In order for us to keep preserving ancient software,
the industry should start manufacturing SATA floppy drives!


  • edited September 2020
    Do newer cases even have much in the way of 5 1/4" bays, let alone 3 1/2" ones?

    Of course, modern laptops are too thin for internal floppy drives. And USB ones are inferior in that they cannot read DMF (but why?), so no installing Works 95 Academic and using the sample files.
  • There are enough floppy drives still in existence, this would not make business sense. If you feel strongly enough about it, hunt down floppy drives (and DISKS!) that are still in good condition and store them in a clean, cool, dry environment. Yes, that means spending money. Get the word out to recyclers, surplus places, thrift stores, and such, to make sure they don't just toss stuff in the trash.

    Now, the interface is not really relevant. SATA is an interface primarily for high speed hard drives and CD-ROMs. Slower drives will do fine with USB. Standard Shugart interface drives can be adapted with devices along the lines of a Kryoflux or Supercard Pro, and such devices could be made easier to use with better software. And such devices can be made to read/write all kinds of formats.

    (The crappy USB floppy storage spec only defines 720k, 1.44MB and Japanese 1.2mb formats, and the the drive must select the mode before making a block device available to the OS - but Kryoflux and SCP type hardware bypass all that)

    Floppy drives! Buy one! Better yet, by a dozen!
  • If one wanted a relatively easy way to hook up floppy drives to USB, convincing SMSC to reissue their early USB to floppy adapter chip (USB97CFDC) which supported the Japanese 640k formats in addition* to the usual formats plus was according to the documentation supposed to handle 2.88 MB and floppy tapes with changes to the drivers. Given all that, getting 5.25" support for 1.2MB and 720k formats should be a breeze. Might take more effort to add double stepping and the USB floppy standard isn't prepared for single sided formats.

    * I believe that chip was used in some of the USB floppy drives that can read DMF formats. Need Win9x drivers to do that though.

    Starting a new floppy drive production line won't be impossible. Look at the limited resources Jugi Tandon had when he started Tandon. It will cost millions to produce a few thousand drives a year. I don't see any way to get a return on investment for floppies like the recent reintroductions of vinyl and cassettes with related players have.
  • With the other reintroduced formats, there is a good nostalgic and higher quality feel that influenced it.

    The only nostalgia I get when using floppies is the agonizing slowness and having to keep hitting retry because a supply voltage was slightly off. Oh and make sure you don't put the floppy on top of the computer or near your CRT as the magnetics from the hard disk or CRT coils could mess it up.
    Floppies sucked.

    If you want to go try and preserve it, then go right on ahead. Go launch a campaign on an online crowdfunding site and see if you can get enough money to maybe find a manufacturer willing to make a small-time run. Which I doubt because it'll be expensive for everyone.
  • @yourepicfailure pretty much said it, floppies sucked. And yeah, your best bet would be a crowd funded campaign.
    The market for old computer stuff is pretty small, but it does exist.
    Making better USB floppies would probably be better considering most modern computers lack any kind of removable storage and most cases lack 5.25" or 3.5" bays to even add any.
  • Like others have said, there are plenty of working, used floppy drives on the market. My only concern is the availability of the actual diskettes, that haven't been ruined over the years due to poor storage. That said, I recently found 2 unused boxes of 25 at work that are working perfectly, so I'm sure there are still many out there that have been sitting in storage rooms for the last 15 years. We just have to keep searching and asking around, making sure places don't just throw them out!
  • Heck, I've got boxes and boxes of unopened floppy disks, in the common formats of 360K, 1.2MB, 720K, and 1.44MB, stored under my bed. The only media I'd be concerned about is the less common stuff like hard sectored disks.
  • It would be interesting to see how far one could get 3-d printing parts for a floppy drive. Might not need metal for all of the parts. Drive heads would be the main challenge to produce, i think. Might be possible to use some other kind of motor to move the heads. Even the later floppy drives that exist often only had one chip on the logic board.
  • Pretty much a cheapo fpga could get the logic done. And better too. A decent FPGA could incorporate some, if not all the features of things such as the kf.
    A servo to move the heads. But yeah, the biggest problem is the head itself.
  • They are not completely in danger, as there are a few older 2000s era motherboards that run current operating systems and accept a FDD.

    For new systems, they are absolutely in danger.
  • I actually have a 2nd gen core i7 system with a floppy header on the board. I actually have a 5.25" drive connected to it and the OS sees it, but I haven't had any luck reading disks. Not sure if it's just a dead drive or what.
  • Does the BIOS only support 1.44mb as an option? If so, try imaging a disk using ImageDisk. That bypasses BIOS and shows if the hardware is working.
  • Also keep in mind some Linux distributions (*cough* *cough* Fedora/Ubuntu) are trying to remove FDD support. However, I think Debian plans to keep it, and RHEL/CentOS won't get this change for a long time.
  • edited September 2020
    I suggest the industry starts manufacturing SATA floppy combo drives so that ancient software preservation can be made easier.
  • SATA floppy drives would be a bad idea for two reasons.

    First, any drive hooked up to a port multiplier would lock that port multiplier for the duration on a transfer. Copy a floppy and the hard drives on the same multiplier would not be accessible for about a minute.

    Second, SATA doesn't give any way to specify how the layout on disk. It will be the same as SCSI floppy drives: the drive will only permit a limited selection of premade formats.

    To be useful as a general purpose tool, the new floppy drive needs to be able to respond to commands sent to a floppy controller. That would allow for reading CP/M disks and others that don't use the same sector order as IBM did.
  • You could do a SATA floppy but you would have to have a controller onboard to read the disk, configure layout, and access it's contents. Then the device would have to dump the contents to some onboard memory. You can have that memory act as an SSD or USB flash drive which should then be accessible to the host operating system.
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