On this lazy Sunday we have a flyer from inside a Verbatim 3.5-inch floppy disk 10-pack, circa 1993. Back in 2012 I went through and recycled the majority of my floppies, saving only the ones that I considered favorites. Now, during this de-cluttering phase of my life in 2017, the rest of them are headed for the shredder (check out the Floppy Disk Memorial too).
This was a pretty sweet deal back then: buy 10 disks, get another with 4 free games, plus another 2 disks via mail-in rebate, for a total of 13 disks. As can be seen from the missing panel, I definitely took advantage of this offer.
Both my sister and I enjoyed these games immensely. We both loved JezzBall, but I think her favorite was Rodent’s Revenge. I can still hear the sound of the bouncing balls in my head. A few years ago when I was still running an x86 version of Windows, I was able to run and install the games. Might have even been Windows 7.
As always, enjoy this museum post.
Was scanning some old floppies for nostalgia purposes when I ran across this old flyer from a box of Imation 3.5-inchers. It is incredible how far we have come in terms of storage; even the shittiest 8 GB phone today has more than 5,000 times the amount of storage on a 1.44 MB floppy disk.
According to Wikipedia, the SuperDisk format came out three years after Iomega’s Zip drive. No wonder I don’t remember anything about it (i.e. it came to the market too late and was doomed to obscurity).
This ad probably came out around 1997 or 1998. As always, hope you’ve enjoyed this short stroll down memory lane.
Here’s one more museum post before calling it a day: an order form from a shareware company called American Software. I probably got this from a once-ubiquitous computer show either at the Cow Palace or Oakland Convention Center. The additional cost for a 3.5-inch floppy disk suggests that this order form is from the early 90s. Googling the company and address shows almost no trace of American Software. The only matching results are ads from the company in Boys’ Life magazine (now in Google’s scanned archive). Coincidentally, I did read Boys’ Life during that time, though I probably wouldn’t have remembered this if I hadn’t encountered this order form.
For today’s museum post we have my old Sound Blaster 2.0 sound card.
My first PC had only a tiny 2.25-inch speaker, capable of single beeps only. At the memory test during POST, the speaker would make a click sound after each block was checked. If you skipped the memory test, it would click really fast as the memory count sped up. Then, the floppy drives would do their thing. I used to always get a kick out of that.
Games had “music” that was just a bunch of beeps strung together. When I first heard Wing Commander played with a Sound Blaster, I was blown away by the bass and actual music. Computer sound was no longer limited to a little tiny speaker. I wanted a Sound Blaster!
I don’t remember how I got the money to buy one, but I do remember buying it from a store on 3rd Street in downtown San Francisco. There used to be a Software Etc. or Egghead Software there (can’t remember which one, probably Egghead). I was super excited to bring it home and install it in my 386.
Of course, applications were not limited to games. Windows now had sound (some ATMs still use the Windows chimes.wav from that period), and I could download MIDIs and MODs from BBSes to listen to music. The card came with a software suite that included a talking parrot, a piano, and a text-to-speech synthesizer. We had hours of fun playing with Dr. SBAITSO, making him say perverted things and setting up the computer to say things on boot-up.
Although the sound was much improved with the Sound Blaster, sometimes I’d still choose “PC Speaker” when setting up a game. It definitely had its own distinctive style that appealed to me. One of my favorites was 4D Boxing. It actually had voices that you could make out, and after I heard the Sound Blaster version, I realized just what a good approximation the PC Speaker sound was. Some games, like A-Train, used the Sound Blaster to play music and the PC speaker to make little clicks as the trains moved.
Looking back at some of these museum posts, I wonder if my decision in 2012 to throw out a bunch of old things was the wrong one. On one side, it would be nice to be able to pick these up and look at them, to feel and touch them (i.e. I’d like to thumb through the Sound Blaster manual above). On another, would I even think to do so if I hadn’t taken photos that would occasionally pop up on my desktop slideshow? And on yet another, is there a point to storing something for years or decades at a time just to be able to touch it once before putting it back in storage again? At this moment, I feel that the answer is yes. Perhaps I’ll change my mind once again when I go home and find that my closet is full of stuff that I never use. For now, I hope you’ve enjoyed this museum post.
Nerdly Pleasures: The Sound Blaster 2.0 and the C/MS Upgrade
Bonus update – looks like I actually did scan the manuals before disposal:
The past few months have been an ongoing exercise to rid myself of worldly possessions. I have thrown out, given away, or sold many objects that I once held dear. From my fish and aquarium, to hard drives I’ve collected over the years, to my car, anything that is not compatible with my future plans is fair game.
I once wrote that one purpose of this website was to write things down to help me reinforce what I learned about computers. At this stage of my life, I am writing things down to help me remember and cherish those objects that had brought me enjoyment. Although I would love to keep everything, the problem with doing so is that they take up space, and I do not touch, look at, or think about them for years on end. Then, every so often, I might pull out a box from under my bed, get really excited about its contents for a while, and then stuff everything back down there again for another few years.
If I am to move to a place like Hong Kong or any other place (including San Francisco) where living space is at a premium, then I had better find a different way to get my nostalgia and sentiment fix. One way I have found is to photograph and catalog nostalgic items, and then post the results on my website. Viewing photos and descriptions online rekindles the same feelings as pulling out that box, and is much easier. I can browse the nostalgia category or search on a keyword and instantly transport myself back to the good old days without having to crawl under my bed and pull out dusty old boxes. Of course, there will always be one or two objects that hold particular sentimental value to me, and these objects will be off limits to the garbage can.
Today, I will be transporting myself back to my early days of personal computing with my old friend, the five-and-a-quarter-inch floppy disk.
My favorite floppy disk has always been the 5.25-incher. To me, the term “floppy disk” will always refer to this size, probably because this was the first type that I encountered. (I could never understand how the 3.5-inch, with its hard shell, could be considered floppy. Rigid would be more like it.) The earliest memory of a floppy disk I have is from playing Pac-Man at a neighbor’s house in the early 1980s. It’s all a blur now, but the act of taking the floppy out of its sleeve, sliding it into the drive, and then rotating the lever to close the drive is something that I will always remember. Perhaps it is the sense of anticipation when preparing to load a game, or perhaps it is the rhythmic whirring and robotic sound of the drive as the floppy is being accessed. There’s just something special about the whole process.
After Pac-Man, it wouldn’t be until 1989 that I encountered floppies again. In middle school, we used Apple IIe computers to learn BASIC and LogoWriter, saving our programs on floppies. It was the first time I ever kept my own floppies. I treasured and protected them, write-protected them with the little black stickers, kept them in their own hard case and took the case with me everywhere, and took the “never touch media” warning printed on the sleeves to heart. I was a little pudgy middle-school kid carrying around a gray plastic 5.25-inch floppy case all over the place while other kids were listening to New Kids on the Block and starting to discover that the opposite sex wasn’t so disgusting after all. No wonder I got picked on all the time!
In 1991, when it came time for my family to purchase our own computer, I badly wanted an Apple IIe, but my mother and aunt had a different idea. We purchased a PC instead of an Apple, and I hated it. It came with two different types of floppy drive, a 5.25-inch and a 3.5-inch, and it would not read Apple disks. It was fun copying files from floppy drive to floppy drive, though. The activity lights on both would light up, one drive would click as it read data, and the other would clack as it wrote data. On every boot-up, the 5.25” drive would do a seek, the 3.5” drive would do a seek, and then the PC speaker would beep. It became a boot-up musical ritual that I would sing along to every time I turned on the computer. I quickly forgot about the Apple II.
In the beginning, we still mostly used 5.25” disks. The 3.5-inchers were smaller and more convenient, more durable, and could store more data, but they were still relatively expensive, similar to how BD-Rs today are more expensive than DVD-Rs. To save money, we even figured out how to increase the capacity of a 5.25” floppy by cutting a notch so that the reverse side could be written to. Alas, as with all newly introduced computer components, after a while the price of 3.5-inch disks fell and they became massively adopted, sending the 5.25s into extinction.
A few days ago I sent the rest of my own 5.25” disks into extinction. I copied the data off of them, photographed them, and then took them to a shredder service that specializes in recycling computer components. As I watched the worker grab my 20-year-old floppies and throw them into the shredder, a feeling of sadness came over me. It pained me to see my old floppy disks being torn apart into hundreds of little pieces. My mind flashed back to those days in the early 90s when I had first written data to those disks, when I was growing up and honing my computer skills on that old DOS 3.3 386 with two floppy drives that seeked on every boot-up. Childhood. Adolescence. Floppy disks. I will always cherish and look at those days with floppy disk nostalgia.