108 rare and bizarre information storage media types

Originally published at: https://boingboing.net/2020/04/20/108-rare-and-bizarre-informati.html

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Did somebody say… bubble memory?

Bubble memory equipped Konami games of the time played this lovely little ditty called “Morning Music” while the system was booting up and getting the memory heated up to spec. I could listen to this all day.

Konami had a Morning Music remake in Keyboardmania, but the orchestral treatment just doesn’t have the same panache to me as the 8-bit original.

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This is oddly timely as I spent the day teaching my kids about floppies. I couldn’t believe it, but my kid really did say “that looks like the save icon”! *sigh*

We were using something I just ran into: https://github.com/keirf/Greaseweazle

It’s software that lets you use a cheap as chips ‘blue pill’ STM32 development board to interface to a standard PC floppy drive (both 5.25 and 3.5) to dump their contents. You can write as well. It works for all kinds of formats. I only played with IBM 360K and 1.2MB, but, now that I have the hang of it, I’m going to move on to some apple ][ and come Commodore discs.

One of my kids kept asking leading questions like “you have a lot of discs? Do any of them have games on them?” I feel next week might be a deep dive into retro emulators. Who knows, they might have fun while learning.

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Back in the day I borrowed a co-worker’s KryoFlux to dump about 100 or so 800KB Mac floppies. It was a lovely board but very pricey at $100+. This looks like a great and economical alternative.

(Sadly the Greaseweazle doesn’t appear to support 800KB Mac floppies at this time. Vintage Macs used a special CLV encoding to eke out an extra 80KB from double density 3.5” floppies which makes archival challenging without original hardware.)

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This is wonderful—the best 37 minute video I watched today.

However, I’m a little disappointed that the 8-bit Guy couldn’t figure out that the U-Matic cassette from I.R.S. Records contains the music video for R.E.M’s “Pretty Persuasion”:

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I love that deadmedia.org is almost but not quite dead. My friend Tom took over that site from Bruce back at the turn of the century, but it’s been pretty quiet for some time (~15 years?). I think that too many useful formats died for it to be fun any more.

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There’s an open issue on the github page for 800K and 400K GCR support (3.5" Mac floppies) and it’s believed it should be possible with normal PC drives, it’s just not the mainstream, so it’s not tested. I’ll be beating on it soon as I have plenty of those to read. Fortunately, I have actual hardware for those discs as well which might end up being helpful.

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I picked up a Capacitance Electronic Disc (CED) of Return of the Jedi over Christmas, just because I saw it in a shop and had never heard of it. It was a doomed video format that looked like a laserdisc in a plastic cartridge but was read by an analog (!) stylus. I’ll never be able to play it but it gives me pleasure to own.

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I saw that Issue as well. It’s definitely possible — I was able to read them fine with a KryoFlux and off the shelf drive. I’m guessing this is just a software issue that can be fixed since there’s nothing special about the drives so much as the signaling and encoding itself.

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CED is amazing tech! The development story sounds like it was a nightmare, it would have dominated the video space earlier than VHS if it hadn’t taken 17 years for RCA to get it out the door. The players are still findable, although the needles tended to get worn out after some use.

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Would it blow your mind to learn that LaserDisc is analog as well?

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A facinating that he missed is the optical discs used in the Optigan, which is a mechanical sampler that Matel (yes Barbie) bought out in 1970 in competition to the Melotron. A friend has one and didn’t know what it was!! They sound like crap which is the modern appeal, famously Tom Waits has used one on various recordings.

It is essentially is the same principal as the optical sound strip in celluloid film. You can now get a digital VST instrument version.

optigan-stereophonic-114283

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I’m sorry but mediUM …

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You can tell he’s a real aficionado of old phono records from the way he handles them by liberally grinding his oily trotters all over their surfaces

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FWIW, the FluxEngine https://github.com/davidgiven/fluxengine reads 800kb Mac floppies (3.5 inch at least, I haven’t tested any others).
Now, before “running out” to buy hardware for a FluxEngine be aware of this: the fluxengine program can convert .scp files (like those made with a greaseweazle) into it’s native format (.flux) and from that you can convert it to an actual disk image.

I like both the FluxEngine and the Greaseweazle; they have different strong and weak points.

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Punchcards go back way further than the 1920ies, even not counting Jacquard looms.
Plus all the other points already raised above, and possibly some more.
And don’t even get me started on the tiles on that countertop.

That being said, still an interesting video with lots of stuff I had not seen before!
SONY seems to be the king of proprietary storage mediums …

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Disappointed and old is how I felt when he said he had no idea who/what I.R.S. was.

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My 1st real sampler was an AKAI S612 {I think that’s right} and it used these weird little floppies that, I think, were used almost solely by a Brother typewriter at the time. I could only ever find them at Sam’s Club and would buy handfuls of them on the rare occasions I found myself there.

A few years ago, I was in a musical instrument museum somewhere in Europe and they had that Akai on display. “Great, I’m old enough for my once cutting edge gear to be in a museum. Woo hoo!”

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I am going to point everyone to this twitter thead by @Foone. They provided a bunch of the media used for the video.

I was trying to explain >/dev/null to the kids; it’ harder to explain a bit bucket without a paper tape or punched cards to show them the discarded bits. :thinking:

I managed to read 20 or so of my old 3 1/2" discs just a couple of months ago (nothing that wasn’t already in my backup directory) but I do not miss anything about obsolete media formats.

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