Chris J Powell

Throwback Thursday – Tech that Time Forgot – Big Data Problems

I think back to the early days of my working with computers professionally when I was asked by my boss at a Security Company to upgrade his computer to Windows 95.  This was back in September of 1995 and his computer did not come with a CD-ROM so I spent nearly 2 hours swapping Floppies and the 13 Floppies seemed to take for ever to complete their whirring and clicking to upgrade that computer but it when it was all done I sat back in wonder at this newly developed OS and awed at its massive overhaul of the GUI and how easy it was to really get things done…this began my love hate relationship with technology in a professional way!


Computers today don’t have this venerable version of portable storage and for good reason…the 1.44 MB of storage and truly started to define what a “Big Data Problem” was.  In fact they would not be able to effectively hold anything that we would consider usable with our systems today.  My phone holds the equivalent of 1,111 of those beasts and considering just how hard it is to find that type of storage media these days (I think I found the last box of floppies in London in a discount bin about a year ago) I both miss them and am glad to see them go.

You see, as wonderful as the floppy was 19 years ago (and earlier because in both high school and college there was not USB Jump Drives) this was how we built and shared our work.

I remember the days of my backpack having no less than 5 or 6 loose floppies living it large at the bottom of the bag.

Back in the day the floppy disk did have several advantages though, mainly because general storage was dramatically lower than it is today…and there was the age old “boot image” disk as well.  I was faced with trying to track down such a boot image to kick-start a cheap Tablet Computer that I bought on Kijiji that did not come with a Hard Drive and had no Removable Media Drives which is why I still keep a set of Floppies and a USB Floppy Drive around…just in case.

The biggest disadvantage of the Floppy was the fact that it used Magnets to read and write the information.  This was not only slow but vulnerable to electromagnetic discharges and over time the information on these disks would just “fade away”.  In fact, I remember in College playing a bit of a joke on the guys that kind of annoyed me when I located a Rare Earth Magnet and used it to “remotely” wipe my competitors disks just before a big assignment…yes that is something that good and kindly Krispy did to others…but with good reason…you see if you cheat…there needs to be consequences and I didn’t trust the system so I did a bit of vigilante work even back then!

The 3 1/2 inch Floppy Disk is now 30 years old…older then Email and older than my beloved Linux.



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