Floppy ROM: distributing software on flexidiscs


On Modern Mechanix, Charlie's posted a wonderful article about the Floppy ROM, an exotic dead medium that encoded software onto flexidiscs that you played into your computer. The Floppy ROM distributed with Interface Age in 1977 held up to 80 pages' worth of code (this was from the days when programs were distributed as text printed in magazines, for hobbyists to retype into their computers) and plugged into a 187-character-per-second interface intended for cassette-players. Charlie even got some hi-rez photos of the disc, in which you can see the bits on their surface.


From an editorial point of view the listing alone comprises over 80 pages not including the text. When you consider the amount of programming and the space which it must occupy on a Floppy ROM™ you realize that the Kansas City Standard and 300 baud will never cut the mustard on a 6-inch disc.

Now the Floppy ROM™ must reenter the experimental domain for higher baud rates and complexities. The results were quite pleasing as 1200 baud proved to be no problem for the crew and equipment at Eva-Tone, nor for those who spent long hours in preparing the program prior to transcription. Hats off to the good people at the Chicago Computer Store, Inc., Park Ridge, IL, who provided the computer equipment and technical expertise in the form of Lou Van Eperin, president; Jim Rembis, senior technician; and Terry Marshall, graduate student Northwestern University.

As most of you are aware the first Floppy ROM™ took nine months to debug and produce. Under the direction of Bill Turner and Bill Blomgren they were able to overcome the hardware and software idiosyncrasies in less than a week for this program. It has become quite clear that for future Floppy ROMs we will have to standardize on hardware that allows the maximum flexibility for the user to feed the data from the Floppy ROM™ directly into a computer. The philosophy behind this concept is that the original recording is made directly from a computer output to the master cutting head on a first generation basis. Having to record it on a tape subsequently provides at best a second generation program which potentially could contain bugs.

THE FLOPPY ROM: Software Distributed on Records (Oct, 1977)

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  1. Loading programs from vinyl records feels like actual Steampunk to me.

    It really isn't that big of a difference from the primitive cassette loading of the day, but it still feels like a wonderful marriage of the industrial era with the electronic era.

  2. There is/was no reason you could not just plug the output from your amp (attached to your turntable) straight through to your "cassette port" as long as you were a little careful with your line levels.

  3. The more things change, the more things stay the same.

    http://earlytelevision.org/baird_recordings.html (okay, it's a TV signal, not computer code. But we're in the same territory. Only cc 1930. Only really possible due to the incredibly low scan-line count of the early (mechanical) TVs.)

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