Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Are Floppy Drives Still Useful? Yes ... so ... long live the floppy drive!

Yesterday's Are ADB Controllers Still Being Made article prompted me to resurrect this pertinent article from 2005:

Back in 1998, when the first iMacs appeared, my father bought one and desperately needed a way to get his data off of floppy disks. He also had several programs that were on floppy that he needed to install ... I came up with this hack, submitted it to MacAddict Magazine and they later published it as part of a "Pirate Issue".

While Apple has not included floppy drives in Macs for almost 11 years now ... floppy drives are still very useful in many ways:

1) Small files are easily rewritten and backed up (including Quicken & Word documents)

2) No complicated drivers are needed (as they are for zip, superdisk, and some CDRWs)

3) Transfer is quick - CDs are a waste to copy files smaller than 2MB

4) There were several media readers made for the floppy drive - you could actually place a memory card from your camera into an adapter and read and write to the card quickly. Here's a pic:

5) Zip drives are expensive and tend to be "break prone"

6) If you're thinking thumb drives and USB connected devices you may not be thinking about Macs that don't have available USB or any USB at all.

7) Security: because of the lack of floppy drives - you get some security through obscurity


When I used to sell Apple floppy drives on eBay I got this question:

Will you be done listing these worthless things soon? I am tired of having them turn up in my other searches because of your 13,000-word essay. Apple quit installing floppy drives seven years ago for a reason ...

To what is he referring?

I had been selling floppy drives on eBay for almost 8 years after Apple introduced the iMac ...

Here is the 13,000 word essay to which the comment refers:

Place an INTERNAL drive inside* your 233 Rev A or Rev B iMac! + dozens of PowerMacs and the Performa series of Macs + many others including clones

If you want to use this drive for this hack remember it is **ONLY** for the Revision A or Revision B iMac Bondi!

Step by step color picture instructions (see below)

Bet you didn't know that Apple kept a floppy connector on the motherboard did you? This is the best drive to use for this rather simple project.

THIS IS FOR A COMPLETE DRIVE & CABLE and link to instructions on how to do the iMac floppy hack (if needed).

Now that your Apple Care warranty is out this is great project to enhance the value of your investment - your iPro raid Card your Voodoo video card - your iForce or iMaxpower or Sonnet HarmonI G3 G4 upgrade - - KEEP that iMac it will certainly be as collectible as the first macs and you still have infrared! This enhancement, if done right, can easily get an extra $200 for your iMac!

If grounded right, it is VERY hard to mess up your unit when performing this simple hack!

One other thing the instructions can help you do is learn how to use the floppy cable as power for a light to light up your iMac, tres cool!

Case must be modded for complete internal installation - otherwise drive is cabled to outside of iMac enclosure - see picture!

The information below is the original use for this floppy drive - making this auction a VERY valuable part to have in stock!

1.44 meg floppy replacement = Sony or Mitsubishi 2MB Model w/ black bay cover

Will work in all of the following desktop Mac models :

Quadra 650 660 Centis 610 PowerMac / Performa6100 6115 1116 6110 6300 6360 6400 6500 and any workgroup server based on this chassis

7100 7200 7300 7500 7600

Quadra 840 840 AV 8100 8500 8515 or any server model based on this chassis

Quadra 900 Power Macintosh 9100 9500 9600 or any server model based on this design

Beige G3 233 266 300 333 G3 All In One

Also fits the Apple Network Server 500 or 700 model

Great to have as a spare, if you use your floppy more than twice a day, you may fail and be stuck!!

20 pin connection

I say floppy disk drives are still useful - long live the floppy.


Anonymous said...

Floppy disks are highly prone to losing data, and they are slow, and they have little capacity. I am soooooo happy they are gone. What Mac sold in the past 5 years or so doesn't have a USB port?

FYT said...

But the Macs that don't have USB would be compatible with modern devices like secure digital cards, smartmedia, etc - it's almost impossible to find readers for these older Macs any more - even on eBay.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous: A floppy drive is MUCH faster than even the fastest CD burner if you factor in launching of a burn program, mousing, and finishing a disk. You also can't reburn to CDR.

Anonymous said...

I deeply regret clicking on this link. If only email could hold a 1.4 MB file. Oh wait they can.

FYT said...

If you had actually READ the article you would see that you can use a floppy drive for more than just 1.4MB files.

How is your old Mac gonna read that saved file?

How is your old Mac going to read SD and SmartMedia?

You can use this trick for making a 128MB floppy disk too!

Floppy disks are also free at this point.

I think I also convincingly made the case for security through obscurity.

JamesS said...

I can see the usefulness of this on vintage Macs if you're just saving small files for your own use. But on modern Macs, other options are generally more attractive, and it wouldn't be good for file sharing since most of your Mac friends wouldn't have floppy drives.

But I can sure remember the shock when Apple stopped including floppy drives. I suppose the same fate awaits CD drives.

Anonymous said...

I must respectfully disagree. A floppy drive is completely useless.

First of all, "security through obscurity" is no security at all. A password protected zip file is much more secure than an unencrypted data on a floppy disk.

Second, where exactly are you going to get one of those flash readers? Even if you had one, on a Mac they are READ ONLY. So, not very useful for writing anything. Plus, they top out at 32MB cards I believe, making them pretty useless for reading too, because where are you going to get a 32MB card with some data on it that you desperately need to read on a 10-year-old Mac?

And third, where did you say anything about a 128MB floppy disk? I didn't see that in your story, but maybe I simply missed it somehow.

FYT said...

security through obscurity is quite valid - that data could also be pass protected

There are tons of the flash-floppies available on ebay and through various Internet outlets.

I had a flashpath driver that allowed reads and writes and allowed up to 128mb smartmedia and anither that allowed 128mb mmc. They could only read SD - but this would give a very old Mac the ability to read SD cards and smartmedia.

To me, nothing beats a floppy for saving tax data.