dd if=/dev/hda2 of=/path/to/dumpfile
you can dump the 2nd partition of the primary master disk on an IDE bus to dumpfile.
This can be searched with "strings" and "grep" to recover the ASCII material you need.
Make sure that the partition which is going to host the dumpfile has more free space than the siye of the partition to be dumped.
If in doubt, ebay for a hard disk that serves as a temporary storage.
You can only recover data slicewise. but this is better than nothing.I once saved a Ph.D. thesis of a friend like this.