Floppies

by Derrick Bostrom


Our first computer didn't have a floppy drive. We backed up our TRS-80 to a cheap portable Radio Shack cassette recorder. I would sit for hours, my face buried in the manual, learning how to program in basic. But my enthusiasm ended on the day I sat down to load my previous twelve hour session from the cassette into memory, only to encounter an unrecoverable error. Soon afterward, my brother traded it for a Colecovison. The next PC that fell into hands needed a floppy drive to boot. It was some sort of command line "word processor" that displayed orange text on a black screen and came with a small dot matrix printer. I presume it was a cast-off from my step-father's office. It had enough storage for three pages of text; I'd have to print that out and delete my work before I could continue.

I bought my first Mac in 1994 with money saved up from a summer's worth of tour per-diems. My neighbor was selling his IIci in order to upgrade to a Quadra. For a thousand bucks, I got the complete system, plus a printer, a bunch of software and some other miscellaneous peripherals. He even threw in a desk. The computer came with the usual "awesome" specs: a whopping 40 megabyte hard drive and four megs of RAM. I stayed up for a week trying to figure it all out.

I forwent most of the games, which were largely incomprehensible to me. I spent most of my time exploring the CompuServe and the FirstClass BBS dial-up communities. Soon I had drawers and drawers of floppies, all filled with downloaded crap: apps, chat transcriptions, scans, ASCI art, system sounds, and the rest of the mid-90s detritus. Managing all this media was hellish. Eventually, I burned it all to a CD-ROM and tossed the original floppies. Very little of this stuff is readable any more. 

Naturally, the pack rat in me also insisted I scan the art before I throw them out. And of course, they gotta end up here, all fifty-plus of 'em, all lovingly, painstakingly edited and processed. I guess I got my thousand bucks worth.