Breaking the Code – Part II

Finding the Drive to Unearth Bill’s Files

One evening last spring I spent some time at the Fauquier Communication Center. More precisely, I stood in awe at the section dedicated to the late writer and artist Bill Laux of Fauquier, BC. There in the archives I discovered a wealth of books from Bill’s private library, complete manuscripts of mostly unpublished plays, short stories, and even novels, research papers on the 19th century railroad and mining industries of the Pacific Northwest. As already mentioned in Part I of this series, what fascinated me the most were the many floppy disks that I had found on the side shelves of the archive. What mysterious files would they contain on those poorly labeled plastic squares?

vaki3

Batik by Bill Laux

The oldest working computer, which my wife once used, is a Toshiba laptop. Unfortunately, it does not have a floppy disk drive. Searching the world wide web, I found that there are two ways to get to the files locked away in outdated storage systems.

  • 1) mail the disk to floppytransfer.com, a company in California, which downloads the files and transfers them onto a USB flashdrive. That would have been OK, if I had only a few disks to copy. But with such a great number to copy I rejected this option. It would have demanded an exorbitant price tag.
  • 2) Buy an external drive that connects to a USB port on my computer.

Full of joyful anticipation, I ordered such a device from China for as little as 10 dollars shipping and handling included. Two weeks later the item arrived in the mail. Imagine my utter disappointment, when – no matter which of Bill’s disks I inserted into the machine – I got the same horrible message. ‘This disk must be formatted before it can be used.’could  For those not familiar with technical jargon, formatting is the death sentence for any files residing on the disk. For they will permanently erased.

Bill Laux

Artist, Writer, and Castle Builder Bill Laux

Starting a search on the Internet all over again, I stumbled on a great deal at amazon.ca (for our American neighbors I guess you could use amazon,com with similar results). I decided to give it one more shot and buy a floppy disk drive that came with the guarantee of being capable of reading all the files. After another anxiety ridden waiting period I experienced a most peculiar sequence of initial euphoria followed by a free fall into utter frustration.

 vaki6

To be continued next week in Part III

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