How can I convert files from Magnavox Videowriter word processor format (from my 1980s floppies) into readable format today?
December 18, 2003 3:26 PM   Subscribe

I used a Magnavox Videowriter word processor back in the 1980s and filled up 20+ 400k floppies with writing that I cannot access through any other means but the Videowriter. How do I convert those old floppies to plain text so I can access my (probably horrible) early writings?

BTW, I contacted (teeth=grit) Magnavox (/teeth) about this and they told me that they would happily convert them for me... at $25 each. Vultures!
posted by squirrel to Computers & Internet (9 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Not a perfect solution, but check this out.
posted by Optamystic at 4:08 PM on December 18, 2003

I'm Feeling Lucky
posted by majick at 4:14 PM on December 18, 2003

Oh, I still have the old unit, Optamystic. Runs like a tank. Not that I would ever write anything on it again... far less buy another one! :^)

majick, thanks for trying. I looked at that product before. A close read reveals that in addition to the product you linked to, you need another decoder, the total for which is over $150. And it runs only in DOS, and only under Win 95 DOS. Feh. Thanks anyway for trying!
posted by squirrel at 6:03 PM on December 18, 2003

Heh, it looks like a microwave to me ...
posted by carter at 7:29 PM on December 18, 2003

Also not a perfect solution, but possibly the cheapest: print out the pages, buy a scanner, and OCR them.
posted by bshort at 8:21 PM on December 18, 2003 [1 favorite]

This usenet thread might be helpful. They suggest using a parallel to serial converter to connect to a PC through the printer port and using a terminal program on the PC to capture the text as you print it from the Videowriter. Unfortunately, there's no word on whether that was successful.
posted by teg at 9:28 PM on December 18, 2003

teg, that just goes to show you what a craven band of loonies us Videowriter hacks are. No way I have the skills or the patience to pull that off. I mean, these ain't the dead sea scrolls, they're poems I wrote when I was 18. bshort, I tried that solution. The biggest problem is that the dot-matrix printouts are OLD-Sah-KOOL, and OCR software doesn't know what to make of it. Thanks to both of you anyway. carter, that's just the pain talking, man. Work through it.
posted by squirrel at 11:04 PM on December 18, 2003

Any antique computer clubs or the like in your area, Squirrel? If so, somebody there might be willing to help you implement teg's solution. A quick Google reveals the Computer History Museum, who might not be able to help you, but might know someone who can. In any case, transferring it via parallel cable might be easier than trying to read the disks.

Actually, come to think of it, if you've got a parallel port on your PC, try hooking the printer port on the Videowriter up to the PC parallel port, and try this in a DOS window:

copy lpt1 squirrelsradpoem.txt

Then print the file from the Videowriter. (If it's at all possible, set the Videowriter to send just plain ASCII, no printer control codes.) Wait a few minutes, hit CTRL-C on the PC, and open the resulting file up in a text editor. Hopefully, you should see the text file, possibly with some extra garbage characters, and possibly all on one line. If you just get an empty file, try the above steps, only with a crossover (LapLink-style) parallel cable instead of the straight one. And if it still doesn't work after that, well, I'm all outta ideas.

(If you've got access to a Linux/Unix machine instead of DOS, the command ought to be something like

cat /dev/something > somefile.txt

but I can't remember the correct name for a parallel device, and it might change from distro to distro anyway--my Gentoo box has a bewildering array of stuff in /dev, and nothing looks like it ought to be a parallel port.)
posted by arto at 2:40 AM on December 19, 2003

Thanks, arto. That sounds worth a try.
posted by squirrel at 10:53 AM on December 19, 2003

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