Tuesday, 7 May 2013

Commodore Disk Drives

I've recently been testing out my old Commodore floppy disk drives. Luckily both of my devices seem to be in good working order!

Some of you may have seen my recent video where I demonstrate using SD Cards on a Commodore 64, this is an amazing development and it really is mind blowing to have pretty much every piece of software you remember held on a 4GB SD Card. That said, there is something to be said for using old 5.25" disks for that authentic experience.

If we didn't care about "keeping it real" then all retro system fans would just use emulation surely? I figured if I go to the lengths of using real hardware and CRT monitors then let's use the storage medium we had to live with back in the day.


I have two classic Commodore drives, the 1541 that was very widespread, used by everyone from Vic 20 users to C64 fans, the C16 and Plus/6 to the 128, being so compatible it was by far their most popular 5.25" drive.

My other drive is slightly more obscure, the 1551 was designed exclusively for the Commodore 264 range (the C16, 116 and Plus/4) and used a much faster User Port interface which meant the data transfer was around 4 times faster than the serial connection to the 1541.

The 264 range was a total flop in the USA, and really only had limited success in Europe.  The preferred data storage method in 80's Europe was generally cassette based storage which means the 1551 didn't really sell in any numbers there either.

For some reason the 1551 uses much more brittle plastic than the 1541 as well which means they have a tendency to break very easily which makes finding a nice condition unit very rare indeed.

Luckily my 1551 is in almost mint condition and I look forward to making a video on this black-beauty at some time soon.

Another nice use of the original Commodore drives is to be able to play demos and games that used custom fast-loaders which are incompatible with SD Card readers, they're few and far between but it is nice to not be limited by your choice of hardware.

Backing up your old Commodore disks can be done, as can transferring downloaded D64 images to your 1541 drive using an inexpensive cable to connect to a PC's parallel port!

I'll be covering this in my upcoming video too.  It's nice to have these old noisy drives in operation again!

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