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Floppy Disks

Posted 11-13-2013 at 11:08 AM by BeardedSonOfNel


In my last blog I talked about my nostalgia for cassette tapes. Now before you all go thinking I'm some kind of hipster I want to state I'm not advocating the return of floppy disks. The floppy is slow easy to break, and has a very low storage capacity. In all honesty I really haven't thought about the floppy for a number of years, but I was cleaning out my den last weekend, and found a box filled with scores of them. The box also contained a Dell USB portable floppy drive.

I was happy I had the USB drive because I didn't want to have to haul out an old PC just to have a walk down memory lane. I like so many people would reuse disks, and I didn't do a very good job of relabeling them, so I really didn't know what I might find. Sure I had a bunch of retail games (sadly I don't have the boxes anymore), but it was the non-retail disks that I cared about. So, I plugged the USB drive into my laptop. I was worried about two possible things. First, did the drive still work. Second, would Windows 8 still come with floppy drivers. The answer was yes to both, and so I started going though the stacks of disks.

What I found surprised me. There were disks from college that contained term papers, and old low-rez photos from around 1993-1994. I found a disk that contained a NES emulator with ten games on it. I also found several disks with applications I wrote in college, and some I wrote for the first few companies I worked for. What blew my mind was the amount of functionality these apps had, and how little disk space they took. Today I write one small Windows Form app, and there is no way it could fit on one of these disks.

It's funny how things have changed. I used to worry about using a small integer VS a large integer VS using a small unsigned integer to save two bytes of memory. Now RAM isn't an issue. I use to worry about the compression of an audio file, or image for an app, and now that doesn't matter either. I look at the young programers around me, and see the code they are writing would have been considered bloated, and memory intensive. They do it because they can, and it makes what they are doing easier because they don't have to constantly think about optimizing for processor speed, RAM and storage space.

Don't get me wrong. I love how computers have evolved. I love having fast multi-core processors, huge chunks of RAM, and what feels like unlimited storage. I just can't stop myself from thinking about how much faster programs would load and run today if the newer developers still thought about memory management the way we did fifteen or more years ago. I'm not talking about limiting image, or audio quality here because we would have loved to have the capabilities we have today back then; but rather the overall logic and memory algorithms. So many laptop/desktop developers have become lazy because the hardware allows for it.

A couple of years ago I started working with mobile devices. I was happy I had the discipline of memory management instilled in me so many years ago because unlike the PC the new tablets, and phones didn't have tons of RAM, and the processors weren't as fast. At the speed in which tech changes we are only a year or two away from having the power we see in current desktops in the palm of a hand, and then the lazy coding will kick in for a new generation. It's too bad progress makes us lazy because just imagine what our hardware could be doing today.

So, I think for a friendly remainder to myself not to become lazy with my code, and for the nostalgia I'll start saving my blogs to floppy. It's kind of fun to hear to the little drive spin up, and listen to the read/write heads move. In fact I think I'll click save now.

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