I still don’t believe what I did last night :)

On Friday I’m going to upgrade a friend’s computer and install two new hard disks. In order to save some time I wanted to preinstall the operating system (the one of my companies’ cooperation partner). Up to then it was a good idea. But then I connected one new disk to my computer and booted the XP Home installation CD. No hard disks installed was the short message after the installer probed the system. I realized that this CD must be so old that it had no SATA drivers – or at least not for my mainboard.

I searched for the driver CD of my mainboard and – thinking like a developer who wants to be nice to the users – booted again, pressed F6 when prompted to include 3rd party drivers, inserted the driver CD and found that the only way to hand new drivers to an XP installation was via floppy.

But I have no floppy drive in this machine. Nor has my PC in the living room, nor has my Laptop. A month ago I cleaned up my cellar and got rid of my last PC with a floppy drive – a Pentium 133 machine that I got in 2001, when it already was used (Siemens wanted to get rid of it back then). Well … no way to solve that, it seemed. I didn’t want to give up that easy and crawled though my board with PC components and really found a lonely floppy drive. But then I recalled that I also disposed my collection of SCSI and floppy cables – nobody uses floppies any more and everything is SATA nowadays, I kept some IDE cables as my file server still has an IDE drive.

So the next objective was: get a floppy cable. When I almost gave up on this I had a look in an old ASUS mainboard box where I keep some manuals in – and amazingly there was a brand new floppy cable still in its original package. Ok, great, now I could connect the floppy drive with my mainboard … but stop, it needs a small power plug – but there was none. As my power supply has cable management there must be some power cords left in its packaging … so again, searching for a cable – but that one was easier to find.

But what is a floppy drive without a floppy. Those I disposed about 5 years ago after I created a last backup of thier content on my file server. So now it became quite hard. I even had to search in those tow boxes with unused stuff that I left untouched for three years now since I moved into my current apartment. And astonishingly there were about 10 floppies left.

Then the amazing thing happened. After over 5 years it was the first time I logged into my own workstation with a floppy drive connected. Ok, the workstations changed in the meantime from a custom built one to a MacMini and now I’ve got a custom built one again (does not look as nice as Apple products but its a lot cheaper and much more flexible).

Well, the rest of the story is short: formatting the floppy with KDE was easy, installing wine to extract the SATA drivers on the CD from the self extrating *.exe archives went smoothly as well, and so did the installation of XP in the end. It just was so curious to use a technology again after such a long time (5 years can seem long). Maybe I now start to understand what it feels like for the computer poineers to touch a Zuse or to power on a DEC PDP-7.