Classic Computer Magazine Archive ANTIC VOL. 3, NO. 4 / AUGUST 1984


Take better care of your floppies


Just what are floppy disks? Those who are still chained to cassette recorders for data storage would probably like to get to know them better.  Those of us who use them every day rarely give these plain black utilitarian devices a second thought.  Yet, while this article introduces floppy disks to new users, it may also offer some tips to experienced disk users.
   Two components make up a floppy disk: the disk and its jacket.  The disk itself is made of thin mylar, coated on both sides with the same iron oxide used on magnetic tapes.  The jacket is a tough polymer (You cannot remove the disk from its jacket.)
   Blank disks come in several varieties.  The most common is single-sided (SS) single-density (SD).  They also come in SS double-density (DD) and double-sided (DS), SD and DD.
   It's not a well-known fact, but: all disks, from any manufacturer, are made by the same process.  They're graded in testing-only those that pass the most rigorous tests get to be DSDD disks.  This means that all SD disks are coated on the reverse side, but the coating isn't guaranteed to hold data.  Nevertheless, just by using a hole punch to notch the back side of disks, you can double their capacity.
   There are special tools to do this, but it's easy to do with a simple single-hole punch.
   Take two disks and remove the stickers (if any) that cover the notch on the disks' edges.  Place the two next to each other on a flat, clean surface.  Now, flip the right disk over onto the left, as if you were turning the pages of a book.  Each disk's notch now provides a template for a second notch.  Once you make that second notch, you'll be able to use the back side of the disk.
   Some drive mechanisms (Rana, Astra, and Percom) use the timing hole (close to the disk's center) in formatting.  With these, you must also punch a second timing hole, opposite the first.
   A certain amount of controversy exists over using the flip side of single-sided disks in single-sided disk drives.  Some say that reversing the disk's direction of rotation, which is what happens when you use the back side, causes dust trapped in the disk's inner lining to be loosened and to fall into the drive's mechanism.  However, most computerists today flip their disks for a substantial savings with little or no consequence.

The back side of a disk envelope will give you most important information about disk care and handling.  But, briefly:
   Keep disks as far as possible from dirt, dust, smoke, liquids, magnetic fields, very small children, and animals.
   Don't bend them, and don't subject them to extreme temperature or pressure.
   Keep disks in their paper envelopes when not in use.
   Never touch the actual disk surface, visible through the oval window in the disk jacket.  If you follow these simple rules you'll have little or no difficulty with your drives or diskettes.