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Retrieving Data From Old Amstrad Floppies? 323

Jeppe Utzon writes "Back in 1987, when I was a teenager in high school still, I spent most evenings, nights and weekends writing small programs in BASIC on my Amstrad CPC 6128. Some of these programs were simple games, some drew graphics, some could help me with math or train me in French — and most were utterly pointless. But I never had as much satisfying fun as when writing those programs — even if no one in my family understood any of it when I proudly displayed the fruits of three sleepless nights of labor. Now, 20 years later, I still have a sealed pack of about 15 disks with all my work on them (along with a few of my favorite games) and I was wondering if it was possible to get the data out somehow so that I could run it in emulation on my Mac. I know of the emulators, but have no clue what would be needed to extract the data — or if it is even extractable after all these years. I realize the chances of the data still being intact are quite low, but I'd like to give it a shot. So if anyone has any pointers it would be greatly appreciated." A large hurdle will be finding a drive to read the Amstrad disks at all.
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Retrieving Data From Old Amstrad Floppies?

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  • by fataugie ( 89032 ) on Thursday May 08, 2008 @12:35PM (#23339160) Homepage
    I'm sure that will be the problem. Unless you search on Ebay or Craigslist for someone with one in their basement....good luck. I have a 5 1/4 floppy drive and some disks set aside for the exact same reason.....someday I'll want that info and then I'll be all set.
    • by Chas ( 5144 ) on Thursday May 08, 2008 @12:46PM (#23339330) Homepage Journal
      "I have a 5 1/4 floppy drive and some disks set aside for the exact same reason.....someday I'll want that info and then I'll be all set."

      If bit-rot doesn't do you in first.
      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by snowraver1 ( 1052510 )
        What did 5 1/4 drives connect with? ATA/33? Would you even be able to connect a flopppy from a 386 to a modern PC?
        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by timbck2 ( 233967 )
          The really old ones (including the Commodore 64) connected via a serial interface.
        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by bhtooefr ( 649901 )
          It depends on the platform.

          IBM-compatibles used a special floppy interface - the controller is on the motherboard.

          And, if a modern PC has the hardware to drive a 3.5" floppy, it can drive a 5.25" floppy. So, yes.

          But, the IBM-compatible floppy controller might not be able to handle these Amstrad disks.
        • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

          Assuming he means a PC 5 1/4 inch drive, 5 1/4 inch drives connected to the floppy controller, which remained basically unchanged in the switch to 3 1/2 inch drives. Modern motherboards still generally have a floppy controller; if your PC has a 3 1/2 floppy drive, it'll support a 5 1/4 inch drive. My PC actually has a 2-in-1 drive hooked up in it, so I can still read and write 3 1/2 and 5 1/4 diskettes even today.
        • I've got a combo 5.25"/3.5" drive... fits in a standard 5.25" drive bay. Modern computers do support it, but only one of the drives is seen. I need to set a jumper on the drive to switch between the 5.25" being A: and the 3.5" being A: in order to use it.

          I've used it as recently as a month ago, when it was the only floppy drive I had lying around and I needed to flash the BIOS on a new motherboard so it'd support a quad core processor.
        • by operagost ( 62405 ) on Thursday May 08, 2008 @02:47PM (#23341246) Homepage Journal
          Ultra-ATA? Ha ha... you are so young. IDE didn't even exist yet when the 5 1/4" floppy first appeared. Those were the days of 5 MB hard disk with ST-506 interfaces, 1-5 MHz CPUs, and 40-column monochrome displays. Now get off my lawn!
          • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

            by SQLGuru ( 980662 )
            /me passes his working RLL controller over to grampa.

          • by dcsmith ( 137996 ) * on Friday May 09, 2008 @09:26AM (#23348990) Homepage

            Ultra-ATA? Ha ha... you are so young. IDE didn't even exist yet when the 5 1/4" floppy first appeared. Those were the days of 5 MB hard disk with ST-506 interfaces, 1-5 MHz CPUs, and 40-column monochrome displays. Now get off my lawn!
            Floppy drives? Hard drives? You young whippersnappers...

            I have a card reader [userfriendly.org] in my basement.

            I see your 'get of my lawn' and raise you a 'And turn down that noise you call music'!

      • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

        Seriously, if you want to actually access that info move it off now and onto newer medium. That whole stack could go on a thumbdrive or CD and be safe for the next 10 years or so.
      • by ichthus ( 72442 ) on Thursday May 08, 2008 @01:20PM (#23339916) Homepage
        That could happen, but I had floppies for an Atari 8-bit that were written 23 years ago. They still worked fine last week...

        then sold my 800, two drives and a bunch of other stuff. I'm now $100 richer, but I have to admit feeling a bit of seller's remorse. A part of me has died.

        But, the point is (damn, I miss that 800 now. Why'd I do it?) *cough* magnetic media seems to be lasting much longer than was expected.

    • by Anonymous Coward
      You're a programmer, get your hands on some old hardware and take advantage of what wikipedia says:

      Serial port adaptor

      Amstrad issued two RS-232-C D25 serial interfaces, attached to the expansion connector at the rear of the machine, with a through-connector for the CPC464 disk drive or other peripherals. The original interface came with a "Book of Spells" for facilitating data transfer between other systems using a proprietary protocol in the device's own ROM, as well as terminal software to connect to British Telecom's Prestel service. A separate version of the ROM was created for the U.S. market due to the use of the commands "SUCK" and "BLOW", which were considered unacceptable there.

      Use a serial line to copy the data. I'm sure that it wouldn't be too hard if you can just get a machine that works.

    • by gigne ( 990887 ) on Thursday May 08, 2008 @12:49PM (#23339384) Homepage Journal
      Yep, once you find one you are going to need to transfer it onto a PC. I never could find a drive, so I gave up, but here are some links that will help with the task.

      This link http://www.fvempel.nl/3pc.html [fvempel.nl] has some good details on how to splice it onto a PC floppy cable. There are also loads of good links on his page for extracting the data.

      The guys on http://www.cpczone.net/ [cpczone.net] were really helpful.

      Good luck, you will need it!
      • If I remember rightly the drives were integrated into some models of Amstrads. Given this if you can find an old Amstrad you should see if you could create a serial link between the computer and your Mac. After that its a matter of using kermit or some other serial transfer protocol.
        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by jamesh ( 87723 )
          The Amstrad 6128 did not have an integrated serial port, although one was available. The only thing it had was a parallel port, and that was only 7 bits (+1 bit for strobe). I wrote a bit banging transfer protocol (4 bits at a time - w00t!) to move a heap of data from the Amstrad to an Amiga. Not too fast but we're only talking something like 160kb/disk. I was about 12 at the time too :)

          Those disks are pretty robust so there's a good chance you won't have too much of a bitrot infestation. In the ~5 years th
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by ardiri ( 245358 )

        PC Alien. it was a IBM PC DOS based program that would allow you to read older computer disk systems (5 1/4 etc). i remember using it on my 80x86 to read CP/M based disks from my microbee :)
    • by B'Trey ( 111263 ) on Thursday May 08, 2008 @12:59PM (#23339570)
      Wow! Just how much is it worth to you?

      $285.14? [ebay.com]

      Seems a bit pricey to me but your nostalgic millage may vary.
    • by Frederic54 ( 3788 ) on Thursday May 08, 2008 @01:07PM (#23339706) Journal
      You can plug PC 3 1/2 or 5 1/4 drive on an Amstrad, they use the same interface!!
      http://www.cpcwiki.com/index.php/3%C2%BD%22_%26_5%C2%BC%22_Disk_Drives [cpcwiki.com]
      • by WebCowboy ( 196209 ) on Thursday May 08, 2008 @02:57PM (#23341404)
        You can plug PC 3 1/2 or 5 1/4 drive on an Amstrad, they use the same interface!

        Yup--Amstrad was one of the makers of oddball "semi-standard" PCs. It had standard serial ports that others like Atari and Commodore seemed averse to using on their 8-bit home computer lines (probably because they wanted to make it a hassle to use third-party peripherals--basically buy aour stuff, or buy an overpriced adapter to plug in standard stuff).

        Amstrad CPCs not only had the same floppy controller and interface as the IBM PC, it also used the same 6845 video display processor as well (which is why it had CGA-like graphics, and the added 16-colour low-res mode like the Tandy 1000 series and PCJr). Sound was identical to the MSX-based computers. They basically cherry-picked here and there.

        Too bad the use of a non-standard form factor drive with the standard connector had to happen though. What's this guy going to do with the old discs now? Fortunately for myself, I purchased a floppy drive for my Coleco ADAM the first opportunity I could because the modified cassette tapes were not all that reliable and they were hard to find. As a result all my old stuff ended up on floppies.

        The Coleco floppy drive had a non-standard ADAMNet interface (ADAMNet worked just like USB but slower--you could plug the keyboard into the back of the disk drive, or the front "keyboard" port, or swap the floppy and keyboard wires and the damn thing would work). More importantly though, the disks were normal 5.25" floppies FORMATTED TO A STANDARD 160KB FORMAT READABLE ON IBM PCs. Eighteen years after we got the ADAM I was able to scrounge up a leftover 5.25" floppy drive, put it in my Linux box and use DD to make images of the floppies that work perfect with emulators!

        Interestingly Atari kind of migrated towards less-proprietary architecture with its ST line too--ST computers had standard serial and parallel ports, and it used 3.5" floppies with a variant of FAT formatting that was readable on IBM PC drives.

        I was laughed at by Commodore and Apple fans for going with "toy" Coleco and Atari computers, but in a sense I got the last laugh, because I ended up with computers that had amongst the most easily recoverable media of all those computers of that era. So why did I choose the Coleco and Atari ST computers back then? Becasue both could be easily made to run a variant of CP/M, including popular apps like Wordstar.
    • by Hatta ( 162192 )
      What are the chances someone could hack themselves a disk drive that could read these? It seems like it would be possible to rig up some sort of magnetic scanner that could read the analog magnetic domains on the disk, and convert that to data in software. I'm sure it would take some crazy engineering, and it's probably not worth doing, but it at least seems plausible.

      If this guy [huji.ac.il] can convert an LP to audio with an optical scanner, why not?
    • Simplest way... (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Joce640k ( 829181 ) on Thursday May 08, 2008 @01:16PM (#23339856) Homepage
      Try emailing the people who write those emulators you mention.

    • I have a 5 1/4 floppy drive and some disks set aside for the exact same reason.....someday I'll want that info and then I'll be all set.

      Assuming that the drives haven't died and the disks haven't suffered from bitrot or aging effects on the materials they are made of.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by peragrin ( 659227 )
      Not to be silly but why don't you retrieve that data now, and then some day when you might want it you already have done the hard part of transferring it to a new system.

      Anything i wanted to keep off of my zip drive and magento optical drives i transferred to my hard drive a long time ago. I have accessed all my 3.5 floppies and copied that data as well.

      it got put onto an external HD, and copied onto dvd's.

      When i want my data it is already in accessible storage.
    • by halcyon1234 ( 834388 ) <halcyon1234@hotmail.com> on Thursday May 08, 2008 @01:37PM (#23340210) Journal

      A better solution:

      Give the floppies to someone else. Then, sue them for copyright infringement. In the filing, insist that all the infringed-upon data is stored on the floppies-- then demand the courts pay to have the evidence recovered...

    • by PReDiToR ( 687141 ) on Thursday May 08, 2008 @01:38PM (#23340230) Homepage Journal
      I looked into this a while ago, I have a few CF2 3" disks, and would love to read what I wrote when I was 14.

      I found this [demon.co.uk] company that offers conversions @ £5 a disk.

      This isn't the only company, but a google will find the others.
    • by vought ( 160908 ) on Thursday May 08, 2008 @01:44PM (#23340312)
      You may find old Amstrad drives or sources for the drives at Halted Specialities in Santa Clara.

      http://www.halted.com/ [halted.com]
  • by Chas ( 5144 ) on Thursday May 08, 2008 @12:38PM (#23339190) Homepage Journal
    Otherwise you're pretty boned.

  • by Steve1952 ( 651150 ) on Thursday May 08, 2008 @12:40PM (#23339226)
    I was recently able to successfully read data from my old Apple II+ elephant memory disks from 1981-1982. It worked nearly perfectly, with only a few tracks out of ten disks being unreadable. Of course the old disks only stored about 140K per disk, so the tracks must have been huge by modern standards.

    I used disk2fdi for this. You can get this at: http://www.oldskool.org/disk2fdi

  • Have a ton of old code, writings, etc. on 3.5" disks -- I had the brains to copy over the 5.25" data back when I had an Apple, apparently.

    I don't really want to go buy a retro //gs and all the stuff that comes with it and have it around the house, and am not even sure how to get all of these files to PC or BSD-friendly formats. Some are text. Some are Appleworks.

    I copied over everything I had on a Mac platform, but didn't have a SuperDrive, so couldn't read the // 3.5" disks.

    Anyone up for a LAN party where
  • by wsanders ( 114993 ) on Thursday May 08, 2008 @12:41PM (#23339242) Homepage
    In addition to the usual hapless corporate customers needing to restore 10 year old backup tapes at the request of lawyers, forensic data recoverers can now market to nostalgic boomers looking to relive their C64 and Sinclair ZX-80 experiences.

    There is big money here - look at the motorcycle industry, which used to be pitched to outlaws, kids, and the outdoorsy, and is now aiming for the Viagra and $100-bottle-of-wine crowd.

    I still have a huge library of Fortran code on 1/2" tape. If I ever want to see that code again will somebody please kill me.
    • by m0nkyman ( 7101 )
      I don't know about big money, but there is definitely room for a business to specialize in this field, given that international shipping and the internet allows the market to be worldwide. Definitely someone could make a decent living at it.
    • by deanoaz ( 843940 )
      >>> I still have a huge library of Fortran code on 1/2" tape. If I ever want to see that code again will somebody please kill me.

      Yes, after what you said about motorcycle enthusiasts, somebody surely will if the need arises.
    • I still have a huge library of Fortran code on 1/2" tape.

      I still have a couple of COBOL program on a 8" floppy, I am wondering what would be the cost to retrieve them!
      They come from a Bull Mini6, like this one:
      http://www.histoireinform.com/Histoire/+infos2/chr4infe.htm [histoireinform.com]

      Damn I'm old :-(
      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by sjf ( 3790 )
        The data density on an 8" floppy is so low that you can pretty much recover the data with a good quality 4800dpi scanner.

  • Google found me this emulation site. [cpczone.net] So emulation seems possible. Dunno about a Mac port, but people are writing code to emulate.

    As for getting the data off, my first idea was to try to find a full system off of eBay. Then you'll need to write something to pull raw sectors off the disks. And a terminal program - something to push the info down a serial line. On the other side hook up your Mac and write something there to collect the data.

    I'm doing something similar with an old Amiga 2000 and my old

  • by Alioth ( 221270 ) <no@spam> on Thursday May 08, 2008 @12:44PM (#23339290) Journal
    It should be trivially easy to do, given a short BASIC program and five minutes on ebay.

    Just search ebay for an Amstrad CPC6128 or a Sinclair Spectrum +3 or an Amstrad PCW. There are still plenty of them around. (I have a Spectrum +3 with a working 3 inch Amstrad floppy drive as it happens, the floppy drive is quite handy for restoring the firmware on the Spectrum ethernet card I'm developing if I blow some non-functional code onto the flash ROM and can't reprogram it any more over ethernet). It would be best to get a CPC6128 - if you get a Spectrum +3 or a PCW you may have to write some low-level software to read CPC formatted discs.

    The CPC, if I remember right, has an RS232 port. Write a short BASIC program to send your data to a PC via RS232.

    Incidentally, the most common fault on the 3 inch Amstrad drives is a broken belt - you can buy new ones from rwap software: http://www.rwapsoftware.co.uk/ [rwapsoftware.co.uk] - while this firm caters for the Spectrum, since the later models were built by Amstrad with the 3in drive, they carry parts for 3in drives.

    The other good news is most floppies seem to hold up well - while the 3in discs don't seem to do as well as 5.25 in discs (I have only one faulty disc in many 20+ year old ones for my BBC micro, but rather more faulty 3in discs - all pre-recorded game discs) - so I suspect your discs will all read fine.
    • by pjt33 ( 739471 )
      The fault on my family's 3 inch Amstrad drive was my youngest sister pushing the foil from an Easter egg into it. I think it was not long after that that I bought my first Amiga.
    • by Frederic54 ( 3788 ) on Thursday May 08, 2008 @01:10PM (#23339760) Journal

      Incidentally, the most common fault on the 3 inch Amstrad drives is a broken belt
      True, and my latest repair was made using a rubber band :)
      It's easy to find old Amstrad HW in Europe anyway.
    • Yes, but does your modern PC...?

      >"rather more faulty 3in discs - all pre-recorded
      > game discs"

      If you saw how they duplicated those disks you wouldn't be very surprised...

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by jamesh ( 87723 )
        Actually, none of the Amstrad CPC464, CPC664 and CPC6128 had serial ports anyway. A serial interface was an optional extra that plugged into the back.
  • by barfy ( 256323 ) on Thursday May 08, 2008 @12:44PM (#23339292)
    You can start here...

    http://www.obsoletecomputermuseum.org/amstrad/ [obsoleteco...museum.org]
  • by klubar ( 591384 ) on Thursday May 08, 2008 @12:44PM (#23339304) Homepage
    There are a number of companies that do media conversion. They can read old floppies, 9-track tapes, tape cartridges and other obsolete media.

    http://computer-convert.com/index.htm [computer-convert.com]
    http://www.vintagetech.com/?section=conversion [vintagetech.com] (they also do 7-track tape, paper tape and punch cards!)

    Google: http://search.live.com/results.aspx?q=media+conversion+floppy+tape+&src=IE-SearchBox [live.com]

    However, you may find looking on ebay is cheaper and more fun.
  • Jasmin drive (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Frederic54 ( 3788 ) on Thursday May 08, 2008 @12:46PM (#23339328) Journal
    Easy, I have a standard 5 1/4 drive on my CPC6128. I even did the little hack to invert A and B so now my |A drive is the 5 1/4.

    There is tools in cpm+ to use 800k floppy or transfer files etc. And it uses the same encoding (MFM?) on Amstrad or PC so on the CPC you can read and write PC floppy. PC use 40 tracks by default and Amstrad use 80 tracks for the 800k floppy iirc. Anyway, it works, try to find the schematic to hook a 3 1/2 or 5 1/4 drive on an Amstrad.
  • by flyingfsck ( 986395 ) on Thursday May 08, 2008 @12:49PM (#23339382)
    Sprinkle the disks with iron filings and scan them on a flatbed scanner. Then write a new and absolutely pointless program to retrieve the data from the scans.
    • Absolute genius. There's a special place in heaven for you.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      This actually isn't as insane or absurd as you wanted it to seem. There are actually products like MagnaView that have very tiny magnetic particles suspended in a solvent, and will clearly image the magnetic information on a mag tape, credit card magnetic stripe or even a floppy disk. And considering that someone has already written a program to play analog audio off of a scan of a vinyl record, extracting the data from a floppy "developed" with MagnaView shouldn't be that hard. Still,I would suggest track
  • by spazdor ( 902907 ) on Thursday May 08, 2008 @12:50PM (#23339406)
    If you get desperate, there are data recovery services you can hire (at pretty ridiculous expense I'm sure) that can retrieve data from busted hard drives and floppies. Given that they have to do things like mount naked platters and floppies and read them as-is, it seems likely that their gear can accomodate a range of different sizes and sector layouts and whatnot.
    • by halcyon1234 ( 834388 ) <halcyon1234@hotmail.com> on Thursday May 08, 2008 @01:34PM (#23340158) Journal
      A note: Before you start looking down this path, be sure think long and hard about how much your nostalgia is really worth.

      I recently did just this with all my old 5 1/4" disks. I had about 200 disks full of old games, programs, and some Basic work I did. The whole "514" project took me an afternoon, and 34.6MB of space. I was surprised about how many of the disks were still viable after 10-15 years.

      Except for one particular brand name of disks. I don't recall which one-- but let me tell you this: Of the 200 disks, there were maybe 4 I really, really wanted to recover. The ones that had some Basic programs and animations I had done. And wouldn't you know, the only three that were corrupt were from that pool of four.

      I still have them, just in case. But a cursory glance at data recovery places let me know that they'd charge anywhere from $75-$300 per disk. If they don't get it right (or if they're a crappy place as screw up the procedure) the data is for-sure gone forever.

  • I've attempted to read 10-year-old 3.5" floppies and had pretty bad luck. The magnetic media became unreadable, at least on my standard equipment (which I tested and works just fine with fresh media). Perhaps a sophisticated lab could get the data off, but I sure couldn't. You may find that your disks are unreadable by now, even if you had equipment capable of reading them.
    • Been there, done that. I was going to fire up my old Amiga 3000 a few years ago. One that had the original kickstart on a disk instead of rom. Dug out the disk and blew some brown dust out from under the floppy then I realized that brown dust was the magnetic media flaking off. I actually blew away my own data.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Panaflex ( 13191 )
      I used to work at a recovery company. We "baked" sticky media in an "oven" (the kind you see in biolabs) before attempting recovery.

      I've had great luck with the 3M disks.
  • by Digi-John ( 692918 ) on Thursday May 08, 2008 @12:53PM (#23339468) Journal
    Just sign up for one of these [classiccmp.org] (I suggest cctalk) and ask around. Maybe somebody can convert them for you, maybe somebody else has an entire Amstrad system that they'll let you have cheap.
  • Anyone know where I can get an old NeXT optical disc converted to a PC-accessible modern format?

    I googled around, sent emails and filled in 'contact us' forms on a number of archive-retrieval websites and never got any response back.

    • Purdue University Computing Center used to have a bunch of NeXTs with optical drives. You might be able to find someone there that could do the conversion for you for a small fee.
  • solution (Score:2, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward
    It is possible to connect an Amstrad 3" floppy drive to a PC computer. Both CPCs and PC computers use the same type of floppy disk controller. You can get a suitable drive by purchasing an old Amstrad PCW word processor device. Here is one application for reading the disk format on a Windows system:
    http://www.cpcmania.com/cpcdiskxp/cpcdiskxp.htm [cpcmania.com]
    Several other similar tools exist.

    Here are instructions on connecting a 3" drive to a PC:
    http://www.amstradcg.nl/econvers.html#3PC [amstradcg.nl]
  • by daffmeister ( 602502 ) on Thursday May 08, 2008 @01:00PM (#23339580) Homepage
    In which case, I did this just last weekend. It's not easy though. Requirements were:
    • 1 Amstrad PC (with floppy drive)
    • 1 PC running Window 98 with parallel port
    • 1 copy of Locolink, which includes a parallel cable and transfer software

    In my case we had an Amstrad PCW8256 in full working order, so that covered reading the disks. The Locolink software is hard to come by but I picked up a copy on E-Bay. It's designed for transferring and converting Locoscript [locoscript.com] files but will transfer other files as well just fine. It only works with Window 98 on the PC side though.

    If you don't have an actual working Amstrad then your best bet is probably finding a hacked-up 3" drive that you can connect to a PC. You might be more likely to be able to purchase the whole computer.

    If you're in the UK there are services that will transfer the files for you for 10GBP a disk. Here's a list [diskdoctor.co.uk] of them. In the US, try here [ukonline.co.uk].

    Good luck!

  • Even though I never had an Amstrad to recover disks from, I somewhat regret not having bought one of the three or four I saw at thrift stores over the years. As long as the interface is compatible with the standard Shugart interface (which it should be), you could hook it up to a Catweasel card. I did buy a few Amstrad disks when I found them (they were small), but by the time I cared, I didn't see any more of the computers.

    But I was a TRS-80 guy back in the day, so all my old disks are already imaged than

  • Ebay... (Score:2, Informative)

    by Plautius ( 626357 )
    Ebay has them galore but not exactly cheap:

    Just the drive (got an old AT style PC) here: Ebay! [ebay.com]

  • I don't know what kind of interface the 3" drives have, but if it is or can be adapted to the usual 34-pin SA400-style interface then one of the Catweasel floppy controllers (made by Jens Schoenfeld A.K.A. Individual Computers) might be your friend. They can make reading almost any format a Simple Matter Of Programming(TM).

    And don't listen to people telling you the media deteriorate. The older the better, really -- I've lost data on 3.5" floppies more and more lately (quality seems to be going down), but
  • by mbone ( 558574 ) on Thursday May 08, 2008 @01:11PM (#23339770)
    My first programming was on punched paper tape, which I can still read. I am not saying I have a machine that could read it, but at least I can look at the punches and figure out what the characters were.

    When I was in grad school, there was some data stored on punched paper tape, stored fan-folded. The tape had dried out and cracked where the folds were. (The cracks would be in the middle of a byte, especially a high one, as they would have more holes punched in them.) They wanted to save the data, so they hired a under-grad to spend all summer sending the tape through a reader, one 4 foot section at a time, figure out what the byte was where the crack was, type that in, and then proceed to the next 4 foot section. I still think that that must have been the worst IT job ever.
  • The Amstrad PCW, Amstrad CPC and Sinclair Spectrum used the same disk drives. For example Level 9 published triple-format (!) disk versions of their adventure games that could be played on all the above. If you're looking to buy a second-hand computer to read your disks, this may increase your options.
  • Oh how I wish I hadn't thrown away my Amstrad CPC 464 three years ago, or I would have been able to actually help. I had an external 3" disc drive that was connectable to a PC in lieu of a 3½ floppy.

    There just wasn't any way I was going to be able to get it back to the US from my parents' attic in Britain and I didn't have time to dispose of it properly on eBay, so off to the skip it went.

    I feel sad.
  • Ask about on Usenet - comp.sys.amstrad.8bit, and on CPCZone http://www.cpczone.net/ [cpczone.net] and look on the CPC Wiki http://www.cpcwiki.com/index.php/Main_Page [cpcwiki.com].

    People there have working CPCs, and setups to get disk images from the CPC into a .dsk file on the PC.
  • I'd just... (Score:3, Informative)

    by JustNiz ( 692889 ) on Thursday May 08, 2008 @01:26PM (#23340000)
    keep looking on ebay for an old cpc 6128 or PCW-8256 or PCw-8512 (they all had the same 3" Hitachi microdrive). You can probably pick one up for like 10 uk pounds or something,

    The Hitachi 3" Microdrive which was intended to be a direct competitor to Sony's 3.5" format. (Unfortunately for Amstrad the Sony format was the one that won-out in the PC world). Because of that I'm guessing the possibility that the 3" Microdrive has a PC-compatable connector may be high (but I don't know for sure).

    Of course even if you got the drive connected to your PC OK still the problem would still be to get your PC to recognise the AMSDOS file system on the floppy.

    I guess another option (if you get your hands on an amstrad computer) would be to write some little program that implements a simple file transfer protocol via whatever ports (RS-232 etc) that are available on the amstrad you get, then connect it directly to a regular PC via a homebrew cable.
  • My first computer was a 286 running DOS, so I'm not in quite as much trouble WRT finding machinery to read my old code. That being said though, I've been religiously bringing my old data forward as different storage formats have become obsolete. My 5.25" disks got copied to single-sided 3.5", then dual sided 3.5", then CDs (briefly) Zip Disks and now I'm in the process of moving my archives to DVD. I'll be amazed if any of this crap is ever of interest to anyone but me, but I find it fun to go back from
  • and if you try, you'll ruin your fond memories. I've done it a few times and have been thoroughly disappointed. Like any self-respecting computer geek I frequented the bulletin boards before Al Gore invented the Internet. I'd play co-op text adventure games with friends and be online for the majority of my waking time. I had a chance to buy one of the BBS' I would play on and I tried to get some old friends to get back with me so we could relish in the glory days. It was awkward, not that much fun, and
  • I have long since thrown out my commie64. I had roughly 200 5 1/4 floppies loaded with c64 games and other apps. I was hoping to sell them on ebay. But my parents tossed out the floppies a few weeks ago.

    now all I have left is that old star micronics dot matrix printer for c64.

    I need to get rid of that thing.
  • by Aging_Newbie ( 16932 ) on Thursday May 08, 2008 @02:30PM (#23341002)
    Using Google, I fouund the solution. It appears that this guy [netfirms.com] can do the conversion for you and return your data in hours. Cost would not be prohibitive and would support the Amstrad addiction.

    He seems to have a pretty good handle on all the conversion problems, too. His page is a fun read just for that.
  • by Aram Fingal ( 576822 ) on Thursday May 08, 2008 @04:34PM (#23342682)
    ddrescue [gnu.org] is an open source disk recovery tool based on dd. It can make a disk image from any kind of disk, regardless of format and it is designed to be very robust reading through bad blocks as you're likely to have on disks that old. You just need to have a floppy drive to connect to. ddrescue will compile and run on Linux, OS X and maybe Cygwin.

    Once you have a disk image, Foremost [sourceforge.net] can extract files from it. It is also open source and can be compiled and run on many different platforms and doesn't care about the filesystem on the disk image (or original disk). It searches for files based on header information. If need be, you can edit what header information it looks for. Since your BASIC source code is, presumably, ASCII text files, it shouldn't be a problem.

"If you lived today as if it were your last, you'd buy up a box of rockets and fire them all off, wouldn't you?" -- Garrison Keillor