8-track tape drives?

From: Bobby Nansel and Shoshana Kaminsky <bnansel_at_verizon.net>
Date: Sat Oct 16 11:41:05 2004

About twenty years ago I bought a dual tape drive "mass" storage
peripheral from a surplus outfit, United Products in Seattle. It was
for a long defunct personal computer of the '70s. The computer (which
I only ever saw in a few ca. 1978 ads in Byte) was an 8080-based
system, and I think it was billed as having color video graphics
capability. I don't remember the name of the company. Anyway, the
distinguishing characteristic of the system was the tape drive unit
used modified 8-track tape decks. That's right, 8-track *audio*
cartridges, the kind people make so much fun of these days.

The drive was housed in a blue metal enclosure with a black vacu-formed
plastic bezel for the two "drives." It had a DB-25 connector on the
back, though it definitely wasn't a standard RS232 interface. As I
recall, the tape head assembly in each drive had four read/write coils,
and it could move to one of two positions, up or down, thus giving
eight tracks total. Presumably this was to decrease the "seek" time.

I managed to trace through the circuit well enough to figure out how to
write and read back serial data on tape, at about 2400 bps, as I
recall. I had some fun hooking it up to a C64 in the lab to prove the
thing was actually working. I kept threatening a co-worker that I was
going to write a driver for the monstrosity to use on the lab's CP/M
machines. He had just built a Slicer, a 80186 SBC that was popular for
a few years in the mid-eighties, and the thought of such a kludge
horrified him. Heh.

I foolishly sold the dual tape drive and all my notes at a Seattle
Robotics Society auction sometime around 1989. I've done some poking
around on the web recently, but I have found zip about this machine.
Has anyone ever seen one of these tape drives? I actually have a
project that, perversely, requires something like this.

Received on Sat Oct 16 2004 - 11:41:05 BST

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