An Ancient 8 Inch Floppy, With A PC

Most of us may have gratefully abandoned the floppy disk a decade or more since, but even today many PCs and their operating systems retain the ability to deal with these data storage relics. The PC was widely fitted with either 5.25″ or 3.5″ disk drives, but other formats such as the older 8″ discs were not a fixture in the 16-bit desktop computing world. It’s something [Jozef Bogin] has taken aim at, with his exploits in connecting a variety of 8″ drives to a PC.

In the early 1970s there were a variety of different 8″ drive standards that weren’t all entirely compatible, but a de facto standard emerged as clones of the Shuggart drives used by IBM. It’s a modified version of this interface that can be found in a PC floppy controller. While there is enough electrical compatibility to connect the two there remains a variety of connectors used on the drives. There are also a wide range of power supplies, with drives requiring 5, 12, and 24 volts, and some of them even requiring AC mains with different versions for 50Hz and 60Hz mains frequencies.

With an 8″ drive hooked up to a PC, how might DOS, or even older Windows versions, interface with it? To that end he’s created a piece of software called 8format, which not only allows 8″ disks to be formatted for the PC, but also provides a driver that replaces the BIOS floppy settings for these drives. This doesn’t work for imaging disks from other older platforms, but he provides pointers to more capable floppy controllers for that.

If these drives interest you, there’s more to be gleaned from a tale of interfacing them with 8-bit retrocomputers.