Linked by Hadrien Grasland on Thu 13th Jan 2011 12:53 UTC, submitted by sawboss
"The question that forms the title of this article has recently been posted on the Super User Q&A site for computer enthusiasts. At first I was shocked at how silly a question it was as everyone should know that, right? But then I started to think about it and realized anyone under a certain age probably has no clue."
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Scary.
by spudley99 on Thu 13th Jan 2011 13:39 UTC

Member since:
2009-03-25

What's most scary of all is that it scored 112 up-votes from other users (of a tech-oriented site) who thought it was a good question.

RE: Scary.
by atsureki on Thu 13th Jan 2011 15:30 UTC in reply to "Scary."
Member since:
2006-03-12

I think it is a good question, because the answer is much more complicated than just "those are the floppy disks." What floppy disks? Those things are long gone, so what and where are A: and B: now?

Since drive letters contain no inherently meaningful information, in the days before drive icons their assignment order had to be pseudoinformative. You could more or less trust that A: and B: were set aside for the floppy disk controller, and C: was the first hard disk partition. Fast forward a few more years, and well into the Windows 98 era, lots of installer scripts and programs were hard-coded to look for driver data on A:, system data on C:, and program data on D:. You were in for a world of hurt if you tried to lay out your system any other way. It was all a big feedback loop of de facto convention begetting presumptive programs reinforcing de facto convention, and modern Windows still follows it to maintain compatibility with inadequate code.

So the real answer is that discord between progress and convention have effectively retired those drive letters. You can be familiar with the progress (there used to be floppy drives; now there aren't) and still wonder about the convention (why don't any computers have a drive A?).

RE[2]: Scary.
by Laurence on Thu 13th Jan 2011 16:26 UTC in reply to "RE: Scary."
Member since:
2007-03-26

I think it is a good question, because the answer is much more complicated than just "those are the floppy disks." What floppy disks? Those things are long gone, so what and where are A: and B: now?

On my set up, it's USB sticks.

Effectively the "floppy disks" of the 21st generation

Edited 2011-01-13 16:28 UTC

RE[2]: Scary.
by UltraZelda64 on Thu 13th Jan 2011 17:51 UTC in reply to "RE: Scary."
Member since:
2006-12-05

Since drive letters contain no inherently meaningful information, in the days before drive icons their assignment order had to be pseudoinformative.

Well, before Windows and hard drives, the meaning was simple.

A: = Boot disk. System. Do not tamper with.
B: = Data disk. Do all your work here. Switch disks as necessary.

Seems pretty logical to me...

When Windows and hard drives became common, not much changed, except that C: became the "system" drive. Many machines had one floppy drive and a giant single-partition hard drive (C: or the system partition), which left B: as a synonym for A: to allow copying disks and files between disks, unless a second floppy drive was installed (which would then be B: and make copying and moving possible without switching disks).

Floppies suck... I'm glad to see them being eradicated from the face of the planet. Worthless, unreliable pieces of shit. Maybe they originally weren't, I don't know... all I know for a fact is that when I was using them (mostly for school) in the 90s, all they ever did was magically wipe themselves.

But... now what were drive letters again? Oh yeah, I almost forgot... I haven't dealt with a drive letter since ~2006 when I moved away from Windows. Drive letters are so DOS. It would have been nice if with NT they ditched the drive numbers, after all they finally broke all ties with the DOS legacy, but they chose 100% compatibility with DOS instead. Oh well.

RE[3]: Scary.
by phoenix on Thu 13th Jan 2011 19:56 UTC in reply to "RE[2]: Scary."
Member since:
2005-07-11

With XP (maybe 2K or NT 4.0, never tried), you can ditch all but C:\ using NTFS junctions to mount your other disks/partitions/filesystems into the C:\ directory tree. Just like on non-Windows systems.

It's a pain to setup and to manage afterwards. But it's doable.

RE[4]: Scary.
by UltraZelda64 on Thu 13th Jan 2011 20:42 UTC in reply to "RE[3]: Scary."
Member since:
2006-12-05

You're still stuck with C: though, and it sounds like it would be a massive PITA of a hackjob...

RE[3]: Scary.
by Lennie on Thu 13th Jan 2011 23:10 UTC in reply to "RE[2]: Scary."
Member since:
2007-09-22

At some point they became incredibly cheap and moving disks between machines became a lot less reliable.

I don't know if it was the disks or drives.

RE[3]: Scary.
by DOSguy on Thu 13th Jan 2011 23:31 UTC in reply to "RE[2]: Scary."
Member since:
2009-07-27

Maybe they originally weren't, I don't know... all I know for a fact is that when I was using them (mostly for school) in the 90s, all they ever did was magically wipe themselves.

I'm sure that everyone who has used floppy disks in the past, can still clearly remember the sound of a floppy disk drive trying to read a bad disk.
However, apart from the occasional bad disk, my experience with floppy disks isn't as bad as yours.
I still have lots of floppies, most of which are somewhat around 15 years old. Every now and then I pop one of them in a computer and I rarely have problems retrieving my old junk.
Floppies where not as durable and tough as usb sticks nowadays, but as long as you handled them with care and stored them in a good environment, they did their job.

RE[4]: Scary.
by Moredhas on Fri 14th Jan 2011 20:43 UTC in reply to "RE[3]: Scary."
Member since:
2008-04-10

They did get cheap at one point, though. I found packaged software came on pretty high quality ones, which would last for years and years, and until about 2000, blank ones were alright too. After that, blank floppy disks became less reliable than your average weather forecast. I remember making sure to buy the "double density" ones, so I'd get the whopping 1.4 MB of memory, instead of 720 KB... Now I have a 1.5 TB external hard drive, and a 16 GB flash drive. Not to mention buying 4.7 GB DVDs by the hundred. We've come a long way in terms of data storage.

EDIT: It occurs to me, I think you can judge the age of a computer user by their discerning use of "disk" and "disc" I see people today calling CDs and DVDs disks, but that may just be because they can't spell...

Edited 2011-01-14 20:45 UTC

RE[5]: Scary.
by DOSguy on Sat 15th Jan 2011 00:50 UTC in reply to "RE[4]: Scary."
Member since:
2009-07-27

until about 2000, blank ones were alright too. After that, blank floppy disks became less reliable than your average weather forecast. I remember making sure to buy the "double density" ones, so I'd get the whopping 1.4 MB of memory, instead of 720 KB

I'm note sure if you meant to say you've bought new 720KB disks after the year 2000, but that would really surprise me. I haven't seen those in store from the mid nineties at least.
Anyway, I remember bad quality 3,5" floppy disks on the market. Some where almost as floppy as the original floppies! However, some brands never disappointed me, like TDK.
I guess the situation isn't very different with CD-Rs and CDs nowadays. The first pressed CDs where a lot more durable and scratch resistant ( also a lot thicker! ) than the ones you buy today.
CDRs also tend to rot fairly quick nowadays, unlike those gold/green ones from the early days. ( which costed a lot more! )

Edited 2011-01-15 00:51 UTC

RE[6]: Scary.
by Moredhas on Sat 15th Jan 2011 09:56 UTC in reply to "RE[5]: Scary."
Member since:
2008-04-10

I was a little unclear. Talking about two different times, the degradation of the disks post 2000, and shopping back in the olden days (born in 88, so olden days to me )

RE[5]: Scary.
by spiderman on Sat 15th Jan 2011 08:40 UTC in reply to "RE[4]: Scary."
Member since:
2008-10-23

"double density" disks were more expensive than "simple density" disks but they were exactly the same. You just had to add a hole on the upper right corner to make them "double density".

RE[6]: Scary.
by daedalus on Mon 17th Jan 2011 13:28 UTC in reply to "RE[5]: Scary."
Member since:
2011-01-14

Hmmm... Are you talking about the hole opposite the write protect hole? That signifies "High" density, which is the 1.4MB-ish size, whereas the lack of a hole indicates "Double" density, or 720KB-ish in MS-DOS formats. The surfaces were actually different compositions, but you could use DD as HD and vice versa by messing with the HD detection hole if you weren't too worried about reliability - often they'd lost data after a short time or couldn't be read on a different drive if you did...

I feel so old
by fepede on Thu 13th Jan 2011 13:46 UTC

Member since:
2005-11-14

I feel so old

RE: I feel so old
by anevilyak on Thu 13th Jan 2011 13:51 UTC in reply to "I feel so old"
Member since:
2005-09-14

Glad to hear I'm not the only one.

Comment by Kroc
by Kroc on Thu 13th Jan 2011 13:55 UTC

Member since:
2005-11-10

I use them for SD card slots. It’s a small, blue, plastic rectangle that you store data on, ne?

Comment by Toonie
by Toonie on Thu 13th Jan 2011 14:02 UTC

Member since:
2007-11-19

Blechh... We should have ditched drive letters ages ago. Bloody M$! Reply Score: 4 RE: Comment by Toonie by leech on Thu 13th Jan 2011 14:31 UTC in reply to "Comment by Toonie" Member since: 2006-01-10 Yeah, I had always thought drive letters were retarded. If I recall correctly, it was CP/M that started that, and only Operating Systems that descended from it still have it (DOS, GEM, Windows). At the very least you'd think they'd have used numbers instead of letters. The closest to drive letters that Linux and other *nix use is the device name. Reply Score: 5 RE: Comment by Toonie by Thom_Holwerda on Thu 13th Jan 2011 14:51 UTC in reply to "Comment by Toonie" Member since: 2005-06-29 What's wrong with drive letters? It's as arbitrarily as good a designation as any. Reply Score: 3 RE[2]: Comment by Toonie by Bill Shooter of Bul on Thu 13th Jan 2011 16:18 UTC in reply to "RE: Comment by Toonie" Member since: 2006-07-14 Here is the problem with drive letters, that I myself encountered a few times back in the 90's. When you run out of space on the primary C:\ drive, you cant just install another disk and move data over with out affecting the path windows uses to locate files. Lets say I installed a bunch of data files in C:\data that other programs rely on and know that they are in C:\data If I decide I need to move the data over to a new drive, I can't do that without some how informing the programs that the data has moved to D:\data If it were linux, a similar situation might be creating a single partition on a single disk and having everything there. So my data might have been in /var/data Install new disk mount as /mnt/tmp. Move data from /var/data to /mnt/tmp. set mount point of new disk to /var/data and boom. done. Every thing works without having to change config files or registry or anything. I never did figure out anyway of seamlessly moving connected data from one disk to another in windows without having to notify all the programs of the change in drive letter. Windows also had an annoying feature that was introduced in xp when I tried working around the problem. Instead of adding a disk, I'd sometimes try to just replace the smaller disk with a larger disk without reinstalling anything. Even using a bit for bit copy on a hd duplicator, windows would boot up and look at the HD serial or something and realize that it was on a new drive, and give the drive a new letter D .... screwing up all the data paths programs had set up. Reply Score: 5 RE[3]: Comment by Toonie by siride on Thu 13th Jan 2011 16:40 UTC in reply to "RE[2]: Comment by Toonie" Member since: 2006-01-02 You can create junction points to solve this problem: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/NTFS_junction_point Reply Score: 4 RE[4]: Comment by Toonie by Bill Shooter of Bul on Thu 13th Jan 2011 17:42 UTC in reply to "RE[3]: Comment by Toonie" Member since: 2006-07-14 Problems with junction points: First, I wasn't clear enough in my rant that I was talking mostly about my angst in the 90's dealing with win 9x. In other words: not with NTFS. Junction points not available. Up until Vista the utility for creating junction points was not included in the default install. Windows has a bad habit of not including useful utils in default installs for no good reason. Additionally, junction points are a file system level solution to an existing problem in windows. While true that 99.99% of people run Windows on NTFS, it would be nice if it didn't have to be that way. EXT 2/3/4, HFS+ support would be nice for compatibility reasons. Reply Score: 4 RE[3]: Comment by Toonie by ivanzinho on Thu 13th Jan 2011 16:52 UTC in reply to "RE[2]: Comment by Toonie" Member since: 2009-04-05 Actually, you can do just that. NTFS is able to mount another volume under an empty NTFS folder. So it's perfectly possible for C:\data to live in another volume (say D:). You can add volumes to systems without adding separate drive letters for each new volume, similar to the way Distributed file system (Dfs) links together remote network shares. Volume mount points are robust against system changes that occur when devices are added or removed from a computer. http://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/library/cc938934.aspx Edited 2011-01-13 16:54 UTC Reply Score: 2 RE[2]: Comment by Toonie by spiderman on Thu 13th Jan 2011 16:40 UTC in reply to "RE: Comment by Toonie" Member since: 2008-10-23 I use Windows XP at work and network drives are assigned to letters. This causes many problems. The first problem is when people send link to a document on the network by mail. - Here is the sales report: Q:\sales\report.xls Does not work if Q: is not mapped to the same samba share at the other end, could even lead to another wrong document. Another problem is that you are limited to 26 drives, which is very low. Overall, the drive letters are a legacy and we would happily get rid of them if we could. I don't know if Windows 7 does use them like XP does though since I have never used it. Reply Score: 2 RE[3]: Comment by Toonie by Thom_Holwerda on Thu 13th Jan 2011 17:03 UTC in reply to "RE[2]: Comment by Toonie" Member since: 2005-06-29 Then switch to a modern operating system. This like complaining about how Linux lacked automount 10 years ago. XP is dead, get over it. Reply Score: 1 RE[4]: Comment by Toonie by phoenix on Thu 13th Jan 2011 20:00 UTC in reply to "RE[3]: Comment by Toonie" Member since: 2005-07-11 And ... how would using Windows 7 with Q:\ mapped to \\server\stuff on computerA but Q:\ mapped to \\server2\mystuff, help with someone sending a link to Q:\somedoc.doc? Windows 7 still uses drive letters. And anyone is free to use whatever letter they want for any network share. The solution to this issue is to use server-side settings for the client drive mappings. Which works just fine in Windows XP, thank you very much. The problem is not Windows XP. The problem is client-side setup. Reply Score: 3 RE[4]: Comment by Toonie by Delgarde on Thu 13th Jan 2011 20:14 UTC in reply to "RE[3]: Comment by Toonie" Member since: 2008-08-19 Then switch to a modern operating system. This like complaining about how Linux lacked automount 10 years ago. XP is dead, get over it. No, it's not. It might be utterly obsolete, but it's far from dead. All our desktop machines at work are XP - and the reason for that is that we need to support what our clients run, and large corporations are *very* slow to upgrade. Indeed, the reason they're still running XP is that they need to run IE6, which is because they have all sorts of intranet apps that don't work (or aren't certified to work) on anything else, and they don't like spending money on upgrading things. They *are* slowly moving - I've done a lot of IE8 certification work over the past year, but only in the last week have any of them even mentioned Windows 7. XP will still be around for many years yet... Reply Score: 4 RE[4]: Comment by Toonie by Bill Shooter of Bul on Thu 13th Jan 2011 20:19 UTC in reply to "RE[3]: Comment by Toonie" Member since: 2006-07-14 Then switch to a modern operating system. This like complaining about how Linux lacked automount 10 years ago. XP is dead, get over it. It would be like the linux comparison, if linux distro's of 10 years ago still had a 40-50% market share. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Usage_share_of_operating_systems#Web_c... Xp still lives in corporations stuck on ie6, in your friends 5 year old laptop, and in your parents basement. They aren't going to replace their OS, they'll buy a new computer when the old one dies. As long as it exists in large numbers, people will still complain about it. Reply Score: 6 RE[5]: Comment by Toonie by Bill Shooter of Bul on Thu 13th Jan 2011 21:31 UTC in reply to "RE[4]: Comment by Toonie" Member since: 2006-07-14 Too late to edit, but I do want to clairfy something. When I am bashing windows xp, I'm complaining about what *I* have to put up with because of *old* decisions that were made by people over 10 years ago. I understand that. That's not the same as just bashing the Microsoft of today. Obviously they aren't going to radically change an almost obsolete os for free, just because its annoying. That's life as a proprietary software company, you're judged as much for what you have done as what you are currently doing. Which is the reason for the halo effect that Beos, OS/2, amiga, Risc OS get. Those were decent operating systems back in their prime. Better than the mainstream alternative ( ie windows). So even now as dead and old as they are, people still have good things to say about the companies that made them and good things about the operating systems themselves. Microsoft is still digging itself out of a big hole, due to flaws in XP and other past transgressions. Reply Score: 4 RE[4]: Comment by Toonie by spiderman on Fri 14th Jan 2011 08:41 UTC in reply to "RE[3]: Comment by Toonie" Member since: 2008-10-23 You digress Thom. I don't need your advise to use a modern operating system. I know full well that modern operating systems don't use drive letters. I use GNU/linux at home and do not have those problems. Most modern operating system do have other problems but not this one. But there are problems in any operating system anyway. When I said that I use Windows XP at work, I thought you would understand that it means that I have no control over the operating system choice. Windows XP is far from dead anyway, despite what you think. Anyway, I was not "complaining" like you seem to think. You asked the question "What is wrong with drive letters", I explained it kindly, with 2 instances of problems with them and you tell me "Use something else and stfu". Using drive letters is just retarded. When you can avoid them, you should. If you send a link to a network document, just send the full path (\\server\directory\sales\report.xls) instead of the drive letter when using a "dead" operating system like Windows. And the 26 drives limit is reached very quickly in a company with more than 50 employees. Use links instead, they are available since 1995 or so. Drive letters just suck. Reply Score: 3 RE[4]: Comment by Toonie by Morgan on Fri 14th Jan 2011 12:36 UTC in reply to "RE[3]: Comment by Toonie" Member since: 2005-06-29 I agree wholeheartedly with your sentiment, and here at home on the Windows side of things it's Win7 all the way. However, at both of my jobs XP is the living dead. At the sheriff's office, our computer network is subject to the whims of the ultra-paranoid county IT staff who appear to have a perpetually running BOfH contest going on. There's one likable, experienced, genuinely nice guy among them and (of course) he's low-man on the totem pole. He wants Win7 county-wide, we want it in our offices, but it will likely never happen, for as long as modern hardware continues to boot XP that's what the IT manager will insist upon. After all, he hasn't taken a MS** cert class or refresher since 2003; gotta maintain that status quo right? At my part time job, it's less a matter of want and more a matter of cost. It's a small business with a small margin and pretty much all of our equipment is off-lease, refurbished or salvaged, and nothing newer than 2007. Being the "IT guy" of the place gives me the authority to decide what goes on which computer, but if the funds aren't there to upgrade then it's not likely to happen. I did manage to convince my boss to let me put Linux on a laptop without a valid Windows license, and it's working out quite well as that unit is mostly a mobile internet portal anyway. No, XP will continue to lurch and shamble its way across the screens of tired old computers for years to come, I'm afraid. Reply Score: 2 RE[2]: Comment by Toonie by Lennie on Thu 13th Jan 2011 23:13 UTC in reply to "RE: Comment by Toonie" Member since: 2007-09-22 Try working in a small business and creating a login script for a bunch of different computers with all their own sm/cf/md/sd/mini mcc-whatever drives already taking up most of the drive letters you would like to point to the network somewhere. Reply Score: 3 RE[2]: Comment by Toonie by Carewolf on Thu 13th Jan 2011 23:23 UTC in reply to "RE: Comment by Toonie" Member since: 2005-09-08 The Amiga system was a lot more useful and flexible. Instead of driver letters you used the disk labels. So a game would look for "Monkey Island - Disk 25:" and would then prompt to have that inserted. The beauty of that system was that you could insert the disk into any drive, or even copy it to memory as a RAM drive and the game would still find it without knowning anything about multiple drives, RAM drives or harddisks. Edited 2011-01-13 23:24 UTC Reply Score: 5 RE[3]: Comment by Toonie by flanque on Fri 14th Jan 2011 11:12 UTC in reply to "RE[2]: Comment by Toonie" Member since: 2005-12-15 This Amiga continues to impress me. Where can I get one? Reply Score: 4 RE: Comment by Toonie by Hans Otten on Thu 13th Jan 2011 15:13 UTC in reply to "Comment by Toonie" Member since: 2009-12-24 Microsoft did not invent the drive letters, its the CP/M heritage, so blame Gary Kildall. The use of shorthand notation for drives is much older btw. No need to comment on Mirosoft still using drive letters, there is not much need in modern Windows environments for driver letters, UNC for network drives works fine. Reply Score: 1 RE[2]: Comment by Toonie by henderson101 on Thu 13th Jan 2011 15:48 UTC in reply to "RE: Comment by Toonie" Member since: 2006-05-30 UNC for network drives works fine. Most of the time. Not all of the time. I have found a few apps that dislike UNC. Usually older ones, but it's not universally supported at all. Reply Score: 3 RE[3]: Comment by Toonie by StephenBeDoper on Fri 14th Jan 2011 16:18 UTC in reply to "RE[2]: Comment by Toonie" Member since: 2005-07-06 "UNC for network drives works fine. Most of the time. Not all of the time. I have found a few apps that dislike UNC. " I can think of at least one: C:\>cd \\server\share '\\server\share' CMD does not support UNC paths as current directories. C:\> Reply Score: 2 RE[2]: Comment by Toonie by bogomipz on Thu 13th Jan 2011 18:36 UTC in reply to "RE: Comment by Toonie" Member since: 2005-07-11 You can't cd to an UNC path, which is extremely annoying! At work, I practically live in Emacs. It handles UNC paths beautifully, but when I spawn a shell to run a couple of svn commands, I get: '\\foo\bar\baz\wombat' CMD.EXE was started with the above path as the current directory. UNC paths are not supported. Defaulting to Windows directory. Microsoft Windows [Version 6.0.6002] Copyright (c) 2006 Microsoft Corporation. All rights reserved. C:\Windows>_ Also, WINE does not support UNC paths at all, AFAIK. This is obviously not Microsoft's fault, but still a pretty bad situation. Reply Score: 4 RE: Comment by Toonie by demetrioussharpe on Thu 13th Jan 2011 23:19 UTC in reply to "Comment by Toonie" Member since: 2009-01-09 Blechh... We should have ditched drive letters ages ago. Bloody M$!

Perhaps they would've dropped driver letters if they'd kept Xenix & based this line of Windows off of it!

Sense. This makes none.
by woegjiub on Thu 13th Jan 2011 14:04 UTC

Member since:
2008-11-25

I turn 21 this year, and we still used floppy disks at high school (grade 9, 2005).
Considering that I can easily recall playing Grandma's Garden on the Acorn when I was 7, kids would have to be 13 at most to have never been exposed to a floppy disk, I think.

Damned pre-teens, chilling on tech websites D:

RE: Sense. This makes none.
by BluenoseJake on Thu 13th Jan 2011 14:09 UTC in reply to "Sense. This makes none."
Member since:
2005-08-11

I've been actively avoiding floppies since around 99, when the finally came so cheaply made that 3-5 out of a box was 10 failed almost immediately, and cd's we're so much bigger and better.

RE[2]: Sense. This makes none.
by dylansmrjones on Thu 13th Jan 2011 15:48 UTC in reply to "RE: Sense. This makes none."
Member since:
2005-10-02

I'm stilling using floppies, mostly for BIOS updates (which happens with like a year inbetween).

Nothing beats the wonderful 3" inch disks for the Amstrad CPC664. They could take any trashing

RE[3]: Sense. This makes none.
by bitwelder on Fri 14th Jan 2011 08:19 UTC in reply to "RE[2]: Sense. This makes none."
Member since:
2010-04-27

Yeah, BIOS/firmware upgrade in some cases still requires floppies.
About 2005, IBM was still delivering f/w upgrades for their mighty enterprise-y Blade System only via floppy images (although CDROM and USB slot for memory stick were available).
I remember the difficult part of an upgrade was to find a PC/laptop with a floppy drive.

RE[4]: Sense. This makes none.
by daedalus on Fri 14th Jan 2011 15:22 UTC in reply to "RE[3]: Sense. This makes none."
Member since:
2011-01-14

Yep, we distribute software on floppy disks still for some instruments (we develop and manufacture medical equipment) because the life cycle of such instruments - and their controlling PCs - are so much longer than in the general world of computing. We still update software on 486-controlled equipment on 3.5" floppies, and we even have an instrument here for testing which has two 386s in it!! Naturally enough USB devices for updates aren't gonna do very well on these machines.

Incidentally, QNX doesn't use drive letters, but numbers instead. It still uses a very similar scheme to DOS & Windows though - 1st floppy is 1:, 2nd floppy is 2:, 1st hard drive partition is 3:, 2nd is 4: etc.

RE: Sense. This makes none.
by Delgarde on Thu 13th Jan 2011 20:24 UTC in reply to "Sense. This makes none."
Member since:
2008-08-19

I turn 21 this year, and we still used floppy disks at high school (grade 9, 2005).

I'm surprised - I don't think I've used one since graduating university some ten years ago now. In my circles, USB flash drives were the norm well before 2005 - even a 16MB stick (which I still have around somewhere) was a vast improvement over the 1.44MB floppy...

Comment by pashar
by pashar on Thu 13th Jan 2011 14:11 UTC

Member since:
2006-07-12

Funny part is that most current computers still have floppy controllers. That's why windows still reserves A: and B: letters.

RE: Comment by pashar
by pandronic on Thu 13th Jan 2011 14:33 UTC in reply to "Comment by pashar"
Member since:
2006-05-18

What's up with drive letters?

RE: Comment by pashar
by Delgarde on Thu 13th Jan 2011 20:26 UTC in reply to "Comment by pashar"
Member since:
2008-08-19

Funny part is that most current computers still have floppy controllers. That's why windows still reserves A: and B: letters.

My computer even still has the drive. It's not actually connected - it's just there to stop dust getting in through the whole the case manufacturer provided for one.

a little optimistic
by jack_perry on Thu 13th Jan 2011 14:13 UTC

Member since:
2005-07-06

Article ends with:

...or even being asked what Windows is and having no idea.

If only.

Saw this on Amiga.org
by leech on Thu 13th Jan 2011 14:27 UTC

Member since:
2006-01-10

I saw something about this on Amiga.org. Another forum member there had also mentioned an incident where an teacher of an IT class had asked the students what a PS/2 was, and someone responded by saying it was for connecting a playstation 2.

A: and B:? What's that? I prefer DF0: and DF1:

:D

RE: Saw this on Amiga.org
by Earl C Pottinger on Thu 13th Jan 2011 14:46 UTC in reply to "Saw this on Amiga.org"
Member since:
2008-07-12

Well, on the Amiga you almost never used the direct device names, usually you used the volume name of a drive, and that would let the system automaticly follow the correct floppy/drive no matter where you moved it to (even in the middle of an operating program) and it made for the neat and useful option of 'assign' a volume to a sub-directory on your rad/ram/hard drive.

RE: Saw this on Amiga.org
by fx__ on Thu 13th Jan 2011 16:10 UTC in reply to "Saw this on Amiga.org"
Member since:
2006-03-31

Yeah, the Amiga had a really great system for this. You had the Device name (DF0:, DF1:, RAM:) but also the Volume name (Workbench:, Extras:) and could use both. If you asked for Extras: and it wasn't in any drive, it would tell you to put the disk in any drive.

Other nice touches, was that the disk you booted from was always SYS:, the directory you started an application from was always PROGDIR:, and the system had some more assigns in place you could always rely on.

The A: C: -naming of devices, and 8.3 letter filenames always seemed so silly back then.

i know, i know
by adinas on Thu 13th Jan 2011 14:31 UTC

Member since:
2005-08-17

a: is for the 5 1/4 inch drive and b is for the 3.5 inch drive. no?

RE: i know, i know
by Kroc on Thu 13th Jan 2011 14:36 UTC in reply to "i know, i know"
Member since:
2005-11-10

RE[2]: i know, i know
by dylansmrjones on Thu 13th Jan 2011 15:50 UTC in reply to "RE: i know, i know"
Member since:
2005-10-02

I've touched such a disk once. They were used for backup in a local bank back in the beginning of the 90'es - and the system ran OS/2 (which I kinda thought was cool, because I used that at home).

RE[3]: i know, i know
by BluenoseJake on Thu 13th Jan 2011 16:40 UTC in reply to "RE[2]: i know, i know"
Member since:
2005-08-11

I have a couple tacked to my wall at home, and an old reel to reel tape backup.

RE[2]: i know, i know
by lopisaur on Thu 13th Jan 2011 17:11 UTC in reply to "RE: i know, i know"
Member since:
2006-02-27

Or the stuff real power users had... 21MB Flopticals!
I actually once had a setup with two 2.88 (ED) drives as A: and B: and people thought that was overkill.

RE: i know, i know
by tchristney on Thu 13th Jan 2011 17:15 UTC in reply to "i know, i know"
Member since:
2005-09-21

No. Which is which really only depended on how they were connected to the system. You could have 2x5.25", 2x3.5" or any combination of them. In later days you would often see a drive that looks like a standard 3.5", but was actually a LS120.

RE: i know, i know
by M.Onty on Thu 13th Jan 2011 17:16 UTC in reply to "i know, i know"
Member since:
2009-10-23

Usually its the other way around, as in usually B: is unused. I'm surprised people don't know what A: stands for as most computers (read; most current PCs, not most new computers being sold) still have the 3.5" drive.

Edited 2011-01-13 17:17 UTC

RE: i know, i know
by demetrioussharpe on Thu 13th Jan 2011 23:24 UTC in reply to "i know, i know"
Member since:
2009-01-09

No, a: is for the primary drive, b: is for the secondary drive. This is based on the order in which they're connected to the controller. Just like IDE/ATA controllers, one controller is usually capable of controlling 2 devices.

P.S. I'm 32. I started dabbling with computers when i was about 7. Back when Mac users were building CatMac's & PC's didn't have ASIC chips, the chipset were individual chips.

RE: i know, i know
by bassbeast on Fri 14th Jan 2011 08:08 UTC in reply to "i know, i know"
Member since:
2007-11-11

Actually back when Hard drives first came out having dual floppies was pretty much the norm, so DOS (and I believe others as well) reserved A and B for the master and slave floppy.

Of course now with 2TB+ HDDs it isn't like anyone is ever gonna use enough letters to actually make it to Z although IIRC Windows since Win2K will allow you to just use mount points so one can have an infinite number of drives simply assigned as folders.

You can't boot off them of course but if you are actually trying to boot more than 24 different OSes on a single computer drive letters are the least of your worries ;-)

RE: i know, i know
by daedalus on Fri 14th Jan 2011 15:07 UTC in reply to "i know, i know"
Member since:
2011-01-14

Not necessarily. It just depends on what drives the PC was fitted with. Originally (the first PC I used anyway), A: and B: were both 5.25" drives. Then 3.5" drives began appearing as the B: or A: drive, then it was just the A: drive, and now it's gone... But you can still connect a 3.5" or 5.25" floppy drive as A: or B: on some motherboards...

Comment by neticspace
by neticspace on Thu 13th Jan 2011 14:41 UTC

Member since:
2009-06-09

I still have a "fond" (and ridiculously torturous) memory of using a floppy disk few years ago.

Bzzz bzzz - Failed to read
by Dr-ROX on Thu 13th Jan 2011 15:13 UTC

Member since:
2006-01-03

Just as I opened that article, I remembered the times, when you put that floppy with important data into drive and hear that "shk shk shk - bzzz bzzz - shk shk shk bzzz bzzzz" noise after that windows showed up read error message. Awesome times

RE: Bzzz bzzz - Failed to read
by peejay on Thu 13th Jan 2011 15:29 UTC in reply to "Bzzz bzzz - Failed to read"
Member since:
2005-06-29

You say that like it's a historic thing; my DVD drive did that to me just 2 days ago.

RE[2]: Bzzz bzzz - Failed to read
by fx__ on Thu 13th Jan 2011 16:05 UTC in reply to "RE: Bzzz bzzz - Failed to read"
Member since:
2006-03-31

You put a floppy with important data in your DVD drive?

RE[3]: Bzzz bzzz - Failed to read
by peejay on Thu 13th Jan 2011 16:58 UTC in reply to "RE[2]: Bzzz bzzz - Failed to read"
Member since:
2005-06-29

I don't have a floppy drive anymore, so it seemed like the next best place for it.

I just pulled that brown round piece out of the plastic cover so it would fit and wrote "A" on it with a Sharpie so it would know where to show up in My Computer. When the buzzing started, I ejected it and it kind of tore in half. However, the duct tape has been holding it together fine ever since so I don't see why it won't work. Do you think I should replace the needle in the drive that reads the grooves in the floppy? It is supposed to be a Digital Versatile Drive but it does not seem so versatile right now.

RE[2]: Bzzz bzzz - Failed to read
by Drumhellar on Thu 13th Jan 2011 18:14 UTC in reply to "RE: Bzzz bzzz - Failed to read"
Member since:
2005-07-12

That's what happens when you cram a DVD into a floppy drive.

The pieces jam all the drive mechanisms.

by d.marcu on Thu 13th Jan 2011 15:34 UTC

Member since:
2009-12-27

some have no idea what those drive letters are, and in Romania some accounting reports for government institutions must be accompanied by a floppy, but still we have some of the fastest broadband networks in the world (ok, fast internet came to our country only a few years ago so it's still sad)

Comment by AnythingButVista
by AnythingButVista on Thu 13th Jan 2011 15:42 UTC

Member since:
2008-08-27

Windows reserve drives A: and B: for floppy drives, but if you don't have a floppy drive, you can go to Computer Management, Disk Management and change some other removable drive (USB stick, SD card, etc.) to be the A: or the B: drive.

There is nothing wrong with drive letters. Heck, Linux uses drive letters too! Don't /dev/hda1, /dev/hda2, /dev/hdb1, /dev/sda1, /dev/sdb1, etc. ring a bell? FYI: the numbers in Linux are for partitions on the same drive, while the letter in bold tells the actual drives apart. OMG, LINUX HAS DRIVE LETTERS! THAT'S SO RETARDED! /sarcasm Heck, Linux (and probably other *nix OS's) can get a little messy in the drive labeling department. There is a distinction between IDE drives (/dev/hd...) and other hard drives (/dev/sd...) Oh, wait, /dev/sd... isn't that for an SD memory card? Nope: /dev/sd... could be a SCSI drive or a SATA drive, but definitely not an SD memory card.

Member since:
2006-07-14

Its how they are used in file paths that cause the problem. See my previous rant.

RE: Comment by AnythingButVista
by siride on Thu 13th Jan 2011 16:43 UTC in reply to "Comment by AnythingButVista"
Member since:
2006-01-02

Yeah, not really. In Windows, they are required in absolute file paths. In Linux, it is only for device nodes, which are never relevant for filesystem operations and are only needed when mounting or when using utilities that operate directly on the drive.

RE: Comment by AnythingButVista
by twitterfire on Thu 13th Jan 2011 17:02 UTC in reply to "Comment by AnythingButVista"
Member since:
2008-09-11

Heck, Linux uses drive letters too! Don't /dev/hda1, /dev/hda2, /dev/hdb1, /dev/sda1, /dev/sdb1, etc. ring a bell?

It's not the same thing. Windows A: ,B:, C: drives are the directories where some devices are automounted.

In Unix, after mounting or automounting, you have something like /mnt/floppy, /media/floppy, /media/cdrom or /media/porn, whish is more meaningful.

Who cares?
by maxsideburn on Thu 13th Jan 2011 15:52 UTC

Member since:
2011-01-04

Being a Linux (and part-time Mac) user I guess I just don't see the point in drive letters anymore. I always laugh to myself when one of my Windows friends starts talking about his D drive, lol.

Nowadays I just give my drives a descriptive label. "Black drive", "250gb", WD My Book"

RE: Who cares?
by lucas_maximus on Thu 13th Jan 2011 16:23 UTC in reply to "Who cares?"
Member since:
2009-08-18

I always laugh to myself when one of my Windows friends starts talking about his D drive, lol.

You feel smug because of a drive identification scheme being different to the one you use?

I think you need to reassess your priorities.

RE[2]: Who cares?
by M.Onty on Thu 13th Jan 2011 17:20 UTC in reply to "RE: Who cares?"
Member since:
2009-10-23

"I always laugh to myself when one of my Windows friends starts talking about his D drive, lol.

You feel smug because of a drive identification scheme being different to the one you use?

I think you need to reassess your priorities.
"

+1

Do't see them
by vodoomoth on Thu 13th Jan 2011 15:58 UTC

Member since:
2010-03-30

I don't see any A: or B: drive in the Explorer under Vista.

Too bad I can't edit the title.

Edited 2011-01-13 15:59 UTC

Next Question
by twitterfire on Thu 13th Jan 2011 16:24 UTC

Member since:
2008-09-11

What is Windows? I mean is it the black box that lies near my monitor? Or is it the thing that allows me to use google, facebook and youtube?

*sigh*

RE: Next Question
by ebasconp on Thu 13th Jan 2011 17:18 UTC in reply to "Next Question"
Member since:
2006-05-09

In the old days, the Operating System, what you call "iOS" now, was named Windows and ran in those primitive first multicore processors running at ridiculously slow speeds like 3 or 4 GHz.

Edited 2011-01-13 17:18 UTC

RE[2]: Next Question
by Neolander on Thu 13th Jan 2011 17:27 UTC in reply to "RE: Next Question"
Member since:
2010-03-08

-slow +high

The whole point of multicore is to sell you several less capable CPUs in bulk, all of them using the same memory bus so that congestion is guaranteed ^^

Tomorrow's x86 multicore CPU will be something like 128 Atoms on a single chip.

Edited 2011-01-13 17:31 UTC

by twitterfire on Thu 13th Jan 2011 16:28 UTC

Member since:
2008-09-11

And cool people use /dev/fd0 or /dev/floppy, not A: or B:

Floppies *are* useful...
by Neolander on Thu 13th Jan 2011 16:34 UTC

Member since:
2010-03-08

...in the very early development stages of an OS, as a 1.4MB large image file on your HDD which you can manipulate directly using dd and 16-bit BIOS interrupts without caring about the consequences.

No need to think about supporting filesystems and other sophisticated things, you just consider the floppy as a big array of 512B blocks and it works. There are few things easier to play with in the IBM PC world.

Edited 2011-01-13 16:37 UTC

by reez on Thu 13th Jan 2011 16:49 UTC

Member since:
2006-06-28

Recently I installed the most recent NetBSD via floppies (and IPv6). So what?

Floppies still rock!

I am 21 and have been using ZX80 computers using cassettes.

Before that I played SimAnt, which also came with those huge 5,1/4 floppies.

Last but not least their sound is awesome!

Edited 2011-01-13 16:49 UTC

by Neolander on Thu 13th Jan 2011 16:54 UTC in reply to "Floppies are not dead!"
Member since:
2010-03-08

Last but not least their sound is awesome!

I give you that, especially considering which sounds can come out of a floppy drive when sufficiently modded

by AnythingButVista on Thu 13th Jan 2011 17:03 UTC in reply to "Floppies are not dead!"
Member since:
2008-08-27

Aaahh, the good old days when you could actually hear when a drive was in use!

by Neolander on Thu 13th Jan 2011 17:22 UTC in reply to "RE: Floppies are not dead!"
Member since:
2010-03-08

Aaahh, the good old days when you could actually hear when a drive was in use!

Well, actually my backup external HDD still makes quite audible sounds when it's powered on. I especially like the one which sounds like it's digesting something... No idea what it can possibly be doing.

In fact, I'd say that being noisy is a feature in that case : it reminds me to power it off after use

Edited 2011-01-13 17:22 UTC

by kaelodest on Thu 13th Jan 2011 17:25 UTC in reply to "Floppies are not dead!"
Member since:
2006-02-12

For Real Tho'!
I think I still have BSD PPC boot floppy for Macs from way back in the day. I remember MacOS 7 and Six on floppies. And iirc MacOS 6 was written in assembly. I used to love the auto eject thing that Apple had.

thelast PC that I used floppies with had misaligned heads - so they only worked in my own A:

by foregam on Thu 13th Jan 2011 17:52 UTC in reply to "Floppies are not dead!"
Member since:
2010-11-17

> Last but not least their sound is awesome!
In the olden times you could actually hear the PC ticking while checking the amount of installed memory during POST. It took a while to check twice 4MB

Ah, cassettes
by Florin.Crisan on Fri 14th Jan 2011 09:00 UTC in reply to "Floppies are not dead!"
Member since:
2008-04-21

Ah... cassettes... you'd wait 5 minutes to get an “R Tape loading error, 0:1” I remember I always had to align the reading head of the player to match the cassette – in the end I could actually tell by the sound if it would load. Those were the days...

A/B
by fran on Thu 13th Jan 2011 17:00 UTC

Member since:
2010-08-06

William Hackspere "Drive A/B, to be or not to be, that's the question"

Network drives!
by Drunkula on Thu 13th Jan 2011 18:05 UTC

Member since:
2009-09-03

I still use A: and B: for mapping network drives or for external HDs. Sometimes I still use the SUBST command to shorten LONG path names down to A: or B:...

Edited 2011-01-13 18:08 UTC

mine are in use for optical drives
by Lion on Fri 14th Jan 2011 07:26 UTC

Member since:
2007-03-22

I took a different route for my drives on this windows installation...
A: is my virtual optical drive (clonedrive)
B: for bluray (BD-ROM Drive)
C: is my windows drive, I wish I could move that easily
G: for games
S: for storage

I don't think Windows 7 cares what drives get put on A: and B: anymore, it just starts enumerating from C: onwards through the alphabet unless a floppy is present.

Weekly
by kiwimonk on Fri 14th Jan 2011 19:12 UTC

Member since:
2011-01-14

A: and B: still exist for me, since I use floppies on a weekly basis. Usually for flashing bioses or installing Plop

Wrong question..
by Brunis on Sun 16th Jan 2011 17:06 UTC

Member since:
2005-11-01

I'm using my A and B letters for my "USB Thumb" Flash drives..

But i think the article should ask, why the hell MS uses letters to begin with? ..and why has it infected BIOS'? Why would you want to design your hardware around crappy software? .. Be ALL that you can BE!! Don't start by thinking.. "We have this small box of limitations" ..what can we build within?

RE: Wrong question..
by Zoidberg on Sun 16th Jan 2011 21:50 UTC in reply to "Wrong question.."
Member since:
2006-02-11

They use them because DOS was designed around ideas from CP/M which also used drive letters. Windows has carried on the tradition to this day, and honestly why not?

I see nothing wrong with it and it makes it very simple to identify and organize all your different drives and partitions.

RE[2]: Wrong question..
by daedalus on Mon 17th Jan 2011 13:39 UTC in reply to "RE: Wrong question.."
Member since:
2011-01-14

Well, it does make it simple to identify alright, but when you have many, many letters it's a little bit nondescript, wouldn't you agree? You can label the drives of course as I do on Windows, and that shows how non-specific drive letters are. H:\ for a home drive is fine, but what about L:\ for the file server, F:\ for documentation? Doesn't make it all that easy to remember.

The old Amiga way of doing it made a lot more sense. All partitions could be referred to by name instead of letter, so you can have your partitions laid out like this:

System:
Files:
Apps:
Music: