Cracking Open The Prince Floppy After The Purple Reign

Readers of a certain vintage will no doubt remember the time when Prince eschewed his royal position and became an unpronounceable symbol. People had no choice but to refer to him as TAFKAP, The Artist Formerly Known As Prince, and members of the music press were sent a 3.5″ floppy disk with a font file containing a single character — that gender-transcending shape that would soon become another one of Prince’s guitars. But it’s 2021, and now you can get it from the Internet Archive. Fun fact: the file wasn’t ever locked down. In fact, the symbol was available on Prince’s Compuserve and fan club CD-ROM.

While some people trawl auction sites for overalls and weird keyboards, others look for ridiculous items from the zeitgeist, like a copy of this floppy. Take [Anil Dash] for instance. [Anil] finally pulled the trigger after 15 years of debating this particular purchase. [Anil]’s interest was reignited after reading this analysis of whether the symbol could ever be put into Unicode. (Between being trademarked, a logo, and a personal character, it’s ineligible for inclusion.)

Earlier this week, [Anil] teamed up with Adafruit to extract the data from the floppy. The Twitter thread that ensued led readers to another old source of the font — the 1994 game Prince Interactive. We wonder if they broke out the oscilloscope, though it doesn’t look like it.

Thanks for the tip, [pt and limor]!