‘Star Trek’ Legend Gene Roddenberry’s Floppy Disk Data Uncovered After 30 Years
It appears that like with Al Capone’s vault, Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry had his own hidden information. This time, unlike Geraldo Rivera’s experience, something was discovered. Thanks to the computer geniuses of Driver Savers Data Recovery in Novato, according to PC World, around 200 five-and-a-quarter-inch floppy disks were left behind with the Roddenberry estate. The man passed from this world in 1991 and left behind a legacy.
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Roddenberry’s Star Trek script writing required a typewriter in the beginning, according to Business Wire, but later he had two custom-made computer systems for his works, and this had an operating system that lost out to MS-DOS back in the day. It was called CP/M, or the long naming of Control Program for Microcomputers. It sounded like it had no real branding to the OS, and the director of engineering at Driver Savers, Mike Cobb, described the level of difficulty reading Gene’s disks that were once used on the Star Trek show’s computer, according to PC World.
“The older disks, we had to actually figure out how to physically read them. The difficult part was CP/M and the file system itself and how it was written.”
Star Trek coincidentally had its own floppy disk props on the show, where Captain Kirk would access the ship’s computer data. They closely resembled the three-and-a-half-inch floppies from the 80s and 90s, according to Mashable.
Unfortunately, there were no traditional means by which to recover the data, much less technology to read the five-and-a-quarter-inch floppy disks. On top of that challenge was the fact that the computer was custom made for Gene Roddenberry. Later, Roddenberry upgraded to more traditional computers for Star Trek script writing efficiency, but he retained the custom built ones, according to Business Wire.
This effort to recover Roddenberry’s data took on quite the undertaking. Driver Savers had its expert Jim Wilhelmsen reverse engineer the recovery method, as the old computer wasn’t operational and thus had to dig deeply into the tracks on the disks themselves. This took about three months to accomplish, and it took about a year to recover the data completely. The other Roddenberry computer was sold at a charity auction, according to PC World.
The end result gave an amount of two to three megabytes of data recovered from the disks. However, it’s unclear if any Star Trek show data exists on the media. To get an idea of this size comparison, back then that was considered a lot and quite expensive. Now home computer users can purchase a thumb drive for very cheap and in an amount in the gigabytes.
For the Star Trek “workhorse” computer to take on this conversion process and for its data used by Gene Roddenberry to have the utmost protection, the estate sent the 200 disks in 30-batch pieces. Apparently, they were careful on how these sacred items were delivered and not didn’t rely on some courier service unsupervised. They were hand-delivered to Drive Savers, and it would make sense to carefully handle the Star Trek memorabilia.
The conversion process of the text wasn’t that easy, as Cobb couldn’t just feed the CP/M operating system documents through a word processor. He had to singularly piece out the data file-by-file into a readable format.
The end result for the Star Trek creator’s information’s big reveal? Well, nothing was revealed except for the fact that Cobb couldn’t say anything beyond this, according to Business Wire.
“Documents. Lots of documents. 2016 just happens to be the 50th anniversary of the original Star Trek, anything could happen, the world will have to wait and see.”
In case fans may wonder if Star Trek intel exists on Gene Roddenberry’s computer at this point, it’s now unknown, as this information is confidential, a policy enacted by Drive Savers.
[Photo by Bruno Vincent/Getty Images News]