Your first disk drive?

Who here remembers their first ever disk drive?

Mine was a full height 5.25" floppy drive that I bought from a second hand shop for around £200. I hooked it up to two Western Digital chips and got it working with my homebrew 6809 based machine.

It had a helix groove that located the head position, plus solenoid clamp to engage the dual sided heads - I had fun wiring up an NE555 chip to do all the timing!


I don’t remember the model, but it was a 30 MB (largest affordable at the time) that I got with my brand new 386 system. I then proceeded to load it up with all stuff that I had on floppies and filled the hard drive in a day.

My bad. 30 MB not GB.

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Here in the USA, floppy drives were pretty standard. In my case, Commodore 1541, but for others it would be the floppy drive that came with their Apple ][, or TRS-80, or Atari 8-bit …

At work, we used 5.25-inch floppy disks in the (external) dual floppy drives for Commodore Pets. The drives connected via an IEEE 488 interface, and cost roughly the same as the PET itself. I wanted to buy a PET and disk drive unit for home use, but couldn’t afford to: the PET and its disk drive each cost about the same as a decent used car back then (early 1980s).

We also had a hard drive unit for the PET at work. I think it was 10MB. I remember discussing with colleagues that we could put all our work software on it, plus all our games and similar, and it wouldn’t begin to fill it up. Remember that even a large PET application had to fit into the 32 kB memory of the PET - and many PETs had less than the full 32 kB of RAM installed.

For home use, I eventually bought a Sinclair Spectrum, and some microdrives. These weren’t really disk drives - just cartridges with an endless loop of tape - similar to an 8-track audio cartridge, but much smaller. They were much faster than cassette tapes, but had some reliability issues.

The first real disk drive I had at home was the 3.5-inch floppy unit built into a Commodore Amiga 500, and I quickly bought a second, external drive for it. Not long after, I bought a SCSI hard disk for the Amiga - it had an expansion unit to connect to the Amiga’s expansion port, and a separate, mains powered, enclosure containing the actual hard disk. It was branded SupraDrive, and was very expensive - about £1000 - several times the price of the Amiga itself. It had a whopping 30MB capacity!

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My first Disk drive was an RK05 - I had 5 of them at one time for use at work and school. (The platters, not the mechanical part to read them) I was doing a lot of work with RT-11 and with RSTS/E at the time. (Yes, I’m an old fart)

My first physical drive was a 8" floppy on a S-100 based system, a clone of a clone of a Cromenco, IIRC.

I never kept any of my old legacy systems. Which looking back makes me rather sad.


I remember the RK05, yeah, I’m an old fart too. Plus I worked for Digital for some time too. I also remember RL02 drives.

The Conner harddisk (250 MB, I think) in the IBM PC-compatible (a 386 machine, inn 1993). Yes, I am relatively young…

My first hard drive was a 120MB built into the Amiga 1200 - my second Amiga. I have an image of it - the partition table says ST9145AG. And traces of an alternate OS say

<6>Linux version 1.2.13pl2 ([email protected]) (gcc version 2.7.0) #19 Thu Sep 21 20:31:23 EDT 1995
<6>Probing harddisk(s):
<6>hda: ST9145AG
<6> cyl 980, sector 17, head 15.

<6>probing for hda: present=0, type=disk, probetype=ATA
<6>hda: ST9145AG, 122MB w/32KB Cache, CHS=980/15/17, MaxMult=8

<6>Partition check:
<6> hda: enabled 8-sector multiple mode
<6> hda: hda1 hda2 hda3 hda4

My first floppy, on the other hand, would be a 5¼" floppy for my Beeb. I think it’s one-third height, and 80 track, double-sided. Just looked through my floppies, they are double-density capable, and it looks like I sometimes formatted them at 320k per side.


The first disk drive I ever used was an external Disk ][ on an Apple ][+ or Apple //e (I am not sure which). The first disk drive in my home was the built-in 5.25" drive on an Apple //c.

We had both an internal 5.25" and an external Apple 5.25 Drive for the //c. Because of the way that ProDOS handles disks and volumes, the distinction between these drives was surprisingly unimportant to me at the time, other than having to boot to the built-in disk. I was not particularly clued into the difference between an application, DOS 3.3, or ProDOS, either (because most applications used ProDOS and booted straight into the application), at least until much later, so disk drives remained a “just put it in it’ll be fine” concept for me for a long time. Flippies were a way of life.

The next drive I had contact with was probably a 3.5" 800 kB drive in an Mac of some kind at school, but I don’t remember caring much about that.

The first hard disk I had any experience with to understand what was going on was a 100 MB disk in a Laser 486 PC clone, under DOS 5.0. The idea of having so many programs available without switching disks was amazing.

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First disk drive was the 3" in the ZX Spectrum 3.

First hard drive was an IBM 240MB drive I bought for my Amiga.

Since I built my floppy disk controller myself, I got to figure out how to format a floppy. I dropped the index mark, as my drive had a detector for that, shrunk the gap between sectors and came up with a high density format. The only issue was a parameter called ‘a0’. It was either ‘0’ or ‘1’ but nothing described what was in common use. I chose ‘0’ and found out later standard format was ‘1’!

The drive worked great but I chose to poll read it as the 6809 IRQ timing was too slow - even FIRQ wasn’t quite fast enough so polling worked for me. I hooked it up to the FLEX OS and booted my system and it worked!

I had a few odd moments when it tried to select track 9999 on an 80 track system - the head fell off the spiral groove on the head track motor, whoops!

I wrote the formatted using PL/9 on the FLEX system - a kind of a C compiler but one pass directly to 6809 machine code, worked great and got myself a few formatted disks to run on FLEX.


My first hard disk was the one that came with my Mac PowerBook 100, a whopping 20 MB. This wasn’t especially ample for the time, but well in the range of what was to be expected for a baseline laptop.

The story about this is really a story about MS Word: In the beginning, I was running Word 4.0 for Macintosh. With this, the size of the hard drive wasn’t anything to complain about. I had multiple applications installed, more than I actually used, and still ample space for documents. For those not in the know, Word 4.0 for Mac did still fit on a single floppy together with a basic install of the System 6 operating system, fonts, etc, and still some bytes left for documents. But then, an early iteration of System 7 (7.02, I guess) introduced TrueType fonts. As it happened, if you had any TrueType fonts installed, Word 4.0 failed terribly on formatting lines. (Imagine random extra spaces between characters or even overlapping characters, not only on the screen, but also on printer output. Apparently, there was some non-standard approach to font metrics involved, which caused a ‘tiny’ issue together with what was presented by the OS in order to make TrueType work.)

Meaning, I had to upgrade to Word 5.x. I think, this was version 5.1. The issue being, the space required on the hard disk in MB even exceeded the version number. It went from about 640 K (with all extras) for Word 4,x to 5.6 MB, without adding much in terms of user facing functionality. — And this is how I deleted about half of my applications, just to run Word on a still fresh computer.

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First floppy was the one on my Amiga. For the Spectrum I did have microdrives though. First hard disk I actually owned was the amiga A590 20MB drive.


The first hard drive I bought was a 204MB Rodime SCSI drive that I bought to use with my pc532. Before that drive, I used a 155MB drive that I borrowed from work; later, I got two full-height 5.25-inch drives with 760MB each. The latter were surplus after an upgrade at work, and I was allowed to take them.

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My first hands-on disk experience was with the 8" floppies of the PDP-8A at school in 1982. Soon after, I got a 5.25" Disk ][ for my Apple ][+. A couple of years later, it was a 5.25" floppy for my Commodore 64, a 1541 I believe.

The Apple drive had the lowest capacity, about 140KB, but was impressively fast (among its peers), and assisted me through high school, college and a bit beyond (the pre-internet era).

I inherited an outdated AT-style PC in the mid 1990s, and it had my first hard disk, a 20 MB unit. I probably still have it stuffed in a corner of my attic somewhere.

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A 51/4" third-party drive for my Commodore 64. It came in a metal wrap-around case with an external power supply and was extremely slow over the Commodore serial IEEE bus. I’d been using 8032 Pets at work with 8050 twin drives and they were much quicker.