Would You Like Your Disk Drive with Extra Aggregate?

Matt Marshall mentioned an old defunct company that I was rather fond of – Miniscribe. Now, Miniscribe in the 1980’s went from nothing to making and selling quite reliable 85 MByte drives (full size) at what was then a really great price (around $850 in quantity). It was the most common disk drive we shipped in our Symmetric 375 computer running the Symmetrix operating system (Berkeley Unix 4.2 derivative) from Symmetric Computer Systems.

Of course, having bought, installed, and supported so many, I just couldn’t resist putting in my two cents with Matt as well: “Ah, Miniscribe. I recall their 85MB drives well – we shipped many Symmetric 375‘s with those drives. They were quite cheap and quite good. But I also remember how they tried to claim we signed for a pallet never delivered. Turned out the signature was an obvious fake, and Miniscribe dropped the claim. We never did get those bricks…. We did however have one of their drives catch fire in testing – came into the office to the smell of phenols and a “squeek, squeek” sound of a slowly (for a disk drive) turning disk. I bet the engineers at Miniscribe spent a lot of time on that RMA!”

That Miniscribe disk drive failure was about as memorable as the time we tried a new “under the chip” capacitor on several 375 motherboards (I still have a few around if you’d like to see them). The motherboards were very tightly designed, and the majority of boardspace was taken up by DRAM. They were really cool – until one caught fire under the chip! Of course, surface mount technology caused much of this stuff to fade into obsolescence.

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