Rotting data

When my parents came down to visit on Thursday they brought with them all my old Atari ST and Sinclair QL floppy disks and microdrives.

This morning I had a look through the disks. Oh dear, it wasn’t a good sight. Cornish mildew had eaten into every one of the floppy disks. Some disks were worse than others, varying from one or two spidery patches on the surface of the disc to complete coverage of large areas. This means that ALL of my old Atari and QL software held on those disks is lost.

Thankfully, all was not lost. The microdrive cartridges have a far better design which keeps them air-tight plastic containers and hence free from atmospheric problems such as damp and biological interference. So, I powered up the QL and tried all the cartridges, loaded programs etc. No problem at all. I can remember when the QL came out that everyone berated Sinclair for fitting microdrives saying that they were far too slow and unreliable. Now, 20 years later, the only data source I have which has proved 100% reliable are.. the microdrives! Yes, they’re slow and they only hold 100K (as opposed to 720K for the floppies) but at least they last.

Still, it does mean that there’s very little point in setting up the ST again as most of the stuff I would have used it with no-longer exist. The Cornish environment is one of the worst you can have (other than Caribbean hot and damp) for magnetic media and computers in general. I just hope that when I test the Atari TT when I get back down to my parents’ at Easter I’ll find that it still works and the hard disk will run.

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