Macintosh External Disk Drive
|Release date||May 4, 1984|
The Macintosh External Disk Drive is the original of a series of external 3.5" floppy disk drives manufactured and sold by Apple Computer exclusively for the Macintosh series of computers introduced in January 1984. Later, Apple would unify their external drives to work cross-platform between the Macintosh and Apple II product lines, dropping the name "Macintosh" from the drives. Though Apple had been producing external floppy disk drives prior to 1984, they were exclusively developed for the Apple II, III and Lisa computers using the industry standard 5.25" flexible disk format. The Macintosh external drives were the first to widely introduce Sony's new 3.5" rigid disk standard commercially and throughout their product line. Apple produced only one external 3.5" drive exclusively for use with the Apple II series called the Apple UniDisk 3.5.
The original Macintosh External Disk Drive (M0130) was introduced with the Macintosh on January 24, 1984. However, it did not actually ship until May 4, 1984, sixty days after Apple had promised it to dealers. Bill Fernandez was the project manager who oversaw the design and production of the drive. The drive case was designed to match the Macintosh and included the same 400K drive (a Sony made 3.5" single-sided mechanism) installed inside the Macintosh. Although very similar to the 400K drive which newly replaced Apple's ill-fated Twiggy drive in the Lisa, there were subtle differences relating mainly to the eject mechanism. However, confusingly all of these drives were labelled identically. The Macintosh could only support one external drive, limiting the number of floppy disks mounted at once to two. However, both Apple and third party manufacturers developed external hard drives that connected to the Mac's floppy disk port, which had pass-through ports to accommodate daisy-chaining the external disk drive. Apple's Hard Disk 20 could accommodate an additional daisy-chained hard drive as well as an external floppy disk. The standard formatted capacity of the drive was 360K, however, Apple employed its GCR formatting technique which spun the disk at a slower rate on the outer tracks to increase the total disk storage. Despite the greater storage capacity, the drive could not be used on the Apple II. Nor could the Lisa accommodate it as an external drive, despite being originally offered with two 871K drives. These drives only support the original Macintosh File System (MFS), though they can be used on any Macintosh which does not also support a SuperDrive (which systems produce a disruptive signal). While 400K disks can be formatted using a Hierarchical File System (HFS) system, they then cannot be used as startup disks, or read on an original 128K Macintosh. When the Macintosh first launched one criticism was the inadequacy of the single internal floppy drive, making a second floppy drive a requirement for most uses. Therefore, the external floppy disk drive became critical to the success of the Macintosh.
By early 1985, it was clear that the Macintosh needed additional storage space, in particular a hard drive. Apple announced their first hard drive for the Mac in March 1985. However, it was clear that the Mac's original MFS disk formatting system would be inefficient for such a large drive and Apple quickly began adopting for the Mac the hierarchical based SOS filing system introduced with the Apple III and long since implemented in ProDOS for the Apple II series & the Lisa. This change in the Mac's filing system delayed the introduction of the double sided Sony drives which Apple intended to offer as soon as the technology was available, a concession they made when adopting the Sony drives over their own problematic double-capacity Twiggy drives. However, based on the success of the 3.5" floppy drive for the Mac, there was no such obstacle in immediately implementing an 800K drive for the Apple II and so it was introduced in September 1985, four months before the version for the Mac. While simultaneously Apple finally introduced their new hard drive after a 6-month delay, they chose not to implement the new floppy drive for the Macintosh at that time.
Apple UniDisk 3.5
In September 1985, Apple released its first 3.5" drive (A2M2053) for the Apple II series utilizing Sony's new 800K double-sided drive mechanism which would not be released for the Macintosh until 4 months later. The Apple UniDisk 3.5 drive contained additional circuitry making it an "intelligent" or "smart" drive; this made it incompatible with the Macintosh, despite having the identical mechanism that was to be later used in the Macintosh drive. However, if the internal circuit board (which consisted of its own CPU, IWM chip, RAM and firmware) was bypassed it could operate on a Macintosh as an 800K drive. This permitted storage hungry Mac users the ability to double their disk capacity 5 months before Apple officially made an 800K drive available for the Mac. Ironically, though the drive would prove to be significantly faster than the previous 400K drive, it was specifically slowed-down to accommodate the slower 1 MHz processor of the Apple II. It came in the Snow White-styled case and color to match the Apple IIc and had a pass-through connector for the addition of a second daisy-chained drive. It plugged in directly to the Apple IIc disk port (although original IIcs needed a ROM upgrade) and required a specialized interface card on earlier Apple II's. It would later also work directly with the built-in disk port on the Apple IIc Plus and Apple IIGS through backwards compatibility (this was not recommended for the latter two machines as the Apple 3.5" Drive was faster). It continued to be sold for use with the Apple IIc and IIe which could not use the subsequent replacement Apple 3.5" drive, until the Apple IIc Plus redesign in 1988 and Apple II 3.5 Disk Controller Card released in 1991. Apple developed a DuoDisk 3.5 which contained two drives vertically stacked, but never brought it to market. The 3.5" format was not very popular in the Apple II community (excluding the 16-bit Apple IIGS) as most software was released in the 5.25" format to accommodate the existing installed Disk II drives.
Macintosh 800K External Drive
In January 1986, Apple introduced the Macintosh Plus which had a Sony double-sided 800K capacity disk drive, and used the new HFS disk format providing directories and sub-directories. This drive was fitted into an external case as the Macintosh 800K External Drive (M0131), which was slimmer than the earlier 400K drive. It could be used with Macintosh models except for the original 128K, which could not load the HFS disk format. The drive supported the older 400K single-sided disks allowing them to be shared. The use of Apple's GCR with variable speed (as used on the 400K drive) accommodated a higher storage capacity than its 720K PC counterparts. In addition, the mechanism was much quieter and significantly faster than its predecessor. Designed primarily to run on Macs with the new 128K ROM which contained the necessary code to support the drive, it could be used with Macs with older 64K ROMs if the proper software was loaded from the system folder of a Hard Disk 20 into the Mac's RAM. The drive controlled its own speed and was no longer dependent on an external signal from the Mac, which was blocked on the early drive mechanisms compatible only with the Macintosh. Later universal mechanisms, first used on the Apple II to accommodate proprietary signals, required special cables to isolate the speed signal from the Mac, to prevent damage to the drive. However, with its increased storage capacity combined with 2-4x RAM available on the Mac Plus, the external drive was less of a necessity than it had been with its predecessors. Nevertheless, with the only option for adding additional storage being extremely expensive hard drives, a year later Apple increased the maximum number of floppy drives that could be accessed simultaneously to 3 on the Macintosh SE (the Macintosh Portable was the only other Mac to do so).
Apple 3.5" Drive
Beginning in September 1986, Apple adopted a unified cross-platform product strategy essentially eliminating platform specific peripherals where possible. The Apple 3.5" Drive (A9M0106), is an 800K external drive released in unison with the Apple IIGS computer, and replaced the beige-colored Macintosh 800K External Drive. It works on both the Apple IIGS as well as the Macintosh. It came in a case similar to the UniDisk, but in Platinum gray. Like the UniDisk 3.5, the Apple 3.5" Drive includes Apple II-specific features such as a daisy-chain connector which allows two drives to be connected to an Apple II computer, and the presence of a manual disk eject button. The Macintosh however could still only accommodate one external drive, and ignores use of the eject button. But, unlike the Macintosh 800K External Drive, the Apple 3.5" Drive can be used natively with the 64K ROM stock Macintosh 128K & 512K without the HD20 INIT, but only with 400K MFS formatted disks. Designed as a universal external drive replacement, the Apple 3.5" Drive was eventually compatible with the remaining Apple II models in production upon the introduction of the Apple IIc Plus and the Apple II 3.5 Disk Controller Card for the Apple IIe.
Following the success of the Macintosh implementation of the 3.5" format, the format was also adopted widely by the personal computer industry. However most of the industry adopted a different MFM (Modified Frequency Modulation) formatting scheme at a fixed rotational speed, incompatible with Apple's own GCR with variable speed, resulting in a less-expensive drive, but with a lower capacity (720K rather than 800K). In 1987 a newer and better, MFM-based, "high-density" format was developed which IBM first introduced in their PS/2 systems, doubling the previous storage capacity to 1.4MB. In Apple's pursuit of cross-compatibility with DOS & Windows based systems to attract more business customers, they adopted the new format, thus confirming it as the first industry-wide floppy disk standard. However, Apple could not take advantage of the less expensive fixed speed systems of the IBM-based computers, due to its backward incompatibility with their own variable-speed formats.
Apple FDHD Drive
Later renamed the Apple SuperDrive (G7287), the Apple FDHD Drive (Floppy Disk High Density) was introduced in 1989 as Apple's first external 1.44MB high density double-sided 3.5" floppy drive. It supported all of Apple's 3.5" floppy disk formats as well as all standard PC formats (e.g. MS-DOS, Windows), allowing the Macintosh to read and write all industry standard floppy disk formats. The external drive was offered only briefly with support for the Apple II, coming late in that product's life. To take advantage of the drive's extended storage and new capabilities, it required the new SWIM (Sander-Wozniak Integrated Machine) floppy disk controller chip to be present on the Macintosh and Apple II, the latter requiring the Apple II 3.5 Disk Controller Card which integrated the chip. If the drive was connected to an older Macintosh, Apple IIGS or Apple IIc Plus with the older IWM (Integrated Woz Machine) chip, the drive would act as a standard 800K drive, without any additional capabilities. The interface card was necessary for the Apple IIGS to make use of its greater storage capacity and ability to handle PC formats. The Apple IIe could not utilize the drive in any form, unless it had the specialized interface card installed, much like the UniDisk 3.5 which the SuperDrive replaced. The last Mac it could be used with was the Classic II and was discontinued shortly thereafter. The drive was fitted in every desktop Mac from its introduction and was eliminated with the introduction of the iMac in 1998.
Macintosh HDI-20 External 1.4MB Floppy Disk Drive
Manufactured exclusively for use with the Macintosh PowerBook line, the Macintosh HDI-20 External 1.44MB Floppy Disk Drive (M8061) contained a low-powered, slimmer version of the SuperDrive and used a small square HDI-20 proprietary connector, rather than the larger standard DE-19 desktop connector, and was powered directly by the laptop. It had a matching dark gray case and an access cover which flipped down to form a stand. The external drive was sold optionally for those PowerBooks which had no built-in drive, however, the identical drive mechanism was included internally in some PowerBook models, which otherwise had no provision to accommodate an external drive. The external case was finally revised in 1997 and renamed Macintosh PowerBook External Floppy Drive, for use exclusively with the PowerBook 2400c, before being discontinued in 1998. This would be the last external floppy drive manufactured by Apple.
- Apple PC 5.25 Drive
- List of Apple drives
- History of the floppy disk
- Timeline of Apple products
- List of products discontinued by Apple Inc.
- Macintosh: Support for External Floppy Drives (at Apple support site)
- vintagemacworld.com Apple External Drives