How fast media storage has moved in even the past 5 years! CD-R Media came out and pretty much replaced all floppy/magnetic media. DVD-R advanced the storage wars, but then USB chips took over and removable hard drives.. This little stack of disks likely holds a total of less than half the 512 Meg USB chip that was my first portable storage. In 20 years, will there be anything to read CD media? These discs aren't worth a spit.
Ahh yes. It was always so expensive for this media. It wasn't until personal computers like Atari and Commodore sold off their stuff for cheap. I had a cassette recorder that loaded my programs, but wow. Slow and low. Then, you didn't know what program started where. Plus, if you wanted to play a program other than the crappy little basic stuff that I copied from Antic magazine, set it and forget it with tapes. The only pro game I owned on tape was Bruce Lee. It took 22 minutes to load. My computer only had 64K of ram. So, unlike discs which could load and load and load as the game progressed, this was like the cheesiest way to save stuff. It was in memory and that was that. The same program took about two minutes when I got a disk drive.
Now when I was younger, computers for the home were a novelty. We had barely gotten past PONG games and moved along to Atari 2600 or Intellivision or even Colecovision. Apple IIC computers had become the computer of choice to teach us nards the BASIC computer language. I signed up for the program at my library and had hour blocks of time to use the computer. Mom took me to a computer store and I bought a "Generic" brand (yes, it was printed on the sleeve) floppy disk for $4. That's ONE floppy disk. The double sided disks cost a few dollars more but I learned that with a notch carved into the plastic, you could double your storage. Never had one fail, so FU Big Floppy! I made great BASIC programs too. Inventive stuff like 10 Print "F**K YOU WITH A SINGLE SIDED FLOPPY" 20 goto 10. Of course, the librarians didn't like that...
A little history on the magic of the recordable magnetic 5 1/4" floppy. They came out with an 8" floppy before it, and big huge high speed cakes of magnetic tape before those. Just about every 80's and 70's TV show or movie that went to a high tech location or government office had those big systems with big tapes that rotated forward and backwards. Imagine the hell of that. Tape on heads. At least when they came out with floppies, nothing touched the floppy. Of course the 40's and 50's, you had stacks and stacks and STACKS of punch cards and it was totally mechanical to save our billing info. Damn. It was 40 years until we had floppy disk storage and personal computers (mostly gaming systems that had basic.)
...and before we entered a new world, I'll show the OTHER computer that used to be in schools and small businesses. The Radio Shack TRS80. These were the first lower cost "all in one" computers that were widely available with a built in B&W monitor and a 5 1/4" floppy. I bought this disk from Radio Shack in Great Northern mall to record my sophomore computer class. I just copied what I did from my library days into the school computer, and that was that. "Darnnit" was a pick an ending text game. Totally crap writing and totally crap BASIC programming. I think I got a "C" for this.
It wasn't long after the video game crash where the cheap computers were dumped to the world that computers started to get better and "professional" (Macs and IBMs) started getting smaller and cheaper. It was when Apple released the Macintosh that really started the change over to the 3.5" floppy. It was double the size at 1.44 Meg (or didn't need to flip it if you put cheap nicks in you 5 1/4" floppies.) They could store more LODE RUNNER or newer versions of ZORK on the 3.5. Also, you could carry it in your shirt pocket and it was thicker, so you didn't have to worry about it getting messed up in a drunken "miss" of your disk drive. It wasn't until the IBM "clone" computers came out that these discs became the default way to backup your data.
For me, it would be a few years until I enjoyed my first "real" computer. You see I was an aspiring "writer" and I needed more than a typewriter so I could make my many many mistakes and edit many paragraphs of crap. On my Atari, I had a two "printers." One was a cheap "printer/plotter" that made each letter by drawing it with pens. Drawback? 5" roll paper. It made great graphs though, or printed a mean receipt. Then I got a "print quality" printer which was the worst POS ever. It worked by having letter quality letters on individual "drums" that spun around to print each "letter" one at a time. Trouble was, it was extremely slow and would stop every few minutes to "cool down". Other than small letters:
Dear Mr. Consumer:
Thank you for purchasing this POS. We hope you have many weeks of enjoyment waiting for it to print one f**king page. You can have a ham sandwich or a bowl of soup while waiting, and we promise to print in barely passable typewritten quality so your 240 page manuscript will be outdated by the time it's finished printing. Thanks and P*SS OFF!
Sincerely, The Bastards of Bankruptcy
Well, I had to do it right so I spent $300 and got a Smith Corona word processor. While it was a real pain to edit on and printed pretty slowly, it was a world away from Atari. I used it for a long time. It even came with a cheap program so that files typed in Microsoft Word or Apple's word processor could be converted to use on the SC. I had typed a lot on my friends Macintosh when I lived with him. So, I need to convert all the programs. One morning at the radio station I was working at, I used it to convert the stories I had written. Unfortunately, I "turned off" the computer when I had finished. That knocked the whole station's news department out of news. How would I know? There were no "do not turn off..." signs. It appears they were all linked to each other somehow. Ooops. I bought doughnuts to make nice.
Enter the 100MHZ, 16 Meg Ram, 1G Hard Drive, CD Rom, 14.4 modem/sound card, 1.4" floppy Windows 95 machine that I went into hock for $1100 with cheesy 12" Packard Bell monitor. I finally took the plunge to be serious about my writing. Never happened. By this time they were finding ways to back up on multiple floppy discs. You could use programs like WINZIP or a file connector/backup to save 500Meg on these teensy disks. CD Roms were becoming the norm for commercial software but it would still be a few years yet until the recordable CD Rom would be cheap. They did have ZIP/JAZ/Sparq drives which were super storage of 1G or less, but they were extremely unreliable and went bye after the CDR became the norm.
Meanwhile, I had JUNO e-mail. That was the free e-mail so I could send e-mails to my friends that had the computers. Shortly thereafter, while working at the Toledo college radio station, I got to fool around on this "new to me" "internet" "thingy" for as long as I wanted as it was a college and I was on a T1 line directly to the SUN. What I found blew my mind. "You mean, there are PEOPLE who actually feel closer to wolves and foxes and horses and tigers than HYOOMANS? Look! They have a gathering right in my HOMETOWN!" *GASP* "Would you like to know MORE? YES! How much for this UNLIMITED INTERNET THINGY? It's $20 a MONTH? I can have these ANIMULES in my very own HOME for $20 a MONTH? I have the computer.... "
The picture before has a disk with "Pirch", the first IRC client that let you connect to TWO separate networks at the same time with one client. I started doing IRC (Internet Relay Chat) because when I did it at friend's houses that had BBS'es on Atari and Apple, I thought it was amazing to speak to someone in Florida from my basement in Cleveland. By the time of Windows 95, several hundreds of people from across America could be using IRC to be spamming or sexxin or playing in the virtual "TFIT" (The Furry Infusion Tank, where you could become the actual character you portrayed on line.) I fell down the rabbit hole and never looked back.
Why I show the disk above was, I was saving all the e-mails I wrote way back when. A year after finding the world of fuzzies, I found Boomer The Dog who was like me. "Why don't I put an ad in the newspaper asking if there are any others like me out there." We were doppelgangers. We both loved radio, him pirate, me commercial. We were both music fans. We both liked writing forever about our experiences. We both liked Blimpee sandwiches. Wait, wasn't this a post about junk? Well, Boomer does provide the web space to host this blog... Okay, let me finish up here ova dey....
When Negativland came out with their "Dispepsi" album, one of the songs on that disc was "The Greatest Story Ever Told" and one of the lyrics from that song was "Old outdated software being thrown into the trash." Nothing rings more true than when OS'es came of multiple zipped up floppies. It was 2006 when I got my first laptop. A really old hand me down IBM 33MHZ with a 120 meg hard drive and a corrupted operating system. Boomer said he had something that might get it running and provided me with Windows 95 on floppies since it didn't have a CD drive. It took forever to install, but it worked. I installed the base programs that would get me on-line and got a 25FT. phone extension cord to run outside and sit on the patio and chat with the IRC denizens. That's low-tech for 2006 all right. I got better. Now I count that IBM as junk. Maybe on a future blog? When I can now have every song and picture and letter in my collection stored on a 64G USB chip....
This quaint look back at computer storage history (don't even talk to me about small tape drives and super disks and CLOUD storage and solid state hard drives and USB3 sticks and SD/CF/MS/SM/xD memory...ohy...) is brought to you by the CHEEPDOG. Think about it.