Client brought in a problem: Old data worth a lot of money on some old floppy disks. Old. Floppy. Disks. 5.25″ floppy disks. C’mon, people! I know I’m old, but do you feel compelled to make me return to my middle years?!
So the customer needs the data back from the disks, but doesn’t have a computer to work with. “I think it was DOS 3.3.” No underlying application to open the files. In a database. Can it get any better?
Digging through the collection of odd saved items filed under 1980’s we found a high-end 486 DX-2/66 that made me feel even older than I did the day the disks walked in the door. A little clean-up, replaced fans, checked the hard drive and found it fairly functional. Replaced the operating system on the drive with an old copy of DOS 6.22, hoping it would run without too much drama. Somewhere around here I know there’s an old set of dBase III floppys I’ve hoarded. Ah! Found ’em! Amazingly I had a 5.25″ drive, gave it a cleaning and checked the dBase disks – woo hoo! Installation successful!
Let’s take a look at those data discs and see what the story is. Oh, damn… I knew it couldn’t be that easy. The data on the disks isn’t reading well – a problem that can occur because the magnetic media is old and losing its magnetism, or for a few other reasons. Some say it’s scary that I remember those days, and the process for aligning the heads of a 5.25″ drive. The nice thing was that you could slightly mis-align the heads to compensate for non-compliant drives and recordings, a headache in the ‘old days.’
It took some doing, but we were finally able to read the data reliably and import into dBase, giving us a method to work with the data. After some research to find instructions related to dBase we were able to extract the data in a form that was usable – and slowly write the exports to floppy so we could migrate it to a modern SQL database.
I was happy with the outcome, as was the customer. Customer felt the data would be the equivalent of $300k to reproduce.