Sunday, December 7, 2014

3.5" floppy disks and Word 6

I thought I had seen the last of 3.5" floppies until last week.  A customer turned up on my door step with 4 3.5" floppies, and wanted back documents she had written 20 years ago.

Fortunately I still have a few PCs with internal floppy drives (on XP boxes).  These I could see were DS-DD 720K rather than the normal 1.44MB disks.  The customer mentioned an Apricot system, very popular in the mid 80s, but not totally PC compatible.  On placing the disk in the PC, it suggested a reformat, as the disk was not recognised.  Fortunately on examining the sectors it was clear that the disk was still sound, with not obvious sector errors.

Trying to read it was not an instant success.  It was FAT12, but as there were no subdirectories the CnW automatic parameters program failed.  The next stage was top fire up an old copy of InterMedia for Windows.  Being a 16 bit program, this had to be on an XP box.  InterMedia for Windows has a routine called MS Auto that will try and determine disk parameters automatically for floppy disks, and with this the directory was soon visible.

I could now read the files, a mixture of .DOC and associated .BAK files.  However, to be expected, trying to open the .DOC file indicated it was from a Word 6  system.  Word 2003 is meant to have a filter to read this, but it would not work (mswrd632.wpc) so the files could be seen, but with a lot of binary code included.  I am not sure that Word 2003 is supported anymore, being an XP era program.

The next stage was to use InterMedia for Windows again that has protocol handlers for hundreds of old word processing packages, including Word (several versions).  This then  produced nice clean text, with embedded  commands (IMIC2) for some formatting.  These commands were then stripped out using translation tables to generate a simple text file that could be read on a modern PC.

InterMedia for Windows now looks like an old program - it is over 10 years since I last updated it, but it did produce a nice clean result.