Say your good-byes..

Fun with floppies. The 5.25” inch floppy was not too tough, was subject to dirt ingression and could crease quite easily, a problem for computer magazine mounted diskettes..

525 floppy

Yes, this is  how they looked , and top flight machines would have two of these. The drive shown is in the ‘ready for a floppy’ state. Ready to say  good-bye?

And then, one day, a new diskette appeared and it was BLUE and it wouldn’t fit into a 5.25” drive. Yar boo sucks. Now I have to buy new floppy drives.

350 floppy

The new disks were better all round, harder to damage, and had a higher capacity, 2.88mb if you had a 2.88mb capable floppy drive. There was still the problem of data integrity though and, also, data files were starting to grow in size as programs and applications became better able to manage text formatting,  fonts, diagrams, photo images et al.

A major issue with these diskettes was their capacity lo lose the format and any documents which might be resident, and a rule that I followed was ‘ALWAYS format before use’ This is not so much a ‘good-bye’ as a ‘good riddance’

It looked like a diskette, it had a much larger capacity than a diskette (100mb, culminating in 250mb), but they were not cheap, the units or the disks.


Internal IOMEGA drives were nothing like as popular as the external types simply because you needed to transport the drive as well, the likelihood of the destination computer having a compatible drive being infinitesimally small.

Here is a storage device which would have been even more uncommon than an IOMEGA drive. When they first appeared, they were horrendously expensive, and you would be more likely to see them on ‘mid range’ (not x86) business computers and above. It is of course a 4mm DAT drive, and they were touted as storage of the future for a while. Tapes were not cheap, but the possibility of having 4gb regular storage or 8gb compressed did seem like a good plan.

 4mm DAT drive

Tapes could hold as much as 160gb if you had the cash to afford one, but as with all tape drives, saving to and recovering from could be a painfully slow process. Windows XP dropped support for these devices because they really never caught on and the CD/DVD eclipsed them big time anyway.

cd driveWith ZIP drives and DAT tapes being so expensive and 3.5” disks unable to store very much, the optical drive came into its own.

CDs were relatively cheap and, with a capacity of 647mb, could hold more than a few small utilities. The door was open for computer magazines to deliver game trials and a bunch of less than useful utilities. In time, re-writables were a reality, as were DVDs with a staggering 4.7Gb capacity.

Now you would have thought that we would all be happy, but no. We wanted smaller more portable laptops, and the problem was that laptop CD drives, as small as they are, do not fit into a 10’1 inch or smaller device. The optical drive opened up a world of software which otherwise would not have been possible, and while a CD could be damaged beyond use, it was surprisingly resilient.

Don’t give up on optical drives just yet. It is still the easiest way to create bootable installation media, assuming that an optical drive is installed in your machine. For storage, backups and system images however, USB flash drives and external hard drives can handle a whole lot more and do it faster by far .A scene that is missing these days in the major computer stores is row upon row boxed software because high speed Internet allows us to download what we want. So, no good-bye just yet, but the day is coming..

In conclusion..

I don’t know about you, but I never thought that I would see the day when a computer didn’t have one of the above devices, but we are here already. For a while, I was seeing new desktop machines for sale with no diskette drive, and still I had one in my computer. Eventually, I bit the bullet and removed it, as I did with the two other desktops for which I am system admin.

The venerable CD/DVD drive will be a relic of the past too, mainly because the software supplied on the disks is old enough that it is no longer compatible with the latest and greatest OS. We download software direct from the authors now across fast and always on broadband connections. Media is viewed via YouTube and Netflix these days the large video rental stores have all gone, and hardly a tear shed.

The last time that I used installation CD was only weeks ago. The Brother printer CD installs all of the software in one go, and t can save time downloading the driver files, the Paper Port etc, downloading and installing each of them manually. When the MFC is no longer covered by warranty and I don’t need the Brother support stuff, driver updates will be downloaded, and the CD will be passed over.

Removable storage is about USB flash drives now, fast, furious, and they die as fast as they work during their lifetime. Reliability has always been an issue and it still is, but the great aspect of USB is that the ports are small enough that even tablets have them fitted. Mind you, don’t get too attached to the present type because there will be a new kid on the block, and yes, you guessed it, the two will NOT be compatible..

I haven’t put up a photo of a USB drive because you guys and gals would have to be living in a cave not to know about them.


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