The humble 3.5-inch floppy disk. Having become popular in the 1980s and 1990s, it boasts a whopping 1.44-megabyte capacity. A system of storage that is old, decrepit, and unstable. Compared to modern storage, it is woefully obsolete. It is recognised more as a save button than a physical piece of media now it seems. This is why I had to buy 177 used floppy disks. To bask in their utter obsoleteness. And to discover what was saved on them. What did I find? I’m glad you asked.
A mountain of floppy
First, is the setup. Even though I had bought a few floppies for my collection before, I wanted to buy a bunch in a big bulk order. I went on eBay and found a guy who was selling his entire floppy disc collection. He specifically said that he hadn’t wiped them so there would be no data intentionally removed from them. Obviously, that meant his personal files were on there, but for the sake of privacy, I deleted everything even the little bit sensitive. This sounded absolutely perfect. Exactly what I wanted.
Delivered by post
When the disks arrived a few days later, they had been shipped in an old shoe box. Which wasn’t great. I’m sure this contributed to the corruption of a few of them. Some of them were also corrupt due to age so I just wiped all these automatically also. Afterwards, they were usable but sadly, the data was lost. I quickly transferred them neatly into a proper disk storage unit, something that I bought separately in preparation. Despite all that, I managed to find quite an interesting amount of things.
What really hit me when I saw that big old shoe box, was just how far we have come in terms of file storage. As I mentioned before, each disk held 1.44 megabytes of data. Multiply that by 177 and you get around 250 megabytes of storage. This does sound a lot until you realise that a Kingston Micro SD card contains 16 gigabytes of storage. Let’s not even mention a 1 terabyte Seagate hard drive. Both are infinitely smaller than a shoe box but boast much higher storage capacities.
What did I find?
Although I found a bunch of interesting bits of software and games, it’s worth talking about the variations of the physical disks I came across. While a lot of them were just generic black variations, some had brands attached. For example, I found Sony ones, as well as AT&T ones mixed in too. There were also a variety of colours aside from black. Blue, pink, gray, and white. Not quite every colour of the rainbow but impressive nonetheless. Additionally, there were ones with official artwork on them, as they were associated with official games and programs.
In terms of software, I’ve listed some of the ones I found below:
- Genius MouseMate 98
- Packard Bell recovery disk
- Sound Blaster CD-ROM installation disk
- Microsoft Windows 95 CD-ROM boot disk
- McAfee Emergency Disk
I’m not sure how useful these will be for me in the future, but I’ll keep them just in case. There was a good variety of games too:
- Pharoah’s Tomb -1990
- Sensible World of Soccer – 1995
- Formula One Grand Prix – 1992
- Joust VGA -1990
- Star Wars: Tie Fighter – 1994
- F. Godmom – 1991
I also found disks for Doom and Alone in the Dark, but sadly they had deteriorated so badly, that no amount of data recovery magic seemed to work. I’m really happy with this floppy disk data recovery mission. Even though much of the data on them was unsalvagable, I did find a bunch of really cool games and pieces of software to add to my collection.
Physical media for the win
Of course, these are games that I could probably get from something like Archive.org, but where is the fun in that? Being able to handle old hardware is something I enjoy doing. As these things also have a limited shelf-life, it’s also important to enjoy using them whilst they still last. It’s also worth mentioning that now we heading for a digital-heavy future, doing things like this might not be possible going forward.
I’m absolutely going to be picking up some more used floppy disks in the future for sure. Mainly because it’s something I enjoy. But also in an attempt to keep a way of storing data that is the same age as me in some way relevant.