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Data Storage IT

What's the Oldest File You Can Restore? 498

turtleshadow writes "Now that it's almost 2011, a question for anyone who's kept backups since before the Y2K non-event: Have you personally/professionally had to recover something from 10+ years ago? If so, please share the interesting 'hows,' especially if you had to do multiple media transfers and file formats to get data into a usable file format on a modern hardware platform of your choice. Native solutions are rated higher than emulation. Also, what are your plans for recovering in 2021? Street cred goes to the oldest, most technical and complex restores ... that are of course successful. I'm working the night shift Christmas/New Year's; I ask everybody still stirring and hardcore SysOPs."
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What's the Oldest File You Can Restore?

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  • by Anonymous Coward

    I used this 15+ years ago
    @echo off

    • by Vapula ( 14703 ) on Sunday December 26, 2010 @03:32PM (#34671278)

      I can still recover my files from my ZX Spextrum (and my sinclair +2). These files are from 83-93 (I switched to PC during 1993), some of the files from tape, other from disquettes

      Among these files, all my programs on HP48SX (and my home made kermit transfert system for Spectrum) and some other.

      Well, the fact that both my Spectrum 48K and my Sinclair +2 still work do help.

      • I have tapes from my ZX Spextrum (1984) and wonder if I'll ever (still?) be able to read them. Also programs from HP41CV, but these are written in paper.
      • After an evening of Blacksploitation movies and drinking beer at my office. Friend of mine found my old IBM XT from 1985 (or 86) in the storage. Booted it up and played police quest from original disks. So 25 years is no problem. Have to check if my Spectra Video tapes still work.
        • I have an original copy of Tom Pittman's 6800 TINY BASIC on paper tape. I recovered it with my working SWTPC 6800 SS-50 machine from about 1975 using a home-brew paper tape reader I built long ago. It loaded and ran, so I popped it onto cassette tape using an SWTPC AC-30 interface (which is all this machine has for "mass storage", it only reads paper tape, can't write it), imported it to my Gimix 6809 SS-50 machine from the cassette tape, popped it onto DSDD floppy, then used an S9 format serial transfer ut

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday December 26, 2010 @03:10PM (#34671122)

    Over time they've been migrated with the rest of my data through various 8, 16, and 32 bit PCs, and currently reside on my x86-64 Fedora box. The original hardware is LONG dead. I could probably get them natively off anything going back to my Model 4P, but that would be annoying and require using an RS-232 cable.

    • by humphrm ( 18130 )

      Yeah, I've got a box of punchcards - basically a dump of Basic - for a CDC Cyber system running NOS/BE. In theory, if I ever find one, I can load them up and run batch basic.

      • Punchcards should be easy. You don't need the old hardware. Just a scanner and a bit of software fun. Even if all the specs are long lost, it should be quite easy to rederive them all.
    • by pthisis ( 27352 ) on Sunday December 26, 2010 @05:33PM (#34671912) Homepage Journal

      Over time they've been migrated with the rest of my data through various 8, 16, and 32 bit PCs, and currently reside on my x86-64 Fedora box. The original hardware is LONG dead. I could probably get them natively off anything going back to my Model 4P, but that would be annoying and require using an RS-232 cable.

      That's the key; every time you change storage technologies, you have to move your existing backups to the new one. That helps in a bunch of ways:

      1. Media degradation: You're constantly refreshing data to new storage, so the eventual failure of old CDs/tapes/drives/etc is partially mitigated (you still want redundant backups, of course)
      2. Obsolescence: Trying to get that old 8" floppy working can be a pain in the ass; you're either hoping the old machine still boots and has some way of transferring the data once it's read, or you're searching for drivers for an 8" drive on a more modern machine. By transferring immediately on upgrade, you skirt most of those issues.
      3. A little extra redundancy; if the new storage fails, at least you have copies of a lot of data on the previous generation of hardware.

      It's one of those things that you only need to fight with once before it becomes ingrained; I can only go back to c. 1992 in recovering my personal files, because that's when I first went to get an old file and struggled being able to recover it. Since then, copying everything to new storage as it arrives is de rigueur.

      Likewise, at the tech places I've worked for the past 10+ years it's been mandatory to copy all old data over to new storage technology as it arrives.

      • by pthisis ( 27352 )

        Also it helps you realize earlier if files are lost, which can be pretty important in some cases.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday December 26, 2010 @03:11PM (#34671134)

    And here I was thinking that most operations-people would rather cred the LEAST complex solution to the problem.

    Just restored a 1998 backup from a DLT4000 cartridge, using tar. Oooh. Nothing fancy. ...

  • by dentin ( 2175 ) on Sunday December 26, 2010 @03:13PM (#34671148) Homepage

    I have disk copies and files from my IBM PC in the 1985 time frame. That's the oldest data I personally owned/created that I have records for; prior to that it was TRS-80 BASIC on cassette tapes and extremely hard to retrieve/use. I've got it in my permanent data archive, which is sometimes fun to browse around and see what I was doing 20+ years ago.

    • Mainly because while all other drive formats are cheap, those damn SCSI drives require specialized equipment which still seems to cost hundreds of dollars.

      • They do? SCSI cards cost what now? 50$ Which is nothing compared what they used to cost. I've got a truckload of PCI SCSI cards out of dumpsters. SCSI is wonderfully versatile. Attach the disk, the scanner, the optical drive or the tape drive and chances it will just work. Your chances are better with Linux than with Windows these days, but often it's just complaining from Windows. We have a SCSI Dia Scanner device, which used to turn up with a yellow triangle in the device manager on XP. Worked fi

    • by Grog6 ( 85859 )

      My earliest file is a version of the Chi Square algorithm I wrote in 1988 to check D&D dice, lol.


  • by denzacar ( 181829 ) on Sunday December 26, 2010 @03:17PM (#34671170) Journal

    ...that is positively ancient.

    FFS I think I have DVDs from that time. Even 20+ years is ridiculous. I have CDs burned in 1997-1998 that still work perfectly.

    30+ years is a minimum. Back when the common storage medium was a cassette.

    • by 0123456 ( 636235 )

      30+ years is a minimum. Back when the common storage medium was a cassette.

      Nah, that's easy: 8-bit emulators can often load cassette files through a PC sound-card.

      I was going to try that but I think all my old Sinclair tapes got thrown out a couple of years back.

    • Agreed, I have DVDs, from 10+ years, CDs from 15 years ago and floppies from 25 years ago that work fine. All that's in my archives are email and personal source code from when I was fiddling around trying to learn a few things, nothing too interesting. Don't even know why I keep it. Source code from when I was a kid is fun to look back at, I kept all of my iterations so I can track what I was learning, but nothing too useful and certainly not very relevant today.
    • I find your comment about ancient somewhat troubling. The writings of Confucius or Aristotle are ancient. Of course, most of the stuff we keep on computers is not important but there are some things that we want to recover. Some stuff might be quite valuable. Yes, the pace of technology is very quick but that is irrelevant to the value of a file.

      • But you are talking about analog kinds of "ancient". It's kind of like how a year to us is 7 to a dog, a digitial year is like 100 analog years, so that 20 year old tape backup is similar to a 2000 year old analog backup, ie: a 50/50 chance it will work.

      • Indeed. That's a challenging one to solve. I personally try to use documented file formats where possible, but that really only solves the easy portion of the problem. The other portion is accessing those files later on, assuming they're not wiped out in some fashion at a future time.
      • But I am positive that the following reply should suffice:


    • True...I'm looking right now at a CD that sits in the drawer of my desk - burned in 2001. I'm sure I have in some cardboard box some CDs that I burned on an external HP CD writer, connected through the parallel port to the PC. But the metal reflective layer on those already had some pin sized holes - luckily it was only shareware and some music on those.

    • Yeah, I just cleaned my wife's e-mail "attachments" folder, with live files from 1999 forward... they were migrated there from 2 previous machines, but she's used Eudora continuously since about 1999, so all the attachments were there - figured since we hadn't looked at any of them in 10+ years, we could use the 3GB of space for other things.
  • by drerwk ( 695572 ) on Sunday December 26, 2010 @03:21PM (#34671184) Homepage
    I connected the printer out to a linux parallel in, wrote a Linux reader and did a PR#6 on the apple. I've heard of people using the audio out in a similar manner. I'm amazed that the Apple II+ disks seem to be in readable condition.
    • Read 5.25" disk (AppleDos 3.3) in an apple IIgs. Connect via Localtalk to a beige G3 running Macos 9, then transfer from there to Quicksilver running MacOs 10.4. Then to my snow leopard mini. I might be able to go directly from the beige G3 to my mini, but I have not tried it.

      Although I don't have an AppleDos 3.2 disk (from the late '70s), I do have an Apple IIe and the little proms to make the disk controller card read those 13 sector disks. So I should be able to read them. I think there was a program

  • by Bemopolis ( 698691 ) on Sunday December 26, 2010 @03:23PM (#34671198)
    When I was in graduate school one of my tasks was to read old astronomical CCD images that were written on magnetic tape (and there were a lot of them, since my advisor had been testing CCDs for the Hubble). So for a couple of months I sat in a small workroom with the department's only working Kennedy drive reading tapes.

    Because of age and prior use, many of the tapes were shedding oxide, making the drive rock back and forth over many segments in an attempt to retrieve the blocks thereon. After every few tapes I had to wipe the oxide from the read heads. Then, just to make the process a little more tedious, the data itself had to be byte-swapped. As a reward for all of that, I found one image to use in my dissertation.

    The data was written to CD-ROM in the late 90s, so I expect there's someone right now trying to figure out how to read the data off of the decade-old, decaying archive. If they're lucky, they'll find the backup DATs in the filing cabinet and the last working drive in the department.
    • by mug funky ( 910186 ) on Sunday December 26, 2010 @04:03PM (#34671414)

      bake the tapes in a slow-cooker before you even think about playing them!

      in my broadcast days i encountered a guy with the last working 2" J-format video deck in this side of the world. he actually had about 10 of these decks, all the size of an industrial fridge. he'd use parts from all 10 to keep one working.

      he built a room-sized oven to slow-bake the tapes to re-activate the adhesives that had broken down, otherwise he'd destroy the tapes and mess up his only working machine.

      he's still transferring 2-inch reels of old TV shows...

  • Commodore 64 (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Announcer ( 816755 ) on Sunday December 26, 2010 @03:24PM (#34671206) Homepage

    The last time I needed my resume' was in the mid 1980's. Therefore, it was stored on a 5 1/4 floppy for my Commodore 64, in "Speedscript" format. After getting the Speedscript word processor loaded into the C64, I saved it as "ASCII" in a SEQ file. Then I booted "HDD64" on an old P200 PC, and connected the 1541 drive to it, thru an "X1541" cable. Once saved to the PC's HD, I booted Windows 98. Once done, I brought it across the LAN into my WIN2000 box, and then re-worked it in MS Word 2000. That is the format it remains in until WORD becomes obsolete! ;)

    I had typed Speedscript in, byte-by-byte, from a COMPUTE! Magazine article, years before. For a 6K (yes, six kilobytes) program, it did an absolutely outstanding job! I used that program more than any other on my C64 for years.

    • nice! but maybe you should also save a .RTF file from Word 2000, just in case. Every word processor seems to read those.

    • Actually, I think you just pinned the earliest and easiest format to use.

      Go grab a copy of Creative Computing from the mid 1970s, or one of David Ahl's compilation books and sit down at an emulator. Type in the program. Run it.

      Dead trees are still surprisingly good at being read many many decades after they were "saved". In addition, making a copy is pretty easy as well. Putting it onto long term media (aka acid free paper) will ensure you can type your nuclear reactor simulator or non-real-time lunar l

      • I see your 1970s and raise you the 1950s. I've known a professor or two with boxes of Hollerith cards containing their graduate-school era FORTRAN code.

        Also, you wouldn't even have to type anything in, assuming you could find a reader or could afford a student to scan them in and write an imaging code to interpret it. Because, hey, what's more useful than Version 1.0 of the code on which you made your bones?
    • I had typed Speedscript in, byte-by-byte, from a COMPUTE! Magazine article, years before. For a 6K (yes, six kilobytes) program, it did an absolutely outstanding job! I used that program more than any other on my C64 for years.

      I thought I was the only one who typed that in by hand over 2-4 weeks. After that...made sure I had a copy on probably 10 different 5 1/4" disks to make sure I would never have to type it in again.

      Just like yourself...that word processor got me through college and turned out many papers. I printed off to the Commodore plotter with pens I bought at Radio Shack. From there...would run the printouts to a print shop and enlarge them to 8.5 X 11. Turned them in (with the printout) and got decent grades. Later

    • Wow, that's far more than I've done. Closest I can say is that I converted my 5 large disk boxes of 5 1/4 inch disks to D64 images over a weekend using a crudely-assembled X64 cable and... Something Commander, I forget what. I then burned that to CD using my fancy $700 2x CD burner and marveled at how much space there was left over on the desk. Since then I've copied the CD to DVD and now those 5 large disk boxes seem very tiny indeed.
  • QIC (Score:5, Interesting)

    by nojayuk ( 567177 ) on Sunday December 26, 2010 @03:25PM (#34671214)

    Last year I got given a QIC-150 tape written in 1995 to see if I could recover someone's old email archives. First I had to locate a QIC drive but a bit of hunting on the local Freecycle group got me an external SCSI unit weighing about 40 pounds with a tape drive and a full-height 500MB hard drive included. The tape drive didn't work, in that it talked SCSI-II all right to the BSD box's controller and the motor went round and round but no data came out.

    The first inkling of bad news was realising that someone else had been into the tape drive mechanism before me when I saw the chewed-up screws holding the covers on. The really bad news was seeing the capstan roller on the drive -- or rather the motor shaft where the capstan roller used to be. It had gone missing sometime in the past and the bodger who had been in before me figured that a bunch of rubber bands would make a suitable replacement for the roller. This was some time back, judging by the condition of the rubber bands which were now a sticky mess of perished semi-liquid rubber.

    I rummaged in my junkbox and pulled out an old lump of solid rubber, a platen roller from a daisywheel printed I had junked decades ago. I measured up the motor shaft, made some educated guesses and machined a replacement roller on the workshop lathe. After degunking the motor shaft with a scalpel and needle files the new capstan roller was driven into place and after that the data came pouring off the tape like it had been written yesterday as good old-fashioned CSV-delimited tarball archives. The owner of the tape got back the first emails he ever exchanged with the lady who he had since married and there was much rejoicing.

  • Dead Media Project (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Doc Ruby ( 173196 ) on Sunday December 26, 2010 @03:25PM (#34671218) Homepage Journal

    This story's challenge sounds like a contest held by the Dead Media Project [] that SF/futurist author Bruce Sterling started in a 1990s mailing list. Though it's really about "extinct media", but Sterling is an SF author.

    I'm amused to see that today the DMP [] itself is down. I hope they've got a backup - and a restore device that works.

    • About 5 years ago, I was able to recover data I'd written on some old (circa 1990) diskettes using an old 486 computer I had in my "spares." which worked surprisingly well. One of the challenges was that I'd used an archiving program called ZOO, and a lot of my data files were stored in that format. It took some digging to find a program that would extract the files, and then saved them onto a hard drive, which was then written to CD. The files themselves were actually from the mid-80s, and fortunately,
  • Oldest file? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Weirsbaski ( 585954 ) on Sunday December 26, 2010 @03:26PM (#34671228)
    Files you can restore? How about what's the youngest file you need that you can't restore?
    • I'm guessing that there's at least one person on /. that has one from yesterday that they need but can't for some reason restore.
  • Well back around the mid 80s I had the brilliant idea to use all my old 10 or 20 mg hard drives to store data like floppys. I put some stuff on them that was fairly important like student loan and other stuff. I recently had to get that data about a year ago and it was really fun. I had to build a box with an MFM interface and load an old copy of DOS on it. Took like 25 tried before I had a complete set of DOS 3 floppys. Seemed like every time one of or all three of the set had some file gone. Then I had th
  • by 0123456 ( 636235 ) on Sunday December 26, 2010 @03:27PM (#34671236)

    Actually, this wasn't something I did myself, but the Apollo Guidance Computer source code must be one of the oldest 'backups' to be recovered. Old assembler printouts saved by the programmers were OCR-ed, then fixed up by hand where the OCR couldn't read the text, then assembled, then checksummed and cross-checked with the binary dump in the printout, then run on an emulator: []

  • The best way to recover files deleted that long ago from a hard drive is probably one of these three options:

    1) Invent a time machine and travel back in time to when the file was on the hard drive (or at least deleted and not yet had the sectors written-over);
    2) Go underground in the world of dark magicks to discover a sinister ritual involving virgin sacrifice to resurrect the long-dead files;
    3) Use an Ouija board with simply "1" and "0" on it and reconstruct the file from the afterlife bit-by-bit.

    These ar

  • I've pulled data off of real floppies that were at least 20 years old. I keep an old ISA/pre ATX motherboard, power supply and drive for such work. It's worth noting that there is vast quantities of old DEC mini and mainframe software preserved on the web, much of it from long-gone formats such as Dectape, paper tape and 7-track magtape.
  • A crazy guy cut off the top of some TO-5 can style ROMs for the HP-35 calculator and extracted the bits by taking photos and doing some image processing.
    Film at 11 []
  • Kids today (Score:5, Insightful)

    by 93 Escort Wagon ( 326346 ) on Sunday December 26, 2010 @03:43PM (#34671344)

    10+ years? Seriously - you consider that old? My website is older than that. I've got outdated copies of my resume (my wife's as well) older than that. I've got saved email messages older than that.

    • by Xugumad ( 39311 )

      I've got my old Amiga HD's contents around somewhere. It moves with my from system to system. I probably left it on a thumb drive somewhere...

    • Hell, I have emails from 97 and I'm 26 years old...

      I have my father's punch cards from his university days in a box somewhere.

      Then again, at work we have systems that still use 5.25 floppies for backup purposes (oil rig control systems... scary huh? :p)

  • I have Apple II software, C64 software, and even TRS-80 Model I & III software, on disks from back then that I have to sometimes work to get the data off.

    But not that often, seeing as most the software from those systems I also have downloaded from usenet for emulators for my collections.

    I also have a pair of 360k 5.25" floppy drives in an old pentium system I use for some systems, like the TRS-80's for reading/writing the info into the PC world.
    If i only had a 486 or earlier computer still, i'd be in h

  • by pz ( 113803 ) on Sunday December 26, 2010 @03:50PM (#34671362) Journal

    my-desktop:/home/me> cp /home/me/machines/mit/rts-23/hacks/attraction.lisp .

    I keep everything on-line. The amount of stuff I keep is coincidentally always substantially less than the current batch of reasonably priced large hard drives.

    And the file above? From 1986, if memory serves. I wrote it while working at MIT, and it became the basis of the Attraction screen saver in Linux (JWZ's version that's in the screen-saver package doesn't reflect the slow gracefulness of the original, though; someday I need to submit a patch to fix that). It's a Lisp file from a TI-Explorer Lisp Machine (named RTS-23) that was my desktop box in the late 80s.

    I realize that not everyone generates the amount of data I do, and many generate much, much more, or have responsibility for potentially restoring much, much more, but for me, always keeping my stuff on spinning media has worked really well. Given the recent explosion of digital photography and ripping my entire CD collection, that means I've got about 2TB these days, but that costs only a handful of hundred dollars with the local and remote RAID backup systems so why screw around with tape or more complex systems?

  • When I was doing backups from the 24 year old Amiga 2000 the other day, it was really a chore: I pulled out the SCSI drive and stuck it in the linux box, since linux can read the amiga file system without a problem. And the Amiga can read the 3 1/4" floppy discs from the old Mac. However I did have one tricky bit: the old mp3 player, a model I bought like 10 years ago, wouldn't fire up. I'd intended to copy a bunch of Underworld to the hard disc and put it behind the bathroom mirror so when the
  • restored from cdrom in summer of 2010. Burned somewhere around 1995.
  • I was dragged into helping to recover the Stanford SAIL-DART archives [] from the 1970s. Those were on 6250 BPI open-reel magnetic tape, which had been copied from the original 800 BPI tapes in a previous decade. The data was in a special character set only used at Stanford, and the format was nonstandard.

    The first step was to just copy the tapes onto disks, with no translation. That was done with a tape drive used was from an old Sun-II rackmount system. It took about twenty minutes for each tape, and I w

  • 10 years is not that long, but more to the point, if I am looking for a file on media that is so old, then it must be archived not backed up. A backup is something you keep if you want to safeguard against loss of data on whatever you use as an active data store. An archive is somewhere safe you keep something when you no longer have a regular need to access it, but may still need it in the future. The methods and media for backups and archives are often the same/similar, but in the case where you have some
    • by unts ( 754160 )
      On brief reflection, I realise this is a very personal response, and doesn't really work at a level where you're working in the capacity of sysop at a medium to large company. But the question is a bit ambiguous, and this is slashdot, so pleh!
  • Quite some time ago, I transferred my address list (about 100 records I'd guess) from a TI99/4a cartridge based program to IBM PC diskette. The cartridge based program stored data on cassette tape.

    That data eventually went by way of comma delimited format into an early Palm Pilot [An IBM branded model], and then into later Palm Pilots. I still have that data, much amended, to this day and still on a Palm and in the PC based software for Palm.

    I still have all that TI99/4a hardware, but haven't run it for

  • I have a printout of the source code to a program which ran on the XDS-940 prototype. This KSR-33 was the sole input and output to which I had access. Does that count?

    I used to have some punch card programs (CDC 6400) but I don't think I still have them. At least I haven't seen them the last few moves.

  • by Xugumad ( 39311 )

    For long term archival we're looking at PDFs (compliant to PDF/A-1b - see [] for more information). Not quite sure what media will be... probably CD-RWs triple burnt and stored in different locations for redundancy.

    Mostly, though, just try to remember to move stuff onto new media before the old becomes hopelessly old :)

  • I have archived backups from 1990(s) on Zips

  • I pulled some old cassettes, ranging in age of between 20 and 25 years, out of storage and sampled them into WAVs, then used CS1er and Tape994a to decode the data and load them into emulators. As well, I used the same program(s) to convert the data back into audio and played into a real TI console.

    Meh. Not overly challenging in description, but getting the right noise adjustment, tone and volume settings took quite a bit of time to get just right. And each recording needed its own settings. I found that

  • Disk is cheap and I've never had to restore data from more than 6 months ago. Sure, I've got stacks of older hard drives (it's a chuckle to see "big" 80gb drives and "small" 2gb drives), but I've never had to go back to them.

    As disk is cheap, my data has basically moved with me. Anything that I need that I'd have to go back in time is just dated that way (GnuCash, financial reports, etc.) and still on my current hard drive and daily/weekly/monthly/yearly grandfathering backup.

    The only downside is that the

  • I once needed to pull a few graphics files off of an Apple IIgs that were made in Paintworks. Unfortunately, they were in a format that no one else used. After some digging, I was able to find a program called Super-High-Res Convert that could convert them to GIF files. From there, I had to put them on an 800k floppy, then put said floppy into an old Mac (with IIgs disk format support) that had ethernet on it and a drive old enough to support 800k floppies. From there, I was able to pull it over the network
  • For pure age of the data I don't think you can really beat vinyl unless you get into the written word, I mean 50-60 year old albums are pretty common and I've seen stories of people doing 100 or better year old albums. Now of course it isn't very complex.... just plug the player into your computers sound in, but if all you're intrested in age I think it's pretty much unbetable unless you're counting the scanning dead sea scrolls or something.
  • I have an e-mail from Antarcica - from 1994. Yup, I have been thinking of framing it. :)

  • I started making regular backups onto tapes when I got a bargain on a QFA-700 tape drive in 1992 that used DC5150 and DC6250 tapes. I transferred these to CDR in 2000. These I can still read. Have not tried the tapes but do have 3 of the drives with which to rely on. I do however have 5.25 inch disks from my Apple II that were last written to in 1982 and still readable.


    Device Side Data's flagship product is the FC5025 USB 5.25" floppy controller. The FC5025 plugs into any computer's USB port and enables you to attach a 5.25" floppy drive. Even if your computer has no built-in floppy controller, the FC5025 lets you read those old disks. And it's not just for IBM PC disks – it also understands formats used by Apple, Atari, Commodore and TI, among others.
  • This may not count since it was in the 1990s (so the mid-1970s were a lot more recent then), but I read what I understood to be the original source code for MBASIC-80 off of PDP-10 DECtapes for one of Paul Allen's people. (If the stories we've all heard are true, MBASIC-80 was originally cross-assembled on PDP-10s, starting at Harvard before Microsoft was founded.)

    The hardware was a PDP-11/34a with a TC11/TU56 DECtape rig, with FILEX.SAV on RT-11 and also my own home-grown utility that takes snapshots of t

  • DOS 3 entire OS (Score:5, Interesting)

    by hairyfeet ( 841228 ) <> on Sunday December 26, 2010 @05:07PM (#34671758) Journal

    My oldest would have to be building an entire PC out of one of my "junkers" to save and restore an entire DOS 3 OS. At the shop I was working at the time this guy comes in in a panic and says 'Please tell me you have a machine that will run this and know how to set it up?" and he pulls out this big ass old ISA card. It turns out his dad owns a big lumber company and they had this big contract that required some custom columns as part of the deal. Wouldn't you know it, the first time junior talks his dad into taking a vacation and letting him be in charge the computer that controls the lathe that makes the columns shits itself and dies. Now this thing was older than dirt and from what I found out later these machines cost anywhere from 75k UP, and naturally the company that made it had been out of business damned near 15 years, so good luck finding a way to upgrade.

    So when Doug the boss tells the guy "We don't have anything that old on hand, I can get you one in about a week" the poor kid looked like he was gonna cry. He had been to every shop in town and got told the same thing and the job had to be DONE in 4 days, or goodbye big juicy contract. The kid knew that any chance he had to take over the business was going up in smoke faster than that old 10MHz Intel that had been running that lathe. So needless to say I thought the kid was gonna drop dead from a heart attack right there when I looked over from my spot in the back and said "Hey, I think I got a couple of boxes that'll run that at home." The kid was like "I'll pay, extra, overtime, whatever, but I HAVE TO HAVE it ASAP!" So I swung by my house while the kid waited there ready to crap his pants, because he was sure I'd come back and say I was mistaken, but no. I have always been a pack rat and can't stand throwing out working gear and still had my old first gamer PCs, one a 100MHz that I used for the first DOOM, the other a 233MHz with a Voodoo 1 that was my first Quake box, and both with ISA slots.

    So I have the kid fetch the dead box, which was so full of sawdust and gunk it was a miracle it had lasted that long, but lucky for him the 20MB HDD (yeah 20MB, they don't make them like that old heavy dinosaur anymore) would still spin up, so I worked through the evening cloning the DOS 3 install to the 2 drives, getting DOS drivers for the hardware, sealing them so the sawdust wouldn't get sucked in etc. By morning they were done and I was out there setting up the lathe as well as showing him how to spin up the spare once a month so if it happened again he would be able to just pull the first and not suffer any downtime. When that lathe fired up and started cutting those columns that kid jumped a good 3 feet in the air and you would have thought he won the lotto. Good thing I still knew my DOS huh? Anyway he ended up paying me nearly $500 for the nights work, another $300 for the boxes, and at the end of the week when the contract was completed and daddy was back running the company he walked in and handed me $500 and told my boss "Don't you let this one get away, he really knows his stuff!" which made me feel nice.

    And the moral of the story is this: If your company depends on something funky and old to function, have an emergency plan, okay? I ran into the kid at the local mall about 6 months ago and asked how it was going. He said that he fires up that 233MHz every month just like clockwork as I taught him, and has the OS image put up in several places on several mediums like I taught him, but that 100MHz is happily working 8 hours a day, 6 days a week. It kinda gives me a warm fuzzy to know the first box I hunted CacoDemons on is still working like a champ. Some said I should have reamed the kid on the price, since he needed them so much, but by being square with the kid not only did we end up with the job modernizing their offices, but they probably threw us another $10k-$20k worth of work for businesses and families that were connected to them. So it pays in the long run to treat people with fairness, and not try to gouge them just because they are in a bad way.

  • There is nothing from 10 years ago I can't use now. In fact some of my CD-Rs are older than 10 years old. If I wanted to I could boot up my old win 3.11 machine and put data onto my newer machines over the network and that's over 15 years old.

    There shouldn't be any reason to be concerned about 10 year old back-ups unless it's important data, you have one copy and it's backed up onto something that's not known for lasting or is stored poorly.
  • The teacher who ran the school's computer lab in the 1980s sent me the floppy discs from the fileserver (dated 1989). We had a network of BBC Micros and Masters (which used Econet networking), and in those days had an SJ Research fileserver, which had a hard disc plus two floppy drives. A friend and I wrote a multi-user dungeon to run on econet.

    So a couple of months back I received all the floppies, written in 1989 on the SJ fileserver, which used a filesystem called MDFS.

    The discs all read perfectly. I use

  • I have a FORTRAN program from 1970 on punch cards. I don't have a reader, but I have a scanner. The image processing to recover the code from the hole patterns shouldn't be too difficult.

  • I am certainly not the only person here with boxes of 5.25 floppies around and no working drive to read them... Has anyone found a way to read them directly on a modern system? All of mine are DOS formatted so at least the file system isn't anything too odd. I've expected a 5.25" USB drive to pop up somewhere but as best I know that hasn't yet happened.
  • I have a few hundred files worth of Atari and Commodore data from the 80s. In their original format they took up a few cases of floppies. It was actually pretty easy to read them with some emulation software under Linux. Now, alas, I don't have any floppy drives on any of my machines. VLC still plays the audio files and Imagemagick can read the image files. All told about a gig worth of data. Though I'm usually pretty good about purging old cruft, all of it takes up such a small amount of space that I s

  • I recently "recovered" around 30 PowerPoint files that I put together about 17 years ago. None were critically important; just some crude stop motion movies, homework, and other horrible "paintings", but they're a neat part of my childhood.

    At they time, I had put them together using PowerPoint 2.0 (maybe 1.0, but I doubt it) and modern versions have long dropped support for those files. As I researched, I found that a straightforward conversion was impossible. There were specific conversion components for s

  • I've got text files going back to my Apple //e days, and some image files from my Amiga (Deluxe Paint III FTW!), but I've brought them over and converted them to each new machine as time went on; no need to go back to any originals (which I haven't bothered with, anyway).

    That's by far the best method for long-term backups - back up and do any conversion when the new technology is replacing the old - that's when it'll be the easiest to do, as everyone else will be in the same boat, and there will be techniqu

  • Seriously? I'm running 10 yr old hdds in some of my systems :S.

    Hell at my work in our DC we have HDDs which are ~7yrs old. Its not like theres been some HUGE change which means this is difficult, it just depends if you backed up properly in the first place.

    Biggest issue i've had is finding a suitable desktop system so I can format all these IDE drives we had lying about (80+ and counting). They are getting DBAN shreded then going into a skip..... So in the end I had to find a system which still has ide on b

  • by ScentCone ( 795499 ) on Sunday December 26, 2010 @05:54PM (#34672064)
    Really? The "Y2K non-event?" The only reason it was a non-event was because thousands of us put in a lot of hours making it turn out that way. I worked on a project that, if not tended to, would have been the end of the company using the software and databases in question. That would have definitely been an "event" for them and all of their employees and customers. I'm always a little perplexed by the glib dismissal of that period, but especially so here in this particular venue.
  • by spudnic ( 32107 ) on Sunday December 26, 2010 @05:58PM (#34672086)

    I must comment on the synopsis of this story. y2k was basically a non-event because thousands of people like me worked our butts off for a couple of years to bring forward our legacy systems and come up with creative ways to do so.

    It gets my goat every time I hear somebody who wasn't involved say such ridiculous things.

    Now get off my lawn you darn kids!

  • by RenHoek ( 101570 ) on Sunday December 26, 2010 @06:41PM (#34672340) Homepage

    I've still got backup from the early 80's. For example those one disk, 5.25 inch self-booting, games for the PC. For example Karateka []. I have them stored in Copy II PC [] image files.

    The reason I still have them is due to data migration. Once a new technology came out I shifted my backups forwards. Luckily the data density usually went up quite a bit as well so I wasn't stuck with (relative) big backups.

    For 'Karateka' my migration path was as follows:

    * I had it 1:1 on floppy (360 KB)
    * Transfers via Copy II PC images to 3.5 disks (1.4 MB)
    * Later I got a 20MB harddisk and a QIC-80 [] tapedrive. So they landed on tape.
    * Then we got ZIP drives (100mb). However the 'Click of death' [] issue had me looking for something else.
    * Then my first CD recorder (650mb). Here backups started becoming big because I got access to the Internet (early 90's). I had a lot more stuff I wanted to keep.
    * Forward to my first DVD recorder, where I started migrating a lot of stuff from CD. Thanks to Daemontools and CloneCD I was able to copy a lot of CD's to image files.
    * From DVD's (which took forever to burn) I went to harddisks in USB housings. To save time mostly and due to DVD rot []. Also I used a lot of very cheap DVD-R's, so data retention was up to 4-5 years on some batches.
    * Now I'm trying to go from USB housed HDD's to a RAID-5 file server. Mostly because my external drives go up to 1.5TB and I don't have double backups on non-important data but I'd still like to keep a lot of stuff more 'safe'. 1.5TB is a lot to lose in one go.

    The only 'trouble' I could run into now is that my oldest files are in archaic data formats. Luckily I kept all the utilities needed to access them. Think Copy II PC and the compression utilities I used at the time:, ARC, LHA, ARJ, ICE, UC2.

    So for long term backups I give this advice:
    * Migrate your data
    * Keep multiple backups
    * Make sure you can access your data formats
    * Keeping backups is expensive. Consciously decide what you want to keep.

    Also a useful tactic is to copy data between friends. (This is what I did when I was young). That way there's always somebody who still has what you want.

"How many teamsters does it take to screw in a light bulb?" "FIFTEEN!! YOU GOT A PROBLEM WITH THAT?"