A massive 5.25 inch floppy disk haul


The computers I'm most enamored with are the classic beasts of the early-mid 1980. Feeding these machines with software requires media which is usually found in the guise of the 5.25 inch double sided-double density (DSDD) floppy disks. These large pieces of mylar are required for my Apple IIs, TRS-80 Models I and 4, Dick Smith System 80, IMB PC and XT. Kaypros, Osborne 1, Ataris, Commodore 64 and BBC models.

Now there are various tricks you can use to connect old machines to a standard Internet-capable PC to supply software. However I like to have a stack of floppies with software at the ready in case I want to show the computers off or play with them without fuss. Besides, hanging off a PC is not the way they would have been used in the day.

Getting good quality, non-degraded 5.25 DSDD disks is not that easy. They can deteriorate quickly if left in mouldy or hot environments. I had a limited supply of good disks so when someone contacted me about gifting over 500 or so used disks in good condition I just had to accept.

Checking, sorting, imaging

The disks had all been used for a PC-compatible and most had software. By far the bulk were DSDD but there were about 60 or so high-density disks for 1.2 MB drives. There was also about the same number of 3.5 inch disks. My first thought was to simply to check all disks for degradation then file the good ones away for use as blank media when I needed them. However I didn't have a lot of PC software for the mid-late 1980s and these disks were full of it. Consequently, I decided to image any disks containing software hence hugely expanding my PC software library.

The sequence for every disk was..

  1. Visually check the disks under a strong light for signs of degradation. The slightest sign and the disk was consigned to the "throw away" pile
  2. Image the disk with Winimage, and store the images in a PC-software archive folder
  3. File the disk away as a blank for reformatting when I need it


5.25 inch floppy disks

Figure 1. Sorting through the 5.25 inch disks

It took a few evenings but eventually the task was done. Surprisingly, only a small percentage of the disks (I estimate about 5%) had to be dumped due to visible degradation. These are the ones sitting just to the left of the keyboard in the photo above. Of these, by far the majority were 3-M DSDD disks? That brand seemed particularly prone to deterioration.

One disk contained the "stoned" virus. My virus checker picked this up when I tried to image it. I wasn't surprised. That virus was rampant in the mid-late 1980s.


Figure 2 shows all the 5.25 inch disks processed, prior to being stored away. I've now got a much larger PC software library with many utilities and classic business and game software. I imaged many of the 3.5 inch floppies too although these are not included in the photo. The software on these dated around the mid-90s and some were Windows 3.1 or 95 programs.

Tidy stack of 5.25 inch floppy disks

Figure 2. All packed up and ready to store away until I need some blank disks

One interested set of disks contained 21 issues of a series titled "PC-Disk Downunder", an adapted version of Big Blue Disk for Australia/New Zealand market.

One day in the future I'll got through all the PC-Software in the disk image archive and list it all. Not today though. (-:

5th June, 2011

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