. Her best bet is a vintage computer club, and they'll do it for the challenge of it.


Or would I need to say, find somebody with really old school equipment hiding in their basement to do it? And would it be reasonable for the MC to have to leave it there for a period of time for the information to be transferred?

http://blogs.msdn.com/virtual_pc_guy/archive/2005/05/16/418221.aspx

Until quite recentlyI had a OC with 5.25 drive that was used for rescuing other people's files. If they have been stored under decent conditions, the older floppies hold up well. I just gave a Kaypro II away, and its discs were readible.

One problem is the file formats: what kind of file is being rescued? And what software made it?

Unless it's an ASCII text file, after the file is moved to the newer system, you have to figure out what to open it with. That can take quite a while, and some downloading of files off the net, borrowing and installing old software.

How hard do you want this to be? And how much technobabble do you need?

Tsu Dho Nimh
03-28-2008, 11:35 AM
Great questions, Medievalist. The data is scientific research, something that would most likely be on a spreadsheet/database file, so I would assume it would have to be translated to something like Excel or Access. Back in the early 90's a geneticist had conducted experiments on various subjects and had a big database of all of their information. She put it in the safe keeping of another party before she disappeared, and now it's in the hands of my MC.

You have Lotus 123, Borland, and a bunch of CPM software. Making it CPM would increase the difficulty of the recovery only a bit.

There would be MULTIPLE disks if this was any size project and you want the 5.25" floppies. New computers stopped having them as standard equipment in the early 1990s and used the 3.25" ones.


If there is another type of format a spreadsheet or database file could be translated to, I am open to any suggestions. My thoughts behind transferring it to a flashdrive is so the MC can have a type of media that's easy to transport, and I'd pretty much assume she'd have easy access to the the Office Suite ;)

If you don't need the formulas or macros, a "CSV" file is uniformly readible and can be imported into any spreadsheet and many databases.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Comma-separated_values

If you want to get fancy, SYLK is fun: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/SYmbolic_LinK_%28SYLK%29

********************
If you want to make it hard for the MC, make it a relational database: She can get the pieces out, but the relationships between them will have to be puzzled out.

Priene
03-28-2008, 03:59 PM
It might be that no modern program can load this data. A true geek would then write their own parser in something like ANTLR or Lex/Yacc to pull the information out of the old files and port it into something useful.

Not, er, that I've ever done anything like that...

L M Ashton
03-28-2008, 04:53 PM
Also, older computer geeks in the community might have the necessary hardware. I'm only *cough* 40, and up until I left Canada, which was 4.5 years ago, I still had both a 5 1/4" drive and a 3 1/2" drives, both operational. My older brother, even crustier still, has at least that. But then, he's got upwards of six computers or more working in his home office, some dating back to Windows 95/98. He'd probably even have old Windows 3.1 diskettes sitting around, possibly even the Lotus 123 installer. Packrat. :D Yeah, if I was still in Canada with all the stuff I left behind, I could have done it, no problem. :)

miles111
03-28-2008, 07:42 PM
Okay, I'm going to help. I know there are others scratching their head and asking, "what the Hell is polymorphic."

polymorphic
adj 1: relating to the crystallization of a compound in two or more
different forms; "polymorphous crystallization" [syn:
polymorphous]
2: relating to the occurrence of more than one kind of
individual (independent of sexual differences) in an
interbreeding population; "a polymorphic species" [syn: polymorphous]
3: having or occurring in several distinct forms; "man is both
polymorpphic and polytypic"; "a polymorphous god" [syn: polymorphous]

BlackViolet13
03-28-2008, 08:22 PM
Can I just say how awesome you guys are? You have no idea how much this has helped my storyline! THANK YOU!!! :D

rtilryarms
03-28-2008, 11:43 PM
Sorry for butting in, but this thread is fascinating. I had an old Tandy with a cassette tape drive.

I started out on a Think-a-tron. LOL!

I got hooked when I first accessed the Arpanet via an Altaire mid '70's. then I got an old TRS-80 which broke. Then I got a VIC 20 and finally I started my never-ending passion of building my own IBM clones. That was the only way I could afford to own computers. Mine were all open boxes and breadboards. I didn't understand a need for enclosed computers what with the superfast (I mean some of my computers approached 66 Mhz in turbo mode!) boards creating so much heat.

When I first heard that Intel was coming out with a chip that would process at 100 Mhz, I told them they were crazy. A consumer would not be able to afford air conditioning the size which would be required and they would not have enough space. Computer developers were crazy. 100 Mhz indeed!

I do not make my own computers anymore because the software is no longer public domain. I cannot build a computer plus buy software for less than the best ones available today.
So I fianlly broke down and bought a new Dell, although I got a barebones and am in the process of pimping my 'puter. (new geeky reality show?)

I have 4 others working in my house all made by me.

williemeikle
03-28-2008, 11:52 PM
If you specifiy that it's DOS, you'll have a more believable context.

There are file transfer services and lots of geeks with old hardware and software.

I'm umm . .. well.

I could do it.

So could I... I started in IT in 1980... my first program was written on punch cards and loaded in by hand... tell that to the kids of today, they won't believe you.

(Sorry about the Monty Python quote... it's my age you know.)

waylander
03-28-2008, 11:54 PM
We used to use Filemaker Pro for a lot of our scientific databases.

bluntforcetrauma
03-29-2008, 12:42 AM
So could I... I started in IT in 1980... my first program was written on punch cards and loaded in by hand... tell that to the kids of today, they won't believe you.

(Sorry about the Monty Python quote... it's my age you know.)

I remember in 5th grade we made a crude computer out of cardboard box and file cards. It was a matchmaking program. There were several dowels pushed through the box and out the opposide. Each card had holes punched for Boy Girl Eye Color etc. When certain dowels were removed it dropped the card of your true love.

L M Ashton
03-29-2008, 03:53 PM
So could I... I started in IT in 1980... my first program was written on punch cards and loaded in by hand...My oldest brother started with punch cards in about 1974/1975 at the local college. He brought stacks - and I really do mean stacks! - of the used ones home, and that's what we used for to-do lists and grocery lists for the next decade or so.

Back in, uh, 1986/1987, he brought home a computer from work for me to use. It was one of the first PCs - as in, portable computer. :D Must have weighed fifty pounds, or at least seemed like it. It was roughly the size of a sewing machine case, and the top folded down to reveal the keyboard and the 5" green screen, with the 5 1/4" and 8" floppy drives. It had no hard disk and, uh, maybe 256k of ram. I think. Oh look, here it is! (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Compaq_Portable)

It's also because of computers that he told me to take a typing course when I was in high school. Even though he fully recognized that I would never work as a secretary (and back then, computers were not even a consideration on pretty much everyone's minds, so secretary it would be), he knew that computers would grow in popularity, and he knew it would prove to be useful. I followed his advice, and he was right. </reminiscing>

I'm not a programmer. I've only been a user/super-user. I have taken a couple of programming courses, but, you know, nothing fantastic. One was in 1983 and it was on an Atari, IIRC, and probably BASIC. The second was 1986, using a university mainframe, and learning PASCAL. </geek>

Mac H.
03-31-2008, 08:00 AM
Err, no.

Those are both proprietary file systems. That's not gonna work.You under-estimate the power of the geek.

A real geek doesn't use no stinkin' file-system ! I'd do a sector-by-sector transfer to create a binary image that is readable on a modern machine, then write a little program (on the modern machine) to recreated any file .. probably simply concatenating a few sectors.

The FAT system is pretty simple - you don't need any sophisticated algorithms to figure out what sectors to concatenate.

Mac

BlackViolet13
03-31-2008, 09:05 AM
Just poking my head in to say that you guys who have contributed responses here and via PM are wonderful, and my expectations have been far exceeded by the wicked geekery going on in here :D I really can't wait to finish writing this scene, it's almost literally taken on a life of its own now!

Medievalist
03-31-2008, 10:11 AM
You under-estimate the power of the geek.

A real geek doesn't use no stinkin' file-system ! I'd do a sector-by-sector transfer to create a binary image that is readable on a modern machine, then write a little program (on the modern machine) to recreated any file .. probably simply concatenating a few sectors.

The FAT system is pretty simple - you don't need any sophisticated algorithms to figure out what sectors to concatenate.

Mac

Neither used FAT :D They don't even use normal sectors.

Mac H.
03-31-2008, 10:40 AM
Neither used FAT :D They don't even use normal sectors. That just makes it more of a challenge!

I'll have to dig out my old beloved Coco and give it a go...

Mac

Tsu Dho Nimh
03-31-2008, 09:00 PM
I do not make my own computers anymore because the software is no longer public domain. I cannot build a computer plus buy software for less than the best ones available today.

One word: Linux!

rtilryarms
04-02-2008, 12:12 AM
One word: Linux!

Not just the operating system. I just got a brand new Dell Vostro with 500 gb hd, 22" monitor, firewire, 3.6 mhz, 2 gig ram.

It also came with complete Microsoft Word, Excel, Powerpoint, Outlook Etc as well as the original 80 gb hardrive. I thought he would replace the 80 with the 500 but instead he added it. I asked for XP Pro instead of Vista since I will be usng this exclusively for softwar not supporting vista.
It came all set up and is the best computer I ever had.
Great computer for the money: $670 complete. includes 3 year warranty.

My cost for the same computer would be $700 plus 320 for Microsoft programs plus 125 for the extra hardrive plus ram.
And I get no warranty on the ones I build except components.

Vostro also does not come with all the annoying trial-ware which slows up computer and takes up ram.