Picture of Wedding 'save the date' disk with hidden message
My now wife came up with a wonderfully nerdy idea to send out 3.5 inch floppy disks as 'save the date' reminders for our wedding. Feeling that my status as 'nerdiest' in the relationship was threatened I thought...

"Wouldn't it be great if we could put a secret message on the disks. Some kind of program that displays a secret message when you boot up your computer with the disk in the drive".

This instructable is a description of how I wrote a helper script in python and a healthy does of 8086 assembly to regain my 'nerdiest' status.

Step 1: Plan

To make the secret message I originally explored a few ideas:

 1. Copy a text and or image file to the disk
 2. Find a copy of some floppy disk linux distro and setup an init script to display a message on boot
 3. Write to the boot sector of the disk and hope someone is silly enough to put the disk in before turning on their computer

Number 1 would have been relatively easy, but not nearly as fun. 2 seemed doable however I had some difficulty finding a working distro and 3 sounded like oh so much fun.

So, the basic plan was to find some way to make a custom 'boot disk' that when the computer is powered on with the disk in the drive a secret message will appear on the screen. For those of you too impatient to read the instructable, you can find the code to make your own secret message floppy disks here:

SegF4ult3 years ago
I figured out one of the secrets. It's a variation on the Konami code. In sequence you enter the following:

Up Up Down Down Left Right Left Right B A Return

I figured it out by reading and altering gen_asm.py. I took out most of the key compares in the keyloop, then ran a new version of the image and pressed buttons. (I know I could've looked up key constants and whatnot) When I hit UP, I figured that there were some repeats in the sequence that seemed familiar.

Gives you the nice little message "Grow Up! :-)"
braingram (author)  SegF4ult3 years ago
Ding ding ding! We have a winner! Nice work :)
I was just playing around a bit, I wanted to thank you for this instructable. This is actually the first assembler code I've looked at in ages. (I'm not even famliar with x86 assembler to begin with).

You've sparked my interest to keep looking into these things and experiment away .
braingram (author)  SegF4ult3 years ago
This is wonderful to hear!

It gave me a certain sense of glee to move registers around and see results. I'm just glad that I could pass along a little bit of the enjoyment.

Maybe I'll see if I can get a version of tetris working... :)
I'd love to see something alike tetris, it'd be awesome if you could log the development process and maybe post it as an instructable?
Also, on a small note. You hardcoded the text attributes in some lines, so if you're changing the attr value, not all of the screen would be (in my case) blue and white, for example. All it takes is look where text is written and substitute 0xdf or 0x00df for 0x"""+attr+"""

that pretty much fixed up the attribute things.
braingram (author)  SegF4ult3 years ago
Good catch. I'll make the code changes and hopefully spare a few viewers from pink screens.
mtdna3 years ago
What's a 3.5 inch floppy?
Are you serious?
Can you even buy these any more ??
braingram (author)  dalmond13 years ago
It was fun trying to find enough of these and of the right colors. We ended up buying some off of ebay and the rest from meritline.com. I do wonder if there are still floppy disk factories out there or if we're just wasting through the remaining stock from the 'age of the floppy'.
I think they've mostly ceased production, although there may be some limited production still going on. I think SONY officially quit making/having made both the drives and the disks.
I don't know if any 3.5 floppies are still being manufactured or not (don't know about 5.25 floppies either. I have a few 5.25 discs and a 5.25 drive on a Windows 2000 computer that is still in daily service) but 3.5s are still available at select retail outlets.
osgeld dalmond13 years ago
sure can, though its getting a bit more difficult ... whats surprising is you can still buy brand new 5.25 inch disks in both HD and DD
I assume it's some new kind of high-density storage medium. I'm excited to hear about it because I'm having trouble carrying my music collection back and forth from work. How many 3.5 inch floppy disks would I need to store my 80Gb mp3 library?
Nope. 3.5" floppies are decades old and were the standard portable data storage medium when I was a kid, however they have long since been rendered obsolete by optical media and flash drives.
osgeld mtdna3 years ago
about 55,556 if you can manage to not waste any space on the disk's
mtdna osgeld3 years ago
Thanks for the help osgeld. Now let's see. 55,556 disks x ~25 grams per disk = ~1400kg = ~3,000lb. Anyone know where I can buy a heavy-duty trailer??

But seriously braingram, your project really is cute. It will be one of the few save-the-dates people don't throw away.
Istarian mtdna3 years ago
Somebody should build a trailer sized jukebox that operates on floppy disks just for the curiousity factor. :P
With redundant floppies for when the die.
Istarian mtdna3 years ago
If you had some kind of weird floppy autoloader, and some kind of floppy stack (bit like slide trays) you might be able to get by with a fridge sized mp3 player given the ~57000 or so floppy disks you'd need. :)
Epic trolling is epic. :D
john3347 mtdna3 years ago
I have single pictures that will not even fit on a 3.5 disc. What is a double density disc - 1.44 MB? (MB - not GB)
wa7jos mtdna3 years ago
I have stacks of 3.5" floppys.
I recently needed to get something off an old laptop that only had a floppy.
Guess what?
Of the 6 other computers in the house, NONE of them had a floppy drive.
Floppy drives have not been standard equipment for many years.
Cute idea, but who's going to have a slot to stick it in?
you know, if you hate the software center THAT much, just use
apt-cache search *
where * is your search term. it should give a readout of various packages that you can install with apt-get.
There's also using Synaptic.
Love it because it uses linux, but who has a floppy drive anymore???
I'm pretty sure you can use a CD.
I do, I have a USB powered floppy drive and a USB powered MAX drive because sometimes I end up getting old software from various places.
srilyk actimm3 years ago
And if you're like me, I have several old floppies whose data I really need to migrate to HD
True, and maybe the generation of people getting these floppies probably still do have floppy drives, but my generation, doesn't even know what a floppy is!!
The really funny thing is that a 3.5" floppy disk isn't actually floppy. That name came about from the really old 8" floppy disks and their smaller, relatively newer cousins the 5.25" floppy disks.

In the late 90's I had a computer builder annoyed at me because I insisted on having my Pentium computer fitted with a 5.25" floppy drive so I could do some of my college AutoCAD and SmartCAM homework at home rather than hanging around the computer lab at my the local community college. That was considered obsolete technology even back then because a 1.44Mb 3.5" drive could hold almost 6 times my SSDD 5.25 floppy.
WuLongTi actimm3 years ago
The "floppy" refers to the actual disc media not the casing for the disc. so the 8, 5.25 and 3.5 discs are all "floppy" since the disc media was a flimsy bit of plastic. As opposed to the "hard" disc found inside your computer that is actually a hard piece of metal.

At least, that was always my understanding of it :)
actimm WuLongTi3 years ago
You are technically correct, the floppy refers to the disk inside of the protective case. That being said, the 8" and 5.25" floppies also had cases that were a lot more flexible than the hard plastic case that was around the 3.5" floppy disk.
I have a hole bunch of 3.5'' floppies, planning on a project, but have never seen a 8'' floppy or even a 5.25'' want to though.
Istarian actimm3 years ago
Heh, me too. I've got a LaCie and Dell USB floppy drive. Got a couple of the internal ones too. I've even got some 5.25" ones.
My thought too.
Love your screen name.
Thanks. Sadly, i misspelled it for reasons i do not know, but ya....
srilyk3 years ago
This instructable is simply *awesome*.

Combining Python, Assembly, and C to make a totally awesome wedding invite is full of win.

Now I wish I had done this when I got married :P
braingram (author)  srilyk3 years ago
bath5143 years ago
I would have said something about 3.5 floppys only being used for table coasters now but others have made my point.
There are better table coasters than floppies, they are much more exciting for retro computing. The 1.4mb ones are much better. I find it amusing that I have 140k ss disks along with my Apple IIe, a computer that was old by the time I was born.
john henry3 years ago
good idea but i don't thing it would work.
computers are set to boot from the hard drive before a floppy drive so it wouldn't even look at the floppy unless you change the boot setting on each of the recipients computers.
Actually, until fairly recently, most computers were set to boot to floppy disk first. Back in the 386/486 eras, the boot sequence used to be A: E: C: which was 3.5" floppy drive, CD ROM, then Hard Drive. That allowed you to use a boot disk and your install CD to restore your computer if someone did something stupid and you got the "Blue Screen of Death". Even on the newest computers, you can go into the BIOS and change the boot order if you choose. With my server I have it set to boot from the CD Rom first, so I don't have to go through as many steps in case of a crash.
A few years ago, I made a CD version of this using fasm. It's buried somewhere on the fasm forums. I can dig it up of anyone is interested.
Starpurge3 years ago
People still have computers with floppy drives?
riff raff3 years ago
Now try it with your old 8-in. floppy disks.



namlegz3 years ago
Step 0: Only send this to people with computers more than a decade old.
onemoroni13 years ago
This is funny and creative. I see boxes of these brightly colored things in thrift stores new in the original packaging and wondered what could be done with them? Your reuse is cool, but who has a floppy drive anymore? Peace
I bought a USB floppy drive to pull data off my old disks.
XspiracyX3 years ago
The idea is fantastic of what you have created, and very geek. i know most geeks no other geek's and would be easy to get them to use a floppy drive but i think for most people out there today it would be easier for them to have this on cd but i do love the throw back to the floppy
braingram (author)  XspiracyX3 years ago
Thanks :)