Internet commerce

My “Superdisk” drive started to go on me at least a year ago. First it slowed down, and while I wondered why, it still worked, so I lived with it. Next, the computer started to periodically tell me that the disk wasn’t formatted, and asked me if I wanted to do that. No way, I told it, this disk has lots of data on it. So I would keep playing with it, retrying and aborting and quitting, etc. until it finally worked. (By the way, why does the computer persist in giving me choices that sound like, “Do you want to stop or quit?” “Do you want to lose all your work right now or in two more clicks?”) Eventually, the computer started telling me there wasn’t even a diskette in the drive, or that I didn’t have access to it. That’s true. I no longer have access to my disk data. I need a new drive.

My first step was to go the computer store and ask for a replacement drive. They told me that Imation, the manufacturer, is no longer making the superdisk drive. I knew they were losing badly to Zipdisk, so it was no big surprise that they finally gave up. The PC Warehouse people told me to check on the Internet. So I did.

I Googled “LC-120,” as the drive is called, and immediately got thousands of hits. Many of the sites offered to compare prices from various sources, so I did that. The prices ranged from $6.80 to about $500 as I remember. The $6.80 was a mistake. The picture and write-up was about the Superdisk, but when you tried to buy it you got a USB cable. Some of the drives were “refurbished” so that explained part of the wide range in prices. I assumed that the ones that didn’t say anything were new—that is, left over. I came close several times to buying a drive, but at the last second I would get a note that said it was only for laptops, or external, or some other phrase that made me concerned about it not fitting in my machine.

At some point, after stopping and restarting my search a few times over the course of several days, I decided I needed to speak to a real person who could tell me that the drive I was buying would fit into my Compaq. I called LA computers and after navigating the electronic menu for a few minutes, spoke to someone (probably in India) who was happy to help me, but needed the part number. I read some numbers off the part of the drive I could see (upside down), but none of them worked. I went to their Internet site and found the part number listed with one of their “refurbished” drives, and that was what he needed. However, he knew only how to send me that product, not whether or not it would fit when it got here. I told him I would call back later.

I took some more time off to live my real life and then removed the drive from the tower (for the second time). I wrote down all the numbers on all the labels and put it back in. Then I decided to call Compaq to see if they could help me. They couldn’t, of course, because they were bought out by Hewlet Packard, but I was able to contact HP parts and “Compaq” was one of the selections on their menu. Eventually, I reached a woman who was able to find the replacement drive and order it for me. With shipping and taxes, the cost was about $100, and it was apparently new. Yippee. I’ll let you know if it works.

This whole process (which isn’t over yet) took several weeks, from the moment I decided to replace the drive until I processed the order. I used the Internet extensively, but ultimately, I had to do it the “old-fashioned way,” by phone. Along the way, I found lots of mistakes and too-small print and misleading information on the net. I also found a review that said the LS-120 Superdisk was the worst drive in the world. My favorite experience was seeing the instruction “click to enlarge image” and finding out that all it did was increase the size of the box surrounding the image. The image stayed the same—too small.

Anyway, this experience did nothing to change my basic tenet of computer usage: Anything you can do by hand you can do with a computer, in about twice the time. (If you’re lucky.)

DadObservations04/24/04 1 comments


Patrick • 04/24/04 7:47 PM:

Dad, if it’s not too late, here’s what I would do:

  • Go to eBay and buy this guy’s LS-120 Superdrive thing. If that one doesn’t convince you, try searching eBay for LS-120 superdisk and see that there are tons of them available, and you don’t even have to bid. You can just choose “Buy It Now” and pay a flat price.
  • If you’re not comfortable with the eBay mechanism, let me know and I will buy it for you (I have a PayPal account and so can transfer funds instantly).
  • Install the drive, get your data off those disks, burn them onto CD.
  • Even if it doesn’t work, you can buy four of these on eBay before you’ve spent your $100. And you can resell the ones that don’t work, or get your money back, and the first one will probably work anyway.
  • Take the $72 bucks you saved and put them toward an eMac. If you’re still thinking about a laptop, look into an iBook. If you get the laptop, get the extended warranty. Even Apple can’t make laptops indestructible.
  • Goodbye, Windows. Almost goodbye, Microsoft. Never look back.
  • Ask your kids before spending $100 on a drive that you should only be using to rescue your data, not to ever save things with again.
  • Don’t use floppy disks for storage anyway. Transferring files from one place to another, ok.
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