Classic Computer Magazine Archive START VOL. 4 NO. 1 / AUGUST 1989


After-Market Floppy Disk Drives

Future Systems' GTS-100, PCM's FD-1


If your ST has only one disk drive then you've experienced the frustration that comes with copying disk files- the constant disk swapping when you want to copy even one file can be maddening. A RAM disk can help streamline things, but that eats up the ST's memory, memory that's better used for other things. After a printer I have found that an external floppy disk drive is the most important peripheral to have.

Two new 3 1/2-inch floppy drives have recently entered the ST market that will make accessing and copying disks easier at a price that is in line with typical ST hardware: the Professional FD-1 from PCM Industries and the GTS-100 from Future Systems. Both drives are double-sided/double-density and support up to one megabyte of storage.

The Professional FD-1
The Professional FD-1, from PCM Industries, is a 720K drive that will read/write up to 83 tracks and is compatible with all STs and Megas. The FD-l's design is modest but attractive, and the drive itself is very, very quiet. The drive is housed in a compact metal case that measures 1 1/2 by 4 1/8 by 7 7/8 inches, and its extra-long cable lets you position it along either side of your ST PCM has capped its product with a one-year warranty.

The designers at Future Systems were working overtime when they
developed the GTS-100. The slick, black case and smooth, efficient
operation make this disk drive a must have. And a handy LED readout
tells you the track number being accessed.

Installing the FD-1 is easy; just remember to turn off all hardware before you install or remove any cables to or from your computer-you don't want to damage any of its delicate internal circuitry. Now plug the power cord into the rear of the FD-1, then plug the FD-l's drive cable into the external drive port in the back of your ST. (Note that since you cannot detach the drive cable from the rear of the FD-1, it can be a second (B) drive only.) Now plug the power supply into the nearest outlet, and voila!-you now have an external floppy-disk drive.

If your ST predates the STFM versions, then you have only an external drive. If this is the case, plug the FD-1 into the second drive port in the back of your A drive, instead of into the ST.

As I said, the FD-1 is very quiet-I'd hardly notice it was there if 1 didn't use it so often. And you won't hear the clicking and whirring you may have noticed in your current drive. If you're wondering whether the FD-1 will speed up your ST, the bottom line is that it won't. START Programs Editor Heidi Brumbaugh wrote a simple program in GFA BASIC 2.0 to measure disk-access speed and we used it to test the FD-1. The results are summarized at the end of this review.

Having used the FD-l for over a month now, I have experienced two problems with it, one minor and one not so minor. The not-so-minor one has to do with disk formatting. Once in a while I've found that the FD-1 doesn't format double-sided disks completely. I usually don't find this out until I attempt to save something on the disk I thought I formatted, and then get a message that the disk "may be damaged." (PCM is aware of the problem, however and has corrected it.) I experienced no trouble formatting single-sided disks.

The second problem is that the FD-1's cable doesn't seem to want to stay in the ST's external drive port; it has a tendency to fall out from time to time. This doesn't happen that often, but it happens often enough for me to be concerned. PCM has also promised to correct this problem.

The Professional FD-1 from PCM industries is a double-sided,
double-density floppy-disk drive that is quiet and efficient. In fact,
it's so quiet you'd hardly notice it was there.

Constant disk-
swapping with one
drive can be

Other than the problems I've mentioned, the FD-l is a good product. It is simply what it says it is-an external drive for your ST that works and works well.

The GTS-100
The GTS-100 from Future Systems is also a double-sided, double-density 720K disk drive its slick, black design includes an LED readout that tells you which track number is being accessed. It also has two separate lights that tell you when the power is on and when the drive is busy. The drive measures 2 1/4 by 4 1/4 by 8 1/4 inches. And, like the
FD-1, it is also very quiet.

Also like the FD-l, installing the GTS-100 is very easy. Again, turn everything off before you begin. The GTS100's disk cable is detachable, and in the rear of the drive you'll see two ports: INPUT and OUTPUT. Plug one end of the drive cable into the ST's drive port and the other end into the drives INPUT port. The OUTPUT port is there in case you wish to add yet another drive.

The GTS-100 is touted as Future Systems' top-of-the-line drive, and it's easy to see why- it's good-looking and after a month of use has manifested no significant problems. Future Systems also manufactures the GTS-100X, which costs less and doesn't include an LED readout. See below for the disk-access speed results of the GTS-100.

The Need for Speed
If you're looking for a faster disk drive than the one you already have, you won't find it here. Both the FD-1 and the GTS-100 appear to be as fast as any other disk drive available, external or internal. Both the FD-1 and the GTS-100 were tested against Atari's SF314. We found that all disk-access speeds fell within one percent of each other.

A test for drive RPM also showed no differences. I used Dave Small's drive-speed tester from START Special Issue Number Four. Both the FD-1 and the GTS-100 tested at the ST-standard 300 RPM.

The Bottom Line
The bottom line is that if you're tired of constant disk swapping, you need a second disk drive. Or if your present drive is on its last legs, then you'll want to invest in another.

Both the Professional FD-l and the GTS-i00 are good buys. Both are quiet and efficient. The FD-1 is innocuous and gets the job done; the GTS-100 is certainly slicker looking but does the same thing, with no significant difference in speed. Ultimately it depends on your budget.


Professional FD-1, $199.95. PCM Industries, P.O. Box 5772, Arlington, TX 76050, (214) 660-4780.

GTS 100, $279.95; GTS. 100X, $239.95. Future Systems, Inc., 21634 Lassen St., Chatsworth, CA 91311, (818) 407-1647.