back to article San Francisco's light rail to upgrade from floppy disks

Those taking public transport in the tech hub of San Francisco may be reassured to know that their rides will soon no longer be dependent on floppy disks. San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency's director of transportation Jeffrey Tumlin told ABC that the city's automatic light-rail control system is running on outdated …

  1. Yorick Hunt Silver badge
    Linux

    Don't knock 'em...

    The oldest floppies I successfully (with zero errors/re-tries) read data from were 5.25" units recorded in 1981 and accessed in (coincidentally) 1998 - seventeen years of longevity. I suspect that they may even have retained their data until today, if not for the entire system having been retired and destroyed.

    Flash drives on the other hand... I dug up some 4Gb devices with audit results from 2019, and nothing could be read from any of them - not even partition information.

    1. PRR Silver badge
      Childcatcher

      Re: Don't knock 'em...

      > Flash drives on the other hand... I dug up some 4Gb devices with audit results from 2019, and nothing could be read from any of them...

      What are you doing to those poor bits????

      Last night I refreshed the thumb drive on my 3rd PC. This is a 4GB drive, the files say 2010-2011, and holds 968MB of the highlights of my porn collection. Also the CD for WinXP, and an older copy of VLC video player. Every bit was readable when I archived the old files to my main machine and picked out new erotica for my latenite viewing pleasure. It is a 'good brand' but a rather goofy model (it has LEGO format snap-block locks). img https://postimg.cc/9D5nsG4h

    2. ecofeco Silver badge

      Re: Don't knock 'em...

      In what world was this? I distinctly remember hundreds of unusable floppies from my youth.

      And do NOT get me started about ZIP drives or chained SCSI.

      1. CrazyOldCatMan Silver badge

        Re: Don't knock 'em...

        I distinctly remember hundreds of unusable floppies from my youth.

        My first linux install involved lots of floppies and lots of media failures.. (friends' work had internet so he would download the files for me and copy them to floppies. Floppy would fail so I'd supply him with a few more. Riunse, repeat.

        I got my own dial-up shortly afterwards (woo - feel the speed of a might 14.4K modem!)

        1. Alan Brown Silver badge

          Re: Don't knock 'em...

          "he would download the files for me and copy them to floppies."

          A verify pass would have helped...

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Don't knock 'em...

      My experience matches yours. Disks that were in good condition when boxed up two decades ago are quite readable. The ones that were about worn out at the time are now... about worn out.

    4. Sudosu Bronze badge

      Re: Don't knock 'em...

      I have dozens of 5 1/4"from the mid 80's (Commodore 64) that still worked fine as of a couple years ago when I started pulling archive grade copies off of them.

      I cannot recall what software I was using, (might have been from the Internet Archive) will have to dig it up as they had recommendations on superior 5 1/4 PC drives to use for better success rates...though my pair of 1541's still actually work as well so I could go old school and just use "Fast Hack'em II" for a backup.

      Less luck with my 3 1/2" ones from the late 90's however.

      1. Alan Brown Silver badge

        Re: Don't knock 'em...

        "Less luck with my 3 1/2" ones from the late 90's however."

        Similar experience here. I had a large stack of 720k floppies (Atari ST) purchased in the early 90s which were barely used but unreadable a decade later

        Then again, back in the early 80s when floppies were _VERY_ expensive they were also highly unreliable - they all pushed being "high quality" but the worst offender was also the most expensive (happened to have an elephant in their advertising)

  2. Bebu Silver badge
    Windows

    Curious what the floppy replacement will be?

    The easiest replacement might be a purely electronic device that emulates a floppy disk. I believe legacy game and vintage computing afficionados have long used these devices.

    I am guessing the 1998 is a bit of a furphy (like the missing '.' from '3 5') and tech is more 1988 or 1978. Guessing IBM PC/XT vintage (probably a 8186 clone :) or an AT so hopefully an ISA bus. If its a CP/M (or MP/M) S100 system perhaps it is 3 five inch floppies. :)

    I imagine the whole system could run on a small risc SBC out of flash but I imagine the replacement will be a huge cloud based monstrosity delivered years late and unaffordably over budget.

    1. BartyFartsLast

      Re: Curious what the floppy replacement will be?

      You'd assume so wouldn't you, but SD cards, USB flash drives etc. as used on those "Gotek" and BlueSCSI devices are pretty unreliable.

      I've never seen a floppy disk zapped by static for instance.

      1. DS999 Silver badge

        Re: Curious what the floppy replacement will be?

        Who says they need removable storage at all? It is probably some ancient system that uses floppies to start up, and runs some archaic control board for the rail switches or something like that.

        It will be replaced by some modern PC that will be connected to the internet so that managers can see status of stuff from home, and will be infected by ransomware before long.

      2. Dave 126 Silver badge

        Re: Curious what the floppy replacement will be?

        > You'd assume so wouldn't you, but SD cards, USB flash drives etc. as used on those "Gotek" and BlueSCSI devices are pretty unreliable. I've never seen a floppy disk zapped by static for instance.

        Industrial SLC Flash drives with over provisioning and ECC in stainless steel housings and using a Railway industry DIN connector do exist.

        https://www.terz-ie.com/?L=1

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Curious what the floppy replacement will be?

          They do, absolutely, where I work we buy enough for several industries because we build the kind of kit they go into.

          But even thogh they are more reliable than the rubbish used by hobbyists in Goteks they still die, wear out etc and can be zapped with static.

      3. MachDiamond Silver badge

        Re: Curious what the floppy replacement will be?

        "I've never seen a floppy disk zapped by static for instance."

        I used to have a ban of magnets in the office so data wouldn't go poof in the floppy era. My thumb drives don't have a problem with them.

    2. DuncanLarge Silver badge

      Re: Curious what the floppy replacement will be?

      > The easiest replacement might be a purely electronic device that emulates a floppy disk

      It's called a GOTEK and you can have one off ebay for £20-30.

      It is a drop in full replacement for a 3.5" floppy drive. YOu plug a USB flash drive into it containing floppy images (it supports a very wide number of floppy image formats) and select which image to mount.

      It is fully hardware compatible witha 3.5" floppy drive, simply plugs into the usual floppy cable.

      They are used to replace floppy drives in all sorts of industrial systems as well as retro computers.

      1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

        Re: Curious what the floppy replacement will be?

        "They are used to replace floppy drives in all sorts of industrial systems as well as retro computers."

        IIRC it was originally invented to keep old floppy based industrial sewing and knitting machines running as floppy drives wore out and disks became harder to source :-)

        1. ChipsforBreakfast

          Re: Curious what the floppy replacement will be?

          Damn, that is a memory I'd tried to lose! Once upon a long ago when e-mail and the internet were still very much in thier adolescence I designed and built a system for an embroidery programming company to allow them to send bitwise images of 3.5" floppies by e-mail or modem because those damn machines all had to use their own special disk formats... fortunately the data was amenable to compression (the images tended to be mostly empty space anyway)!

          Seems almost like another lifetime now!

      2. A.P. Veening Silver badge

        Re: Curious what the floppy replacement will be?

        YOu plug a USB flash drive into it

        A not so minor problem with that is that in 1998 (if that is the correct year, going by other details it was probably earlier), USB wasn't really common, so the chance the hardware will support that drop-in replacement is [understatement] not really great [/understatement].

        1. NorbertP

          Re: Curious what the floppy replacement will be?

          The host hardware doesn't need to support anything; the GoTek connects to the existing floppy connector and emulates the original hardware - as far as the host is concerned it *is* a floppy drive. You put floppy images on your USB stick, SD card, etc., use the buttons on the GoYek to select which image you want, and it behaves as if you had a physical disk in a drive.

    3. Orv Silver badge

      Re: Curious what the floppy replacement will be?

      As late as 2005 I was working on new systems that were programmed via floppy. They were surveillance camera controllers. You used a program to write a config file to the floppy, then used the floppy to upload it to the controller. This kind of stuff used to be common for "if it ain't broke, don't fix it" reasons. The config files were only a few KB so there was no reason to use anything more complicated to transfer them.

  3. Gene Cash Silver badge

    Have they been hacked?

    I haven't read an El Reg article on them being hacked, maybe this isn't a bad thing after all, and they should leave well enough alone?

    > each increasing year the risk of data degradation on the floppy disks increases and that at some point there will be a catastrophic failure

    Um, you know you can copy the data to new floppy disks, right?

    1. sgp

      Re: Have they been hacked?

      My thoughts exactly. And there's plenty of new stock still around.

      1. Richard 12 Silver badge

        Re: Have they been hacked?

        Actually, there aren't many left.

        The last five years or so of manufacture were pretty low quality. The disks didn't last very long at all.

        All the disks you can currently acquire are second hand. There's one or two companies who buy them from anyone shutting down a system like the one in the article to test and resell, but they are also running out.

        Nobody has made the drives for a long time either. Worse, drive timings vary, so not all drives will work in a given device. Most of these devices didn't have an OS and just bit-banged a rough approximation of the protocol - sometimes shutting down their primary function entirely during disk operations as they didn't have the cycles to do both.

        New industrial equipment still used floppies for a long time after PCs stopped. I recall having to explain to a customs officer what a USB floppy drive was, as they'd never seen one before.

        A lot of aircraft still use them regularly for loading configuration data.

        1. DuncanLarge Silver badge

          Re: Have they been hacked?

          > Worse, drive timings vary, so not all drives will work in a given device

          All 3.5" drives are standard. They dont have different RPM, if they do thats because they have a fault.

          5.15" drives did have different RPMs.

          The only differences between 3.5" drives are those that are fully schugart drives (practically EVERYTHING) vs those that are not fully schugart (IBM PC). Many drives support both with a jumper.

          A Gotek supports both with a change to its config files.

          1. IGotOut Silver badge

            Re: Have they been hacked?

            "All 3.5" drives are standard. They dont have different RPM, if they do thats because they have a fault."

            You sure on the "Standard".

            Many, many times I used to find s disk would work absolutely fine in one drive and be utterly unusable in another. Sony's were a particular pita.

            1. CrazyOldCatMan Silver badge

              Re: Have they been hacked?

              disk would work absolutely fine in one drive and be utterly unusable in another

              I've had a number of floppy drives where the head stepper motor rails were mounted fractionally wrongly. They could always read floppies formatted and written by themselves but not always by other drives.

            2. Francis Boyle

              Re: Have they been hacked?

              But that's an issue of individual drive /disk compatibility – an old, and notorious, problem. Protocol compatibility is pretty much given. (I'd be surprised if anything from 19998 is anything other than bog standard when it comes to talking to the host.) So you plug the drive into a machine that has a floppy connector, or more likely use a USB adaptor, and make an image. Of course, you should have an image archived somewhere, but well welcome to the real world. (I obviously don't live in the real world as I have a couple of hundred of the things on my system.)

          2. Adrian Harvey
            Boffin

            Re: Have they been hacked?

            > All 3.5" drives are standard. They dont have different RPM, if they do thats because they have a fault.

            Not all. The apple ones for a start! They had variable RPM at different tracks to fit more data on the outer tracks of the disk (where there was more space) It approaches a Consttant Linear Velocity system (like a CD drive) but is stepped so there's not so many speed transitions. By this means they got 800kB on floppies that a PC could only fit 720kB on. (yes, I know you could tweak that...)

            https://www.retrotechnology.com/herbs_stuff/drive.html#mac14

            https://www.siber-sonic.com/mac/newmillfloppy.html

          3. Richard 12 Silver badge
            Boffin

            Re: Have they been hacked?

            A lot of these bit-banged controllers are at the edge of permitted timings - sometimes slightly outside.

            A lot of drives don't support the full range, do support out-of-range timings in one direction or another, or simply slightly different sequencing that's permitted (or at least, not prohibited) by the FDD interface specification.

            So a drive can work just fine on one device, but not at all on another despite them all nominally being the same.

            Like when Apple changed how they enumerated USB. The standard didn't say what order, and when Apple flipped it around it meant a lot of devices stopped working.

    2. Anthropornis

      Re: Have they been hacked?

      As a home user in GB - reliant on whatever built down to a price floppy drives were available retail - l don't think I was able to get a working PC-compatible 3.5" drive and supply of floppies even 15 years ago. A drive, yes. Choice of floppies, yes. Drive that could reliably write and read the available floppies, no. I'm always amazed to read of people commenting about floppies on lkml, so I suppose there must be some good drives and floppies out there.

      1. Munehaus

        Re: Have they been hacked?

        I was recently given a backup disk from a relative that had been in a draw since 1992. It read perfectly on a new (old stock) £10 USB floppy drive I bought on ebay.

        That's 30+ years from a disk that was badly stored and probably well used and a few years old even before that! Yet modern USB flash drives seem to die if you look at them.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Have they been hacked?

          *drawer

          1. that one in the corner Silver badge

            Re: Have they been hacked?

            >> draw

            > *drawer

            It had been passed around in the prize draw at every local fair for the last three decades, initially as a simple joke until it became a tradition ("Tra-DITION!") and was then treated with veneration and handled carefully. Always stored behind a carriage clock on the mantelpiece, to keep it out of the sun, and occasionally brought out for the wonderment of the younglings, a Relic of The Before Times[1].

            [1] accompanied by the singing of the hymn to the Data Gods, hoping to see a valid binary stream: "We Don't Need Another Zero"

            1. CrazyOldCatMan Silver badge

              Re: Have they been hacked?

              accompanied by the singing of the hymn to the Data Gods, hoping to see a valid binary stream

              Praise be to the Omnissiah!

              1. Binraider Silver badge

                Re: Have they been hacked?

                This tech marine approves!

              2. Our Lord and Savior Rahl

                Re: Have they been hacked?

                From who the holy discharges springeth forth. May the unity of the sacred charges power the immortal reason that hath created the spark.

        2. DuncanLarge Silver badge

          Re: Have they been hacked?

          > Yet modern USB flash drives seem to die if you look at them.

          I had a 54GB flash drive that was used all of 3x in as many years die sitting on a shelf for 1 year or so, I didnt even have to look at it.

          It was dead as a dodo.

          I've had a little 2GB sandisk die and come back from the dead as well! Still works but I dont trust it. I dont trust any of them.

          1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

            Re: Have they been hacked?

            I don't think they are designed to last so long without power. Charge leakage probably. Use them every now and then and they should last a lot longer. I think. :-)

          2. Someone Else Silver badge

            Re: Have they been hacked?

            Counterpoint:

            I have a 32GB flash drive that I use for my music stash in my car. It's been in use for about 6 years now, where it rests in the USB port of my car's entertainment system. Occasionally removed to add more stuff to it; it's now about 2/3s full. Now this car is in a US Midwestern state, where we do have both SUMMERS and WINTERS (all caps intentional). Seems to run just fine, and has since Day One.

            Put a bunch of albums ripped from CDs, Spotify, Tidal (RIP) and even vinyl. Put the selector on "random" and listen. Best damn radio station evah, 'cuz it plays the songs I like by the artists I like, deep tracks and all, and no fackin' commercials!!!

      2. DuncanLarge Silver badge

        Re: Have they been hacked?

        You'll find that most of the issues with writing are due to the old media.

  4. Gene Cash Silver badge

    "best in the US"

    > a nation that hasn't generally built extensive public rail networks, thanks to geography and lack of political will.

    We DID build extensive public rail networks. We just let it all go to shit because they didn't make enough money. Now all that rail is running freight.

    Really annoying, because I have no intention of being felt up by a TSA agent at an airport, so I'm left with driving 1,500 miles. How's that for being green?

    1. sgp

      Re: "best in the US"

      Rail is really good for carrying freight though. Just a shame there's almost no decent passenger service.

      1. david 12 Silver badge

        Re: "best in the US"

        Long distance passenger service was discontinued when first-class mail moved from rail to air.

        US post office had contracts for transport of mail, requiring fast, regular, high-priority trains between all major centers, including trans-continental. Passengers were just gravy. When the mail contracts were lost, passenger services stopped within days.

        Light rail and local-rail built-out also extensive, and was funded out of real-estate development. It was not built for 100 year life (as some heavy-rail developments were), and when it reached end-of-life, and needed re-capitalization, decisions had to be made. It's fair to say that a transport system associated both with real-estate speculation and exploitative railway barons did not have any friends at the time (my ancestor's home-town government was proud of killing the light-rail system for that reason), but the re-capitalization costs for light-rail were greater than for road busses anyway.

        That's not to say that the running costs for Bus systems were less than those for Light Rail, although that argument has certainly been made. American government generally, and even more so local government, has been and continues to be notorious for choosing deferred costs over capital costs.

        1. Gene Cash Silver badge
          Pint

          Re: "best in the US"

          Thanks! That's the first reasonable explanation I've ever heard. Cheers. I can only give one upvote but the beer's on me.

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: "best in the US"

          > It's fair to say that a transport system associated both with real-estate speculation and exploitative railway barons did not have any friends at the time

          Hence the plot for "Who Framed Roger Rabbit", whose fantastic elements have to be explained to the youngsters who are not familiar with the old characters depicted: yes, there was such a thing as a Green Line Tram.

          1. Orv Silver badge

            Re: "best in the US"

            There's a pretty funny irony in the way the Pacific Electric line is venerated by modern urbanists, considering it was originally built to enable suburban sprawl.

        3. Robert Halloran

          Re: "best in the US"

          Outside of the Boston-Washington DC corridor, the population density for effective passenger rail just isn't there in the US. The main cities along that route also have the local mass transit to move people

          to/from the depot to their final destination. The comments above re: shifting mail traffic to air over rail definitely apply.

          1. MachDiamond Silver badge

            Re: "best in the US"

            "Outside of the Boston-Washington DC corridor, the population density for effective passenger rail just isn't there in the US."

            I see it as a cart/horse problem. People don't look to rail for travel as there is very little. It also tends to 'feature' Chicago as a hub and there's a city that's not as popular as it once was. Scheduling is also a problem. For routes that do have stations in out of the way places, the only train might be planned to be there at 2am, but be hours late much of the time. I wanted to go to the Fully Charged Show in Austin, TX one year from California. To take the train, I'd have to arrive a day or two early and to be there for the whole event, I would have had to leave a day or two past. The added cost of hotel and meals made driving far less expensive. That particular train only visited California 2 (or 3) days each week and stopped service in Arizona or New Mexico the other days.

            If Amtrak were given a useful budget, less than what the military can't account for annually, perhaps they could bring rail service into the 21st Century. That would mean more dedicated passenger tracks to minimize delays, cell coverage and trains that could go much faster (not HSR). Flying is an entire day almost regardless of the distance. If a train left in the AM and arrived the next morning, the effective time is nearly the same. A sleeper service is supposed to be offered between Los Angeles and San Francisco. The train will be traveling rather slow but it leaves in the evening and arrives the next morning so those that can sleep on a train like me aren't losing a work day to being strip searched and questioned about why we need to bring sunscreen with us. (I had a bottle that if full would have been too much, but there was only a bit left in the bottom. One TSA inspection didn't find an issue, yet on the return it was domestic terrorism to have a bottle that large on a plane regardless of how little was in it).

        4. Alan Brown Silver badge

          Re: "best in the US"

          The oft-cited GM/Standard Oil/Firestone Ture/National Bus Lines conspiracy was initially started to sell busses and ripping the rails out was a ploy by the companies who got transport contracts to prevent going back

          Busses turned out to be cheaper to buy but 10x more expensive to run, so services were progressively cut/prices raised and that encouraged people into cars. The burgeoning interstate military highway network encouraged people with cars to use those highways instead of long distance rail

          From there it just snowballed and as all the players (except National Bus Lines - which was a front company anyway) made more money, they were happy for it to continue

          https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/General_Motors_streetcar_conspiracy - there are a bunch of YT videos which go indepth (not just 10 minute summaries, but go into the mechanics of the shell companies used, etc)

      2. deadlockvictim

        Re: "best in the US"

        sgp» Rail is really good for carrying freight though. Just a shame there's almost no decent passenger service.

        This tune came back to me after almost 40 years on reading that:

        Guys» Freight is great | Freight is great | We carry weight 'cos we are freight | And freight is great. | Freight is great | Freight is great | We never sulk.We hulk the bulk. | 'Cos freight is great. | We never make a fuss. | We got the goods on us. | We take the loads from off the roads | And freight is great.

        Gals» Couldn't stand gravel and sand | Being ignored, no-one aboard | Nobody complaining, 'we were late again' | I should hate carrying freight, nobody living in me | Got to be a living, breathing passenger train.

        There is a poorly recorded video on YouTube. Be warned: here be roller-skates! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-3sm0sr1iTI

      3. Cynical Pie

        Re: "best in the US"

        To be fair the BART system is San Francisco is really good and a very quick and cheap way to get into the city, especially from SFO

      4. Fred Daggy Silver badge
        Pint

        Re: "best in the US"

        In the Transport Industry, if you want to make money, transport nothing with legs. Neither 4 legs nor 2.

        I guess, tables and chair excepted.

        1. My other car WAS an IAV Stryker

          Re: "best in the US"

          > I guess, tables and chair excepted.

          Doesn't count in the US -- the legs aren't usually attached while still in the box. The consumer -- or furniture store's cheap contracted delivery grunt -- does that part.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: "best in the US"

      My local public transport journey planner offers Car as an option for the fastest commute to work and it even suggests using a car to "beat the traffic" for some routes.

      If I do try to be socially responsible and take the bus, it takes an hour and a half for a 6 mile journey which is fucking soul destroying.

      If I use the light rail option, I risk being crammed into a plastic box getting far too close to some idiot whos confused some sickly sweet deodorant into a chemical warfare agent.

      1. GlenP Silver badge

        Re: "best in the US"

        I live in a semi-rural part of the UK (i.e. there are fields at the back of the house but we're only a very few miles out of town). I tried a similar journey planner for my then commute to work which was a 30 minute drive. I *could* get there by public transport, and would only be two hours late starting. If I then finished at my normal time I couldn't get home until the next day, about 30 minutes after I would need to leave again!

        I continued driving!

        These days the commute involves climbing the staircase from kitchen to spare bedroom, aka the office.

        1. James Wilson

          Re: "best in the US"

          <Yorkshire accent>

          You had it lucky! When I were a lad...

          </Yorkshire accent>

        2. Korev Silver badge
          FAIL

          Re: "best in the US"

          I made a similar calculation back in the UK (>2hrs vs 40 minutes). The dumb thing is that there was a railway line that Beaching butchered running the same route (see icon).

          Ironically, the railway line meant cycling took half the time that getting the now convoluted train route to work....

        3. Workshy researcher

          Re: "best in the US"

          I too, live in semi rural area of the UK. A few years ago our office was moved further away from me. We were encouraged to look at public transport solutions. In my case, getting to work for 8:30 would involve leaving at 6pm the previous day.

        4. Our Lord and Savior Rahl

          Re: "best in the US"

          When I lived in Devon and worked in London, I looked into getting the train as my Land Rover cost roughly £70 in diesel there and back (those were the days) and meant 4am out the door and around 9pm return.

          My options were drive to Exeter and get the express, which took about the same amount of time but was £240 a day. Or take the slow train which cost the same, but left at 11pm the night before and would get me back about 3am.

          And so I carried on putting miles on the car, in which I could enjoy being on my own and listening to podcasts while I slowly crawled down the M4 with everyone else.

          1. MachDiamond Silver badge

            Re: "best in the US"

            "And so I carried on putting miles on the car, in which I could enjoy being on my own and listening to podcasts while I slowly crawled down the M4 with everyone else."

            It would then be a good idea to leave the Land Rover at home and find some high mpg econobox to make the commute in and damn the aesthetics. Decades ago my dad did that. He needed a truck for the ranch, but his day job as a pharmacist was 60 miles each way. He ran the numbers and found that a cheap economy car saved enough in petrol, insurance and tires to pay for itself. A lesson he taught me about how to look at costs and solve problems. I think he still had that car when passed away and didn't get the chance to completely wear it out, but he did factor in some longer term thinking with an engine rebuild/swap when the odometer rolled over. As long as the rest of the car was in good nick, replacing the engine/transmission would have been a good option. Most of the miles were on the highway rather than city driving and there wasn't a lot of traffic where he lived.

      2. LybsterRoy Silver badge

        Re: "best in the US"

        -- whos confused some sickly sweet deodorant into a chemical warfare agent. --

        Ahhh - fond memories of crush hour on the tube.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: "best in the US"

          "fond"?

          1. Jan 0 Silver badge

            Re: "best in the US"

            Yes "fond". Perfectly understandable if you haven't had a sarcasm bypass.

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: "best in the US"

              .. say the person unable to detect the sarcasm in the question.

              Sigh.

      3. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: "best in the US"

        getting far too close to some idiot whos confused some sickly sweet deodorant into a chemical warfare agent

        Personally I think the advertising moron who shows people emptying half a can of [any brand] on their armpits ought to be forced to breathe the contents of an entire can for educational purposes and then have the now half empty container placed where it hurts*.

        I used to live in a country with fairly functional bus transport, but people who used this crud (a) as advertised and (b) as a replacement for taking a shower meant I occasionally had to get off the bus pronto or risk puking all over the f*ckwit in question. That would have been deserved (ditto for smokers), but I prefer the contents of my stomach where it belongs.

        * No, I'm really a gentle person (stop laughing), but I do believe in solving problems once, properly.

        1. CrazyOldCatMan Silver badge

          Re: "best in the US"

          emptying half a can of [any brand] on their armpits

          Oldest brother once worked at a palnt nursery and was put in charge of a couple of yoofs on some sort of YTS scheme (this was a fair while ago). Said yoofs had to be convinced to do basic bodily hygiene - so much so that the nursery bought some basic spray deoderant for them which was kept in the changing rooms. After a while, there was a box-full of empty spray cans and the yoofs were ordered (by the site manager) to dispose of the box. Which they did - by placing said box of the bonfire where all the green waste was burnt..

          Apparently, having a can wizz past your head at a very high speed (and then going through several greenhouses) is an interesting experience. Long-handled rakes were then promptly used to pull all the remaining cans out of the fire *before* they too emulated a Saturn-V heading in the wrong direction.

          Site manager had to pay for repairs since he'd made a mistake by not realising that said yoofs were not the sharpest trowels in the box and not specifying *how* to dispose of the cans. At the same time, he discovered that they'd also discovered the ability of the cans to act as impromptu flame throwers and made an official proclamation that anyone misusing the cans in any way and not disposing of them properly would be subject to immediate dismissal.

      4. CrazyOldCatMan Silver badge

        Re: "best in the US"

        confused some sickly sweet deodorant into a chemical warfare agent

        I'm convinced that a large segment of the human population is functionally nose-blind. How else can you explain walking 50m behind someone and *still* almost choking on their perfume/deordorant/aftershave?

        Yes - my hearing, taste and sense of smell all work above average thankyouverymuch. It's only the sight element that's well below par (even though I do have excellent night vision - within the limitations of my sight generally.)

        1. MachDiamond Silver badge

          Re: "best in the US"

          "How else can you explain walking 50m behind someone and *still* almost choking on their perfume/deordorant/aftershave?"

          I had a girlfriend that poured it on. How do you tell a SO that you don't care for their smell and not spend nights alone? She'd smelled much better fresh out of the shower and I tried to emphasize that with compliments before she got into her morning routine.

    3. Chris Miller

      Re: "best in the US"

      Once safe, cheap commercial air travel was developed, rail became hopeless for journeys much longer than 500 miles. I've taken 1,500 mile rail journeys in the US (because I'm a rail nerd) - it takes 2 or 3 days and the only passengers are tourists and those who refuse to travel by air (mainly Amish and similar). Even taking European high-speed trains, I've done London-Lyon-Barcelona in a day, but it was a very long day (over 11 hours for an average speed of ~90 mph) - I could have flown to LA in the same time (and probably cheaper, too).

      Big US cities (NY, Boston, Chicago, even LA to an extent) have extensive, cheap, well-used commuter rail systems, but inter-city distances are just too great, except for the Bos-Wash corridor.

      Note to editors: BART isn't a "light rail" system by most definitions, it's too fast and too heavy. It's a pretty standard commuter rail network with a weird track gauge (for odd reasons known only to the locals).

      1. Dinanziame Silver badge
        Devil

        Re: "best in the US"

        with a weird track gauge (for odd reasons known only to the locals).

        I forgot the place where I read this, but apparently BART was designed by engineers at local universities who had no experience whatsoever in rail systems. Consequentially, they thought the best possible thing to do was to reinvent everything from scratch — can't be just following what people developed over decades of experimentation, need to invent something revolutionary. In particular, they infamously designed BART with cylindrical wheels, leading to screeching noise and wear and tear. Forty years later, they finally just changed to conical wheels like all other trains in the world. By designing something very different from all existing systems, they also ensured that it was way more expensive to build and maintain.

        1. spacecadet66 Bronze badge

          Re: "best in the US"

          > I forgot the place where I read this, but apparently BART was designed by engineers at local universities

          It was not. It was designed by actual engineers working for large engineering firms. The problem is that they used it as a kind of showcase for all kinds of Innovative (TM) ideas they had which were going to revolutionize commuter rail in the late 20th century. Spoiler alert: they did not revolutionize commuter rail in the late 20th century, and now the Bay Area has to deal with all kinds of wacky non-standard equipment.

          1. Someone Else Silver badge

            Re: "best in the US"

            So they really did re-invent the wheel!

            Sad....

      2. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

        Re: "best in the US"

        "I've taken 1,500 mile rail journeys in the US (because I'm a rail nerd) - it takes 2 or 3 days and the only passengers are tourists and those who refuse to travel by air (mainly Amish and similar). Even taking European high-speed trains, I've done London-Lyon-Barcelona in a day, but it was a very long day (over 11 hours for an average speed of ~90 mph) - I could have flown to LA in the same time (and probably cheaper, too)."

        I guess it depends a lot on where you live and how you to either the airport or rail stations, one of which will be more convenient than the other. Then there;s check-in times ans "security" at the airport(s) to take into account. Does either the plane or train go direct or, if there's a change, what's the wait time at the via point? How you travel and how long it takes really depends on the person, where they live and where they want to go to.

        1. MachDiamond Silver badge

          Re: "best in the US"

          "Then there;s check-in times ans "security" at the airport(s) to take into account."

          For me, it's a 2 hour drive to an airport with good connections. I need to arrive 2 hours in advance of the flight to park, get a shuttle to the terminal, get past security with my virginity intact and arrive at the gate for "random additional screening" before getting on the plane. I think it takes ~15 to get from the terminal complex to the runway worst case and wait there if there's a line up as is the case in the morning. On the other end, it's a mission to find where the luggage will be dispensed and then finding the carousel that it's changed to at the last minute due to technical issues. Off to the car hire counter and then wait for the shuttle to get to the car assigned with fingers crossed that it's there and correct. Now time to drive to the destination. It's all freakin' day! Unless you live near a useful airport and you are going someplace that's also close to a useful airport, flying might not be the best option. I didn't mention having to fly in the wrong direction to get the airline's hub to catch another plane that takes you to your destination airport. Direct flights these days can be rare. I've also run into the problem of traveling for work and having two bags to check yet the most convenient feeder flights use aircraft too small to allow two full size bags plus carry on. Did I mention that driving can be a really good option?

      3. Orv Silver badge

        Re: "best in the US"

        If I remember right, it was because they were afraid that lightweight standard-gauge rolling stock would blow over on the bridges, so they went with broad gauge?

      4. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: "best in the US"

        It also doesn't help that the rail journey costs the user about as much as the plane journey. Why, I have no idea; the fuel should be cheaper and seems like there are fewer people involved to pay.

      5. This post has been deleted by its author

      6. MachDiamond Silver badge

        Re: "best in the US"

        "it takes 2 or 3 days and the only passengers are tourists and those who refuse to travel by air (mainly Amish and similar). "

        I'd see a lot of Mennonite on the trains.

        500 mile journey? I'd prefer to take a train, but driving isn't that much slower than flying if you take into account all of the "not-in-the-air" carp one has to go through these days. I can get close to 500 miles on one tank of petrol if I'm careful and the wind is behind me (not THAT wind!). Mostly it's a matter of the number and frequency of "comfort" breaks and whether I want to eat in the car or not. It's about a 6 hour drive if mostly on interstate highways. 10 hours on small highways and if travel includes streets and lanes, you'd likely not find a passenger airport too close by. I really like the ability to take as much luggage/stuff as I want, not have it "searched" and change my schedule at will. I ended up scrubbing my eclipse journey based on poor weather forecasts (1,200 trip) and flying would have been a poor option anyway. It was two days of driving each way, but I built in some visits to cool places along the way rather than just trying to get a glimpse of same from 35,000' up. I also had options to spend more time on the trip if I wanted. Cancelling didn't cost me much although one campground didn't want to give me any money back even after giving notice 3 days in advance so I'm glad I used my credit card and disputes are dead simple to do online. Had I been flying, I would have been out all of the money as they DO have official policies and without a car to camp in, I would have had to book lodgings a year in advance so there would be no way to get refunds on that.

    4. Dinanziame Silver badge
      Angel

      Re: "best in the US"

      Low bar

      1. FirstTangoInParis Bronze badge

        Re: "best in the US"

        I flew into Washington DC many years back and wondered why there was no light rail /metro connection to the city. Traffic in rush hour was hideous. My host explained the locals round the airport weren’t keen on a railway because then criminals would use it and crime would increase. I haven’t been back but looks like the metro does now go there.

        1. Robert Halloran

          Re: "best in the US"

          DC has two airports: Reagan National (formerly Washington Nat'l) just across the Potomac River from the District proper, which is restricted to shorter-haul flights, and Dulles 25 mi/40 km out into Virginia for long-haul/int'l flights. When I worked there late 70s the Metro did service National but the suburban rail line out into Virginia ended about 6 mi/10 km short of Dulles. This was seen by people as a Bad Plan as this made Dulles harder to get to/from, and the existing track was running down the road's median but ended short of the airport. I see they've finally corrected that so you can go all the way out.

          1. spacecadet66 Bronze badge

            Re: "best in the US"

            > DC has two airports

            Three airports if we count BWI.

            1. Robert Halloran

              Re: "best in the US"

              >> DC has two airports

              >Three airports if we count BWI.

              True enough: not much further from downtown DC than Dulles and *it's* served by both the DC/Baltimore commuter rail and the Amtrak NE Corridor line for their non-express trains.

        2. spacecadet66 Bronze badge

          Re: "best in the US"

          > locals round the airport weren’t keen on a railway because then criminals would use it

          And every dog within 50 miles of the airport perks up its ears.

        3. MachDiamond Silver badge

          Re: "best in the US"

          "I flew into Washington DC many years back and wondered why there was no light rail /metro connection to the city. "

          When was that? I went to DC in 2009 and took the light rail from the airport into town and out to College Park, MD to visit a friend. I had a friend pick me up for a trip to see the Goddard Space Flight Center where she worked and wondered why there wasn't an extension/stop there. Of all the places where there could be a good public transportation system, Washington, DC should be a very good candidate. I do see the point of the hotels not wanting to grant criminals a fast and easy way to get around. A large portion of the city of Washington, DC is a hellhole and needs a bulldozer school to hold lessons there for a month or so. The sorts that would use a rail system to broaden where they operate aren't paying the fares so there's that problem as well. The cops just make them exit the trains at the next stop when caught. They wait for the next train and continue on.

    5. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: "best in the US"

      Histrionic much?

  5. Howard Sway Silver badge

    San Francisco's light rail to upgrade from floppy disks

    "These new Iomega Zip drives should take us through to the end of this century".

    1. Dave 126 Silver badge

      Re: San Francisco's light rail to upgrade from floppy disks

      The Iomega 'Click of Death' takes on new connotations in a clickity clackity environment.

      How reliable are Minidiscs over time? I know the data versions of the drives (NetMD) were late to market because of Sony copyright concerns (the same concerns that saw Sony give Apple's iPod a lead in the market), but I don't remember an MD going wrong on me. They're optical, so should be fairly resistant to magnets and static.

      1. DuncanLarge Silver badge

        Re: San Francisco's light rail to upgrade from floppy disks

        > How reliable are Minidiscs over time?

        No issues so far. They are MO so much less delicate than other RW media.

        > I know the data versions of the drives (NetMD)

        I think you mean MD-DATA. NetMD was a USB transfer method for copying music faster than real time to disc. MD-DATA was the data storage version allowing approx 340MB?

        > They're optical, so should be fairly resistant to magnets and static.

        Actually MD's are magnetic. They are read optically and written with a compination of optical and magetism. They are made of a material that will change its magnetisation only when heated to a specifi temp, which is where the laser comes in. The laster heats the disk and that allows a magnetic moment to be recorded onto the disc. Once cooled that magnetic moment can not be changed. A MD is totally immune from external magnetic fields (although perhaps extremily srtong ones might have an effect).

        The disc is read optically as the light from the laser is twisted by the magnetic fields.

        1. Dave 126 Silver badge

          Re: San Francisco's light rail to upgrade from floppy disks

          Ah, thank you for clarifying. I knew they used some magic combo of laser and magnets to record, couldn't remember the details.

          Dang, it was a great portable music format if you had a player with enough buffer for 'electronic shock protection'. And support for gapless playback between album tracks was great.

      2. seven of five

        Re: San Francisco's light rail to upgrade from floppy disks

        MD is still fine, they are some kind of MO. Drives are becoming hard to come by, lost some media to mechanical wear. Though I only use them for audio (portable unit in the car, built-in (JDM) unit in "the other car" and a 19" one at home. All LP capable. Data drives never really made it outside Japan.

      3. Annihilator

        Re: San Francisco's light rail to upgrade from floppy disks

        All of my MD media is still perfectly playable after 25 years. The player (an MZ-R35) can no longer "write" to media (or it can, but it destroys it and renders it unusable - funnily enough I haven't tried again since) but playback is perfect. Battery is shot too, but replacements are available.

        Wasn't a fancy-dan Net-MD, but did have optical-in so could record CDs pretty flawlessly (ATRAC was a brilliant format). I miss it in a way.

      4. MachDiamond Silver badge

        Re: San Francisco's light rail to upgrade from floppy disks

        "They're optical, so should be fairly resistant to magnets and static."

        But they can be sensitive to light bleaching the dye. If it ain't one thing, it's another.

    2. CrazyOldCatMan Silver badge

      Re: San Francisco's light rail to upgrade from floppy disks

      "These new Iomega Zip drives should take us through to the end of this century".

      Found one of those in my "box of crap pushed to the back of the cupboard that I really ought to throw away one day". Even had a few zip drives [1] in the same box. But no power supply or cables and my tuits were definately square when it came to getting it 'working' again.

      [1] My wife asked me if it was worth either selling it or giving it to the charity shop.. She got slightly offended [2] when I started laughing..

      [2] If it wasn't for me, she'd still be using a Nokia candy-bar phone. She's not *quite* a luddite but has a disconnection from modern consumer technology. Which is odd because she's otherwise fairly technical (she was a system programmer on IBM S/370s and is currently a Sharepoint admin and Power Automate specialist)

  6. Annihilator

    "The agency noted that its system was installed in 1998, when floppies were still in common use and, er, "computers didn't have hard drives." That doesn't exactly match reality, since hard drives were already very common at the time"

    Not only that, but I'm fairly sure 1998 was around the time that Apple started removing floppies from their machines.

    1. ecofeco Silver badge

      Hell there was EISA before that and PCI was introduced in 1993!

      ISA lasted until almost 2002!

      I remember when having a 200MB drive was considered awesome in the 1990s!

  7. WonkoTheSane
    Coat

    It's about time!

    Trains are much more comfortable than riding around on floppy disks.

  8. PhilipN Silver badge

    Minidisk recommended

    I still have an old MD rig in the cupboard with long-unused disks. Fire it up to play from time to time. Works fine. Including the last incremental backup I did. Haven't yet tested their resilience to coffee spills.

    1. Dave 126 Silver badge

      Re: Minidisk recommended

      You should just be able to rinse the disc in clean water, like a CD.

      I remember Sony advertisements showing a Minidisc being run over by a skateboarder.

  9. DuncanLarge Silver badge

    Easy

    Just swap the floppy drive for a Gotek and a flash drive and you are done.

  10. old lag

    Logica

    BART system software was created by Logica in the mid 80s. I just missed out on that gig and was jealous of my Logibod colleague who had done a stint out in SF.

    https://ieeexplore.ieee.org/document/197870/similar#similar

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Logica.. BART ticket machines the worst UI ever?

      I remember the first time I stood in front of a BART ticket machine utterly baffled. Would have been 1986 in the Fremont BART station. Thinking to myself who designed this total piece of sh*t. Then I remembered some story in the Sunday Times a few years before about Logica getting the BART ticking system contract. Then it was ah, now it all makes sense. Those guys who at the time mostly did big UK government contracts and had an "interesting" reputation to say the least. Not quite Fujitsu "interesting" . But along the same lines.

      I think the last time I tried to buy and put credit on one of those paper BART tickets with a strip (I still have one in a drawer somewhere) would have been about 10 years ago. There had been some minor changes in the ticket machine UI in the intervening decades but it was still a totally confusing counter intuitive interface, i.e total sh*t.

      Soon after that the Clipper card worked on BART (all the time,not sometimes) so never had to deal with the BART ticket machine ever again. Good riddance.

      And from what I heard at the time even by the very low standards of the BART network construction balls up the people running that particular clown show were not too happy with the Logica work either.

      1. This post has been deleted by its author

  11. Gene Cash Silver badge

    Google "Amtrak Auto Train"

    Anyone here sounds like they're interested in trains in general.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Auto_Train

    It's a car-carrying service between (sort of) Orlando, FL, and Washington DC

    It was fricking awesome for going to the Nat'l Air & Space museum, and just "touristing" DC in general. I don't usually get to do that.

    > The Auto Train has the highest revenue of any Amtrak long-distance train

    Then why the hell aren't there more of them?!?

    I need to do that again one of these days.

    1. Robert Halloran

      Re: Google "Amtrak Auto Train"

      Cost for one-way is roughly $300/vehicle & $100/person for an 850 mi/1400 km run. Approx. travel time 17 hours with one train each northbound/southbound daily. No in-between stops.

      Given the route parallels the I-95 corridor along the US east coast, and can be driven in a little under 12 hours, the demand is pretty specific for people out of the Bos-Wash megaplex headed to the FL theme parks and wanting to avoid dealing with traffic. As with passenger rail in general, the distances across the US and the availability of cheap airfare discourages usage (DC - Orlando airfares available for $120 one-way)

      1. MachDiamond Silver badge

        Re: Google "Amtrak Auto Train"

        "As with passenger rail in general, the distances across the US and the availability of cheap airfare discourages usage"

        With rail, the time on the train is a big part of the adventure. If you just want to get to aunt Mabel's house and back on a holiday weekend, taking the train might be impossible. There are plans in the US to add a bunch of routes going North and South as most long distance routes are East-West. The network is still Chicago-centric so adding hubs in other parts of the country will help things out along with adding additional runs so stations that are now only visited in the wee hours will see trains at much more reasonable hours.

        I used to question why the prices on Amtrak would rise exponentially as the train filled up until I found out that they don't have much rolling stock. Many trains sell out or run out of sleeper rooms a month or two in advance and there's no way to add more cars and perhaps another loco. This makes it a problem to travel by rail if you aren't planning months ahead. I'm waiting to see if they do a sale on the 10 segment tickets soon. They are coach only, but I'm thinking of a trip with a stay in a hotel every other night so I'll get some sleep as I don't do that well in the coach seats. I've even seen some concepts for bringing back the old style of sleeper car with bunk beds sectioned off with a curtain rather than the smallest roomette that they have now being the lowest tier with a proper bed. I love the roomette, but it's not cheap if it isn't booked months in advance.

        The train also needs good ties to other transportation such as airports. It's easy to get from the US to London by air and then to Wales by train with luggage without ever having to hire a car. My friend always has a spare car of some sort I can drive for a week when I visit if I need it. The last time three of us went on a photo adventure all over and I never needed to hire a car. Most of the time we went to places by train, but a few places were too far out of the way and a bus would have been ages.

    2. Orv Silver badge

      Re: Google "Amtrak Auto Train"

      The Auto Train is mostly there for snowbirds who go to Florida for the winter, want a car to get around when they get there, but are too old and infirm to drive for 12 hours.

      Otherwise it shares the same problem as all Amtrak services -- an unappealing combination of being more expensive than flying, slower than driving, and always late.

      1. MachDiamond Silver badge

        Re: Google "Amtrak Auto Train"

        "Otherwise it shares the same problem as all Amtrak services -- an unappealing combination of being more expensive than flying, slower than driving, and always late."

        The advantages are that you aren't driving for a very long day or two days with a hotel in the middle. It's more expensive but you get fed and there's more to see over being 35,000' and just looking down on clouds. Being late can sometimes be good if you like train travel and the car train isn't something you do for 3-4 days and then go home. You are also traveling overnight so you aren't losing a whole lot of holiday time since you have to sleep sometime anyway and sleeping while driving doesn't end well.

        Exact circumstances make a big difference. Yes, it can be faster to drive. It can be less expensive to drive/fly, but you can also be quite late if your flight gets cancelled or there's a highway closure or just lots of traffic on a holiday. Taking luggage on a plane gets more expensive all of the time. If you are going to Prague for Christmas and need to pack warm clothes, there isn't the option to just take a carryon bag. When I helped a friend move from Southern California to Northern Idaho, I had one big suitcase with bedding since one night at his old house everything was with the movers and when we got to his new home, everything was with the movers. Taking the train home didn't cost anymore to check that suitcase and I didn't have to bother with it while traveling. I expect it would have been expensive since I had several bags (big suitcase, small suitcase, personal bag, camera kit/computer backpack). Parking was free at my home train station and would have been dear at the airport. I was also completely shagged out from helping my friend move (I'm too old for this) so I slept a lot on the train and nice people brought me meals and drinks on a regular basis.

  12. legless82

    The Boeing 747-400 (of which there are over 200 still flying, despite being rare in passenger use now) still has its software updates via floppy disc too

  13. J.G.Harston Silver badge

    "in 1998 ... computers didn't have hard drives."

    We were using a 100M hard drive in around 1985 at school, split into two partitions from memory.

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Please keep the floppies...this is MUNI we are talking about

    Anyone familiar with the catastrophic incompetence and deep seated corruption of SF City Hall knows that any upgrades to the MUNI system will arrive many years late at immense cost. If it ever works. Most likely wont. The truly epic clusterf*ck of the Cities death spiral public school payroll system is business as usual. Not an aberration. A maybe $3M max dev project has cost many $10M's and still doesn't work. Not surprising for a school distinct that employs more administrators than teachers. Far more administrators. The new system paid the administrators come what may. It was the teachers who often went without paychecks for many weeks at a time.

    I laughed out-loud at the statement the MUNI's street-cars were great. The street car system was only built out after the local unions had made the far more extensive trolley-car network (about 6 times larger) bankrupt. Even after the City had taken it over and threw huge amounts of money at it. By getting two man only operation of trolley-cars written in the City Charter. The street car routes were not even the most heavily used trolley car routes. But the new street cars were single operator and the building light rail is always surrounded by immense municipal corruption of some kind or other. So you have the L Taraval and the J Church which go nowhere really and nothing on the Geary, Van Ness, Mission corridors which were the most heavily used trolley-car routes. After Market St. A pattern repeated across the City.

    And so on.

    As for people going on about the US passenger rail system and how it sucks. None of those foreign counties rail networks that people hold up as "doing it better" would survive as viable going concerns very long under the US Federal regulatory regime. None. The situation is ever worse at the state level. Those very successful rail operators in Japan, Switzerland and even SNCF would soon be out of business if they had to operation under US regulations for passenger rail. Just ask Alstom about the time their tried to sell the TGV in the US. And why they wanted nothing to do with the Great California " High Speed Rail" fiasco. Which has the added element of pure fraud and corruption from start to end.

    Seattle used to have a fantastic bus system. Until it was bankrupted by the totally insane idea to build a light rail system. Which moves relatively few passengers at high cost. And the carriages are a health hazard due to the city making it impossible to eject junkies who spend all day riding around on the trams. UW published some very daming reserach recently on just how contaminated the light rail system is. The buses are mostly safe.

    So its going to be the same story with those shiny new Siemens street-cars in SF. And the older Breda ones too. There is a very good reason why most locals drive and dont use MUNI. Unless there is absolutely no other alternative. Saying that I have nothing but praise for MUNI drivers. Great people. Considering what they have to put up with So will always back them up when ever there is trouble with passengers. A fairly regular occurrence unfortunately. With the usual suspects.

    So yeah, keep the floppies. It works. Something that cannot be said of anything the City has rolled out in the last 20 plus years. Although they finally got the Clipper card working recently. All over the Bay Area. After how many decades? It started back in the 1990's from what I remember.

    1. Orv Silver badge

      Re: Please keep the floppies...this is MUNI we are talking about

      Gotta disagree with you on the Seattle light rail. I used to live there. It halved travel times between downtown and the University District compared to buses, and the trains were packed almost every day when I was there.

      It got a reputation for low ridership mostly because the initial segments they completed were not the most popular routes. For political reasons it had to go to the airport first even though not many out-of-towners ride the thing. Once it actually started going places people needed to commute, though, it got more popular in a big hurry.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Please keep the floppies...Seattle buses

        I've been follow the light rail fiasco in Seattle since the original big white lies were been told about it back in the early 1990's. About the high ridership it would get and how it was not going to cost a fortune like every other new light rail system in the US. and not going to strip the maintenance and new bus acquisition budget of King County Metro.

        All lies of course. Which if you have been reading the Seattle Times (not The Stranger) or watch KIRO/KING/KOMO etc over the last few decades you might be aware of. And I'm not talking the early SLUT embarrassments either. Ridership has been up the last deacde but nowhere near the projections used to sell the system and the costs are horrific. The total cost per passenger mile will never ever come close to the numbers promised. And Sound Transit will always have severe budget issues and keep needing bailouts.

        I'm confused by you're not being able to get from the U District downtown quickly. Before the light rail came along there used to be a very fast X service downtown from the U District and after it went in the bus tunnel it got to Pioneer Sq and points south in no time at all. Got on I-5 at 45'th and off the freeway around Denny. Yeah the buses that took surface streets through places like Montlake, Capitol Hill etc took forever. But that's why Metro Bus had the great X express bus network. The X buses to places Bellevue, South Center, Northgate etc were very fast and very comfortable.

        So yeah. I lived in Seattle too. On and off for several decades. Both as a car driver and and a transit user. The bus system was fantastic. Light rail has been a money pit which has sucked finance out of all other transit projects. And we wont even start on the ongoing ferry fiasco. Which goes back more than 20 years when the state and local governments refused to face up to the reality of the end of huge cross subsides by car owners. From all over the state. Just for the Puget Sound Ferry system. So it has slowly (and more recently, quickly) started falling apart. I'm waiting for the first ferry to sink, not just hit a dock, due to botched maintenance,.

        You need a certain high density of urban population to support light rail successfully. Quite a few European and Asians cites do. Where light rail works very well. But no US city does. So they are all very expensive white elephants. At least in the US.

        1. Orv Silver badge

          Re: Please keep the floppies...Seattle buses

          When I would take them (around rush hour) the X buses got stuck in traffic like everyone else. It could take an hour to get from the U District to downtown, although half an hour was more typical. And they were standing room only all the time. It was pretty miserable.

          I don't really buy the idea that the US is so unique that things that work in other places can't work here. If it's true, it's only because we're uniquely incompetent (American exceptionalism FTW!)

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Please keep the floppies...Seattle buses...still best

            So spending upwards of $20B ( when you factor in financing costs) to knock maybe 10/15 mins off a journey from the U District downtown with a light rail system that has only half the passenger carrying capacity of the express bus line it replaced is a good use of public transit money? Really? On what is not even the most heavily used travel route in Seattle.

            One of the cheapest and most practical plans discussed 30 years ago was to expand the bus tunnel system. To U District and a whole bunch of other places as well. Not only would we have got a much cheaper system (by at least $15B) with much lower running costs but the bus tunnel would have had at least 3x / 4x the passenger capacity of light rail (per hour). But not enough graft in buses and the transit "activists" love to play with trains.

            The only thing "special" thing about the US is that most European public transit systems could not be built under the regulatory regimes now current in most US states. Except at horrific cost. Lets ignore the utter insanity of CEQA in California. Which makes it almost impossible to build any viable infrastructure except at 10x / 20x the cost of any European state. WA is not far behind .

            The cost of just the "Environmental Impact" Report process for the 520 bridge replacement was greater than the cost of just building the old bridge again from scratch. About $300M. The new bridge now had to support light rail and bunch of other transit fads. Even though light rail made zero sense and there already was a dedicated HOV bus lane on the bridge for decades and all the way back to the 405 and Bellevue. Not that you saw many busses on it as its a low ridership route.

            To pick one example from Europe. The light rail system as built in Toulouse in France could not have been build in the US in the time and budget it was built in. Multiply each by a factor of 4 or 5 minimum. So you would have ended up with a much smaller system. If any at all. IN a few decades time.

            And we wont even talk about the final cost of the new 520 bridge $6B+?. Or the fact the toll to try to pay for it has increased traffic on the Mercer Island bridge few 100%. Or the Mercer Island Bridge light rail fiasco. Yeah, going to be lots of Mercer Island folk using the light rail. Lets reduce the bridge traffic capacity for a tiny light-rail ridership.

            Seattle had a great well thought out and integrated transit system back in the 1990's. It was cheap to run an very efficient for daily traffic loads in the Greater Seattle area. In the last 20 years they have spent or committed to spending almost $100B in debt for a system that adds no effective extra passenger carrying capacity over what they had 30 years ago. All extra capacity added in the last two decades to the system is due to extra buses

            As I said a monumental waste of money. Just like light rail in San Jose, Los Angeles and now Portland. Light rail works in very high density urban cores with very strong local journey patterns. Which none of these cities have. Ever been to "downtown" San Jose. It makes Basingstoke look like a big city. And LA....

            For low and moderate density urban areas with diffuse daily journey flows buses are the best solution. And the only efficient solution. Which is what I thought traffic engineering was all about. Not pandering to urban life style fantasies of a very small very affluent group of urban / transit "activists"

  15. Andrew Scott

    zip

    recovered files from a zip disk a couple of years ago for an office using a usb connected drive. disk was probably 20 years old at the time. They were lucky i hadn't trashed the drive, probably the last one on campus.

    1. ecofeco Silver badge

      Re: zip

      I'm amazed it worked at all!

  16. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

    If it ain't broke, don't fix it.

  17. ruy

    Are you sure you got that date right? Was not it 88?

    Something does not add up. By 1998, hard disks at home were pretty common, I had already 300MB disks, and around 1992 had already two 150MB disks. They do not sound so big today, however even by 1995 standards, diskettes were already going the way of the dinossaur with Windows 95+Office 95 having a respectable size of almost 30 floppies.

    1. diodesign (Written by Reg staff) Silver badge

      Re: Are you sure you got that date right? Was not it 88?

      If you watch the original source, they said it was installed 26 years ago (1998) and it was designed to last 20-25 years, which all makes sense, and why it needs upgrading.

      I think perhaps some of us think 1998 was 10 years ago. It was 26. In 1998, USB was only 2 years old. Netscape was 4 years old. Arm IPO'd. 1998 is hella history.

      C.

      1. ecofeco Silver badge

        Re: Are you sure you got that date right? Was not it 88?

        And PCI was introduced around 1993.

      2. mark l 2 Silver badge

        Re: Are you sure you got that date right? Was not it 88?

        Hard drives had been standard in the PC for probably 10 years or so in 1998. After all Windows had required a hard drive for installation since version 2.1 which came out in 1988.

        A quick browse of some back issues of PC magazines from 1998 shows the average size being around 4GB in PCs being sold around then and i didn't see any manufactures offering floppy only models.

        While on some none X86 computers you could still got away without a hard drive for a lot longer. In 1998 CU Amiga magazine has ads from several companies selling the base model Amiga 1200 with only a floppy drive, along side models with internal hard drives.

        But if you did anything on the Amiga other than play games you probably wanted to get a hard drive at that point. I think id fitted a hard drive to my A1200 around 1996 after getting hold of a used 80MB 2.5" drive from someone selling it in the classified ads.

      3. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Are you sure you got that date right? Was not it 88?

        1998 was the year I bought my first computer. It had a 6 GB hard drive. My family's first machine with a hard drive ran DOS, in the pre-Win3.1 days.

        A 1998 machine without a hard drive would be a strange beast indeed!

  18. david 12 Silver badge

    After all Windows had required a hard drive for installation since version 2.1

    Confused for a minute by that formulation. Windows 2.1 required a hard drive for operation, after installing from floppies.

  19. Philo T Farnsworth

    A thought.

    The Voyager spacecraft were launched in 1977 with technology that was probably vintage late 1960s.

    They're still sending back data for pushing a half century, modulo a heart-stopping glitch here and there.

    The space shuttles flew with an avionics variant of the System/360 introduced in 1964 and flew for a good chunk of the program with magnetic core memory, no newfangled semiconductor stuff. To the best of my knowledge, computer failure was not involved in either of the two spacecraft losses (which may or may not say something).

    Sometimes being behind the times isn't all that bad.

  20. Badbob

    Sounds modern to me

    I know of a few parts of the UK rail network that use 3.5inch floppies to load config data to signalling equipment. Vital in the event of a catastrophic equipment failure.

    Also, data loggers that use a combination of dot matrix printers, MO drives and CF cards. This is the bold new “digital railway” that will solve all our woes.

    But then, some parts of the mainline UK network still use bells and levers (and even more of the less important branches).

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