Classic Computer Magazine Archive START VOL. 3 NO. 5 / DECEMBER 1988



The FA-ST Hard Drive Kit

Megabytes You Can Build Yourself

by Stephen J. Mortimer
START Contributing Editor

Figure 1: The FA-ST hard drive kit.

ICD is now offering the ST community a hard drive kit that has all the options of off-the-shelf drives. The FA-ST Kit comes in an MFM (Modified Frequency Modulation), RLL (Run Length Limited) or SCSI (Small Computer Systems Interface) configuration that depends upon the type of drive being used in the kit. MFM controllers use a very stable recording technique, although large capacity drives can be expensive. An RLL controller stores 50% more information on a drive than MFM, but requires a high quality medium. SCSI drives feature a universal interface that offers fast data transfers with a controller built into the drive.

Figure 2: The Adaptec 4070 controller board.
Figure 3: The metal shield over the actual hard
drive mechanism. I could not connect the cables
with this shield in place.

Getting Under the Hood

The drive version I review here uses the RLL variation of the FA-ST kit. It includes a drive case with fan, a hefty power supply, host adaptor board with a clock and an Adaptec 4070 RLL controller The host adaptor offers a daisy-chain DMA port and a SCSI interface connector so you can connect other devices.

This FA-ST drive uses a Seagate ST-157R, RLL certified, 49-megabyte 3 1/2-inch drive mechanism. It features auto-parking heads and a 28 millisecond average access time. The basic components of the kit shown in Figure 1 and Figure 2 were well made and relatively easy to assemble. The kit has provisions to package two 3 1/2-inch drives side by side or one 5 1/4-inch drive. The ST-157R I assembled was in a 5 1/4-inch frame and was not compatible with the ICD mounting hardware for other 3 1/2-inch drives. The larger 5 1/4-inch frame thus kept me from adding a second drive for additional capacity.

Figure 4: The metal shield removed and the drive
cables plugged into the drive.
Figure 5: The final assembly. Here, you can see
the controller board (with cables connected)
mounted above the shield.

Driving On Manual

The kit provides two manuals to support the ICD components and the Adaptec controller. Unfortunately, the ICD manual is not specific to the FA-ST kit and adds some confusion to its assembly. On the other hand, the Adaptec manual is very useful in confirming the configuration of jumpers and terminating resistor packs. ICD is writing a new manual for the kit.

Assembling the kit was relatively easy, but I spent several hours of trial and error because of errors in the kits manual. The manual stated that the metal shield should be attached to the top of the drive (see Figure 3) and the controller then mounted above this shield. Once I added the mounting brackets and controller board, I couldn't connect the cables easily without removing the controller and shield again (Figure 4). I discovered that plugging the cables onto the hard drive before installing the shield was much easier (see Figure 5).

In the case of the 12V DC power cable, I had to file the connector to eliminate interference between the power connector body and the drive casting and allow insertion in the socket. At this time, the LED on the case can be connected using the black jumpers provided (but not mentioned in the manual).

I recommend that you disconnect the "busy" LED on the drive itself to give maximum power to the LED on the FA-ST case and prevent the circuit from overloading. Finally, I put the shield back in place and then the controller. After this, the kit was easy to complete.

Formatting Software

The ICD formatting software supports most drives and controllers on the market today. With a little programming know-how, you should be able to write your own custom driver. The software supports formatting, zeroing the drive and hard disk autobooting. The ICD hard disk handler provides an automatic write verify with no speed degradation, confirming the reliability of the drive.

The ICD FA-ST kit is a solid, well-made hard drive unit and is a substantial asset to any ST owner. I'd like to thank the folks at ICD and Hard Drives International who provided the components for this review.

Stephen Mortimer is a high school junior and a member of the National Honor Society.

Products Mentioned

ICD FA-ST Kit, $449.95 for an MFM kit, $499.95 for an RLL kit and $369.95 for a SCSI kit. ICD, Inc., 1220 Rock Street, Rockford, IL 61101, (815) 968-2228.

Seagate ST-157R, $399. Hard Drives International, 1208 East Broadway Road, Suite 110, Tempe, Arizona 85282, (800) 234-3475.