Insert Disk 53 and Press [RETURN]
October 6, 2012 10:55 AM   Subscribe

I was having one of those "I walked to to school uphill both ways" discussions with friends and the question came up: What software product shipped on the largest number of floppy disks? I'm having trouble tracking it down, but I have some recollection that A/UX shipped on some insane number of diskettes, like 20 or 30, before Apple started selling it on a hard drive.
posted by LastOfHisKind to Computers & Internet (19 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
I started off with slackware linux on floppies; that one was > 20 disks.
posted by jenkinsEar at 11:04 AM on October 6, 2012 [2 favorites]

Didn't WordPerfect have something like 36 disks?
posted by wwartorff at 11:15 AM on October 6, 2012 [1 favorite]

I certainly do not have the early version any longer, and it may have been less than 20, but I believe Borland Delphi originally came out on floppy and a goodly number of them.
posted by forthright at 11:15 AM on October 6, 2012

Yeah, back in the mid/late 1990's, linux was well over 20 floppies, depending on what packages you wanted it with.
posted by rmd1023 at 11:21 AM on October 6, 2012

I thought Windows 95 was pretty hefty, but this page says it was only 13. Windows NT 3.1 was 22.
posted by getawaysticks at 11:35 AM on October 6, 2012

I ran A/UX from floppies but I can't remember how many.
posted by Obscure Reference at 11:39 AM on October 6, 2012

Seconding jenkinsEar's memory of early Linux distributions' infinite floppies. I had to download SLS to our VAX (using the vt320s), cross compile the 0.91(?) kernel to support my offbrand i486 and then transfer the bazillions of floppies via the one Windows 3.1 machine that had DECnet support. When 0.95 came out with X11 support, there were another few billion floppies to transfer, but at least I could natively compile the kernel and download the new floppies via SLIP.

Looking at the SLS-1.03 distribution with X support, it appears to have had 28 disks (A1-4, B1-7, C-3, S1, T1-3, X1-10). Slackware 1.1.2 had even more: 55 disks spread out over A1-3, AP1-4, D1-6, E1-5, F1, I1-3, IV1-2, N1-3, OI1-3, OOP1, T1-5, TCL1-2, U1-2, X1-5, XAP1-2, XV1-2, Y1.

Although, you wouldn't run from these disks. They were only for installation to the local hardrive, so perhaps this doesn't meet the question's criteria.
posted by autopilot at 11:58 AM on October 6, 2012

Office 97 came on 44 floppies (if you elected). I've also found some mentions of the MS-DOS for the IBM XT coming on 40+ 5.25" floppies, which at that time would have been an order of magnitude less capacity than the mid-90s standard 1.44Mb "twiggy" floppy. I'm pretty sure there were some mid-90s games that optionally came on ginormous numbers of floppies as well. For some reason the number 55 comes to mind.
On preview: Coulda been Slackware, but I still feel there was a game install that big. Not so much the game engine as maps/worlds.

I think some versions of Windows NT or 2000 Server or some such came with a huge pile of driver disks, but you generally didn't need more than a handful.

Anyway, my (professional) memory is more in that magnitude.
posted by dhartung at 12:02 PM on October 6, 2012 [1 favorite]

Oh, I misread the question, it was about installation disks, not runtime disks, so slackware is definitely a contender. One of the largest number that I recall running with in normal operation was Don Bluth's Dragon's Lair for the Amiga -- seven 3.5" floppies, with one or two scenes per floppy.

Looking around, I see that Beneath a Steel Sky was played from 15 floppies. So much disk swapping!
posted by autopilot at 12:06 PM on October 6, 2012

Microsoft Office 4.2 for the Mac. 35 floppies according to this eBay auction. I seem to remember it being bigger but I had some sort of university version which could be differently distributed.
posted by buttercup at 12:21 PM on October 6, 2012

OS/2 Warp v3 had 39 3.5" floppy disks including the bonus pack (which was a necessity).
posted by jet_silver at 12:21 PM on October 6, 2012

35 3.5 HD floppies that is, maybe I had a low density version...
posted by buttercup at 12:22 PM on October 6, 2012

I remember Novell NetWare coming out with crates of floppy disks.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 12:47 PM on October 6, 2012 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: The chances of having a bad disk on a 44 floppy distribution has got to be approaching unity.

I seem to recall there was a gizmo you could buy for doing backups back in the Mac +,SE,SE/30 days that was essentially a big diskette hopper that would feed a fresh disk into the drive automatically when the previous one got ejected. I never saw one in person, however.
posted by LastOfHisKind at 1:05 PM on October 6, 2012

Monkey Island II for the Commodore Amiga came on 11 floppy disks. I had a 600HD but remember trying it on my friends 500 to show her how amazing it was, only to spend most of the evening swapping disks round.
posted by sarahdal at 3:01 PM on October 6, 2012

Early versions of CorelDRAW! were in the 30s also.
posted by softlord at 5:07 PM on October 6, 2012

Adobe used to ship font libraries on hundreds of floppies...
posted by omnidrew at 8:38 AM on October 7, 2012

The chances of having a bad disk on a 44 floppy distribution has got to be approaching unity.
It's actually lower than you think, at least for the 3.5" disks.

At one point back in the days when hard disk drives topped out at 20MB, I had accumulated about a dozen 100 disk boxes of floppies that I used to house shareware, warez, porn, BBS and Usenet message archives, backup copies of qmodem for when dad took my disk to punish me, etc. I started accumulating them after I upgraded to a blisteringly fast 14.4k modem in concert with an in-area-code BBS.

Years later, I donated them to my school district (which was heavily computerizing, but doing it on the cheap, and needed at least one floppy disk per student for the students to carry around) when I upgraded to a Zip drive; there were obviously a few floppies that I wanted to *make sure* were blank before I donated them. All of the disks, some of which I hadn't accessed in a while, were usable.

It seems that the middle era of 3.5" floppy disks were pretty reliable, they started getting "cheap" in the latter era as CD-ROMs and other media crunched the per-MB cost.
posted by SpecialK at 10:45 AM on October 7, 2012

The chances of having a bad disk on a 44 floppy distribution has got to be approaching unity.

Back in the day they were really quite reliable. I almost never had problems with a disk through the 80's and early 90's with CP/M and DOS. Things seemed to go bad about the time WIndows 95 came out. Maybe it was a combination of lower quality disks and drive hardware. But I've always suspected that Win95 and later had bad drivers for floppy disks.
posted by DarkForest at 5:55 AM on February 24, 2013

« Older a la mode?   |   Would you forgive your mother for this? Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.