Vintage Computing: Floppy Drive Mountain

As a followup to the first photo and article about Floppy Disks, here is an old image from 2003 when I had four different Commodore drives here. Back then I was hunting on Ebay for all the Commodore hardware I was still missing and got some wonderful stuff for very little money. In addition to my original Commodore 64 and its 1541-II floppy drive and the Commodore 128D I bought almost by accident in the mid-1990s, I found two more C64s and a huge set of another C128D and a C128, plus more drives you could shake a stick at.

From the bottom to the top, the drives on this image are:

The 1571, which was also built into the C128D. It’s a double-sided 5.25″ drive with two read/write heads that was introduced in 1985 shortly after the C128, but it is also compatible with the C64. It has a built-in power unit, making it much larger and heavier than the 1541-II, although the case looks somewhat similar. The capacity, when used in its double-side mode, was about 340 kilobytes. This particular drive came with the C128D and C128 I bought in 2003. I gave this one away together with the C128 and the 1570 to a friend a long time ago, but got another 1571 later from Ebay.

The 1570 was the predecessor of the 1571 and is actually more shaped like the original 1541 with its frontal latch rather than a handle to lock the disk. This drive was produced before the 1571 was ready to give the C128 a faster drive than the C64, although it only has one read-write head and a capacity of 170 kilobytes like the 1541. It also has an internal power unit, which makes it weigh even more than the 1571 because of its heavier drive mechanics. I got this drive also together with the C128D and C128 in 2003.

The 1541-II was introduced in 1988 after two previous versions of the original 1541, which had a much larger case similar to the 1570. This is the garden-variety single-headed drive which you can use with every Commodore 64 and it is also the most long-living of all 1541s, because it has an external power brick and very robust mechanics. This drive is actually my original one from 1989, which I can recognize from the swapped LED colours of green for power and red for the drive. Despite its robustness, the head motor of this one died sometime in 1994, but I soon got a replacement with my first C128D. Thanks to the several Ebay auctions today I have three other working 1541-IIs, one even in its original packing.

The 1581 made its first appearance in 1986 and was, like the 1571, specially designed to work with the C128 with a special high-speed burst mode, but also worked with the C64. It was the only 3.5″ drive for the 8-bit computers from Commodore and with its giant 800 kilobyte capacity of more than two and a half double-sided 5.25″ disks made it seemed almost like a harddrive. Originally, the drive was much more expensive than its 5.25″ counterparts, but to my surprise I found a 1581 in a local supermarket for a surprisingly low price when I was still using my Commodore 64 in early 1990. The drive became very useful with the graphical operating system GEOS, meaning that I did not have to switch disks at all anymore. I haven’t used it in a long time because it has a broken power switch which I have not been able to properly bypass, but I assume it’s still in good condition. When I used it together with one of my C128Ds to transfer all my disks to the PC, it still worked perfectly.

So this is my mountain of Floppy Drives. I took this photo shortly before I sent the bottom two drives together with the C128 away, so I can’t recreate it today, but save for the 1570 (which is not actually very useful) I still got all these drives here in good working condition.

The original article with an additional bonus section (also posted here: seperately on G+) from my blog is here:
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