back to article Quick Q: How many FLOPPIES do I need for 16 MILLION image files?

Howls of protest sound across the globe as I write this. I’ve been hired to help with the managed migration of incomprehensible volumes of data from one multi-intercontinental, instant-access media library system to another. The protest isn’t a response to my hiring, understandable though that would be. No, my role is …


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  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    3.5in floppy

    Fnar Fnar Fnar!!

    1. Valerion

      Re: 3.5in floppy

      My wife (who was bought up in Seth Efrica) once told me that over there such a device is known as a "Stiffy".

      10 years later I still haven't stopped laughing.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: "Stiffy"

        I had one of those.

        Once :(

      2. Charles Manning

        Re: 3.5in floppy

        As an ex-Sarfefrican, let me explain the lingo to you...

        8 or 5.25 inch "floppies", normally dark grey were called floppy because you could bend them.

        The 3.5 inchers (1.44Mbytes) were called stiffies because you could not bend them (well, without breaking them).

        Being able to draw on a multi-lingual society we had sufficient other terms for a hard-on to be able to waste a few on storage media.

        1. Intractable Potsherd Silver badge

          Re: 3.5in floppy

          A friend of mine still regales people with the story of how he brought a presentation to confused halt when the South African lady next to him, with whom he was only moderately acquainted, leaned over and asked if he had a spare stiffy she could borrow ...

  2. Anonymous Custard

    16-page document I was working on last night won’t fit onto a floppy

    16-page document I was working on last night won’t fit onto a floppy...

    People still don't believe me when I tell them that my 200ish page PhD thesis (from just under 20 years ago) fitted on two floppy discs (one for the doc and the other for graphics files). Written in LaTeX, with PS graphics from Coreldraw, so the main body of the file was basically a glorified text file which zip'd down nicely.

    It was always amusing when people who were using WordPerfect and the early MS efforts (the ones that would evolve into Word) used to praise them initially, before wondering both why they were running out of server/hard disc space (remembering that HD's back then were struggling to get above the single-digit Gigabyte level, at least at Uni) and how they could recover their work when the file got corrupted, of course just after they'd done a lot of work but just before they'd backed it up (some things never change).

    Bah, I'm showing my age now I guess (having more storage space on my keyring today than the entire department would have had back then), but then I've also got the obligatory zip disc drive beside my desktop machine at home (not that it's been used in many a year and is quite a good dust magnet).

    1. Simon Harris

      Re: 16-page document I was working on last night won’t fit onto a floppy

      Somewhere I've got a 23 year old box of 10 floppy discs that contains everything I ever did over 4 years for my PhD - source code (possibly a backup of the compiler too), results, drawings and pictures (AutoSketch and ZSoft PC PaintBrush) and thesis (WordPerfect 5) - and never opened since I finished the PhD!

      In 1/100th a second, my camera can fill the same amount of storage space with a single image!

      1. DJV Silver badge

        Re: 16-page document I was working on last night won’t fit onto a floppy

        Still got some 5.25" floppies around somewhere along with some PetSoft Commodore PET programs on CASSETTE - Lunar Lander, Star Trek 3D amongst others! Not got any punched cards, though...

        1. Charles Manning

          Microsoft C V1.0

          (Well really re-branded Lattice), with all tools (compiler, linker, libraries...) can on 4 single sided, single density 5.25 inch floppies.

          Those of us with two FDDs would make make up two floppies, one with the editor and compiler and the other with a linker and libraries.

          We'd put the actual code on the second disk.

          Coompilation would be a two step process, pausing to pull out the compiler disk and insert the linker/library disk.

          When Borland came out with Turbo C that fitted on a single disk and edited, compiled and linked from an IDE, just about everyone dumped the MS stuff overnight.

          1. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

            Re: Microsoft C V1.0

            Yes, the Microsoft BASIC compiler1 and FORTRAN compiler were the same way. Compiler floppy in A: and source/object floppy in B:. Compile to object. Swap compiler floppy for linker floppy. Link to executable.

            If you were lucky, you could fit the editor2 on one of the floppies, to reduce swapping during the edit/compile cycle.

            1Not the BASIC interpreter which came with MS-DOS, or IBM's BASICA - Microsoft also sold a (rather expensive) BASIC compiler for the PC.

            2I used a variety of source-code editors under PC-DOS. First it was Volkswriter, which was technically a word processor but used a plain-text file format, so it made a serviceable source editor. Then my father, a mainframe guy, bought a copy of SPF/PC and we enjoyed ISPF for a while. A couple of years later I ... borrowed ... a copy of IBM's Internal Use Only E editor from work for my own use. (I hope the statute of limitations has expired by with IBM one never knows.) Later IBM included a version of E, without all the plug-in goodies, with PC-DOS, so I was just ahead of the curve. These days I use vim, of course.

        2. Ian Johnston Silver badge

          Re: 16-page document I was working on last night won’t fit onto a floppy

          I have a hard-sectored 8" floppy for a Philips WP system, ca 1984. It has some useful stuff on it, and I dream of one day reading it. I'd be mildly surprised if there is a working system of that sort left, and astonished if it could transfer data to anything else.

          Obscure note: the disk was used on Pip, Squeak and Wilfred.

        3. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: 16-page document I was working on last night won’t fit onto a floppy

          I can beat that. I've still got a bunch of dirty pictures on Amiga 880k floppies - identical to IBM single density, but better encoded for the extra capacity.

        4. Expectingtheworst

          Re: 16-page document I was working on last night won’t fit onto a floppy

          Lunar Lander - Yes! But what about Rhinos ?

          Still got an original PET - calculator keyboard and built in Tape deck. 8KByte static RAM with a 32KByte Dynamic RAM upgrade board that was as large as the main board. £375 in 1979 I think !!

          Been sitting around, with a BBC B for decades.

      2. king of foo

        Re: 16-page document I was working on last night won’t fit onto a floppy



        1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge

          Re: 16-page document I was working on last night won’t fit onto a floppy

          4 MEG IN TOTAL!

          Another user rings.

          "I need more space" he says

          "Well, why don't you move to Texas?" I ask

          "No, on my account, stupid."

          Stupid? Uh-Oh..

          "I'm terribly sorry" I say, in a polite manner equal to that of Jimmy Stewart in a Family Matinee "I didn't quite catch that. What was it that you said"

          I smell the fear coming down the line at me, but it's too late, he's a goner and he knows it.

          "Um, I said what I wanted was more space on my account, *please*"

          "Sure, hang on"

          I hear him gasp his relief even though he covered the mouthpiece.

          "There, you've got plenty of space now"

          "How much have I got"

          Now this REALLY *PISSES* *ME* *OFF*! Not only do they want me to give them extra space, they want to check it, to correct me if I don't give them enough. They should be happy with what I give them *and that's it*

          Back into Jimmy Stewart mode.

          "Well, let's see, you have 4 Meg available"

          "Wow! Eight Meg in total, thanks!" he says pleased with his bargaining power

          "No" I interrupt, savouring this like a fine red, room temperature "4 Meg in total"

          "Huh? I'd used 4 Meg already, How could I have 4 Meg Available?"

          I say nothing. It'll come to him.


          I kill me; I really do

          1. Anonymous Coward

            Re: 16-page document I was working on last night won’t fit onto a floppy

            If you're going to quote from the BOFH, at least attribute it to Simon.

            That one's from BOFH #1.

            1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge
              Paris Hilton

              Re: 16-page document I was working on last night won’t fit onto a floppy

              That one's from BOFH #1

              Seriously? There are people who don't know? Next you want me add attributions when I quote from the Ancient Testament.


      3. Tom 7 Silver badge

        Re: In 1/100th a second

        In 1/100th a second, my camera can fill the same amount of storage space with a single image!

        And like your PhD floppie box it will never be opened again.

    2. Naughtyhorse

      Re:the single-digit Gigabyte level

      Showing your age????

      yer whippersnapper!

      My first Hdd was 10 meg! (and made more noise than an industrial hoover)

      And that would have been in my 4th or 5th computer - all floppies and cassette tapes before that

      1. Alistair Dabbs


        >> whippersnapper

        Yes, my first couple of PCs at work were dual-floppy (5.25in) IBM clones, followed by a Qubie with an almighty 20MB hard drive... and 5.25in floppy drive. The hard disk kept squeaking.

        1. Anonymous Custard

          Re: ubie

          I said I was showing my age, not that I was that old ;) Although to be fair, the PC the thesis was actually written on was a 386 with (I think) a 200MB or so HD. And when it was doing some of the Coreldraw stuff it had to be assisted by a little beaker of liquid Nitrogen stood beside the air intake or it had a tendency to overheating and going ga-ga (said PhD was of the Physics persuasion).

          But I'm certainly of the generation when cassettes (and the ZX81, Spectrum or the C64, depending on your personal persuasion) ruled, at least at home.

          So we have to ask, do I have to take the blame for stirring up all this nostalgia, or can I pass that up to Dabbsy? Always a fun way to spend your Friday afternoon until beer o'clock, certainly beats doing any work anyway...

          1. Captain Scarlet Silver badge

            Re: ubie

            Dear lord you are all old!

            1. Immenseness

              Re: ubie

              Cassettes? Luxury!

              I still have some 256 byte magnetic cards here. (and we used to have get up in the morning, half an hour before we went to bed and had to lick 't road clean wi' tongue)

              Mine's the one resting on the zimmer, ta.

              1. Nigel 13

                Re: ubie

                LOL. I was waiting for that to come up. They don't know they're born.

              2. Anonymous Coward
                Anonymous Coward

                Re: ubie

                I still have some 256 byte magnetic cards here

                :). That certainly trumps my oldest storage medium I still have around: Psion Organiser II data packs. Yes, the EPROM variety (I may have seen a RAMpack in the depths of that particular heap as well, but unlike the EPROM, the RAMpack would surely be dead as its battery would have died by now.

                Not that it's of any use, I only have one Organiser left and I have no idea where it is, the rest has gone to the one museum left unmentioned: the Museum of Computing in Swindon..

                1. Alistair Dabbs

                  Re: ubie

                  >> the one museum left unmentioned: the Museum of Computing in Swindon.

                  Yes but London and Bradford are places that people go *to*.

          2. NogginTheNog

            Re: ubie

            "And when it was doing some of the Coreldraw stuff it had to be assisted by a little beaker of liquid Nitrogen stood beside the air intake or it had a tendency to overheating and going ga-ga"

            My first PC CPU didn't even need a heatsink (a 386DX-25 IIRC?).

            My second DEFINITELY did though: a Cyrix 6x86MX, overclocked to around 125MHz!

      2. herman Silver badge

        Re: Re:the single-digit Gigabyte level

        Bloody hell, my first HDD was 1MB, divided into an infinite number of 128k partitions. At least I can truthfully state that I never owned a zip disk - they went the way of the dodo, before I could get around to buying one...

      3. beep54

        Re: Re:the single-digit Gigabyte level

        I remember when my punch cards sorta seemed to turn into odd shaped index cards, you know, for hand written stuff. Anyone else do that?

    3. Stoneshop

      Re: 16-page document I was working on last night won’t fit onto a floppy

      I recently came across a box of 10 floppies that contained:

      - a TP install disk

      - one with some TP libraries and tools

      - 6 subsequent versions of a multiuser, networked CD library program I wrote, each version its own disk, full source code and all

      - two disks with the entire library database, zipped. 40..50k records at that time.

      Provided they're readable, I can get the lot running again, including writing and compiling new code.

      1. Michael H.F. Wilkinson

        Re: 16-page document I was working on last night won’t fit onto a floppy

        Still got an 8" floppy lying around somewhere; one from Digital with CP/M 2.0 on it. 128kB capacity, WOW!

        And yes, I still have an Iomega Zip drive somewhere.

        1. Simon Westerby 1

          Re: 16-page document I was working on last night won’t fit onto a floppy

          I have 3 Zip drives... 2 Parallel (with driver CD's) and one IDE (internal) and an LS120 "SuperDrive"

          LS120 - Won't mount in Windows XP or beyond unless I use an External IDE - USB adapter.

          Ah the good old days...

          1. Alan Brown Silver badge

            Re: 16-page document I was working on last night won’t fit onto a floppy

            LS120 flopticals are great though. They'll read an entire standard floppy in about 6 seconds. I don't think I ever put more than a couple of 120Mb disks in mine but the turbocharged 1.44 handling more than made up for it.

            OTOH Zip drives are the work of Satan himself

            "Ah yes, now I remember: I kept breaking them and had to buy replacements ... so maybe they weren’t so cool after all."

            The standard failure mode was a zipdisk with a rough or damaged edge snapping the heads off the actuator arm as it slid from its park position onto the drive surface, resulting in the infamous "click of death" - and of course as soon as you placed the faulty disk in another drive it would kill it, ad infinititum.

            Zip disks could be sufficently damaged by simply being dropped from about desk height and landing on the edge, as the disk substrate, whilst nominally a "floppy" (plastic) was actually quite stiff and brittle. This could happen as easily whilst in a jewlcase as not.

            Flopticals were immune to this as the heads never got near the edge of the disk, being clamped ionto the surface (They're called flopticals as they use laser tracked optical tracks on the disk surface to guide the magnetic head, allowing for much tighter track spacing than ordinary floppies can allow)

        2. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

          Re: 16-page document I was working on last night won’t fit onto a floppy

          Still got an 8" floppy lying around somewhere

          I've used 8" floppies (with the relatively obscure TRS-80 Model II, a machine completely unrelated to the Model I and Model III), but alas I don't have any to show the kids.

          I do have an exciting assortment of tape cartridges - QIC, DAT, 8mm... Did a lot of backing up to QIC back in the day. Occasionally restored something, but mostly QIC seemed to be a write-only medium.

          I might have some IBM 9-track tape reels around somewhere. Don't think I have any punchcards - another medium I worked with once or twice but not enough to have any of my own.

    4. stu 4

      Re: 16-page document I was working on last night won’t fit onto a floppy

      me too !

      1992 Final Thesis. LaTeX, all done on my amiga 500 at home on an incredibly slow LaTeX implementation at 'hires' interlaced on my wee green screen monitor, then proofed on the HP workstations and printed on the the laser printers at uni.

      Everyone else in the year was using the crappy dotmatrix printers and amstrad 1512s with GEM (no fonts, no nowt).

      I had cunningly photocopied pictures I wanted into the columned layouts, so it looked really typeset and professional.

      I remember my professor being a bit flabbergasted and asking how exactly I'd done it all.

      6 months later, I was having to use 170 floppies to backup my amiga 1200 170MB HD, and the age of the floppy was over really... thought it didn't die for another 10 years or so (lets say 2003 or so for arguments sake).

    5. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

      Re: 16-page document I was working on last night won’t fit onto a floppy

      People still don't believe me when I tell them that my 200ish page PhD thesis (from just under 20 years ago) fitted on two floppy discs (one for the doc and the other for graphics files).

      My Master's thesis is only 50 pages, but zipped it's about 64KB. It's in LyX, so latex2e plus some additional LyX stuff (the majority of which, by size, is my comments).

      My Bachelor's thesis was around 80 pages, and written in roff. Dunno how small it'd zip down to, but it'd be small.

      remembering that HD's back then were struggling to get above the single-digit Gigabyte level

      That Bachelor's thesis was written on an IBM RT PC with two 70MB drives, which was quite luxurious for the time. Earlier in my undergrad career I mostly used WordPerfect on an IBM PC (original 5150, second model with 64KB on the motherboard, with a home-upgraded BIOS and other hacks) with a 10MB drive. Documents were stored on 5 1/4" floppies - with at least two backups.

      But no doubt there are plenty of folks here who wrote academic docs on older machines than those.

    6. ElReg!comments!Pierre

      Re: 16-page document I was working on last night won’t fit onto a floppy

      I type almost all text in restructured text or lout, all data in csv, and all graphs in python scripts (veusz or pylab, depending on my mood); it's still usefull as GBs seem go by as fast as KBs in the old days, and you can still fit 100 times the same amount of cruft in the same space if individual pieces are 100 times smaller...

      Plus, that way I avoid the compatibility hell that all my coworkers seem to live as soon as they try to open their files on a different device. At the very worst I can get to the important bits with just a text editor...

  3. Carpetsmoker

    I remember copying my friend's installation of Duke Nukem 3D onto ~55 floppies... I had a lot of patience as a kid, apparently.

    1. Semtex451

      Time well spent I say

      1. Simon Harris

        "Time well spent I say"

        and ultimately more fun than doing the system backup with FastBack and a similar sized stack of discs circa 1991!

        1. Simon Westerby 1

          or the Windows 95 floppy disk install.... 30 id I think ...

      2. Naughtyhorse


        Jk :-D

        1. stucs201

          Being a freetard got more expensive when the question changed from "how many games can you get on this disk?" to "how many disks does that game need?"

          1. Anonymous Custard

            Especially when the second-to-last one always became corrupted and/or unreadable and you lost the last hour or so's work on disc-swapping...

            1. Robert Harrison

              Yes it was always the 23rd disk in a 25 disk set that had a bad sector. I think it was an industry standard or something.

              1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge
                Paris Hilton

                Hasn't anyone ever come up with FLOPPY RAID where a bad sector on disk 23 could have been compensated with the checksums from disk 06 and 28?

                It would probably have made it to a Chaos Manor entry in Byte Magazine.

              2. Roger Varley

                Novell had a similair system for their Netware installs, except they preffered the 48th out of 50

    2. NightFox

      I remember re-installing a very old piece of software on a PC 2 or 3 years ago. As I think was common when the software was written, it gave me the option of backing up the HDD to floppy before I continued with the installation. I had to throw caution to the wind when a quick look in my "old stuff" cupboard confirmed I didn't have the 250,000 disks this would have needed. Or a floppy drive, come to that.

  4. Alan Sharkey

    Install VMS - from 88 floppy disks. Yes, I did that for Acorn back in 1986

  5. Daz555

    I think Office 97 came on about 40 floppies for those not blessed with a CDROM. Fun fun fun.

    1. bpfh

      ah yes....

      The 5 hour 42 1.2mb disk install of Windows 95 (education pack), followed by 39 diskettes of Office 6.0, and dreading the ominous bzzzzzzzz......bzzzzzzzzzz.......bzzbzz bzzbzz bzzbzz bzzbzz........ bzzbzz bzzbzz bzzbzz bzzbzz... Read error, ingore retry cancel on disk 36 or 37...

      1. Milen

        Re: ah yes....

        Retry, Retry, Retry, Retry, Retry, Ignore, Ignore, Ignore...@#$% Scream, Kick, Kick, Kick, Reboot.

        1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

          Re: ah yes....

          >1.2mb disk install of Windows 95

          I made good money from knowing how to copy them to the hardrive and have the install kick off from there. There was some trick I have forgotten for naming the sub-directories.

          1. bpfh

            Re: ah yes....

            Yup. I found that out after doing the standard way about 10 PC :) Would have saved me days!!

    2. EddieD

      26. I've still got them, on a shelf, above my head, next to the USB floppy I keep, just in case someone digs out an old Excel/Access/Whatever document that refuses to open in modern software.

      They're alongside DOS5, DOS6, Windows 3, Windows 3.1, Windows 3.11, the two floppies of TCPIP for Windows, Wordperfect...

      The best fun I ever had was installing Office for Mac on a Performa 630 - as with most Mac things it had no eject button, and when the disk was done would eject the floppy automatically - when the machines were new, they fired the disks out like bullets!

    3. John 110

      Office 97!!!


      1. Fluffy Bunny

        Re: Office 97!!!

        But still one of the best versions of Office available if you still have the disks.

  6. Evil Auditor Silver badge

    "...simply because they’ve always done it"

    The single most annoying thing when dealing with workforce dinosaurs.

    Many moons ago, on a different planet, I was very close* to slaying my boss and his boss because of similar statements. Just giving one of many examples: auditing one if not the biggest IT organisation of that planet I'd noticed a severe lack of segregation of duties between development and operation of the production environment. Bosses' answers: "it's always been like that and we [audit] never said anything about it."

    *I'm not going to tell you how close exactly for I believe the limitation period isn't quite over yet.

    1. Anonymous Dutch Coward

      @Evil Auditor: Re: "...simply because they’ve always done it"

      Less findings in your audit report=less trouble for the bosses when the inevitable buck-shifting fallout[1] happens...

      Unless you are lucky to have one of the few bosses who get it and just slap the auditee hard and say: it's our report, our opinion and unless you come with evidence to the contrary that it's ok/acceptable.

      Me, cynical? Nah....

      1. Evil Auditor Silver badge

        Re: @Evil Auditor: "...simply because they’ve always done it"

        Less trouble for the bosses? In the short term of issuing a report, yes. Not in the long run though, and I surely covered my arse. Fortunately, in the example above IT management themselves recognised the need to change their organisation before a shit-fan interaction happened.

        On other occasions the company wasn't that lucky. My recommendations regarding data leakage prevention couldn't pass the bosses' filters as "too strict" or "not practical", before even discussing with operations. It took about another two years before the first big incident with losing customer data hit the news.

        At that time, however, my bosses had already been removed from their positions.

    2. Munchausen's proxy

      Re: "...simply because they’ve always done it"

      -- I'd noticed a severe lack of segregation of duties between development and operation of the production environment.

      You really probably don't want to look into this year's big buzzword then (DevOps)

      1. Evil Auditor Silver badge

        Re: "...simply because they’ve always done it"

        Munchhausen's proxy, DevOps is not per se a bad thing. Well, it is but can be justified under certain circumstances. Not in a core banking* system though, no it really can't.

        *free pint for the first person correctly guessing my then employer ;)

  7. Milen

    Ah, the good old days...

    This brings back memories of when I had to copy files back and fourth from floppies in order to compress all the floppies I had. This was made necessary by me wanting to download a 20MB game on my 99.9MB hard drive (out of which only slightly more than 1 MB was free).

    Since a floppy holds about 1.39MB (some are wasted by the filesystem), it took a few weeks of my free time to even free up enough so I can copy the contents of an entire floppy onto the HDD.

    After that, I think I just wanted to hang myself, but managed instead to do the only reasonable alternative that remained: started deleting Windows files that I don't need. That was a difficult decision to make since I didn't have the installation floppies for Windows 3.11 for Workgroups.

    You cannot imagine the joy, when they imported the first CR-RW drive in my country. I have the files to this day (somewhere in a box of cables and old kit).

    Edit: Note, I am talking about MegaBytes, not Giga or Tera :-) I guess the damage was permanent since I still remember the exact size of that particular hard drive, even though I have no clue what my other computers had.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Ah, the good old days...

      Ah, Worries for Workgroups.. I've been in that space too, but much earlier, think MSDOS 3.1 or even DOubleDOS (not sure if anyone remembers that first time slicing multitasker).

      On a "turbo" 8086 I had a 10MB hard disk (for the new kids, look up MFM drive), and I was getting short on space so I kept most of it ARCed (the predecessor of PKZIP was PKARC, and I think I was about the first person in Europe to actually BUY it :). Eventually, even that didn't help anymore and I added a "whopping" 20MB drive :).

      That box had the original 640K of RAM, and even adding a memory board so it was 1MB it was still fighting because TSRs didn't like living in "upper" memory.

      Those were the days of fixed disk geometry, autoexec.bat. config.sys, IRQs, interrupts and serial ports. Heck, I even had a VT102 taking a direct syslog feed off a Linux box :).

      1. Michael Wojcik Silver badge


        DOubleDOS (not sure if anyone remembers that first time slicing multitasker)

        Sure, I had Softlogic's DoubleDOS. (Apparently they had a similar product, with the same name, for the TRS-80 Model III.)

        I assume you mean "first for the IBM PC". I'm not sure DoubleDOS was the first, but apparently it came out in 1984, so it did predate IBM's TopView (which in turn is older than Quarterdeck's DESQView). TopView and DESQView were more powerful than DoubleDOS, but required more resources and were much more complicated to use.

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    here you go

    adjust image file size as necessary

    1. Alistair Dabbs

      Re: here you go

      Nerd pr0n, that is.

      1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge
        Thumb Up

        Re: here you go

        To quote Greg Egan:

        Gisela had never heard of Athena, but ninety minutes per person sounded ominous. Everything meaningful about an individual citizen could be packed into less than an exabyte [160,000 LTO-6 compressed (6.25 TB) tapes], and sent as a gamma-ray burst a few milliseconds long. If you wanted to simulate an entire flesher body — cell by cell, redundant viscera and all — that was a harmless enough eccentricity, but lugging the microscopic details of your “very own” small intestine ninety-seven light years was just being precious.

  9. Shady

    Floppy disks nearly got me punched

    I gave my mate at uni a copy of some C++ IDE which came on about sixty disks. He spent about 18 hours installing it and then realised I hadn't given him the last disk - it was still in my PC. His Mum switched his PC off when he went out to collect the last disk from me.

    The cursing was enough to make a PFY blush

    1. Captain Hogwash

      Re: Floppy disks nearly got me punched

      Punched cards nearly got me floppy. Make your own jokes. Maybe something about ASCII porn or slow load times.

  10. Danny Roberts 1

    5 1/4 ins floppies

    My very first copy of Civilisation arrived on 2x 1.2MB 5-1/4 inch floppy disks, imagine my upset when I -realised my drives could only read the low density 360k disks.

    Fortunately, a friends Dad took the disks to work and transferred the contents to about 7 low density disks I could then use to install Civ onto my 20MB hard disk :-) (PS - Ignore the requirement for a 286 processor, it ran fine on my Amstrad 086, if with a bit of disk churning for the animations!)

    I also have a couple of old 8" floppies around somewhere, no drive for them though.

    1. Adam 1

      Re: 5 1/4 ins floppies

      Civ is still one of the best games ever made.

      1. DocJames

        Re: 5 1/4 ins floppies

        Civ is still one of the best games ever made.


  11. Fortycoats

    Zip Disks!

    Ahhh, the memories. The support calls. The dreaded click-of-death that broke disks, which could in turn break other zip drives. Bloody marvellous, especially since at the time I was one of the poor sods on Iomega's tech support located in an overfilled office right above a supermarket in Dublin. (At least I could walk to work back then)

    Just a few weeks ago I found my old Zip 100 SCSI drive and disks in the basement. Since I wanted to dump them I wanted to get any possibly useful data off the disks if they were still readable, but my PC doesn't have a free slot for my ancient Adaptec 2940 card. Thankfully I manage to get my paws on my really old machine, which was gathering dust in my in-law's attic. Crikey those fans are loud! At least it had USB, so everything fit on a little USB stick.

    Now to deal with that mountain of floppies....... I think the installation disks for DOS 5.0 that came with my first 386 PC are still in there....

    1. Swarthy

      Re: Zip Disks!

      Oh, the memories of the 2940. That was a solid card, and not scuzzy at all. I had mine hooked to a 44MB Bernoulli drive and a 4GB full-height SCSI hard-drive that had its own heat sink. I remember that after about a month the heat sink had blued from the head of the drive, I probably should have added a fan...

  12. Alan Bourke

    Zip drives were great while they lasted

    but I have never seen anything blown out of the water as quickly as zip drives once the first Disgo USB Flash sticks appeared.

  13. RevJim

    I see it as a problem that's just going to get worse.

    Today we have usb sticks, the 'cloud' mobile hard drives etc.

    The storage medium lifespan gets shorter each time a new one is introduced.

    Once the data gets to a certain size I fully expect it to be a full time job ensuring the data is transferred to the latest greatest storage medium, each time you finish, it's obsolete.

    A 16 page document? Print it out and it'll last a very long time and won't need any equipment to read it, other than the Mk.1 eyeball.

    Floppy/zip/cd/usb - extra equipment needed to 'read' it. Mmm, perhaps a shelf of paper makes a little more sense?

    1. Irony Deficient

      … won’t need any equipment to read it, other than the Mk.1 eyeball.

      RevJim, as the years pass, you might find Mk. 2 spectacles or a Mk. 3 magnifying glass to be must-have accessories.

    2. phuzz Silver badge

      The amount of time it takes to upgrade to a new storage medium is: The amount of data to be copied, divided by the smallest out of the read speed of the old medium, or the write speed of the new.

      It's that simple.

      I'm not sure the lifespan of storage media is getting shorter either, I started out with 3.5" disks on the Amiga (still entirely readable now with about £50 of equipment), and then moved to the luxury which was an IDE harddrive, which I could read in my current PC if I still had it.

      Since then harddrives have switched to SATA, and increased in capacity by about 40 times, but all my important files have come along for the ride.

      I see it as a problem that is only going to get better. Interfaces are much more standardised now than they used to be eg a FAT formatted USB disk will work in just about any modern computer, (including my phone), whereas the 3.5" disk my Amiga took, was only readable by other Amigas. Transfer speeds have increased, so that 16 page document can be on the other side of the world in the blink of an eye, and capacities have increased so much, that it's inconsequential to have multiple copies of your data across a wide variety of different media.

      Data is only useful if you can use it, and having something sat on a shelf is only useful as long as you're in that room.

      1. Flocke Kroes Silver badge

        You can still read those Amiga formatted disks

        Pick your favourite Linux distribution, and type:

        ls /lib/modules/*/kernel/fs/

        I found affs there, so the kernel still understands Amiga Fast Filing System.

        The other thing to look for is in:

        ls /lib/modules/*/kernel/drivers/block/

        I found floppy.ko, but I do not have the hardware handy to test it. Back in the day, I used to format a floppies with 5x2kB sectors, a 1kB sector and a ½kB sector on each track (1840kB) to cut down on the space wasted by sector headers and inter-sector gaps just like on 'modern' 4kB/sector hard disks.

        1. ShortLegs

          Re: You can still read those Amiga formatted disks

          Bet you can't. The AFFS understand the high level Amiga disk filing system, provided the system can understand the low-level hardware. On a hard disk, no problem.

          A floppy disk is different, as the Amiga used a wholly different low-level disk system. Which is why you can't just stick an amiga floppy disk into a PC and read the contents, with or without software support for AFS. You need a hardware adaptor such as Catweazle.

    3. Alan Brown Silver badge

      "The storage medium lifespan gets shorter each time a new one is introduced."

      It doesn't matter as long as the data itself is transferred from older to newer medium in a timely manner.

      Keeping stuff around on old media "just in case" you might need it means you're guaranteed to never be able to open it when you do need it. If you're dumping the old drives, make sure you copy off and dump the old media too.

  14. Code Monkey

    Service Pack 3

    A salesman once asked me for Service Pack 3 for NT4 on floppy. I printed off some labels, stuck them on 56 spare floppy disks and dumped the lot on his desk.

  15. brassedoff

    8" FTW

    I've got an unused box of 8" floppies here that were destined for a PDP11 years ago. Any takers? Perhaps the US nuclear arsenal chappies? I doubt the Royal Mail would take them as small letter these days though...

    1. Simon Harris

      Re: 8" FTW

      They'd just fold them in half to get them through the letterbox anyway!

  16. AndrueC Silver badge

    My first data recovery was from a floppy disk. I remember it well. It was supposed to contain a thesis and I had to reconstruct it because some fool had quick formatted the disk. It was particularly memorable because it was a thesis on the effects of ballet dancing on the human body.

    Not pleasant reading.

    1. Owain 1

      Effects of Ballet on the human body

      "How awful. Did he at least die painlessly? To Shreds you say."

      I've told my wife we should cancel our trip to see Swan Lake.

  17. Mage


    I came across some 1970s Punch cards used as book marks in an old cookery book at Christmas. My wife dropped three boxes of cards (large Fortran program) down the stairs once. She was delighted with the CRT screen editor on UCSD-Pascal vs removing an card or two and punching new ones to edit a program.

    She still prints "hard copy" of everything, 35 years later.

  18. Amorous Cowherder

    I shoot landscapes in my spare time and files sizes are huge compared to the data storage I've worked my way through.

    Average shot off camera is 25MB, after editing in Photoshop the average PSD file is somewhere around 750MB up to 1.5GB depending upon how much work needed doing to it. Dumped to TIFF for supply to printers, average size is about 75MB which I happily upload and share via Google Drive over a network connection from my house!

    Let's put that into perspective...

    My first computer had 32KB and cassette system for backup. Next had 64KB memory and a disk drive that held 180KB. My first PC had a 360KB 5 1/4" floppy driver and HD that was only 10MB! I bought my first 1.2GB hard drive around 1994.

    I currently have a machine that has 16GB memory ( graphics card alone is 2GB ) and 4 x 2TB hard disks for mirroring my images and photo work. I have 20TB of network storage for backups in the house in two NAS units and ( at a cost ) theoretically unlimited storage on the end of a fibre cable leading into my house.

    Another 5 years and no doubt we will have 32TB USB sticks to hand at £15 a pop!

    Things sure have change on Walton mountain!

    1. Alistair Dabbs

      >> Average shot off camera is 25MB

      I was thinking about this the other day when trying to write an abortive piece for El Reg on independent book publishing systems. There are print-on-demand shysters out there ripping off authors by charging them rent (yes, RENT) for storing their books as PDFs. A novel in PDF format is unlikely to exceed 3MB.

      1. Hollerith 1

        Re: >> Average shot off camera is 25MB

        Mr Dabbs, please write that article (unless you have and I missed it while travelling).

        1. AndrueC Silver badge
          Thumb Up

          Re: >> Average shot off camera is 25MB

          Mr Dabbs, please write that article (unless you have and I missed it while travelling).

          And if it's still to be written it might be worth contacting these folks. CJ in particular has definite views about publishing having been a writer for over half a century. Plus it's an excuse to read her work if you haven't already :)

        2. Alistair Dabbs

          Re: >> Average shot off camera is 25MB

          I'm afraid the article about self-publishing will have to wait. I got all fired up to write it during the London Book Fair but by the time I could track down the right people to answer my more difficult questions, ten days had flown by and it lost its topicality. I might tackle it anew if I can tie it in with another major publishing event.

    2. J P

      My father used to write operating systems for IBM mainframes back in the late 60s/early 70s. 3 or 4 years ago, he bought a new hard drive - maybe longer, IIRC it was 80 gigabytes & cost him just north of £100. What struck home was the calculation he did on how much it would have cost him to get access to that much memory back when he was working for a living - it came out at something like £19m. To hire, for a week, cos that's how it used to work in those days. Yep, things have definitely changed. (His other pet peeve is musical Christmas cards, which have more computing power than the first system he ever used - and took up an entire room).

  19. Ed 13

    3.5inch disks? Still use 'em!

    One of my very useful bits of RF analysis kit, made by Hewlett Packard in the days before they were HP, which is before they became Agilent, has a floppy drive as the only viable way to get data off it. So I have a small collection of floppies and USB-Floppy drive (as in Alistair's picture).

  20. deadlockvictim


    Hi Alastair

    Did you used to work for MacFormat? I used to love getting their magazines and CDs back when the macs had a decent interface [1]. I'm not a fan of that UNIX blow-in they have now. I still use zip disks and MOs for my IIfx. And thick chunky SCSI cables too.

    I remember floppies as being big enough to hold any file (outside of serious image files) that one might create and they certainly held all of my dissertations and my thesis with space to spare. And, in case one came across a file too big for a floppy (like, say, Civilisation), then DiskDoubler was your friend,

    [1] Just say no if it doesn't have Chicago (the proper one) on it.

    1. Dan 55 Silver badge

      Re: MacFormat

      Who could not look back fondly on PC Exchange trashing your floppies or refusing to open files unless you fiddled about with the file types control panel?

    2. Alistair Dabbs

      Re: MacFormat

      I wrote for MacFormat in the 1990s but eventually stopped because they took an average of a year and a half to settle any of my invoices.

      1. Alan Brown Silver badge

        Re: MacFormat

        "they took an average of a year and a half to settle any of my invoices."

        MacFormat weren't alone in that. Just about every publisher on hobby subjects was the same - and it wasn't malice so much as they were always running on the ragged edge of bankruptcy.

  21. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Ah my old Zip disks.

    Handy as I'd picked up an old Zip drive for the 486 and bought a 2nd hand Mac with an internal Zip drive.

    Have the drive and a couple of disks in the house, should really try and find the power supply and see what I can grab off them onto a USB pen drive.

    Amazing to think that on my keyring I have the equivalent of 80 Zip disks!!!!

  22. Bob Carter

    I still have my University second year project (1977) up in the loft - does anyone have a paper tape reader handy ?

  23. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I'll take your 100mb ZIP Drive...

    ...and raise you a LS-120.

    Now there was a format. A "High" capacity drive that could still read 1.44mb diskettes.

  24. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Gone but not forgotten....

    ... mostly because my company only just finished replacing our old laptops (just in time for the death of XP) a month or two ago - until then, the ancient laptops we had had a swappable floppy / CD drive. USB is disabled, so was still easier and quicker to move small files by floppy than with CD.

    1. Anonymous Custard

      Re: Gone but not forgotten....

      I'm in a slightly worse boat - our Dell laptops also have the swappable drives, but the company refused to buy any of the floppy drives (and didn't ask us about it). So when the new laptops arrived and we all complained, pointing out that most of our old equipment only had floppy drives in it to save data off (semiconductor manufacturing equipment, ironically enough) we were suddenly given the old floppy drives from our previous laptops back.

      Unfortunately the old ones don't actually fit in the bays of the new laptops, so we have to use them externally via a mini-USB cable. Still at least our USB ports are open (although they did threaten to disable them a while back, having learned nothing from the previous debacle until we all revolted and suddenly that plan got cancelled), although the SD card reader to this day is still disabled (and even pointing out that a quid down the pound-shop will buy you a USB card reader didn't get them revived). Some days we wonder if they actually realise we're supposed to be able to actually use these things for business purposes, rather than just for ornamentation.

  25. Andy 70

    scsi stack

    ahhh yes, the old electrickery sucking drive stack.. i think i had externaly

    0 3.5" MO drive (650meg)

    1 5.25" MO drive (2.6GB!)

    2 Jaz drive (1gb) got swapped occasionally for a DDS3 Tape drive for sporadic backups

    3 external drive (4.3gig full height 3.5" barracuda room heater)

    4 Akai Sampler

    5 Akai drive (1gb)

    6 Plextor CD/RW (still got)

    IDE i managed to cludge together a 4x device adapter for my one onboard IDE port:

    0 main drive (5.1gig quantum fireball (512kb cache dontchaknow))

    1 cheap noname 8x cd drive

    2 secondary drive (1.2gig previous system drive)

    3 internal zip drive (there it is!)

    now i have

    240gig pcie ssd. no external media drives

    everything else is over the network.

  26. Adam 1

    Ironically, I still have my old zip drive in the garage but no recent PC or laptop with the necessary parallel port to plug it into.

    1. Simon Harris

      I have memories of having to go into the BIOS settings and doing a bit of jiggery-pokery with the parallel port configuration settings before it could even talk to some parallel connected drives.

  27. Stevie


    Pfft! We had a clear out of one chaps equipment locker in '04 and unearthed a shrink-wrapped mint condition box of 8 inch single siders.

    And he wanted to keep them "just in case".

    They were used to back up a server in use in 1984 and long since gone to the big server room in the sky. I have no idea how he intended they should be put to use. Perhaps his desk was rocking.

  28. Blacklight

    LS-120 Superdisks?

    It was initially tape with my ZX Spectrum. Then a micro-drive - with extra capacity added by stretching the tape :)

    The a move to PC - we had 5.25" and 3.5" floppy drives. Then acquired a ZIP100 drive, then eventually a ZIP250. And then an LS-120 Superdisk which was backward compatible with 3.5" disks - but that annoyingly died, so I got another - which eventually did the same... :(

    Since then it's all mostly been USB and/or flash card storage - although an Ultrium 1 and now Ultrium 3 drive kick about for the really big backups :)

    1. Simon Harris

      Re: LS-120 Superdisks?

      Had an LS-120 drive once. That died too - the 120MByte bit of it anyway. The standard floppy reading bit of it still carried on working.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: LS-120 Superdisks?

        I found that they weren't that backward compatible. If I had a 1.44MB bootable floppy, the PC wouldn't boot from it - was that normal?

        1. Alan Brown Silver badge

          Re: LS-120 Superdisks?

          "I found that they weren't that backward compatible. If I had a 1.44MB bootable floppy, the PC wouldn't boot from it - was that normal?"

          Yes, but you could boot from a LS120 disk (as an IDE device).

          Newer bioses could handle 1.44Mb floppies in LS120 IDE interfaces but the older ones had no clue about what to do with them so pretended they didn't exist.

  29. heyrick Silver badge

    Zip discs

    I have some old zip discs. I even have a Zip drive that was working when I last used it, and another I acquired along the way as a spare.

    What I don't have, however, is a parallel port...

  30. Bob Carter

    I still have one of my University Projects backed up in the loft - does any one have a paper tape reader to hand ?

  31. KirstarK

    I finally got round to throwing oour my scsi jaz drive and 20 1GB cartridges.

    Why I still had them I do not know

  32. Empty1

    Blank punch cards

    Got half a box full of 80 col cards. Sadly the hand punch went a few years ago.

    My first program was on three cards for a Philips P350 and I cut the holes out with a safety razor blade.

  33. MattW99


    I remember installing AutoCad r12 on standalone 386's from 12 floppies. The lucky few had Sun SparcStations with (whisper it) 'networking' and network installs.

    I've still got one of those SparcStation boxes in the loft - god knows why...

  34. Leeroy

    Amiga demo scene. Those guys had a lot of talent and did things with floppies that at lot of modern programmers could not do without a supercomputer or libraries written for them by the likes of ms, amd or nvidia.

    Modern programing may be easier, fatter and faster but I can't help thinking that we have lost something along the way. ......... I'm writing this on a phone that could probably wipe the floor with an average computer from maybe 5 years ago. ... I'm In a field.. In West Wales and I can still access the sum of human knowledge. ..... Those sheep look tasty though ;)

    1. Kiwi

      Any demo scene @Leeroy

      Still have a few PC demos around somewhere, on one of my current machines. Fire them up under Dosbox sometimes.

      We lost something alright. Some of those took less space than an article (with comments) on El Reg..

      The amount of work those guys must have put in optimizing their code.. Those who write today owe so much to those guys. Computers may not have exploded the same without their work, and certainly games would not be where they were without their work.

    2. Alistair Dabbs

      Re: we have lost something along the way

      >> I'm In a field.. In West Wales and I can still access the sum of human knowledge.

      Therein lies the problem: with all the power of mobile networking at your fingertips, you chose to read 'Something for the Weekend, Sir?' on a Friday afternoon.

      1. Anonymous Custard

        Re: we have lost something along the way

        Therein lies the problem: with all the power of mobile networking at your fingertips, you chose to read 'Something for the Weekend, Sir?' on a Friday afternoon.

        Are you trying to imply there's something better to do on a Friday afternoon whilst waiting for beer O'clock? The only other candidate I can bring to mind is BOfH, as and when Simon gets motivated enough to produce something...

  35. Tank boy
    Black Helicopters

    Ah the old Zip drive

    Pretty sure I still have one in my box of old gear. Not entirely sure if it works anymore, but I HAVE to keep it just in case. Saved me on many occasions when I was assigned to the staff in the US Army (those officers sure do love PowerPoint) for briefings and such. I think the old girl still has a 'secret' sticker on it, there might even be a couple of those big discs.

  36. JLV

    ah, my first sight of Linux and last of floppies

    Late 1994. HUGE stack of floppies, 50-60 at least, for a PeopleSoft install* at a customer near Paris.

    Then... corrupted 100MB DAT file (their proprietary text-based import format). Not so much corrupted as MS-incompatible SQL in it somewhere.

    Notepad for Windows 3.1? On a 100MB file? Gotta be kidding, you were lucky if you could load 1MB in that turd. Despair.

    Our installer connects his laptop, which is running some weird OS, to the network. Next thing you know his text editor has loaded the whole file, which we couldn't believe, and I am happily editing the SQL**.

    Turns out it was Slackware. Last time I saw that many floppies used in anger though. By the next install we were on to CDs.

    * considerably less fun than Duke Nukem

    ** happily? Couldn't have been vi then.

  37. Barry Rueger

    Old Storage media?

    OPEN 15,8,15

  38. ShortLegs


    Load "$",8,1 -C64 disk 1985

    LOAD "nibblers" - PET tape 1981

    DLOAD "startrek" - ICL 2903 minimac via remote teletype 1978

  39. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Save icon

    You know that weird button graphic you see in software interfaces that symbolises the ‘Save’ action? It’s supposed to look like one of these. Ah bless.

    Actually, I think they were originally meant to look like one of these.

    No I don't have a drive to read it in. I'll have to see if my 5¼" drive still works some day though, I know a few of my 3⅓" drives have already bitten the dust (literally).

    1. Alistair Dabbs

      Re: Save icon

      Thanks for the photo Stuart but a Save button, such as the one you see in any MS Office ribbon bar, does not look like an 8in or 5.25in floppy. Save button icons depict a 3.5in disk with sliding metal shutter. Oh god, I bore myself at times.

  40. Will Godfrey Silver badge


    I still have the approx 60 page Interword file (BBC B for those who don't know) that is the instruction manual for an adventure game generator program (text only of course). This and the game generator itself both fit on a single 5.25in floppy in Acorn DFS format.

    Needs double sided or twin drives to actually run the generator unless you want to do lots of disk swapping.

  41. buggane


    I still find the sound of my ZX81 cassettes very soothing. Even at 20 minutes for a single program...

  42. lorisarvendu

    Norton Disk Doctor

    Back in about 1998 we had a special "Disk Recovery" PC with Norton Disk Doctor (DOS version) in the Help desk. Students regularly walked away with a devastated look on their faces when told by us that the single floppy with the only copy of their work on it was unreadable. Sadly they quickly cottoned onto the idea that if they brought any old damaged disk along and got us to confirm that it was unreadable, they would then get an extension from the lecturer.

    Nowadays with memory sticks, the Cloud, and "My Documents" automatically redirecting to their Home network drive (which is backed up every night) they have no excuse, and scamming the lecturer has got much more difficult for them.

  43. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    ooh the olden days

    In the olden days I was given a chunk of cash and told to buy computers for the office, with a few constraints such as they all had to double as instrument controllers for the lab, share a single laser printer and some other stuff.

    So we ended up with 13 HP150 MkII (XT just about compatibles) with 1.44 MB dual disk drives all linked togeter using MS Network V 1.0 to a HP 150 connected vis IEEE-488 interface to a 10 Mbyte HDD. (about 30K) The one good thing was that on one one floppy we had DOS, Wordstar, Condor 3 (RDB) and a spreadsheet with no name - you stuck it in Drive A and Work files in Drive B - so simple..

    I once tried to back up the HDD on to tape, after a week continous operation I turned it off

  44. Trevor Gale

    All these storage devices, and yet nobody seems to mention the ultimate - not a disk but a SOLID STATE STORAGE DEVICE with NO BATTERY so could last for absolutely ages. Way back when, I wrote an executive and a primitive operating system of my own for a PDP-8/e, a 12-bit machine with a magnificent 32 KILOwords of memory all-told, in the form of CORE MEMORY. Oh yes, it also had punched-card as a storage medium, but I still have one of the 3-board core memory units and that'll still have some of my code in it from the last time it ran (30 years ago, and it was a 'home' machine!) unless it's been seriously banged about.

    Yes there was already a DEC operating system but I wanted a thin, close-to-the-metal one for my radio-related activities Eventually it got a 1-Megaword DRUM which had 128 heads, damned fast that was!

  45. Chris Evans

    5.25" discs still in use.

    Every few months we get asked to transfer data from BBC DFS 5.25" discs.

    We've even sold some new 5.25" discs this year!

    And we can still transfer data from most sizes of syquest discs.

  46. jesterscup

    BITS Of String ( again)

    Given a 1x1px .gif at 16bit colour the file itself takes 142 Bytes. my rough calculation is that you get around 1.5 million of these on a 1.44MB disk - so by that you need 11 disks.

    That being said mac OSX stated it takes a whopping 4Kb giving me only 368 per disk ( rounding down). you'd need 43,479 ( rounding up) disks for 16 million images.

    However I'm sure someone with more knowledge here is probably going to rubbish my calculations ( and for using 16bit rather than 24bit colour )

    1. Anonymous Coward

      Re: BITS Of String ( again)

      Pretty sure .gif can't do 16-bit colour as it only had an 8-bit palette.

      Hence why PNG is popular.

  47. adam payne

    Zip drive

    Click click click click

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