Sat 20 May 2023

I've been playing with computers since the days of 5.25" and 3.5" floppies. I had long ago disposed of most the floppies, but with the arrival of CD-ROM's and then DVD's, and with the constantly growing volume of data and backups I wanted to keep, I had accumulated a pretty good pile of disks. And then hard drives got even bigger, and flash drives came on the scene, so backup data started making its way to those media, making the CD's and DVD's nearly useless. But I hung on to them, because, well, you never know when you might want to recover something...

And then the "age of downsizing" arrived - the need to get rid of old stuff as we approach retirement and a camper life. Although the disks didn't take up a ton of space compared to other stuff I have, I decided it was time to get rid of them, in part to reduce space, but more importantly in recognition that the longer I kept them the less likely I'd be able to read them as they aged and as hardware became less available.

So on a recent weekend, I began the process of transferring data from the disks to my PC, which has a large flash drive, and to two Samsung flash drives for another layer of backup. I used Kristin's Dell external CD/DVD reader, which worked very nicely. I created a folder called Old-CDROMs+Floppies, and then copied each disk into its own subfolder named with the date the disk was created and a short description of the contents. With Linux, the copy process is super simple using the rsync command. Most disks copied flawlessly, a couple missed a few files, and one was uncopyable. The bad one was Seth's 8th grade class slideshow, and was burned onto a very flimsy and cheap-looking disk; though I was disappointed that it didn't copy, I didn't feel too bad about skipping it.

In addition to the CD's and DVD's, I had several 3.5" floppies that I wanted to copy. For that I went to the Iowa City Public Library to use one of their external floppy drives. The floppies were from 1990 to 1993, and honestly, I didn't have a lot of confidence that I would have success. To my surprise, all but one disk copied flawlessly. This was kind of a fun process, because the tech folks at the library were not only very helpful, but quite interested in the floppies. One college-student library helper had never seen a real floppy and said she liked to collect old computer stuff; she was thrilled when I gave her a couple disks, and said she'd have fun showing them to her friends.

Once I'd gotten all the data transferred to flash drives, I created a README describing the contents and providing information about the drives on which the data was copied, and included some notes about the process and my intentions.

The final step was to dispose of the disks. For security, I destroyed the disks by grabbing them with two vice-grips and giving them a sharp twist to make them shatter into shards. This was a rather fun process as well!

In all I had almost 40 CD's and DVD's, and 4 floppies, adding up to almost 24 gigabytes. In today's terms this is a pretty small amount, especially in relation to my 500GB internal flash drive and my 1TB and 2TB external drives. It is truly amazing how disk storage capacity has grown over the 40+ years I've been using it. It is also amazing to have 1TB and 2TB flash drives that aren't even half the size of a deck of cards!