Digital Archive

Resurrecting Mac Format Floppies

Cleaning through some shelves this weekend, I stumbled on a pile of 3.5″ floppy disks, with labels like ‘DoC Unix Archive’ on them. Intrigued, and vaguely recalling what to expect on them, I set about trying to read them.

Which was not so easy. I currently use an iBook as my main PC, and floppies have long been obsolete on Macs. No problem, I have an old Toshiba laptop running Windows 2000 (Another blast from the past!) which I was thinking about consigning to the bin. Now it is a ‘compact’ model, so I had to find the floppy drive accessory that came with it.

Plugging that in, I could read about half the disks. I found I could copy them to a CF card, and then mount that (via a USB dongle) on my mac. Presto, I had old files from 1993 sitting on my hard disk! Very cool!

The remaining disks seemed ‘corrupt’, until I remembered that at college I owned a Powerbook 100, and in those days, Mac’s had their own floppy format.

Right, over to Google, and I found two old, but still working, bits of software: hfsutils (binaries here) and RSXNT, found here (Thanks again Google – the link in the hfsutils readme had long gone stale).

Now I could, slowly, copy the remaining files to my CF card. After getting the files over to my current PC, I was then extremely impressed that Microsoft Office still recognised the formats it wrote back in 1992-1996. Very impressive Microsoft!

Among the gems were the accounts I kept at the time. Fairly dull (I was that kind of student), but as a side effect a pretty accurate record of my travels and habits. At the time I wrote them up for The Times as an ‘here’s what students spend their money on’ article. Now their URL has long since gone stale, but Imperial College still mention the article in the archive of their staff newsletter. I’m at the bottom of the page, and seem to have been last of the big spenders as a student. Divide those numbers by four to learn my annual budget!