Environmental Weekend II: Reduce, Reuse, Recycle

On the Saturday after Earth Day (Apr. 26), I volunteered for Free Geek Columbus at the “shop” as I usually do and spent an hour at their advertising booth at the Earth Day Festival at Goodale Park. While at the shop, I obtained a cable that allowed me to place the emphasis on the second “R” in the title of this entry.

One of my undergraduate textbooks from the University of Minnesota came with a 5.25″ floppy disc, which was ludicrously outdated when I bough it in 2002. I have not seriously used these discs since grade school. However, I have often wondered what was on that disc, and when I found a TEAC FD-55GFR drive in a computer at Free Geek, I took it home.

However, I quickly discovered that the ribbon cable needed to connect the drive to the mother board had a different connector than the one already in my desktop. When I was in Free Geek on the 26th, I found the proper cable, which was probably the one I had removed from the drive when I originally extracted it from an old computer. I installed the cable and drive, as you can see in the photograph above. After a bit of frustration, I carefully read the instructions and realized I had to tell the computer’s BIOS chip about this new drive. Once that was done, I was able to insert and read the old floppy with no problem.

The contents of the disc are a Read Me file that begins by instructing the user to make a backup copy of the disc and a series of programs, written in Pascal source code, that were intended as examples for the book.

With that mystery solved, I had time to contemplate the evolution of portable digital storage media since I was in grade school. The PDF version of the users guide for this drive, which I credit TEAC for still having online, uses 643 KB of memory, which is more than the 345 KB capacity of the disc! The black drive immediately above the 5.25″ floppy drive is a DVD drive, and DVDs can hold more than 10,000 times as much data as this floppy.

In the second photograph, you can see a small black chip to the left of the floppy disc. It is a SanDisk 512 MB microSD card that I use in my mobile phone. It holds approximately 1520 times as much information as the floppy. Already, 8 GB microSD cards are already available, and their capacity just keeps growing.

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