Read comments to this note
Add a Comment to this Note (list members only)
Dead medium: Computer media becomes obsolete
Source(s): Personal experience
Date: Mon, Aug 28, 2000, 01:19 AM

The whole Dead Media thing was pretty academic to me up to this afternoon, when it nearly took a decisive chunk out of my tuchis.

Steve Jackson [of Steve Jackson Games] recently asked me to revise an old GURPS sci fi thang. I knew I had the old manuscript files around . . . and more importantly, old BBS log files with notes from readers pointing out numerous holes and inconsistencies. They didn't turn up on my current hard disk drive (whose contents and directory structure have been copied from machine to machine since XTs were hot shit) so I found myself pawing through stacks of, gah, 5.25" floppy disks.

I decided it was time to get rid of the damn things; even without pruning out utter junk, I estimated that all the software and data I accumulated through 1990 or so could fit on one CD-R.

This meant running each and every one through my machine's rarely used 5.25" drive, of course. It managed to make it through 25 reads before it began eating floppies . . . actually embossing little polished oxide-free paths on the disks.

This being Silicon Valley, I assumed I had nothing to worry about. I can swap drives blindfolded, Fry's was just down 101 a piece, and it was only 4:00 pm.

Hah! Not only did the place not have the hardware in question, they didn't have any 5.25" _media_. No blanks. The once proud floppy disk aisle had shrunk to a few shelving units of stiff-floppy bulk packs.

I had a salesman punch '5.25"' into his SKU terminal. They did carry boxes for the old format. Coffins.

I had no better luck at the main branch of Fry's, which still sells discrete transistors, soldering irons and wirewrap kits. They have an Apple I motherboard there, and a player piano, but no floppy floppies.

I finally found a drive in a sort of low-rent computer bazaar; a high tech version of the place Scrooge's cleaning lady sold his bed curtains to. Just the place to go to get Word for DOS, or Norton Utilities for the Amiga. Amidst racks of Adult CD-ROMs, a shelf of refurbed 486 machines, and baskets of laser pointer keychains was a box of 5.25" drives -- naked, used, pulled from equipment. "It's gonna be hard to find those soon." said the clerk, who gave me a generous 4 day warranty.

Like, CRIPES. If I'd waited a few more months, I'd could have been SOL as far as retail went. Picture me frantically bidding for drives on eBay, and hoping I didn't get something meant to read single-sided MSX format disks...

Damn scary thought, having all these disks and no way to read them.