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(?) The Answer Guy (!)

By James T. Dennis, tag@lists.linuxgazette.net
LinuxCare, http://www.linuxcare.com/

(?) 5 1/4" Floppies: Truly Dead

From Terry Allan on Fri, 09 Jul 1999

Dear, mr. answerguy. I am consulting with a movie rental store. There current computer system is running on a menu driven operating system called PC-MOS. I know what your thinking, that I mis-pelled PC-MOS and it should be PC-DOS. Unfortunately, it really is PC-MOS.

(!) No. I'm not thinking that. I used PC-MOS occasionally a few years ago. My favorite local pizza parlor runs a billing and order entry system under PC-MOS.
PC-MOS is/was a multi-user PC-DOS clone that was published by TSL (The Software Link) during the late eighties. There were also a couple of other multi-user/multi-tasking operating systems with more or less DOS compatability. I professionally used CCI's version of Concurrent DOS (licensed from Digital Research's C-DOS, which was later called MDOS).
I can't seem to find links to TSL in Yahoo! and Google searches. I guess they must have disappeared completely. Apparently they were involved in some landmark lawsuits related to shrink-wrap software licenses. Most of the links I found at Alta Vista and Google were in discussion of these and UCC Article 2B (ancestor of the UCITA) laws that relate to the enforceability of these licenses.

(?) Anyway, I had them back some files up on a 5'1/4' floppy disk. And when I put the floppy into my 386 Dos-based computer to try and read it, the computer tells me that the disk is not formatted, and would I like to format it. My operating system on my computer will not even recognize the disk as a valid disk. Can you offer any suggestions? Is there any conversion software utilities that could make the data files readable on my dos-based machine.


(!) People don't use 5 1/4" (I don't think you meant 5 1/4' -- FOOT) diskettes and more.
Is this a high density (1.2Mb) drive? Is it a 360K diskette?
I'd buy a $30 dollar 3.5" disk drive and install that. I'm pretty sure that your 386 and PC-MOS will support the hardware.
1.2Mb floppies were always much less reliable than their 3.5" 1.44 Mb cousins. Also those drives could not reliably interoperate with 360K media and the 1.2Mb media weren't terribly reliable when formatted to 360K
My advice: remove all 5 1/4" drives (some of us may want to store on shelves for reading legacy media as it shows up) and replace them with 3.5" drives (at least).
It would be nice to replace 3.5" HD (1.44Mb) media and drives with something like LS120 or Zip Disk. However, none of the large capacity formats is really ubiquitous enough to declare it to be the new de facto standard.
CDRW isn't more than about three times more expensive than LS120 --- but it has five times the capacity. DVD-RW isn't more than than ten times more expensive, but it does offer more than 20 times the capacity.
I'm not suggesting LS120, CDRW, or any of that to your situation. PC-MOS and your old 386 probably won't support these newer media. The versions of PC-MOS and CDOS that I remember didn't have support for SCSI --- or had very limited support for only a few SCSI host adapters. You might be quite challenged to find a controller that you could use with this old OS.
This brings us naturally to the question: Can you migrate this software to run under DOSEMU (under Linux) or to some other operating system that's been updated within the last half decade or so?

Copyright © 1999, James T. Dennis
Published in The Linux Gazette Issue 44 August 1999
HTML transformation by Heather Stern of Starshine Techinical Services, http://www.starshine.org/

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