2013-01-08 · in Media Archiving · 502 words

3.5-inch floppy drives

Hooking some 3.5" floppy drives up to my disk imaging machine meant that I could finish off the remaining PC floppy disks, having already read the double-density ones using the Amiga.

Imaging PC floppies

This presented no major challenges — ddrescue or dumpfloppy did the job.

I had quite a few floppies from various sources — some from school, where we had first RM Nimbus machines and later a NetWare network with 486 PCs, and some that I'd used to exchange files with friends, since pretty much any machine (PC, Amiga, Archimedes, ST...) could read double-density PC disks.

I also had many that I knew weren't worth archiving — because I'd used them to bring home downloaded files before I had an Internet connection at home. For example, I'd installed Slackware on my first Linux PC that way...

One that I didn't find was a final backup of my NetWare account at school. I found an "Account Backup (2)" floppy fairly early on, which only contained some MS-DOS tools but sounded promising... and then found "Account Backup (1)" with something uninteresting written over it later on. Argh!

Emulating the PC

All of my software appears to work fine in DOSBox. The evidence suggests that I used to write an awful lot of QuickBASIC...

Some of the more useful programs I wrote were for the school's sports department, where I did athletics scoring for several years. (This eventually resulted in me getting "athletics colours", which was, in retrospect, a bit unfair to other students who'd done so by actually being good at sports.)

One program printed the scorecards for sport days and inter-school events automatically on an HP DeskJet, driven by a simple scripting language. It also played a selection of sci-fi themes to indicate when the cardstock in the printer needed changing. Another produced "top three" reports from Five Star, which I vaguely remember as being some national athletics contest which used proprietary Windows software.

pcards Top Three

Sadly, this rather elaborate scoring system for sports days only ever got used once, as I recall — it couldn't handle the manual tweaking required when an event came in late, or similar:

Score menu Score Victor Ludorum display Score competitor lookup display Score credits

(That looks like a sports day around 1994. I think "the 2:1 events ratio" was a rule about participation in track and field events that it had to follow when computing each student's score.)

I also wrote some simple games which other students seemed to enjoy. This SpaceWar clone was a multiplayer game, storing ship positions in files on a NetWare drive — and it lasted about a day before the head of IT banned it:

NSPW title screen NSPW gameplay

And I was certainly thinking of Worms when I wrote this one during a German exchange:

Wurbils title screen Wurbils gameplay

My Markov chain text generator was also popular, and I wrote various file managers:

Arnie ATree Pro

One that must have gone missing with my account backup was a fairly elaborate C program I built to display a map of free machines on the school's network — although I did find the program a friend wrote that it was based upon.