ESCAPE FROM FRAGILE FLOPPIES
Amdek offers a big drive in a small packageBy DAVID DUBERMAN
Until today, one of the weakest links in
the home computing chain has been the floppy disk. Developed in the
early 1970's by IBM, floppies were first used in laboratory and office
environments. They were developed to be an inexpensive alternative
to tape or cartridge storage. To achieve these goals, a thin mylar floppy
disk enclosed in a thin jacket was used.
Now floppies are found just about any place you can find an Atari. Unfortunately, floppies are vulnerable to physical damage caused by spills, dust, fingerprints, smoke particles and rough handling.
Once a disk is damaged, it becomes practically impossible to retrieve data from it. Children, in particular, have a difficult time remembering how to handle these disks properly.
To solve this problem, Amdek introduced its AMDC three-inch disk drive. Available as a single (AMDC I) or a double-drive (AMDC II) system, the Amdek records in single and double density on three-inch disks that offer a total storage capacity of 180,000 bytes per disk side. You must, however, turn the diskette over to use the other side.
The drive itself is a compact beauty. Styled similarly to Atari's XL line, it measures 7 3/8-inches wide by 5 1/2inches high by 8 5/8-inches deep. The diskettes measure about three by four inches, and fit easily in your shirt pocket. The recording medium is still mylar, but it is enclosed in and fully protected by a hard plastic case. Even the hole through which the disk-drive head contacts the disk medium is covered until the disk is inserted into the drive.
EASY TO USE
It's virtually impossible to insert the disk into the drive improperly, and disks pop out at the press of a button. To prevent accidental erasure of data, you simply move a small tab on the disk to engage write-protection. Each drive has a busy light, which shows green if you're using the disk's front side, and red if you're using the back-a truly considerate and user-friendly feature. There's also an on/off indicator light next to the flush-mounted, oversized power switch.
One of the Amdek's best features is that it lets you attach off-the-shelf 5-inch disk drives. Such drives can be purchased for about $200-substantially less than the cost of Atari-specific five-inch drives. You can configure the system to load commercial software from the standard drive-even heavily copy-protected disks work fine! There's also a parallel printer port, identical to the one found on the Atari 850 interface, to which you can attach any Centronics-compatible printer. A cooling fan on the back of the unit makes a small amount of noise.
The Amdek drive comes with OSS's DOS XL, which is a significant improvement over the previous version, OS/A +, particularly for beginning users. (Look for a survey of DOS'S, including DOS XL, in an upcoming issue of Antic. -ANTIC ED) A number of utilities are also included on the DOS XL disk. Among these are programs that configure drives to different densities, set the printer port's timeout value, and specify sector order on the disk.
In addition to the 152-page DOS XL manual, Amdek supplies a fairly complete 31-page manual for the drive. Included are detailed instructions for installing the Amdek into almost any imaginable configuration of hardware and software. If you prefer using Atari DOS 2.0 to OSS's DOS, you'll have no trouble doing so. if, for example, you want to use one standard external drive, one Atari 1050 drive, and the Amdek, the instructions tell you exactly how to set up this system. Specific instructions are provided for the configuring of several types of external drives, and a troubleshooting guide is also included. If you need further help, contact Amdek's service representatives.
LJK's database management program, Data Perfect, also comes with the Amdek on a three-inch disk. LJK is also planning to make Letter Perfect and Spell Perfect available. Other manufacturers that soon will release Atari software in the three-inch format are Broderbund, Synapse, Continental, and Penguin Software. Blank disks, available from Amdek and your local computer dealer, cost $5.99.
The Amdeks cost a bit more than other drives for the Atari, but this extra expense is more than justified by their printer port and external drive options, and by the sense of security offered by their virtually indestructible disks. The AMDC I lists for $550, and the AMDC II for $760. Amdek's address is: 2201 Lively Blvd., Elk Grove Village, IL 60007. Their telephone number is: (312) 364-1180.