Solarbird (solarbird) wrote,
Solarbird
solarbird

sometimes data recovery involves a flatiron

Check it out – this 5.25″ floppy from a Commodore 128 literally warped. Basically, the outer plastic envelope enclosing the (very floppy!) diskette inside shrank, but only on one side. And none of the others did it either.

It wouldn’t read that way at all, obviously. It threw a “Drive Not Ready” error, which is pretty old-timey hilarious. So I cut the old envelope off along the edges and put the floppy into a different envelope, at which point I got a directory…

…though wow did it still throw a lot of errors when trying to image it. I was thinking, ‘well, 50% is better than 0%, I guess?’ Even though, really, that’s pretty dumb, because there is no real point to this, this is just old Commodore 128 software.

But there wasn’t much Commodore 128-specific software written, so I kept at it, and persistence, sometimes, it pays off!

I still had two block errors, but that’s 99.88% recovery, so that’s pretty awesome.

Most of what I’m looking for here is the first piece of non-mainframe software I had published. It’s on these disks, and it was C128-specific, and 80-column specific, which used to be a thing. And it was kind of a BBSer’s ultimate package – phone book, wardialer, password manager, loadable keyboards so you could talk to PETSKII and AtASCII and IBM-character-graphics systems all equally well (and were attached to each entry in the phonebook, so they’d load automatically), xmodem file transfer, expandable “sidekick” mini-applications like a notecard manager – all written intentionally in uncompiled, interpreted BASIC.

Open source before there was a special word for it, more or less.

But the real point was that I’d just got this amazing new machine, the Commodore 128, and the terminal software that came with the high-speed 1200 baud modem was garbage, and what freeware I could find either didn’t do 80 columns, or, worse, despite being machine language, could not handle the blinding 120 characters per second of 1200 baud modems. They’d drop characters.

So I set out to prove that this was horseshit, and that this machine was being savagely underappreciated. And did. It even got published in a diskette-based magazine called Uptime! – twice. (Version 1.0, which was pure BASIC, and Version 1.1, where I added the sidekick functionality and also said FINE A LITTLE MACHINE CODE IS NOT A BAD THING which added some raw 6502 code to do the xmodem checksum math which made file transfer speeds a lot better.)

Seriously, the terminal emulation loop that did all of these things was 38 bytes long. And it has no apparent exit, because if I had one, it wasn’t fast enough. I’d trapped the system interrupt generated by the RUN/STOP key on the keyboard to use as a COMMAND key, which is a little like making toast with a butane torch, and I’m pretty sure nobody else ever did that. It was hilarious, but it worked.

And that’s how I spent my summer vacation, circa… 1987?

I was a weird kid.

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Also posted to ソ-ラ-バ-ド-のおん; comment count unavailable comments at Dreamwidth.

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