Explore Floppy Disk Collections (30-60 mins)

Task: Explore Floppy Disk Collections

Needed: Floppy disks

Time: 30-60 minutes

Introduction

One of my favorite things to do with my Atari home computers is explore the contents of my floppy disk collections. I still have my floppies from back in the day and have accumulated over 750 floppies from the collections of others (see photo below). Some of the 750 I purchased on eBay in lots of 100-200 disks. The rest came with Atari computers I purchased locally.

Atari Disks

Each of us experienced Atari computers in our own way depending on where we lived, what we had access to, income as adults, or our parents as kids. I love getting large lots of disks because it is a window into history and how that particular user experiences their Atari 8-bit machine. I spent some time today going through my floppy collection to see what is there and to boot up as many as I could. I didn’t make it through even half of the 750  disks but summarize here some of what I found.

The most numerous disks in the collection include pirated games. Most of these come several on a disk and can be selected from a menu upon booting. Pirating was quite common back in the day and it wasn’t unusual for many people to have a library of pirated games. The people I got my disk lots from had tons of pirated games on disk. Most of the common games are represented in the collection.

The second most numerous disks in the collection are from ANTIC Magazine that was published from 1982 until 1990. More than 50 of my 750 disks are from ANTIC. I recall getting these back in the day and still have some of my original ANTIC disks. They came loaded with the software and games from specific issues of ANTIC and saved you from typing in the programs. Well worth the investment or the effort to pirate them. Here at ATR files of most of the ANTIC disks. Here is an ANTIC software archive.

There are also quite a few disks with official Atari labels on them. These include Atari formatted disks, master disks (with DOS), Proofreader Dictionary, Translator, lots of Bookkeeper database and data disks, Home Filing Manager, and Atariwriter Plus. I haven’t gone through all of these yet but it looks like there is quite a bit of content. Should be interesting to see what the previous owners of these disks thought was important enough to database. There are about 20 Bookkeeper disks in the collection.

There are also several public domain disks that were distributed by BRE Software out of Fresno, CA. I have disks #19 and #22 (Print Shop Graphics), #36 and #38 (Educational), #50 (TextPro), and #100 and #101 (Programming). I don’t recall having any of these as a kid so they are new to me.

I was pleased to find disks for the Graphical Operating System (GOS) from Total Control Systems. I booted it up successfully and had fund giving it a spin. This was my first time giving this a try. Here is the ATR file if you want to give it a try yourself.

One of the interesting pieces of software I found was the Bulletin Board Contruction Set (BBCS) that was developed by a New Jersey sysop named Scott Brause. I never ran a BBS back in the day but from what I can tell this would have been very useful.

BBS Construction Set
BBS Construction Set

The Atari demo scene is interesting because they really show what the hardware can do. In fact, the demo scene programmers have done things with the machines that the Atari engineers and early programmers never dreamed possible. I was pleased to find The Big Atari 8-Bit Demo among the many disks. I fired this up and had fun trying all the musical and graphical demos. Very impressive stuff! This includes 60k of scrolling text that they claim was a world record for the Atari. Here is a brief article about it. The ATR file can be found here.

Finally, I had fun reading some of the word processor files made with Atariwriter. The disks included a Masters thesis and touching letters written to loved ones among other things. I have a screen shot of a portion of one letter below without any direct identifying information.

Letter
Letter

Instructions

I recommend seeking out large disk collections locally or on services like eBay. They are not cheap on eBay and well worth your time to hunt down locally. 

Comments

I have spent numerous hours and days going through this collection of disks. Many will tell you not to waste your time with disks since you can download most of the same software and boot them from an SD drive or SIO2PC. However, I can say that it has been well worth collecting and holding on to these disks. They are really interesting and provide an experience you can’t get from an emulator or SD drive. A true window back in time.

I booted about 100 disks today and estimate that only about 5 didn’t work. That is consistent with my prior experience with floppies and that of others. About 95% of floppies still work today. Another good reason to seek these out!