About Sector Disk!

Sector Disk is an online community where users (up to 2880 on a single disk!) can write to and read from the individual, physical sectors on a REAL 1.44mb floppy disk hooked up to a good ol' fashioned Unix server.

Users can request sectors (512 bytes) on the disk and then they're theirs to do whatever they want: self-advertise, joke around, create some pixel art, or just say hi. Occasionally everyone'll even get together for a big floppy disk party and view the floppy disk in action LIVE on video and chat together via IRC or the stream chat! It's one heck of a way to party - a new way with an old medium at the heart.

If you'd like to join, just head on over to the 'Join' page for more information. It's just an e-mail and a short wait* away from being online with other Sector Disk users! Make your mark on the disk**!

Sector Disk was created and is maintained by Jesse Downing (jebug29). You can contact me at jebug29@sectordisk.pw or find me over on the SDF Mastodon.

* Not too long but please be patient. Shell accounts are created manually!

** Some shell knowledge required, but not a lot, and there are plenty of help and tutorials here for experienced and inexperienced users alike! This may even be a great way to learn!

The Original Idea (and what it became)

At some point in March or April 2020, my obsession with floppy disks began flaring up again, and I got to thinking about what kind of interesting or flat out ridiculous project I could come up with using this dated (but never dead!) medium. One of my favorite floppy projects is the Floppotron, a huge array of floppy disk drives, hard drives, and even an old scanner used as instruments in a sort of stepper-motor orchestra. I began imagining what it might be like to have that same huge array of disk drives all together in RAID, and allowing users to log in to a public FTP server and deposit whatever they'd like (within a given size limitation) for the world to see.

As desperately as I wanted to create something as insane as that, I simply didn't have the number of drives (nor the money for the number of drives and cables) needed to make it happen, so I set the idea on the backburner. It kept coming back and itching me, though, and after meddling around with some disk drive tools on my Altair 8800, it hit me: sectors.

I could assign each user a sector (or multiple sectors) on a floppy disk! (Specifically, a 3.5", 1.44MB disk, considering I had plenty lying around and a couple of USB floppy drives). That would give me a whole 2880 sectors to work with, which would be plenty for a decently-sized user base (and probably about the largest I could handle working out of my home). It would be awesome! A message board on a floppy!

At first I actually considered simply creating some-odd number of files on a formatted disk just to allow users to write to, but this had its limitations considering file system overhead and general lack of control over filesize and whatnot. Plus, I wanted users to actually be able to write to the physically-aligned sectors on a disk and to see that, so I knew simple file-sharing wouldn't be enough. I got to work, creating several rudimentary tools using Linux's built-in dd command (and learning how to use it to do exactly what I wanted to do) and meddling around with some hexdump/hexedit programs, eventually evolving my basic, only-root-should-ever-use-this-and-use-it-right tools into user-friendly tools. I built up a working Ubuntu 20.04 virtual machine and recruited a few friends to beta test it as I added features and prepared it for use, and I even put a decent bit of work into a website to really tie everything together and set up the floppy for display. I'm still working on it as I type this, readying more and more tools and getting the website, shell, and gopher holes ready for public use, and readying myself to enter the world of sector retail, sectors for sale, Sector Disk. I hope 2800 people out there will be just as excited for this project as I am - excited to see a floppy disk come to life.

Read more: Sectors and Tracks and Bytes (Oh my!)