Getting data off some big ol' floppies

Caitlin asks:

Any idea where to bring 5" floppy disks to get text files?




Wow! 1992 tech! 5.25" floppy drives are as rare as hen's teeth

these days, and who knows if you could find a working driver suitable for a modern machine. That's asking a lot of backward compatibility.

I don't have to go back nearly so far with old tech stories to sound like Grampa Simpson to my millennial colleagues. "In myyy day, we didn't have no *apps* where you could find ten strangers within a hundred yards to screw. We had to place Missed Connection ads in the alt-weekly newspaper (I'll explain that to you in a minute), and never met the person anyway, and then went home to die alone, and that's the way it was and we LIKED IT!"

The good news is that there are services like this that will transfer the files (if the disk is DOS or Windows format -- I bet it's DOS) to a USB stick for $5/pop.

The other good news is that you probably can fit 100 of them on a 10MB stick, which costs about a nickel these days. I saw an article recently that suggested that building the equivalent of an iPhone X using 1950s technology would cost trillions of dollars and be as big as Rhode Island.

Good luck! Hope there are some valuable memories in there, and not just a Playboy centerfold crudely approximated with ASCII characters.


I don’t have floppies around

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I don’t have floppies around anymore, but thanks for that site. Quite a bit of nostalgia looking at all their floppies and drives.

Also, $5 isn’t bad at an attempt for some old data.

3.5" drives are still easy to find. I have probably a hundred of

those disks lying around with old work and lord knows what else on them. I'm a little afraid to see how inept I might have been as a writer etc. in those days.

Most of the food-writing work I still have on modern storage. I still see a couple of old pieces framed on the walls of places I reviewed favorably years ago: J.J. Foley's Cafe in the South End, which is my local, in there a few times a month, and Taqueria El Amigo in Waltham (went there for tacos the other day -- still awesome), for two.

Some of the early stuff is not great, but I'm not embarrassed by most of it. It's all service journalism, anyway, with the shelf life of a fruit fly. The big difference is that in my early days at it ten or eleven years ago, I'd regularly get asked to write 1300- and 1500-word pieces, and those are in very rare demand these days. The Improper Bostonian likes me to keep my biweekly restaurant reviews to 850 words.

Yep, in a box. In storage. I'm pretty sure the

memorial library dedicated to me is going to be grateful I hung onto them for their archives, along with all my other official records, personal papers and artifacts.

My mom unloaded a bunch of her mementos onto the kids recently. They included some of my high school math papers. Wow, calculus looks like Greek to me now.

I work in a law firm and

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I work in a law firm and recently we found a bunch of them in a box pulled from storage! I purchased a USB Portable Diskette Drive (Model SBTU: FTB) through our IT guy, plugged it in, then downloaded all the files. I then just saved them as MS Word docs in our server. No problemmo. The whole kaboodle cost less than $35

Probably a 3.5" drive

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USB 3.5" drives aren't that hard to find. The pictured disk was a 5.25". USB hardware for those are a lot harder to find. The only one I am aware of is the KryoFlux ( which archivists are using to extract data from 5.25" drives.

They were on the way out, but

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They were on the way out, but some computers still had the drives.

I occasionally used an Apple ][e through the early 90s. But I'm generally stuck in the past.

You'd be surprised...

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I have 30+-year old floppies that read just fine. I recently went through a stack of about 50 to ensure I had gotten all of the data off them about 20 years ago. Of the 50, maybe 2 had major errors on them.

I did something similar, and

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I did something similar, and had no errors on the brand-name disks (Sony, Memorex, etc). The weird ones made companies you never heard of had errors.

Find a copy of Norton

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Find a copy of Norton Utilities for DOS and run it on any corrupt disks.

I'd roll the dice on it anway. I've got an old 78 RPM disk of

my then-teenage grandpa and his vocal quartet -- they used to sing for quarters and dimes in the local bars -- recorded in an amusement park booth that would press the disk for you on the spot, the aural equivalent of those four-picture photo-strip booths, likely in the early 50s. I need to get that thing converted to an MP3.

yes indeed

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every time you play it the sound quality worsens. this is true for all records but on old 78s, especially one that is essentially "hand cut" and not pressed from a master plating, it is even more pronounced. Back when it was first made that record was played using steel needles, not known for being particularly kind to the surface of the record...
Make the MP# and save the disk for posterity...

Where should the mp3s be

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Where should the mp3s be saved, so they'll still be usable 20 or 30 years down the line?

Even if Google Drive, etc still exist, will this person remember their login? Would future generations have any idea to check the cloud? There's something to be said for finding old records in the basement.

Personal digital preservation

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There are systems, software, and other tools that are being built every day that will keep your data safe for the foreseeable future by migrating the data from the format they're in now to the format that will be used in the future. WordPerfect files getting transformed to PDF, etc.

There are also password escrow type services that will release your passwords to your loved ones if a dead-man switch is missed or the loved one submits your death certificate to the company holding the info.

Star Trek

Headline makes me think Data's finally gone after Commander Troi, which at least fits the time period.


Don't a few

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of the US's nuclear facilities run on those? Pretty sure I saw it on 60 minutes or something....good times, good times.

Another suggestion

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I go by this place (near Fresh Pond) all the time, but luckily I've never had to use their services yet (knock on wood):

Also, Google "data recovery, Boston" for some more ideas.

Keep in mind, these places

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Keep in mind, these places like techfusion will quote you up to hundreds, to even thousands of dollars for you to get your data off obsolete media or a dead hard drive. They don't do it for cheap. Unless you have something vitally important, like your thesis for your doctorate, you have to ask yourself is it worth to spend that kind of money to recover these files. If you don't miss them after all these years, the answer is easy.

See above

I think there was a least one other service suggested that was much cheaper. Although if the file system is corrupt or there is just general bit entropy,you might have to pay the big bucks.

When I saw this photo

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I assumed it was about UH being in a time warp most of yesterday, and expected to see a comment about Adam restoring UH from backup.


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right now, if you go to without the www, you get a broken site from 2016. is the correct site.

People to ask

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Check with any archivists at the local universities and city governments. Boston City Archives are great people. They might have some ideas if they can't help directly in any way.