Binary dinosaur drive found alive and breathing fire
28-year-old Seagate spinner, but you'll need safety specs
Comment A binary dinosaur, with another 28-year-old Seagate drive inside, is still working - in an original IBM 5150 PC's expansion unit.
The 5150 PC accelerated the PC revolution kickstarted by the Commodore Pet, Apple II, TRS-80 (Trash 80), and other wonderful early boxes. The 5150 was a proper system, coming with a keyboard, built-in monitor and data storage. You could even have a 5156 expansion unit and the example in the UK's Binary Dinosaur's museum has one of these.
IBM 5150 PC with 5156 expansion unit underneath twin floppy drive box (BInary Dinosaur)
It contains a Seagate ST-412 drive. The cable, a massive umbilical, between the expansion box and the PC is thicker than most people's thumb. Adrian Graham, the museum's creator and curator, said of the drive: "The platter housing has a date code of 8326 and the serial number is 132101, so it's … 28 years old."
He hooked up the 5156 and 5150 to power sockets and fired them up: "I had to replace the PSU (Power Supply Unit) in the main unit and dismantle the drive to loosen it up a bit, but it fired up and ran Zork1"
IBM 5150 PC running Zork1 off Seagate drive (BInary Dinosaur)
While he was doing this: "One of the tantalum caps on a floppy drive exploded and nearly set fire to the carpet. Next time I'm wearing safety specs."
Exploded tantalum cap on IBM 5150 PC (BInary Dinosaur)
Has any El Reg reader got a working PC that's older than 28? ®
This is not exactly news.
Thing is, what makes data survive isn't the medium it's written on. What makes it survive is *LOTS* of copies of it, widely distributed. And even then, you might need to get lucky.
The Rosetta Stone was just one of hundreds of copies of this multi-lingual text; according to Wikipedia, precisely three copies have survived, all in somewhat dubious condition. The burning of the Library of Alexandria destroyed the vast majority of everything known about Greek history, technology and culture - the only vestiges of Greek thought to survive were those bits which the Catholic church approved of and had copied. With the fall of Rome, almost everything about Roman art and technology was lost for the same reason - the church approved of studying Roman history and philosophy as the source of Christianity, but didn't care about their art or tech. Bede's work only survives as copies, all of which are different, and there aren't too many copies of that. A decent chunk of Shakespeare's output hasn't survived, never mind stuff written by his less-famous contemporaries like Jonson.
So don't rely on stone. Don't rely on paper. Don't rely on magnetic media. Don't rely on optical media. Rely on a *process* of regularly copying, and spread those copies around. Then when everything goes tits-up, chances are that at least one copy somewhere is going to survive.
No, but it's at least bronze...
> With FOSS, you might know the format, but can you compile a program to read it?
I might have to modify the program first, you're certainly right on that account. But the point is, with FOSS I have that option.
So at first, the ease of recovery is probably proportional to how large the installed base used to be, I agree. But after a while, exactly when the nasty scenarios you paint start to bite, having the source will win out over praying that a binary is still somehow runnable.
If you're not a programmer yourself, you might have to hire one, but again, the point is that you have that option.
Same idea, better tech
So, did they manage to recover the ASCII porn from the drive?