Breaking the Code – Part III

 The Unholy Union of Success and Failure

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The Unicorn by Batik Artist Bill Laux

The new external disk drive arrived. Hooray, it worked! I was able to retrieve one floppy after another. The feeling of success after such a long wait almost created a sense of euphoria. After checking some fifty disks with all those enticing file names, I came across only one disk that the floppy disk drive could not read. Some contained images, but most had text files all carefully numbered by chapters indicating that massive amounts of research were hidden on these archaic storage devices. That was exactly what I was hoping to find. I randomly picked one disk and transferred its content onto my harddrive. In our era abounding in giga- and terabytes, we easily forget the times when we had to struggle to make do with 3.5 kilobytes, with which the Vic-20, the dinosaur of ancient computer world, came so equipped. Still if the content was merely text and NOT the byte gobbling images and videos, then an entire novel of 800 pages would easily fit on a floppy disk.

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One of the Dozens of Floppy Disks with Bill Laux’s Writing

Now came that long expected moment to get a first look at Bill’s writing. From the first list of titles I could tell that their content dealt mostly with the political wrangling over the building of the great Canadian transcontinental railway, whose purpose was to unite the second largest country in the world.

27

Bill Laux Working on his Castle at the Arrow Lake in 1977

Full of anticipation, I double-clicked on chapter1.cwk. Like a lightning bolt out of the blue sky, I was struck by the ominous computer message on the screen, “Windows cannot open this file”. Upon further investigation, I discovered that the file extension cwk comes from the extinct word processor Clarisworks, which the Apple company had acquired in 1998, renamed it AppleWorks, but later on abandoned it after its final upgrade in 2004. Owning 4 different word processors, I was almost certain that at least one of them would be capable of decoding those archaic files. Having thus recovered from my disappointment, I loaded one text file into the queen of all word processors (of course, I am referring to Word by Microsoft). But its performance was a total disaster. All it could produce was a whole pile of gobbledygook on the screen. Similar results surfaced, when I tried the other three word processors. Great was my disappointment, but I was not yet ready to give up. How the story ends will be revealed in next week’s post on Bill Laux and his mysterious collection. So stay tuned.

7 comments

  1. jeannettepaterakis · December 6, 2016

    Great Peter ,that you try to resolve all these problems,but it is sure worth it.I wish you all the best,and I am curious about the following chapter.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. transmutation.me · December 6, 2016

    Hier werden aber wirklich keine Mühen gescheut, um die Nebel der Vergangenheit ein wenig zu lüften! Inspiriert von diesem Blog konnte ich zwischenzeitlich ein ehr banales Erbstück ein wenig dekodieren, das mein Vater zum 28. Geburtstag von seinem Unteroffiziers-Korps geschenkt bekam, ein Bierkrug mit Angabe der entsprechenden Wehrmachtseinheit. Nun weiss ich zumindest, wo er im Dezember 1942 gewesen sein muss durch Internet-Recherche, und das stimmt mit dem Wenigen überein, das er überhaupt jemals von dieser Zeit erzählt hat. Aber hieraus ergaben sich gleich viele weitere Fragen, was in der Natur der Sache liegt, wie es ja auch in diesem Post sehr gut zum Ausdruck kommt.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Peter Klopp · December 7, 2016

      Viel Glück, und das braucht man wirklich, bei der weitern Suche nach Daten über deinen Vater!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. arv! · December 7, 2016

    Happy to see the old disk ! Some memories…

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Ann Coleman · December 8, 2016

    I’d almost forgotten about those little discs that we stored all our stuff on! I hope you are able to find a way to retrieve the information, though….

    Liked by 1 person

  5. kushbugadiya · December 12, 2016

    Great

    Like

  6. Pingback: Breaking the Code – Part IV | The Peter and Gertrud Klopp Family Project

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