A Byte-iful DOS-aster

| Montevideo, Uruguay | Working | March 21, 2013

(This story occurs some twenty years ago, in the era of DOS. I am starting to work part-time in a public library, staffed by older people who understand very little about computers and do things by rote. On the first day, they are showing me the inventory programs they use.)

Librarian: “…and at this point, you should use this option to back up to a diskette.”

Me: “Okay.”

(I put a new diskette in and type in the command. We get an “Error reading disk” message.)

Librarian: “Oh, not again! Another broken diskette! It’s happening all the time lately. I’ll have to ask Sundries to purchase more.”

(The librarian takes the disk box and stamps “DEFECTIVE” on it.)

Me: “Are you sure the disk is formatted? Sometimes new disks aren’t.”

Librarian: “Oh yes, we tried that and it never works.”

(She goes to DOS, types “format a:”, and then gets an error.)

Librarian: “See?”

Me: “Wait…”

(I eject the disk and look at it and at the box.)

Me: “Here is the problem! These are old double density diskettes, not regular high density ones! You have to tell DOS that when formatting.”

(I try again with “format a: /f:720”. It works like a charm, and I can complete the original backup, too.)

Librarian: “Oh, that’s great! They were good after all! You are so smart! But then…”

(The librarian takes me to the back, and shows me a locker with A HUNDRED boxes of DD diskettes all stamped “DEFECTIVE”.)

Librarian: “…do you think all these ones are good, too?”

Me: *speechless*

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