Floppy disks are a curse. Over the years, I have accumulated far too many of them. Recently I had a clear out and ended up with a bag full of them, all with memory invoking labels such as Microsoft Excel 4 beta 2, Quarterdeck QEMM and WordStar 2000. I think it goes without saying that some memories were obviously better than others.
A little after this clearout my neighbour got herself a new Toshiba laptop.
And, as usual, rather than send out diskettes with the operating system the Tosh offers to write the system disks for you. All you have to do is sit there and feed them into the machine for about three days. Oh yeah, and you have to supply the disks as well.
Anyway, due to the amount of food and things I borrow from her I felt honour bound to offer her these disks (about 40 of them) out of my stash.
She gratefully accepted, although she did seem a bit disappointed that I wasn't going to sit there for two hours and feed them in to her machine for her. Hey, I may look stupid - and those that saw my face on the cover of PC Dealer a couple of weeks ago will more than likely agree - but I ain't that stupid.
Anyway, I was still left with hundreds of disks, so I thought to myself, I'll do exactly what my neighbour is doing. My faithful Acer notebook had been moaning at me to copy over its Windows 95 disks for ages and was now threatening to tell my mum that I hadn't hoovered the flat for over a year. So one evening, while watching the telly, I took my bag of disks, the Acer and set about copying disks.
A mere four hours later I had 10 disks done and a large pile of duff disks next to me on the sofa. These were the disks that sat in the machine going 'zzzzzzuuub, zzzzzuuubbb, zzzzzuuuuubbbb' for five minutes before being spat out because of some error or other. At that point I gave up and ordered a pizza.
The next day, when I was attempting to borrow a loaf of bread from my neighbour, she gave me a pile of disks with interesting labels, 'Take it,' she said, through what looked disturbingly like clenched teeth, 'half of them didn't work'. I took the disks and left the bread for another time. Basically, the sodding things had gone off. Sitting in a pile in the wardrobe had somehow converted half these diskettes to drinks coasters.
So this is technology working is it? This is what we have to expect coming to us then, technology simply dying beyond its sell-by date. A thought suddenly struck me. We know we have the millennium bug coming up, but how much crap is waiting to hit the fan when people try to restore their important data from disks that have quietly melted away? I think that maybe you had better check your disks now.
By the way, I have two bags of useless disks. Does anyone want to buy some drinks coasters?
Chris Long is a freelance IT journalist.
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