Getting Data Out Of Its Floppy Cage

Our FC5025 controller connected to the TEAC FD-55GFR 5.25″ floppy disk drive.

The new year and holidays brought with it gifts and offerings for our legacy digital project!

Upon returning from our holiday break, we were greeted with the arrival of our TEAC FD-55GFR 5.25″ floppy disk drive along with Device Side Data’s FC5025 USB 5.25″ floppy controller.

We decided on purchasing a 5.25″ floppy disk drive of off Amazon and a FC5025 controller. The FC5025 controller is essentially a circuit board that liaises between your legacy 5.25″ floppy drive and a modern computer running a contemporary operating system. These two components are the essential building blocks to getting data off of 5.25″ floppy through disk imaging because they interface between an older, circa-1981 floppy disk drive and a modern computer. Maryland Institute for Technology in the Humanities’ (MITH) Vintage Computer site does an excellent job of breaking down the FC5025’s connections and instructions for imaging floppies. The card comes with drivers to enable connections to Windows (98, 7, 8, XP), Mac (OS X), and Linux operating systems.

Inside the TEAC FD-55GFR

These pieces of hardware will grant the WCS Archives access to the 5.25″ floppy disks in their collection. The disks date back to the early 1990s and will also allow researchers access to that data, and the documents and files contained therein. We were excited and geared to go to hook up our components and test how they would react with our current forensic environment (an Ubuntu Linux BitCurator Virtual Machine hosted on our 64-bit Windows 10 FRED). If this sounds like a laundry list of inconsequential gibberish, it isn’t. One of the strongest lessons I learned during grad school was the value of getting acquainted with your hardware and software components before taking on a conservation or preservation measure. Also, always document your actions, which made the deadline of this blog post an advantageous opportunity for a progress report.

One thing we had to consider in this particular setup was the floppy disk drive’s jumper configuration. A jumper is an electrical conductor that can guide, bypass, or close an electronic circuit on a printed circuit board, such as the FC5025. A jumper usually comes in pairs and can be open or closed. A closed jumper will have a jumper shunt over its pins and an open one will not have a jumper shunt over the pins. Pretty simple, right?

For the TEAC FD-55GFR drive, the MITH site recommends the following configuration:

Setting Description
D1 closed, DRIVE SELECT 1
D0,D2,D3 open
U0, U1 open DRIVE SELECT turns on front panel LED
IU open No IN USE input
DC closed, Pin 34 is DISK CHANGE output
RY open
LG open MODE SELECT polarity is normal
I open Single speed mode (360 RPM)
E2 closed Index pulses continue during seek

Board and jumper settings on the TEAC FD-55GFR

Our drive’s E2 jumper was open and I didn’t want to apply a jumper shunt on it before confirming that setting would not introduce any errors on our setup. So after raiding forum after forum and opening the question out on twitter, the answer was right under my nose. After cross-checking with FC5025’s manual, I was able to confirm that although E2 closed was the preferred setting, the drive was still able to perform with E2 open. That detour, however, led me to come across the TEAC drive’s specification sheet, which includes valuable information on how it works plus ideal handling conditions for the drive. Also, a reminder to read the entire installation manual thoroughly before beginning installation.

To install the FC5025 imaging software on our BitCurator virtual machine, an Ubuntu Linux forensics environment, we needed to compile the software. In theory, this is a fairly straightforward process for which one may find many tutorials and step by step guides on the web (thank Cthulhu for Ubuntu forums and StackExchange!). Unfortunately, while the latest version of FC5025’s imaging software has been updated to support Windows 8 usage,  here at WCS, we are using a Windows 10 host machine. Moreover, FC5025 official support for Ubuntu only goes up to 11.10, while here we are currently using the 16.04.01 version.

Luckily, Device Side Data’s (DSD) customer service helped along the way with step by step instructions. During our back and forth, the DSD representative guided me through installing the necessary development libraries, including libusb, an open-source C library that gives applications access to USB devices on various operating systems. In the end, the solution involved using the “make clean; make” command on the command line, the command erases all files associated with previous invocations of the make command and actuates a new, “clean” install of the program.

The FC5025 up close and personal.

While waiting for Device Side Data to get back to me and to quell my paranoia by confirming that all the components were working correctly, I took hold of our WCS work laptop, which is running Windows 7 (which might as well be considered legacy software as well), to install the disk imaging software there and test the card and drive.

And voilà, spinning disks!

We were able to get our setup up and running both on our FRED and on my work laptop, and disk image four disks before the day was over. In spite of our small victory, most of the disks we imaged had multiple errors during imaging; also, while attempting to browse the disks, we discovered that all of them were unable to show a file listing. So, some work and refining of our workflow lies ahead.

The 5.25″ floppy disks that we selected for imaging come from the First Pan American Congress on Conservation of Wildlife through Education, which was celebrated in 1990 in Caracas, Venezuela and brought together people from 22 different countries. The enclosure the disks came in have a curious post-it note attached to it that reads:

3/9 OK + hard copy


the computer that created these disks is still in the library. It works fine + can both read these + convert them to smaller floppies.

-Stacy S.

I love coming across notes like these during my work, because it emphasizes archival labor’s inherent common sense. Stacy might have thought, “my media is becoming obsolete, but we need access to our files to continue our work”, so let’s “copy our files to newer media storage. Problem solved!” Perhaps without knowing it, Stacy was looking out for her data back then by transferring it to a non-obsolete media format, and implementing a media migration strategy and plan!

Can’t wait to continue to push forward and find out what is on these enigmatic disks!

Until next time,

In the voices of animals

The vast majority of the documents in the WCS Archives are written by people speaking as themselves.  They may be speaking as representatives for a larger collective, such as the Society, or a professional organization, or even–in the cases of some Congressional testimony transcripts–as representatives for the zoo profession as a whole.  Every now and then, however, we come across examples of people speaking not in their own voices, but in those of animals.
Continue reading

NYZS at the Rock

Excerpt from Mark Finston's article, “Towers Over Rockefeller Plaza: Huge tree finds its places in the sun” published in the Newark Star-Ledger on December 2, 1969. Text reads: “When last year's Christmas tree was hoisted, a small owl, which had apparently been living in the tree, and which had not emerged during the long ride from Canada, let out a screech. The owl was donated to the Bronx Zoo. No such animal life was discovered in this year's tree...”  From a clippings file titled "Birds, 1969". Scanned from WCS Archives Collection 2032.

At this time of year one may ask the question: “What do the New York Zoological Society (NYZS) and Rockefeller Center have in common?” As it turns out, the Society and this long-standing New York City gathering place and holiday beacon have a historical relationship–with a festive flavor. Continue reading

Cultivating the Wild

“Generations are growing up without any natural contact with wild creatures; a new public opinion concerning wildlife and wild environment is arising unfettered and unguided by fact or experience. Except at the Zoo, the opportunities to know or even become interested in wild creatures are largely vicarious ones for many city dwellers. The opinions of these people will shape the future of wild lands and wild creatures.” -William G. Conway. General Director, 1966-1999. New York Zoological Society. (Gathering of Animals. William Bridges. 1974. Page 500.)

Frequently here at WCS Archives, I find myself reflecting on public experiences and encounters with the natural world, and the challenges of conveying rural and field perspectives and experiences in an urban context.  It is particularly true on Wednesdays, when admission to the zoo is free, and streams of families, teams of teens, as well as school groups with tethered young potential zoologists, naturalists, and conservationists come to visit, many for the first time. Continue reading

Turning on, Booting up and Jacking In


Caroline Gil here, Digital Project Archivist for the Leon-Levy Foundation-funded Legacy Digital Media Project at the Wildlife Conservation Society. My initial weeks here at the WCS Archives have consisted of inventorying, assessing, and developing an all-encompassing, forensically sound plan for imaging and conserving approximately 1,000 pieces of digital media. For this pilot project, WCS Processing Archivist Leilani Dawson selected pieces of removable media, including optical, magnetic and spinning disk hard drives, which encompass about 393 3.5” floppy disks, 390 pieces of either CDs and DVDs (in all their configurations, i.e. CD-R, CD-RW, DVD-R, DVD +R etc), 46 Mini-DV video tapes, and half a dozen external hard drivesreally cool looking, heavy ones circa the early aughts. Continue reading

NEH Sustaining Cultural Heritage Collections Grant Project Complete

As we reported back in August 2015, the WCS Archives received a Sustaining Cultural Heritage Collections grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities.  We’re pleased now to report the completion of the project, in which we developed a Conceptual Preservation Design Plan for a new WCS Archives space.  Situated in the Bronx Zoo’s Heads and Horns Building, this space would include a large collections storage area to provide safe, sustainable preservation conditions for our historical materials, proper fhich we currently lack) to host those consulting the collections as well as classes and small lectures, and a small exhibition area to showcase WCS’s historical treasures to invited audiences.  Continue reading

Society Letterhead: Press Releases, 1938-1979

2032_pressrelease_nyzs_1970_2This is the fourth blog post in our series on graphic design in letterhead.

For this post, we will be showcasing examples of design found in letterhead of press releases closer to home, from the Society as a whole, as well as releases from the Bronx Zoo and the New York Aquarium.  Continue reading

WCS Archives Awarded Grant from the Leon Levy Foundation


We’re very excited to start work on a one-year project funded by the Leon Levy Foundation [LLF] to ingest and process our legacy digital removable media!  This project builds directly on the success of last year’s National Digital Stewardship Residency [NDSR] Project.  However, while that work focused on electronic records that are just now being transferred to the Archives, the LLF project will allow us to work with digital materials that had been previously transferred to the Archives as part of predominantly paper-based collections. Continue reading

Nanuk: What’s in a Name?

 Archivists mine the collections and materials they process for key points of access, as gateways to gain attention and connect researchers to archival resources. Keeping in mind the needs of both the current and future generations of researchers, locations, names, dates, specific activities and events, along with other keywords get logged in the mind’s eye of processors whilst looking to make sense of the surviving records under their care. Terms like these provide valuable clues and points of entry into the materials to unearth important pathways for discovering existing relationships.  Continue reading