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Lt. Kernal is a SCSI hard drive subsystem developed for the Commodore 64 and Commodore 128 home computers. The original design of both the technically complicated hardware interface and equally complex disk operating system came from Lloyd Sponenburgh and Roy Southwick of Fiscal Information, Inc., a now-defunct Florida-based turnkey vendor of minicomputer-based medical information systems.
Fiscal demonstrated a working prototype in 1984 and starting advertising the system for sale early in 1985. It immediately found a niche with some Commodore software developers and bulletin board SysOps due to its excellent performance and capacious storage (originally 10 megabytes and later extended to as much as 330 megabytes). The subsequent development of a multiplexing accessory allows one Lt. Kernal to be shared by as many as 16 computers, using a round robin scheduling algorithm. This made the use of the Lt. Kernal with multiple line BBSs practical. Later, streaming tape support, using QIC-02 tape cartridges, was added to provide a practical (though costly) backup strategy.
Fiscal built the units to order until late 1986, at which time the decision was made to turn over the production, marketing and customer support to Xetec Inc. Fiscal continued to provide secondary technical support, as well as free DOS upgrades, until December 1991, at which time production of new Lt. Kernal systems ceased. Following the shutdown of Xetec in 1995, private support of the Lt. Kernal was carried on for several years by Ron Fick until his untimely death in 1999.
A key feature of the Lt. Kernal is its sophisticated disk operating system, which behaves much like that of the Point 4 minicomputers that Fiscal was reselling in the 1980s. A high degree of control over the Lt. Kernal is possible with simple typed commands, many of which had never been seen before in the 8-bit Commodore environment. This, along with a powerful keyed random access filing system, makes the Lt. Kernal perform at a level that is generally unmatched by any other hard drive system available for 8-bit Commodore computers.
The Lt. Kernal was favorably and comprehensively reviewed in The Transactor, which praised the drive's speed, storage capacity, and ease of use. Some criticism was levied at the product's incomplete documentation, its drain on the resources of the host computer (particularly with the Commodore 64, whose limited memory requires frequent paging of the DOS), and the lack of an automated backup utility. The review noted the drive's particular suitability for professional programmers, business users, and BBS sysops.
- Brier, Bill (1988). "The Lt. Kernal Hard Drive System: Pushing the Limits…" (PDF). The Transactor (Transactor Publishing) 9 (1): 67–71, 74. Retrieved December 5, 2015.