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Gene Roddenberry’s Lost Data Recovered from 200 Floppy Disks

rod_floppies

Some 200 5.25-inch floppy disks from late Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry’s estate have been unlocked revealing about 3 MB of decades old words typed by the Great Bird himself.

Cover photo: DriveSavers’ Mike Cobb and Jim Wilhelmsen with Gene Roddenberry’s old computer and some of the floppy disks whose documents they restored.

After Gene Roddenberry died in 1991, he left behind some 200 floppy disks as part of his estate. The problem? Reading these disks would be impossible without the custom-built hardware and operating system used to create the original files. As the press release explains:

[Roddenberry] used a pair of custom-built computers to capture story ideas, write scripts and notes. Over time, the author moved on to work with more mainstream computers, but kept the custom-built pair in his possession.

Although Roddenberry died in 1991, it wasn’t until much later that his estate discovered nearly 200 5.25-inch floppy disks on which the Star Trek creator stored his work. One of the custom-built computers had long since been auctioned and the remaining device was no longer functional.

DriveSavers, experts in recovering data from all kinds of media, announced today that they have successfully recovered around 95% of the data from those floppies, most of them 5.25-inch 1980’s era storage disks.

Developing a method to read the disks took over three months, and extracting all of the data took nearly a year.

Now, the Roddenberry estate has some 3 MB of previously lost files created by Gene Roddenberry. But, they aren’t saying what exactly is on the disks. “Documents,” is all DriveSavers could say, “Lots of documents.”

As a thank you to DriveSavers, Rod Roddenberry, son of Gene Roddenberry, sent this signed photo of the Great Bird of the Galaxy in front of his old computer (presumably taken back when it was in working order).

rod_photo_signed

What do you think is on Roddenberry’s floppies? A lost season of Star Trek the Original Series? A new science fiction television series? Details about the backstories of beloved Trek characters? Maybe his family’s secret recipe for biscuits? With the 50th anniversary of TOS happening this very year, maybe we’ll be treated to some updates on the disks’ contents soon!

 


 

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Richard Blanchard
January 4, 2016 6:42 pm

Would love to see what comes from this find. He was an imaginative guy.

Prodigal Son
January 4, 2016 6:43 pm

@ B Kramer

Hey B, is this the GR stuff that you have been sharing recently?

January 4, 2016 6:53 pm

This is exciting! And oh, the possibilities!

joel
January 4, 2016 6:57 pm

Oh, how times have changed.

200 floppy disks yielded 3 MB of data…Bahahahahahahahah.

DJT
January 4, 2016 7:03 pm

The equivalent of one mp3 song?

Lee
January 4, 2016 7:05 pm

Maybe ideas adaptable for future shows and movies? That would be fascinating.

January 4, 2016 7:18 pm

Can’t believe he’s been gone for almost a quarter century. : ( This is an exciting discovery, though!

Prodigal Son
January 4, 2016 7:20 pm

As someone who owned an Osborne 1 in 1981, I can confirm that 3 MB was HUGE back then.

lostrod
January 4, 2016 7:58 pm

Yes, Prodigal Son, 3 MB was a lot back then. I remember my first computer was a Commodore 64. It was the successor to the Vic 20 that was pitched by William Shatner. It was called the C-64 because it had an amazing 64 KB’s of RAM! I couldn’t afford the $569 purchase price back then so I leased it from an office supply store until paid off. I still have it.

When the C64 went away I got a regular IBM compatible PC with two floppy disk drives. One for operating system and the other for data. I remember the day I went to the computer store and paid hundreds of dollars for a 20 MB hard drive. I was amazed at the storage and thought I would never need that much storage. My wife nearly divorced me when I went back six months later and ungraded to a 40 MB hard drive …

Regards.

January 4, 2016 8:04 pm

Gene’s K/S masterpiece.

Ahmed
January 4, 2016 8:43 pm

Very exciting news, can’t wait to see what hidden gems they may come across.

Phil
January 4, 2016 8:58 pm

Three MB sounds so….quaint. Still, it’ll keep the ole dot matrix going for a while.

LT Bailey
January 4, 2016 9:20 pm

It sure beats the first computer I used as a senior in high school back in 1975 where you used a phone to dial on a cradle modem sitting at a keyboard with your monitor that is actually a paper towel roll where you entered your commands using BASIC as a language. Oh, I saved my programs on a perf tape roll. At that time I would have considered the 5.25 floppy Star Trek science tech.

Captain Smirk
January 4, 2016 10:29 pm

FROM THE OFFICE OF GENE RODDENBERRY

“If this Genesis II thing doesn’t work out, I might resurrect Star Trek… but this time, cast young, new actors in all the roles and have the crew start over from the beginning in an alternate universe created by some future catastrophe. If I can get Leonard back, then Mr. Spock will be the bridging character. I’ll have young Kirk driving a Corvette, Mr. Spock getting bullied at school, and for once give Uhura something to do. Maybe sideline Dr. McCoy a bit and explore the T.V. series suggestion that Uhura really digs Spock and Spock—logically, of course—digs Uhura. If that works, then I’ll go on to develop something derivative and wholly unsatisfying as a follow-up installment, just to keep the audience guessing.”

Patrick McGovern
January 5, 2016 12:31 am

How was his system “Custom” most of the CP/M os did have to be built or regenned with the routines for various hardware, but wasn’t really “Custom”, back then. I think DriveSavers embellished a bit on their pr annoucement.

Marja
January 5, 2016 12:33 am

You haven’t lived until you’ve slipped an 8″ floppy disk into a XEROX 850 Word Processor with WYSIWYG screen! Now to a legal transcriptionist that thang was the cat’s pajamas!

And back in 1990 when I got my Tandy Corp Laptop and small dot-matrix printer for personal use I was transported with joy! And it used those super-cool 3.5″ disks that came in bright colors like the TOS data chips. Whoo-hoo!

I know … I sound like my Grandma talking about getting a Tappan Gas Range when she replaced the old wood stove …

“These are the days of miracle and wonder” as Paul Simon said, and modern young folk pretty much don’t realize how much has changed and how rapidly.

TVs the size of the ENTERPRISE viewscreen – phones like TOS communicators but smaller – IT’S AMAZING, PEOPLE!

Thank god we’re not all wearing jumpsuits! Nor suffered through a Third WW.

Disinvited
January 5, 2016 4:03 am

# 16. Marja – January 5, 2016

” You haven’t lived until you’ve slipped an 8″ floppy disk into a XEROX 850 Word Processor with WYSIWYG screen!” — Marja

Then I must have lived, because I did that and then some with various computers [Did software programming in conjunction with a Computerland chain store back in the day.]. The last one was an old Air Force Z100 used for weather reports that I picked up via a military surplus store decades ago.

Kylo Rum
January 5, 2016 4:15 am

This would have been around the time that Gene was starting to discard the idea of Trek and started working on a collaboration with George Lucas to write for Star Wars, a movie series that Gene considered “superior” to his own work in every way. Its safe to assume that these documents were about Jedi and Sith and adventure and excitement and not about boardroom meetings, long discussions and philosophy about poorly painted aliens

kmart
January 5, 2016 4:29 am

Seriously, given the time frame, I wonder if this has got any of that awful ‘spock shoots jfk’ story that he wanted to do post-TMP. Or some of his alleged to exist prose adaptation of THE GOD THING.

ToBoldlyGo
January 5, 2016 6:46 am

3MB doesn’t sound right to me. Those disks stored 720 Kilobytes back then. So you times that by 200, assuming that they were all full. You get 144 Megabytes of data. STAR TREK data hopefully!

Tallguy
January 5, 2016 6:58 am

Pretty Maids All in a Row II.

Russell Wooldridge
January 5, 2016 7:46 am

Memos to and from his lawyer.

Curious Cadet
January 5, 2016 7:50 am

I don’t really get why there’s only 3MB of data recovered.

5.25″ floppy disks in 1980 could hold up to 360k, depending on the drive, computer and formatting. But assuming the average formatting capacity of most media, drives and hardware, of 100k/disk, that should potentially be 20,000k or 20MB.

So in 200 floppies, GR only used 15% of the entire storage capacity? And that’s assuming none had a capacity greater than ~100k.

Not that 3MB isn’t plenty to reveal a lot, that’s about 750 pages of text. I’m just shocked at how underutilized those disk were …

Christopher Miles
January 5, 2016 8:28 am

If if were Rod- I might approach this stuff with more than a little trepidation.

Not only some of the back and forth with Maizlish, but…

I hope that Rod gets first crack at vetting these before the contents become public.

And did that recovery company keep a backup- in 25-50 years will be see the unexpurgated version(s)?

So much negative stuff is already out there – he was far from perfect- but the material should at least be looked at (and presented) in context

Numenoseum
January 5, 2016 8:56 am

“Developing a method to read the disks took over three months”

And some people think I’m crazy for keeping my old computers & disk drives…

Numenoseum
January 5, 2016 8:57 am

This would be far more interesting were it long thought lost TOS scripts or notes (obviously on paper) by Gene Coon…

TUP
January 5, 2016 9:26 am

@10 – the VIC-20 was our family’s first computer. Played games and programs from a cassette tape deck. Took ages to load a game though you learn tricks like knowing where on the cassette tape the game was located and could fast forward to that location using the counter.

Upgraded to a C64 which was high tech with the floppy disc drive. Might still have it somewhere too. Had some really fun games actually.

Once Nintendo came out, we had limited use for a PC but my parents bought a Tandy for us to use for school papers etc. Not until the Internet became prolific did computers follow suit. Crazy to think now…we all carry a computer around in the form of a smart phone, not to mention many of us have a work computer, home computer, lap top, iPad etc.

JB1701
January 5, 2016 9:31 am

#4 Write a text document and see how much it takes to make 3 mb. 3 mb for txt is a lot.

Danpaine
January 5, 2016 10:21 am

http://screenrant.com/star-trek-beyond-william-shatner/

Off topic, sorry.

Complete and utter disrespect, IMO. My already-dim hopes for this film just got dimmer.

No voice-over? Nothing? Yeah, way to respect the 50th…

Sad.

B Kramer
January 5, 2016 10:56 am

26 Disinvited’s…..

Captain Smirk
January 5, 2016 11:16 am

It would have been so easy to incorporate William Shatner’s Kirk if they really, really wanted to. Just trot out the Mirror universe Emperor Tiberius. You get Kirk AND a recycled idea from old Trek! I guess they really, really didn’t want to.

January 5, 2016 11:26 am

#28, @Numenoseum — I agree. We wouldn’t have Star Trek without Gene Roddenberry, and I’ll always be grateful to him for that. But it wouldn’t have been the TOS we know without Gene Coon and Dorothy Fontana and Bob Justman and a whole host of other folks, who took Roddenberry’s initial idea and made it great.

Roddenberry without those folks looks like TMP or the first season of TNG, things that I find rather sterile. Coon injected a lot of humanity into TOS.

It takes a village to make a Star Trek!

Gene L. Coon was a U. S. Marine. Stand at ease.
January 5, 2016 11:31 am

34. Corylea

A Gene L. Coon sighting! Awwight!

Always nice to see the other, equally important, Gene get some ink.

jonboc
January 5, 2016 11:33 am

Not sure I want to know what is on Roddenberry’s floppys….knowing his colorful history! lol
I’m sure the discs are full…but I doubt they’re full of Star Trek stories!

Disinvited
January 5, 2016 11:42 am

#26. B Kramer – January 5, 2016

Thank you. And don’t be shy about reposting those previous ones too. There’ll likely be plenty who’ll come here looking for the historical Roddenberry that’ll never give the Axanar lawsuit a glance.

ML31
January 5, 2016 12:19 pm

I actually have no interest whatsoever what was on those floppies. After seeing much of Roddenberry’s other writing Star Trek was the only decent concept he ever came up with. And, according to many accounts, even that didn’t really start taking off until he slowly moved away from the day to day operations of the series.

Anthony Thompson
January 5, 2016 12:23 pm

35. “Equally important”. Are you joking?

Anthony Thompson
January 5, 2016 12:27 pm

38. ML31

Ignorance speaks…

Try reading ‘These Are The Voyages’. Then you can write intelligently about the making of TOS.

Jon
January 5, 2016 12:31 pm

#15

Beat me to it you did! :)

I was going to say something along the lines that the data recovered included a prescient warning from GR to not let ST fall into the hands of corporate entities and/or writers/producers who know little to nothing about what it is to be good ST (strong, consistent characters, clever stories that are really morality plays and/or statements on the human condition, special effects/explosions/etc. that merely complement the story rather than completely dominate everything, believable if not yet possible science, etc., etc.).

Continue to RIP Mr. Rodenberry (despite what has been done to your once-proud creation)…

But hey, I’m the eternal optimist and do hope that STB will be better, but that awful trailer from a couple of weeks back does not make me want to
see it I must say…

As always, all of the above is 100% MHO. Yours may vary :) .

Disinvited
January 5, 2016 1:21 pm
# 41. Jon – January 5, 2016 ” I was going to say something along the lines that the data recovered included a prescient warning from GR to not let ST fall into the hands of corporate entities and/or writers/producers who know little to nothing about what it is to be good ST ” — Jon You should look at the stuff B Kramer posted: http://www.roddenberry.com/star-trek-50/Sales-Status-of-Star-Trek.pdf ”For those at NBC who honestly do not like it, do not understand or dig it, do not believe it has audience potential, no complaints from me if they turn thumbs down. I have learned to applaud people who make decisions. But I have no respect or tolerance for those who say things like “If it were just a couple minutes shorter…”, or “Yes, but if it were not so cerebral…”, and such garbage. And I respectfully suggest to you as sale representatives for this product that tolerating or compromising with this kind of thinking could only lead to us making a bad show out of what could have been good. In other words, am wide open to criticism and suggestions but not from those who think answers lie in things like giving somewhat aboard a dog, or adding a cute eleven-year-old boy to the crew. I’m not saying anyone has suggested the above. Or that you would stand still for it. But having been around television for some time, I do know that shows sometimes reach frantic sales moments in which things like… Read more »
digsnutrek
January 5, 2016 2:15 pm

Perhaps, the disks reveal a list of his drug suppliers.

LtMiles
January 5, 2016 2:47 pm

Probably endless memos complaining about the Network, and everyone else around him…

Axanar Got Axed
January 5, 2016 3:39 pm

I’m waiting for Alec Peters to claim they are his…

kmart
January 5, 2016 4:43 pm

35,
Don’t pay any attention to Thompson, he’s been acting like some kind of operative for Cushman and probably the AXANAR guy too, given the connection between AX and TATV.

All we’d really need to do to differentiate the genes is to read QUESTOR before Coon did his full rewrite. I bet all of the glory in that telefilm’s antagonist of ethical stature is PURE Coon.

navamske
January 5, 2016 5:07 pm

#36

“Not sure I want to know what is on Roddenberry’s floppys.”

Maybe it’s a backup of the Doctor.

Prodigal Son
January 5, 2016 6:18 pm

Agreed. “AT – The Grand Negative” never surprises me anymore. :-)

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
47. kmart – January 5, 2016
35,
Don’t pay any attention to Thompson, he’s been acting like some kind of operative for Cushman and probably the AXANAR guy too, given the connection between AX and TATV.

All we’d really need to do to differentiate the genes is to read QUESTOR before Coon did his full rewrite. I bet all of the glory in that telefilm’s antagonist of ethical stature is PURE Coon.

Son of Jello
January 5, 2016 6:32 pm

Maybe he uploaded himself and is just waiting for the right person to release him from his base2 trektron existence.

Disinvited
January 5, 2016 6:33 pm

## 41. Jon – January 5, 2016

Noticed the Roddenberry.com link seems to have gone bad. Here’s an lternate copy with transcript:

http://www.lettersofnote.com/2010/11/maybe-its-just-catharsis-but-i-think.html

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