Would anyone really buy a 30-year old hard drive?

The computers accompanying nuclear warheads use 8-inch floppy disks, which were state of the art when they were constructed, and the armed forces are planning to keep it this way because they are about as hacker-proof as any computer on earth; among other things, they are not connected to any other computers. They are designed to do that, and ONLY that.

It was easier to some degree as I was able even to get it to run on XP compatibility mode perhaps (I forget the details) on one computer that the boss wanted a modern OS but needed access to this legacy program, though there were a series of scripts that had to be used in proper sequence to get it to communicate with other devices through legacy ports, and then other scripts that had to be run for other functionality.

However those devices that the program communicated with had to be exact match, as buying something close was a crapshoot that we may or may not be able to get to work and looking for drivers and having them work with this program would cost more time (time is money as I don’t work for free) then buying the exact match piece, even if it was very expensive.

IIRC NASA had to add weights to sections of the Space Shuttles when old computer systems were replaced with more modern ones (perhaps the newer shuttles), to make up for the loss of mass as the newer computer systems were much lighter.

For a while once SATA drives took over there were data centers with thousands of boards that could only handle IDE drives. So there was a major competition to buy up as many large capacity IDE drives as possible to maintain them. Prices got really high, hurting ordinary folk who just wanted a drop-in replacement for their own computer.

Even today a new Seagate 500GB IDE drive might cost $150-$250. A SATA drive with a SATA-> IDE converter would be far cheaper.

Heh. I love playing with old computers. I have a collection myself. I have an Amstrad XT clone which still has a working 40MB HDD, although the floppy drive is done. I also have a Macintosh SE, and the 20MB HDD has died in that. But it’s SCSI, 50-pin, and those are like gold dust.

My experience is no. I bought a 1-Tb SATA drive eleven years ago and just never got around to installing it in the desktop I had at the time. Eight years went by and I finally put in its successor, a used office desktop with a 80-Mb primary drive, as a supplementary drive. Two years later Windows didn’t see it. The guy at the shop verified it was the drive, not the box and I grumbled how it died kind of quick.

“Well it’s ten years old; what d’ja expect?”

“It sat in a box for the first eight.”


I’d say museum or shredder are the OP’s two choices.

There’s a local electronics store (I mean real electronics; PCB’s, resistors, transistors, diodes, and capacitors), with all kinds of electronic gee-gaws and gizmos dating back to the 80s, sometimes even the 70s.

And the place has always got customers in it. I go there from time-to-time, it’s a neat place, the owners are hobbyists and always making some kind of electronics project, and I’ve never seen less than 1/2 dozen customers in it.

And they (owners and typical customers) are exactly the kind of people who’d go apples-and-bananas over a working 30 y/o hard drive. It’s the only place in St. Louis that I know of to get actual vacuum tubes.

If the demand is there, I wonder that the electronics store does not make new drives (solid state, natch!) compatible with old hardware and sell them to businesses and the military for a healthy profit. Sounds easier than looking for the one, unused 30-year-old disc that did not get thrown away and still has a few months of life left to it.

It can be really expensive to create new hardware compatible with old hardware. On the other hand, I have a friend from college who has a business selling a PDP-11 emulator that runs on a PC. His clients are companies and organizations that have old systems designed for the PDP-11 (a Digital Equipment Corp minicomputer sold from 1970-90 or so) and his emulator allows them to replace those systems and continue to run the same applications on cheap hardware. There’s probably a lot more to it than that, but this is what I’ve gathered from casual conversations.

You mean we pay big bucks for it. Our tax dollars at work. :rolleyes:

15+ years ago, I worked for a summer as an IT intern for a my local water agency. One morning I was tasked with reviving an ancient (even then) computer that was used as the controller for a pipe-crawling mechanism.

The software that ran the thing was apparently written in a way that it relied on the specific hardware in the drive. I don’t remember the details, but we had a known good image for the drive that ran it, but it only worked on that model of hard drive.

I went into a storage room and went through a long row of these decommissioned boxes looking for one that had a hard drive in it, pulled it, wrote the image to it, and got them going again. During the few hours this was going on, there was a crew of six sitting idle.

I don’t know how many of those drives there were, how many crews, or how long until that system broke down in other ways, but I bet they’d have been happy to pay hundreds of dollars for that specific model of old hard drive if it was the thing that wore out faster than the others.

Way cheaper than any other alternative at that point.

People do do this, but it’s not simple.

Part of it is that the military is not going to use your fancy new solid-state thing without subjecting it to a battery of tests. It needs to not just meet some printed spec, it needs to be bug-compatible with the old thing. Emulators are not perfect, and even small deviations can be catastrophic for military operations.

The startup costs here are probably very high, and the potential market is still small.

I don’t know or understand anything but the basics, but all or almost all of the electronics of old MFM, RLE and SCSI drives were a separate controller, usually on a separate card. IIRC, a “low level format” of one of these drives was at a high level hardware level that allowed direct interface to the hard drive electronics. Despite people saying they performed a “low level format” on a IDE or SATA drive, that’s not possible, because the drive is “low level formatted” at the factory and can’t be done by the user again.

On IDE and SATA drives, the interface is part of the drive (IDE = Integrated Drive Electronics). The controller and interface are all in or on the drive itself. So if a program is written to interface directly with a MFM, RLE or SCSI controller, it’s very difficult, if not impossible to change without rewriting the whole program.

Low level format of IDE drives was possible using the BIOS of old motherboards. I remember keep an old MB around that had this feature so I could use it to restore a messed up disk.

But you could easily really screw things up and the performance was going to be crap.

It’s a hell of a lot cheaper to buy old hardware to keep a system running between tech refresh cycles than redesigning a system, updating training, modifying simulators and rewriting manuals. Believe it or not, budget is important in the DOD world.

The military recycles a lot, too. The AN/URK-3 computers we used in shore-based direction finding sites were originally used for Polaris missiles. When the earliest boats were retired they came into our hands, being perfectly capable of the task we needed them for, distributing received TTY signals to the proper teletype machine.

What matters more when selling old hardware is how well it still works, rather than age. How many hours does that hard drive have on it? If not a lot, it might be something people would want for their retro systems, when they don’t want to use modern solutions like those that convert a Compact Flash or SD card into a hard drive.

There is a pretty big retro fanbase, but dwindling supply of replacement parts.

Of course, you should zero out your drive if you sell it.