I don’t remember exactly when I made the transition from 5 1/4″ floppy disks to 3 1/2″ disks. I never owned a 1581 disk drive for my Commodore 64, so I was strictly 5 1/4″ back then. I know our PC Jr and XT didn’t have 3 1/2″ drives, but I think our 286 did — if not originally, one was eventually added.
Going back to my 8-bit computing days for a moment; if an Apple II or Commodore 64 owner had dual floppy drives, chances were pretty good they were into trading software. Floppy drives weren’t cheap back then (I paid $200 for a second one for my C64), so if a person owned two, it was for a reason. Copying a floppy with a single 1541 disk drive took half a dozen disk swaps and more than five minutes. With dual drives, a fast copy took around 35 seconds.
My BBS computer, I think, was the first machine I owned that had both a 5 1/4″ and a 3 1/2″ drive. Prior to that, for copying purposes, most of my machines had dual 5 1/4″ floppies. Once hard drives became the norm, copy programs no longer had to hold the entire contents of a disk in RAM to copy it, and swapping out a disk one time to make a copy wasn’t such a big deal. As a result, for compatibility reasons, I ran one 3 1/2″ floppy drive and one 5 1/4″ drive on most of my systems with a few years. It made it easier to convert things back and forth, and no matter what disk format someone handed you, you could read it.
I got a Pentium 133 back in the spring of 1998 and I’m pretty sure that was the first machine I owned that didn’t have a 5 1/4″ drive at all. I don’t know, there could have been other machines that I removed the 5 1/4″ drive from to make room for a CD-Rom drive or another hard drive, but that’s the first machine I can remember owning that never had a 5 1/4″ drive in it. By then most of my software had been converted over to 3 1/2″ floppies, with much of it being backed up to CD-R discs at that point.
While breaking down some shelves in the old garage over the weekend, I stumbled across this floppy disk hiding underneath them.
The handwritten label says Spear of Destiny. I vaguely remember downloading the game, although I can’t ever remember playing it. Such was the life of a software leech back then. I spent so much time stockpiling games back then that I rarely had a chance to play any of them. It made sense in a twisted sort of way back then, but not so much now — although in different ways I still do it (hoard digital media, that is).
My initial reaction was to keep the disk, although logic tells me that it’s worthless. Even when stored in ideal conditions most 5 1/4″ floppies are nearing the end of their life span, and I wouldn’t call storing a diskette in a pile of cobwebs, sawdust and dirt “ideal conditions”. Chances are the disk wouldn’t have worked even if I had gone through the trouble of connecting the appropriate hardware to find out. Plus, as of 2007, Spear of Destiny is available on Steam for $5.
To be honest, I can’t even figure out what this disk was doing out in the garage. I haven’t played any 5 1/4″ PC games while living in that house (we moved in back in 2002), so it must have originally been in a moving box, ended up on the garage floor, and failed to make it out alive. Some stuff’s worth saving and some stuff ain’t — into the trash it went.