Should I purchase old software on floppies?

Thread Starter

strantor

Joined Oct 3, 2010
5,187
I have need of an old MS-DOS software for programming old (1979 - 1986) PLCs. The software was retroactively released in 1989 and sales were discontinued in 1997. It is no longer available for sale, by anyone, including the original manufacturer who is still in business bigger than ever; they are however more than happy to quote you a new $8,000 PLC and 1,500 engineering hours to perform a retrofit. I have found the software buried in a dark corner of the internet, but in order to use it, activation must be loaded from a 3.5" Floppy diskette.

I went searching again and I found someone selling an original 1993 box set on eBay for $500. All the install diskettes plus the activation diskette supposedly sealed in original wrapping, plus unobtanium manuals. The manuals alone are worth the asking price, but they do me no good without the working software. So what are the odds that these old floppies are still "good"? From the description:

Item is used, but in good condition. The software is still in a sealed package, but the books show signs of slight use, so we are listing the product as used. Item is used, but in good condition.
I doubt the seller will open the packaging and test the floppies for me. I feel like it's a gamble but I'm not sure. Someone please tell me that floppies don't degrade over time and it's 100% safe to buy these.
 

dl324

Joined Mar 30, 2015
9,575
Someone please tell me that floppies don't degrade over time and it's 100% safe to buy these.
If properly stored, they might still be readable, but no one can give you a 100% guarantee. I have floppies that were written decades ago that are still readable.

The Seller is giving conflicting information. Used/good condition and sealed. eBay has some definitions for new and used that might be helpful.

Get the Seller to give you assurance that you can return them for a full refund if they aren't readable.
 
Last edited:

Raymond Genovese

Joined Mar 5, 2016
1,658
I remember once that a very skilled Biochemist once said, in a contentious meeting, "everything degrades with enough time". It brought a huge smile to my face as it shut someone else up. I never forgot that.

So, yes, they would degrade over time, but it would take much more time.

It is NOT 100% safe to buy them. Damage, such as contact with magnets and storage issues is a possibility.

But, honestly, it seems like a pretty reasonable risk. A "sealed package" is a nice plus. You didn't say how much you were gambling [edit: actually you did $500], but it seems like a reasonable risk [but a lot of cash].

I bet I have some version of MS-DOS on 3.5 somewhere.

BTW: Are there not open source and commercial versions of MS-DOS work-a-likes still available?

Edited to add: I actually do have a set of 3 original MSDOS 6.0 upgrade 3.5 disks. I also have some PICSTART 16B diskettes and a full set of Borland TurboC :)

Have you been to this site? https://winworldpc.com/product/ms-dos/1x
 
Last edited:

wayneh

Joined Sep 9, 2010
16,158
I doubt the seller will open the packaging and test the floppies for me. I feel like it's a gamble but I'm not sure. Someone please tell me that floppies don't degrade over time and it's 100% safe to buy these.
I recently cleared my basement of a veritable museum of computers reaching back into the mid 80's, including floppies. Before selling the floppies on eBay (which I never dreamed would be possible but it is), I stuck each one in a computer and verified there was nothing personal on them. I must have looked at 200 or more and all of them mounted. I didn't bother with most of them, but there was never a problem any time I manipulated files on those floppies. Most of my experience is with 3.5" hard floppies but I also had a few 5-1/4" floppies for an Apple II. I didn't try to manipulate those at all but the few I stuck in to test the machine worked fine.

I guess what I'm saying is that I have never seen a floppy fail due to age. I've seen issues with wear and damage, but never anything I could attribute to age.
 

Thread Starter

strantor

Joined Oct 3, 2010
5,187
I remember once that a very skilled Biochemist once said, in a contentious meeting, "everything degrades with enough time". It brought a huge smile to my face as it shut someone else up. I never forgot that.

So, yes, they would degrade over time, but it would take much more time.

It is NOT 100% safe to buy them. Damage, such as contact with magnets and storage issues is a possibility.

But, honestly, it seems like a pretty reasonable risk. A "sealed package" is a nice plus. You didn't say how much you were gambling, but it seems like a reasonable risk.

I bet I have some version of MS-DOS on 3.5 somewhere.

BTW: Are there not open source and commercial versions of MS-DOS work-a-likes still available?

Edited to add: I actually do have a set of 3 original MSDOS 6.0 upgrade 3.5 disks. I also have some PICSTART 16B diskettes and a full set of Borland TurboC :)

Have you been to this site? https://winworldpc.com/product/ms-dos/1x
It's not MS-DOS that I need. I have that already. It's proprietary software that will only under MS-DOS.
 

cmartinez

Joined Jan 17, 2007
6,663
I have need of an old MS-DOS software for programming old (1979 - 1986) PLCs. The software was retroactively released in 1989 and sales were discontinued in 1997. It is no longer available for sale, by anyone, including the original manufacturer who is still in business bigger than ever; they are however more than happy to quote you a new $8,000 PLC and 1,500 engineering hours to perform a retrofit. I have found the software buried in a dark corner of the internet, but in order to use it, activation must be loaded from a 3.5" Floppy diskette.

I went searching again and I found someone selling an original 1993 box set on eBay for $500. All the install diskettes plus the activation diskette supposedly sealed in original wrapping, plus unobtanium manuals. The manuals alone are worth the asking price, but they do me no good without the working software. So what are the odds that these old floppies are still "good"? From the description:



I doubt the seller will open the packaging and test the floppies for me. I feel like it's a gamble but I'm not sure. Someone please tell me that floppies don't degrade over time and it's 100% safe to buy these.
I assume you can't tell us what the software actually does? Maybe we could help you find an alternative.
 

MaxHeadRoom

Joined Jul 18, 2013
19,682
I doubt the seller will open the packaging and test the floppies for me. I feel like it's a gamble but I'm not sure. Someone please tell me that floppies don't degrade over time and it's 100% safe to buy these.
PLC? Smells somehow of Allen-Bradly!;)
Floppies are a magnetic medium so can become corrupted, but if stored right will last many decades.
BTW, in the case of the AB activation floppy, you could only use on one PC, if you need to run on another, you had to remove the activation to the floppy and install on the 2nd PC.
I was shown a way to duplicate the floppy which using normal copying technique does not work.
There is/was a free software out there that copied all tracks including the boot sector and those that normally do not get copied in the normal way.
This way you can make as many as you wish.
Max.
 

MaxHeadRoom

Joined Jul 18, 2013
19,682
I assume you can't tell us what the software actually does? Maybe we could help you find an alternative.
PLC software is usually proprietary, there are some that you can duplicate.
It has always been something of contention with me, I would expect the software to be freely distributable .
After all this is the only application you can use the S/W on and it would encourage more to buy that particular PLC product.
Mitsubishi for one used to allow free use of their S/W.
Max.
 

cmartinez

Joined Jan 17, 2007
6,663
PLC? Smells somehow of Allen-Bradly!
I hate Allen-Bradley ... I'm more of a Siemens, or ABB kind of guy ... as for Mitsubishi, back in the nineties their PLC's required the use of a $300.00 dlls cable to communicate with a PC ... thank you but no thank you ...
 

Thread Starter

strantor

Joined Oct 3, 2010
5,187
I assume you can't tell us what the software actually does? Maybe we could help you find an alternative.
PLC Programming software for Allen Bradley PLC-3.
There are 3 software suites that I'm aware of:
  1. 6200-PLC3 developed by Allen Bradley in the early 90's to support the (then) already obsolete platform. Notoriously bad software I've heard; they didn't put much effort into it.
  2. Ai3 developed by ICOM. Better software but I cannot find it anywhere with an activation.
  3. TOPDOC by SoftPLC. From what I understand, this is made by former ICOM people. It's current software, will run on Win7+, and work with the ancient PLCs. Entry price point is $5,000. I'm sure it's worth that price to someone, but that someone isn't me. For me, this is just to support 1 customer.
The software I've found on eBay is option #1. I would prefer option #2. I have found the Ai3 software on the internet but activation was not included.
 

MaxHeadRoom

Joined Jul 18, 2013
19,682
as for Mitsubishi, back in the nineties their PLC's required the use of a $300.00 dlls cable to communicate with a PC ... thank you but no thank you ...
I still use their PLC's and S/W today, the cable May have been expensive particularly the original MELSEC Beijers made , but from just about day one the schematic has been available on the NET.
I whipped one together for cheap.
Max.
 

Attachments

PLC Programming software for Allen Bradley PLC-3.
There are 3 software suites that I'm aware of:
  1. 6200-PLC3 developed by Allen Bradley in the early 90's to support the (then) already obsolete platform. Notoriously bad software I've heard; they didn't put much effort into it.
  2. Ai3 developed by ICOM. Better software but I cannot find it anywhere with an activation.
  3. TOPDOC by SoftPLC. From what I understand, this is made by former ICOM people. It's current software, will run on Win7+, and work with the ancient PLCs. Entry price point is $5,000. I'm sure it's worth that price to someone, but that someone isn't me. For me, this is just to support 1 customer.
The software I've found on eBay is option #1. I would prefer option #2. I have found the Ai3 software on the internet but activation was not included.
I wonder if these guys would be a decent source...it looks like they are mostly interested in their platform that allows all of the Legacy programs to work on modern machines, but in so doing, they may have the Legacy programs...and be willing to sell them?
https://blog.qualitrol.com/plc-programming-for-dos-software-made-easy/

BTW: Thanks...because of your post, I now have DOS 6.0 full on 3.5" diskettes (you never know when there will be a technoapacolypse and none of the Windows and Linux machines will work). I also found a copy of a 31 bit RNG that I wrote on an 8088 after reading Don Lancaster's work. I wrote it in TASM...I wonder if I can get it working as a white noise generator on a PIC202?
 

MaxHeadRoom

Joined Jul 18, 2013
19,682
BTW: Thanks...because of your post, I now have DOS 6.0 full on 3.5" diskettes (you never know when there will be a technoapacolypse and none of the Windows and Linux machines will work). I also found a copy of a 31 bit RNG that I wrote on an 8088 after reading Don Lancaster's work. I wrote it in TASM...I wonder if I can get it working as a white noise generator on a PIC202?
The DOS 7.1 out there is nice as it has many of the attributes from Win98, long file names, etc, also can run a USB drive if it is present at boot time, but not hot-swapable.
Max.
 

Thread Starter

strantor

Joined Oct 3, 2010
5,187
The DOS 7.1 out there is nice as it has many of the attributes from Win98, long file names, etc, also can run a USB drive if it is present at boot time, but not hot-swapable.
Max.
reeeealy?.. interesting. I did not know this. I shall upgrade at once! DOS6.2 makes me want break things. and people.
 

WBahn

Joined Mar 31, 2012
25,066
If properly stored, they might still be readable, but no one can give you a 100% guarantee. I have floppies that were written decades ago that are still readable.

The Seller is giving conflicting information. Used/good condition and sealed. eBay has some definitions for new and used that might be helpful.

Get the Seller to give you assurance that you can return them for a full refund if they aren't readable.
Many sellers (not just eBay) won't do that because then someone could make the purchase, copy the disks, corrupt them somehow (lot's of ways), and then return them demanding a full refund.

Used to be real common practice. That's why books that had media in the back had big warning labels that it was unreturnable if the seal was broken. Also why many places will not accept returns on DVDs/BDs if they've been opened.

The seller is the best person to test the disks, but they may not have the equipment and, even if they did, really doesn't have the ability to know if the contents are intact beyond being able to read the directories.

It's a definite gamble. Worth communicating with the seller about your concerns and seeing if you can work something out. Given the age of the media, he's got to recognize that your concerns are valid and that the reasonable value of the item has to reflect the degree to which they are (or aren't) dealt with.
 

Thread Starter

strantor

Joined Oct 3, 2010
5,187
I wonder if these guys would be a decent source...it looks like they are mostly interested in their platform that allows all of the Legacy programs to work on modern machines, but in so doing, they may have the Legacy programs...and be willing to sell them?
https://blog.qualitrol.com/plc-programming-for-dos-software-made-easy/

BTW: Thanks...because of your post, I now have DOS 6.0 full on 3.5" diskettes (you never know when there will be a technoapacolypse and none of the Windows and Linux machines will work). I also found a copy of a 31 bit RNG that I wrote on an 8088 after reading Don Lancaster's work. I wrote it in TASM...I wonder if I can get it working as a white noise generator on a PIC202?
Thanks for that, I sent the question; will update you if/when they reply.
 

Thread Starter

strantor

Joined Oct 3, 2010
5,187
Many sellers (not just eBay) won't do that because then someone could make the purchase, copy the disks, corrupt them somehow (lot's of ways), and then return them demanding a full refund.

Used to be real common practice. That's why books that had media in the back had big warning labels that it was unreturnable if the seal was broken. Also why many places will not accept returns on DVDs/BDs if they've been opened.

The seller is the best person to test the disks, but they may not have the equipment and, even if they did, really doesn't have the ability to know if the contents are intact beyond being able to read the directories.

It's a definite gamble. Worth communicating with the seller about your concerns and seeing if you can work something out. Given the age of the media, he's got to recognize that your concerns are valid and that the reasonable value of the item has to reflect the degree to which they are (or aren't) dealt with.
Yep, yep, and yep. He lowered the price to $300.
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