Floppy preservation

Filed under History;

There seems to be an emerging number of technologies for salvaging old data — not only the recent <a href=”http://www.deviceside.com/fc5025.html” title=”FC5025 USB 5.25″ Floppy Controller – Device Side Data”>FC5025, as reviewed in the latest issue of Juiced.GS, but other methods that continue to enjoy developer support, such as ADTPro. I first used ADTPro after setting up an Apple IIGS in my office and wanted to make backups of its aging hard drive. Having done so, it’s now occurred to me that I have overlooked a trove of much older data.

Box of floppies

So much data, yearning to be preserved!

A brief perusal of the disks reveals several Apple Writer and Dazzle Draw data disks. Neither appears to be a format supported by MacLinkPlus, but the original Apple Writer is a free download courtesy the Lost Classics Project. In the worst case scenario, perhaps I can use Sweet16‘s text screen capture function to convert some of the text, and standard screenshots for the images.

My collection also contains several games that aren’t exactly lost treasures. Every Apple II user seems familiar with the likes of Ultima or Tass Times in Tonetown, but I’ve never heard anyone sharing fond memories of Ardy the Aardvark — and I can find no online reference to Pylon Racer and Electra Laser. The clamshells for those latter games don’t even have screen shots; I’ll need to boot them in an emulator to stir my own memories.

Finally, my collection doubtless includes numerous pirated programs, as we were all younger and stupider at the dawn of the personal computer era. Though I cannot in good conscience enjoy these programs now, I am glad for the opportunity to preserve them for posterity, should legitimate copies prove extinct. With magnetic media subject to decay, now is the best time to save this data before it is too late — assuming it isn’t already.

I expect to convert these programs into disk images over a period of several lunch breaks, with cataloging of their contents to come later. A disadvantage of ADTPro over the FC5025 is that it requires a working Apple II computer. But since I have that hardware, I appreciate the advantage of having access to both 3.5″ and 5.25″ drives connected ot the Apple II. Access to both formats from a Mac or PC is possible but require different approaches, whereas ADTPro can handle both with ease.

Who knows what lost classics of my own I might discover?

  1. Martin Haye says:

    Seems to me that for 90% of Apple II software there is no way to pay the author any more for their work, so I have no qualms about enjoying the disks I pirated in the age gone by.

  2. Martin, there is definitely a divide between the legality and the morality of piracy, with the former being fairly black-and-white. I can only hope that copyright law catches up and allows abandonware to not perish.

    In the meantime, what I’ve appreciated most in poring through the above disks is not the programs I’ve found, but the data. More on that in a later blog post.

  3. Martin Haye says:

    Indeed. In my own personal life I strive to act ethically, using the law as a rough guide. As to copyright law, abandonment is also a big problem in the digital library world (where I work): we can’t put a book online because it’s impractical or impossible to pin down a copyright owner for many works. Reform to rationalize copyright law is viciously opposed by rich lobbies, so can one really hold out much hope?

  4. If Google can distribute in-copyright but out-of-print books books, then I think there’s precedent for a similar agreement with software — but those in your profession would certainly know more about that than I would!

  5. “Kenny’s” :)

    So I am coincidentally starting to archive my disks this weekend as well. With the addition that I still have to find some of them.

  6. Yep — I was a different person back then. :-)

    What archival method are you using, krue?

  7. I actually didn’t get to any floppies yet because the hard disk took so long. I used asimov2 to make images of the prodos partitions and transferred them using Spectrum. All I have is a null-modem cable so the transfers took quite some time.