Thursday, 8 January 2009

Christmas offers

As the haze of Christmas (or Holiday Season, if you must) goodwill wanes, and New Year Resolutions already begin to fade, I'd better review what I've been offered so far in my Christmas files quest. I'm not overwhelmed by the numbers, I should say, so you still might tempt me with something else. They include
  • a thesis and CV on an Amiga floppy disk
  • some old archaeology project DBs in (probably) dBase format but split over a number of floppies, c.1992
  • thesis data analysed with KaleidaGraph, on 3.5" double sided, double density floppy disks formatted for the Mac
  • optionally also some Word for Mac documents (the text and figures of the above thesis)
  • these disks may also contain the raw data (taken on a 286 using a program this respondent wrote himself) and transferred to the Mac. If it is on the disk, it will be in a format he defined himself so he thought it might fall into the "less interesting" category I suggested. On the other hand, giving it a go might cause us to learn something.
  • some educational resources produced "some years ago" on an Acorn... they still have the Acorn!
  • another thesis written in LaTeX using Textures, on very ancient Mac disks.
I'm also hoping to get something from a colleague, following up a related conversation a month or so before Christmas, but he's gone on extended leave so I won't know for a while.

Are these "interesting"? Yes, I think so, although I suspect the most challenging part is getting them off the media. Both Amiga drives and old Mac drives use currently non-standard formats that mean you can't easily read the disks on modern systems (I don't know about the Acorn disks yet). At first I thought we might just aim to find someone with working old hardware (and that still might be an option, but see this tale [link added later, got distracted, sorry!]). But it also turns out there's a controller called the CatWeasel that you can add to a PC and connect an ordinary current drive to, that is supposed to figure out Amiga, Atari, Mac and other formats. It's cheap enough to give a go.

Oh, and thanks to Cliff Lynch for a pointer to the Digital Lives project and it's upcoming conference, see; Digital Lives deals with this kind of stuff, and Jeremy Leighton John is just fascinating to listen to. He spoke at one of the DCC workshops, see his slides.


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