Marcus L. Rowland (ffutures) wrote,
Marcus L. Rowland

shaggy computer story

Found myself telling this story on another conference, thought it might amuse readers here.

I've had nearly every type of drive ever made at one point or another, from 80K floppies in a TRS-80 through the heady heights of 360k in my first IBM PC, 720k, 1.2mb, 1.44mb, etc. etc.

And there was the really weird one...

For a brief while in the early nineties I had what may have been the world's only laptop with an external 8" floppy drive. The original IBM PC had an output for controlling an external floppy on the floppy disk controller card. The first laptop I owned was a Minolta which had 720k 3.5" floppies but duplicated that output, so that it could have an external 5.25" floppy for compatibility with desktop PCs. I had a spare 360k floppy drive, a casing with a power pack (originally intended for the TRS-80 drives), and thought it'd make an interesting computer magazine article - so I borrowed someone else's external drive and traced the cable connections.

It turned out to be a relatively simple connection, provided you had the appropriate plugs, but I couldn't get them anywhere at first. Then I found an external dual 8" drive unit from some sort of CP/M machine in a computer junk shop, which had the right connector, and bought it for about £4 (I think that was about $10 in those days). Of course the rational thing to do at that point would have been to remove the cable and junk the big drives (which weighed about 15lb in their steel chassis case) and build the drive I wanted. But of course I had to see if I could make the 8" floppy work first.

Turned out I could, in the end. Borrowed an 8" floppy disk from work (we still had a CP/M network in those days, though it was being phased out in favour of some non-PC compatible MS-DOS machines based on the 80186 processor - don't ask, it was a mindbogglingly stupid idea and we had dozens of the bloody machines for a while), powered up the drive, and popped in the floppy. And once I'd found the right Bios settings in the laptop I could read the files. They were VERY boring.

Kept it for a week or so before reluctantly deciding that I really didn't need 8" floppies and completing the 5.25" project. And somewhere along the way I lost all interest in writing the article, which is a shame because in those days I could have easily sold it for considerably more than I was earning from RPG writing.

You try telling that to the youth of today and they won't believe you...

Incidentally, I think I ended up selling the 5.25" drive to timill in the end. Still got it, Tim?

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