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September 2nd, 2011:

We’re All 3 1/2″ Now

Just a quick update on the vintage 5″ floppy project: I bought a half-height Teac 1.2 MB floppy drive at OEM Parts earlier this afternoon, since I was buying silver mica caps anyway. I took the cleanest of the three or four they had on the shelf. Back home, I wrestled the side panel off an EMachines box built in 2004 and put some memory in it, then pried away the space-holder from the vacant front bay and slid the Teac drive into place.

The machine came from Best Buy with neither a floppy drive nor a floppy cable. The usual floppy drive cable connector is present on the mobo. As luck would have it (or maybe not luck so much as ancient habit) I found a very old floppy cable at the bottom of my Odd PC Junk bin. It’s the five-plug model, with two sets of both types of floppy drive data connectors. I plugged the controller end into the mobo, connected the pre-twist edge connector (that is, the one closest to the mobo) to the Teac, plugged a power connector into the drive, and powered the machine up.

XP ran as expected; it’s the old machine from our church, and I know it well. Windows knew that there was now a drive on the floppy controller, but reported it as 3 1/2″. I booted back into BIOS, but unlike the older machines I recall, there was no BIOS setting to specify what size floppy drive was in the box. Using the post-twist edge connector prevented Windows from seeing the drive at all.

I guess we’re all 3 1/2″ now, if we’re floppy at all.

The drive isn’t stone dead: When I put a 1990 TopSpeed Modula 2 floppy in it, the drive sounds like it’s indexing across the surface of the disk, but never returns any data to Windows. The drive may be bad, or the disk may be bad. Certainly the machine doesn’t appear to know what a 5″ floppy drive is. All in all, it’s really not 1990 anymore.

This was an hour’s project, not a day’s project or even an evening’s project. I’ve spent about as much time on it as I think it’s worth. I’m not going to dump the diskettes, but until a machine old enough to know 5″ from 3″ finds its way here, this is as far as I’m taking it.