Yahoo! News Story - Floppy Disk Becoming Relic of the Past (fwd)

From: Ethan Dicks <>
Date: Sun Sep 19 23:22:59 2004

On Sun, Sep 19, 2004 at 11:04:59PM -0400, Ronald Wayne wrote:
> If the floppy disk disappeared, I would notice (I use them) but would
> not care.

I recently put together a semi-modern system (AMD Socket A, 1.4GHz,
768MB max RAM, 1 AGP, 5 PCI, 0 ISA) and some combination of the BIOS
and Win98 was unhappy. I had numerous issues of timeouts and slow
operation because it was waiting on a non-existent A: drive. Simply
disabling floppies in the BIOS was not adequate. My problems ended
when I _added_ a 3.5" drive and enabled it. I know there are other
systems that can run normally with no floppies, so I'm reluctant to
blame the operating system only.

With the exception of BIOS updates and low-level hard disk diagnostics
(which can be done from CD-ROM anyway, now), I don't use one floppy per
year for data transfer on post-classic machines. The capacity is too
small for too many things.

> Besides, floppy diskettes are not as uniform as the article implies.
> They seem to suggest that there are two sizes, then leave it at that.

That's quite true. The authors (and most of the readers) think that
there are only 3.5" disks and this ancient format on 5.25".

> Well, there were different densities and encodings too. Oh, and there
> were more than two physical sizes. (IIRC, 8" and 12" was common.
> Then there is all of the similar-but-failed technologies.)

I have plenty of 8" drives and media, mostly for RX01 and RX02, but
a smattering of CP/M disks, too. I don't happen to own any 3" disks,
but I know they exist. Never seen or heard of 12" floppies. The
oldest devices I know about are mid-1970s, the ones used to load
IBM mainframe microcode. I thought those were 8".

> Now if you were to say that the serial port is disappearing ... well
> then I would be concerned.

The serial port _is_ disappearing. I am concerned. I have a number of
serial-interfaces devices, and from what I've seen in the LCDproc
user/developer community as well as the CBM-interface-devices-of-modern-
manufacture like the C2N232 (Atmel processor that emulates CBM tape
protocol on one end, RS-232 on the other), USB-to-serial dongles are
_not_ a seamless solution. The two arenas this is cropping up are
modern Macs and modern laptops. While these devices are not covered
under the 10-year umbrella, they will be at some point, and when they
are, they will _not_ have native serial ports and there will be many
things that we do with ease now, with 5-year-old machines that we be
hard five years from now.

I lament the passing of the RS-232 port much more than the passing of
floppies. I can continue to do many interesting things with a PDP-8
and its RX01/RX02 drives _and_ a modernish machine as the console that
may or may not be easy with a USB-only machine in the future.

ObFolklore: working at a small startup in 2000, I had to reconfigure
our Cisco router. Normally, that entails dragging a laptop in the
server closet, balancing it on something and trying to juggle commands
and a laptop at the same time. Once, I whipped out my Palm III, its
travel cable, and a Cisco RJ-45 serial cable and fired up one of the
many VT100 emulators for PalmOS. My boss, the CIO, walked in while I
was doing all of this. He asked why I had a Palm Pilot hooked to the
router - I told him I was reconfiguring the router, per his request.
He was stunned at my approach, but this is the same guy who was stunned
when I loaded a DEC diagnostic papertape for my -8/L with a printed
date on the label that was before he was born.

ISTR that all the newer generation PDAs have USB, not serial, sync
ports. I have no idea if it's possible to use an adapter on them
to use them for portable terminals, etc., but I don't think so.


Ethan Dicks, A-130-S      Current South Pole Weather at 20-Sep-2004 04:00 Z
South Pole Station
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Received on Sun Sep 19 2004 - 23:22:59 BST

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