8″ Floppy On Your PC?

We should probably have a new metric for measuring mass storage performance: bytes per pound. An old IBM tape drive from the S/360 days, for example, could hold almost 6 megabytes of data. It also weighed more than a typical refrigerator. Today, a tiny postage-stamp-sized card can hold gigabytes of data and weighs — at most — a few ounces. Somewhere in the middle is the old 8 inch floppy drive. At its peak, you could cram about 1.2 megabytes on it, but even with the drive you could lift it all in one hand. These disks and their descendants ruled the computing world for a while. [Adrian asks the question: can you use an 8″ floppy drive on a PC? The answer is in the video below.

He didn’t do it on a lark. [Adrian] is getting ready to restore a TRS-80 Model II so he wanted to create some 8″test floppies. But how do you marry a 40-something-year-old drive to a modern computer? He had a few drives of unknown condition so there was nothing to do but try to get them working.

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Tandy Color Computer (CoCo3) Color Video Playback

[John W. Linville] wrote a digital video player for the Tandy Color Computer (aka TRS-80). The decades-old hardware performs quite well considering the limited resource he had to work with. This is the second iteration of his player, and can be seen after the break playing a promo video for CoCoFEST 2011 where he’ll show it off in person.

In the most recent thread post (at the time of writing) [John] shares the methods used to get this running. FFMPEG is used on a modern computer to process the source video by separating the audio into an 8-bit 11040Hz file, and it generates several PPM files with the proper video frame rate. ImageMagick takes it from there to convert the PPM files to a bitmap format. It also processes each frame for differential changes, reducing the size to fall within the available bandwidth. They are then interleaved with the audio to produce the final format. Video is 128×192 with rectangular pixels. [John’s] already used it to watch such classics as War Games on the antiquated hardware.

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Colorize Your Election Party

[Eric] has put together a simple python script to scrape election results from CNN.com. It uses urllib2 to return the popular and electoral votes for each party and throws an ElectionWon exception when CNN calls the race. He’s planning on hooking this to DMX controlled RGB LED lighting that will shift to either blue or red as the night progresses. It’s a great starting point if you want to pull off something similar.

You may remember [Eric] for building the IKEA MAME table and the TRS-80 wireless terminal.

[photo: skenmy]

UPDATE: [Garrett] of macetech is putting the finishing touches on his version which uses 32 ShiftBrite modules and 2 4-digit displays controlled by a CuBLOC.