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Popular Mechanics: Old School Computing Heroes Save Gene Roddenberry’s Missing Files

Originally published by Popular Mechanics.
How an outdated operating system could have kept some Star Trek material from the public eye on the 50th anniversary of the show.

Gene Roddenberry

Gene Roddenberry’s “lost” files have been restored again, just in time for the 50th anniversary of the show. But it wasn’t that they were truly lost. It’s that they were virtually unreadable by modern computers.

Unless you’ve delved deep into retrocomputing, CP/M probably doesn’t mean much. But the operating system, short for Control Program for Microprocessors, was an early operating system that was eventually driven to extinction by MS-DOS. The last CP/M release came in 1983, and since then it’s faded into obscurity, with few copies existing today.

It also happens to be the operating system that was used by Gene Roddenberry. While a few disks were DOS compatible, a large chunk were readable only by CP/M computers. And as relayed by PC World, DriveSavers Data Recovery couldn’t get Roddenberry’s old computer to boot up. Eventually, they resorted to backwards engineering the data on each individual floppy disk, essentially creating a disk image. That process took three months, and even then large portions of the old magnetic storage mediums in the disc were corrupt or damaged.

The discs, more than 200 in all, were delivered to DriveSavers in small batches due to the secrecy of the project on the part of Roddenberry’s estate, who still aren’t divulging what was on the discs, waiting until later this year to announce. There are about two to three megabytes of data recovered, accounting for about 95 percent of the total files on the disks.

So later this year, we’ll finally find out what’s on the disks. But had it not been for a few preservationists and months and months of hard work, the files might never have been saved, especially as the old floppy disks continued to decay. With it, a piece of Star Trek history might have been lost forever.
Source: PC World

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