2002. What a time. 35 years after the summer of love. A glorious day outside was not indicative of the panic racing through my veins. You see, I had a report due at school, and because it was the olden days, we had no Wi-Fi. The internet was far too expensive for us mere mortals. Flash drives were around, but so damn expensive. There were no smart phones, and very few people actually owned a mobile phone at all. I mean, all they could do was ring someone. And as for our computers, well, they were built in the ‘90s, although I do recall using one from the ‘80s once in our library. The library that time forgot, as I knew it. There were no whiteboards in our school, only blackboards, and the only projectors we had were the old ones that kept catching fire. It would be another five or so years before flash drives became the norm. Before smart phones were invented and would go on to rule the world. Before everyone had a computer and the internet in their homes. Before Wi-Fi, smart projectors, whiteboards and genetically enhanced fudge cake. And I’m only 26. We had jack all in 2002. But what we did have was the floppy disk. If you were lucky, you could save a couple pages from the old Office 97 (our school couldn’t afford the newer versions, in case you’re wondering). But my report had to be 12 pages! I said to the teacher these exact words. “But my floppy disk can’t handle 12 damn pages!” And I was right. So it called for four of them. FOUR! You might think this makes me glad we don’t use them anymore. Ah, no. You’d be quite wrong…
Ah, sure, I remember standing in front of the class. All tiny and adorable. Quietly wetting myself. Although I suppose pee is always quiet. If I was loudly wetting myself, I’d be quite worried. We had a computer at the front of the class. Took a few minutes to load up. Well, 20 of them. I loved the sound of it whirring in to life. These new ones are so quiet but the old ones, no, you knew they were working. It was tangible. The thuds and clunks made you feel a part of the machine. You could kick it and it would start to work. Golly, if you kick a modern computer, it’ll shatter. Mine did when I punched it a few years ago. What? Men like to try to fix things by hitting them. It’s a time-honoured tradition, ladies.
So I’d load up my report on the computer and read it out to the class. We could’ve printed it out, but, jeepers, if you thought the computer took an age to warm up, you should’ve seen our printer. And it only printed in black and white. Colour ink was too expensive. Then again, so was black ink, so the school only bought a couple cartridges each year and we had to make it last. I remember the teachers asking us to raise our hands if we had a computer and printer at home. All the time they did it. No hands ever went up until around 2005, I think. Maybe late 2004. And even then, it was only one. So printing my report was out of the question.
The pupils (as we used to say – it’s all ‘student’ this, ‘student’ that baloney these days), often prayed to whoever was listening that we would be picked last or that the computer would crash, which happened a lot. We prayed we would be picked last because the floppy disks took a good couple minutes to load up. I loved hearing the noise of the silver bit being pushed to one side, and the whirring and gurgling of the cogs and bits in the tower deck fumble and tumble like it was about to explode. And then you had to open the Word document. Ah, that also took a bit of time. And then you read it and shut the document down. That took some more time. And then there was an intermission whilst the next floppy disk was loaded and booted up the next document. Which is why we all prayed we would be picked last. If you were picked last, there’s no way you’d get the time in the hour long lesson to read out your report. You’d just give your floppy disks to the teacher, with a nice label on them. ‘Alan’s Report Part 1,’ and so on. I remember getting a grade D once because my school bag had a hole in it and it rained real bad one day. One of my floppy disks, Part 3 no less, had gone all soggy and it was ruined. “Ah, I’d have given you an A…”
They started giving us these little green boxes to put our floppies in. They also issued us several floppy disks at the start of each year. I still have most of them. I have about 50 of them now and no way to view what’s on them. But if it’s one of my old reports, it’ll be crap, so I’m not sure if I want to see them again. I loved all this hassle. I loved the time we had to wait between all the loads and saves and shutdowns. We talked and discussed things, or looked out the window at the woods next to our school to see if we could spot a dog chasing a kid, which happened a lot, readers. It really did. The world has gotten faster and better. We’ve left behind the crummy old floppy disks. And that makes me sad. I have such fond memories of them. They were real. You could touch them, especially that little plastic black thing you had to move to ‘lock’ them. I loved hearing them working away. They were slow but they were reliable. And sure, they couldn’t hold much data, but so what? We managed just fine. Just like that time our electricity went off and I decided to do a report on a typewriter. An actual typewriter. I was going to write it out, but the teacher advised against such because he hated my handwriting. “Oh, please, no, don’t write it out, whatever you do…”
I got an A for that report. And I did it during the day, in case you’re wondering how I could see. I didn’t do it by candlelight. I know I sound old, but I’m not that old. But the point is, I remember floppy disks with great affection. They got me so many good grades. Led to many conversations, many of which induced great laughter. We had nothing else to do whilst the floppies were hard at work. They were the little workhorses that made things better. Kids these days don’t know what they’re missing, I tell you that much. I will never, ever forget the floppy disk. I will always salute it, in honour of its impressive crumminess.
Do I miss the floppy disk? You bet I do.
But do you miss the floppy disk, readers?
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