Tales of Ancient Technology: Do You Remember Floppy Disks?

One idea for recycling old floppies!

So, do you? I do now! I finally got tired of looking at the shelves full of ancient technology books and gadgets in our upstairs office this weekend and embarked on one of those full-scale, dirty-fingernail clean-outs that only happen once a decade. Here’s what I found:

1.) About 200 blank floppy disks, all in technicolor! Data storage was a lot prettier in the late 1990s. Like life in general, really.

2.) About 200 floppy disks with miscellaneous data on them, most of which is unrecoverable now. And I tried. I had the other tour guide bring in his external floppy drive and hooked it up to my Windows 7 laptop. Results: About 80% of the pictures were transferable, but most of the “data”–think backup accounting books from 1997–was based in programs so old that they wouldn’t even open in compatibility mode. Other files were damaged beyond repair–floppies are a bit notorious for that. Update your technology, people.

3.) Several classic texts: Windows 95 for Dummies, a how-to guide for Photoshop 4.0, and some pamphlet about a version of Paint Shop Pro that was compatible with Windows 3.1 (I think).

4.) Tons of CDs with programs compatible with Windows 3.1 or lower, Windows 95, and Windows 98. Hello, circular filing cabinet!

5.) My two favorite finds. Someone tell me if this is worth money: A still shrink-wrapped version of Windows 98–all original boot disks, guides, and software included, still in the box! Right next to that: The original boot disk for Windows 95. At least we kept them long enough for them to become retro!

6.) Several ZIP disks. I remember when these were the craze. They would replace floppy disks! They were the future! Too bad they ended up being the 8-Track tape decks of the computer age.

7.) Four–yes, four–old computer towers and keyboards, one of them with a Pentium III processor and proudly built for Windows 98 (which, I have to confess, we were actually using until one year ago, when the 13-year old hard drive finally crashed. And yes, we were all surprised and saddened).

Most of this junk I’m going to find a way to recycle, probably at a local technology recycling center, but some of it is just garbage. If you have a huge shelf full of rotting technology upstairs, please do yourself and favor and do something about it. It builds up quickly, and future generations will judge you. I think I mentioned earlier that when the current administration took over the museum, they encountered a hoarding house full of 1980s computer junk. We make fun of them at every opportunity for this. Well, maybe we should stop, because we were accumulating quite a pile ourselves.

Just chuck it.

(As a side note, we also have one of the oldest functioning copiers I’ve ever seen. It’s about 14 years old and still cooking. Yes, she overheats a bit when you want to run more than five copies and you have to open up all her compartments to air her out, but she’s still chugging along. Someday, when the grant gods smile upon us, we’ll replace it, probably).


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