Simanaitis Says

On cars, old, new and future; science & technology; vintage airplanes, computer flight simulation of them; Sherlockiana; our English language; travel; and other stuff


YESTERDAY IN PART 1, we found that scads of 1s and 0s weren’t amenable to human memory. Stacks of punched cards had critical ordering. And cassette loading of programs was so 1970s. Today in Part 2, matters get floppy, then compact, then solid, and, if you wish, go positively ethereal. 

Floppy Discs. Early computer hard drives were of limited capacity. During the 1980s and 1990s, remote storage evolved through floppy discs, remote devices of decreasing diameter, 8-in., 5 1/4-in., and 3 1/2-in., and through advanced technology, increased capacity. 

Image by George Chemilevsky from Wikipedia.

The two larger sizes were, indeed, floppy; the smallest resided in a rigid plastic case. Each required a dedicated reader, possibly remote, later incorporated as an input slot in the computer. 

Floppies were handy for transferring data from person to person or place to place. At one point in my Microsoft Flight Simulator hobby, scads of 3 1/2-in. floppies stored add-on scenery and aircraft. Indeed, they still do, but I no longer have an appropriate floppy reader. 

Some of these sceneries moved from computer to computer; others are obsoleted forever.

CD-ROMs and -RAMs. Compact discs replaced floppies as a medium of program marketing (CD-ROMs with Read-Only Memories) and storage (CD-RAMs with Random-Access Memories).

My Flight Sim Hawaii scenery resides on a single CD. Microsoft Flight Simulator 2004 (aka FS9, my preferred version) comes on four CDs. (There’s also a sub rosa “crack” to eliminate an annoying startup feature.) 

Man, This State is Solid! Solid-state electronics (loosely, moving electrons, not discs) eliminate mechanical devices. At first, the now ubiquitous USB flash drive was a handy, albeit pricey means of digital transfer and storage. Universal Serial Bus standards, now in USB4, were initially promulgated in 1996.

Above, a SanDisk Cruzer USB drive from 2011. Image from Wikipedia. Below, a Kingston 2GB flash drive disassembled. Image by Ravenperch (aka “honeycombe”) at English Wikipedia.

Flash drives are priced by capacity. These days, Amazon offers a 2TB (i.e., 2000GB) thumb drive for $47.98. Ten 1G devices can be had for $45.99. If you need only a couple, $11.99 will get you two 32G thumb drives.

I seem to have accumulated an assortment of thumb drives, often used in lieu of paper in automotive press kits. Once the information is gleaned, they’re available for storage of one thing and another. 

And Then There’s the Cloud. Ethereal though it sounds, cloud computing is nothing more than massive time-shared data centers accessible through the Internet. As noted by Wikipedia, “Cloud computing relies on sharing of resources to achieve coherence and economies of scale.”

Image by Greg Mably in WPI Research 2017.

I’m something of a Luddite with the Cloud. See “Hey! You! Get Off My Cloud!” I’m happy to use it as free automatic backup for my iPhone. But what about all those thumb drives sitting idle in the drawer? ds 

© Dennis Simanaitis,, 2021 

2 comments on ““CAN YOU READ ME A FLOPPY, GRANDPA?”   PART 2

  1. Jack Albrecht
    May 22, 2021

    I’m also not a fan of the cloud, but for pragmatic reasons. 1. I don’t want to be dependent on an internet connection – and most specifically the companies in the cloud pipeline – for important data (documents). 2. Possession is 9/10ths of the law. I don’t want one of two mega corporations (MS or Amazon) “owning” my data. Or mining it – which the 100% do whether it is legal or not. Particularly not my business data.

  2. Mike B
    May 22, 2021

    I use the cloud (e.g. Dropbox, Onedrive, etc.) to share things between my computer and, occasionally, with somebody else. I figure anything stored in a “cloud” account, especially a free one, is mined for advertising or even more sinister purposes; if it’s private, it’s encrypted.

    If all your floppies are 3 1/2’s, you can get a USB 3 1/2″ floppy drive from several vendors in the flea market called Amazon. Even the $20 ones work. USB optical disk drives are there too, including writers all the way up to Blu-Ray (got one of those, t oo, for about $60). What I haven’t found in years is a USB 5 1/4″ floppy drive; they might not be supported by modern computers, and certainly aren’t as direct hardware by any recent motherboard. So all my old backups on 5 1/4″ are toast.

    And MSFS! I still have mine, buried in boxes of old software. It used to be the ultimate test for PC-clone compatibility. Probably won’t work in 64-bit Windows, but it might be worth trying in DOSBox. Or better yet, use the newer versions (FSX works fine).

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