Storage

50MB of Data - For the low low price of $100

One of the drawbacks to having old equipment around is keeping it running and finding parts when things break. The hard drive went out on one of my old Tandy 1000's. It's amazing how much hard drives cost for older PCs, especially compared to what storage costs today. Read on.

The hard drive blew out on my Tandy 1000 at home not too long ago. Seeing as how it's an XT-class machine, that means that replacement hard drive options are limited. I can either use an MFM hard drive or an RLL hard drive. There are some XT-IDE drives available, but the Tandys use a special hard drive controller that doesn't support all XT-IDE drives, which are rare to begin with.

Naturally, it's not easy to find a hard drive that works in a 25 year old computer. You can try eBay, but you never know whether or not what you buy will actually work when you get it. Sometimes you can find refurbished or newer units. What's surprising is how much reliable old drives are when you do find them. For example, at Calhoun Technologies, they sell a 50MB ST250-R hard drive for $100.50. I found another one at Discount Computer Peripherals for $150.

I dunno... $150 doesn't sound like much of a discount... But, even so, when the drives were new they cost even more than that - at a time when the dollar could buy more!

Nowadays, you can get a 2GB drive for under $50. <shameless plug> Unless of course, you get the TechRepublic 2-Go drive which comes with that much space and TechRepublic content to go with it! </shameless plug> That's 40 times more storage for one-third the price. Plus you can put it in your pocket.

Alternatively, you can take that same $100 to Newegg and get a 500GB Seagate hard drive for the same price as the 50MB Seagate. 10,000 times more space and in a smaller form factor. Plus you have 50 cents left over. It boggles the mind.

Unfortunately my old drive is dead, so if I want to get the computer back up and running, I'll have to invest in another drive. To see what the guts of an old drive looks like, check out our Seagate 50MB RLL Hard Drive Cracking Open gallery. I should have gotten that one and given the contributor my old dead drive!

14 comments
Joe Cassara
Joe Cassara

There are lots of hobbyist projects producing 8-bit ISA IDE(AT) controller hardware. John, old computer collectors are not in the game because of cost effective hardware purchases. It's not a hobby for the persnickety. We do it out of pleasure, supporting it within our personal budgets. Pay what you can for commercial products of low demand, build your own hardware, or support the hobbyist community's solutions.

Mikebanks
Mikebanks

For the same $150, you can buy someone's leftover Tandy 1000. And get some bonus parts. The entire machine is easier to find (at computerfests and the like) than components. --Michael Banks http://www.michaelabanks.com

RknRlKid
RknRlKid

I have both MFM cards and drives too. $100 for one of those is silly. Heck, I was buying entire XT systems for under $25! If you have the Tandy 1000 RL/X series, I have the IDE hard drive too (I own several Tandy's...they are still excellent old gaming machines!)

b4real
b4real

I don't even know what to say to this. I'd virtualize or emulate whatever you are doing on this platform and hold on to it forever that way!

bluesrocker
bluesrocker

I have a few old RLL drives and interface card (if i have not thrown them out yet). I think they are either 20 or 60 meg each. There are 5.25 drive bay size. If you need them let me know as i no longer have any use for them. They will not cost you 100 daollar each either.

John Sheesley - TechRepublic Pro
John Sheesley - TechRepublic Pro

As I mentioned in Classics Rock http://blogs.techrepublic.com.com/classic-tech/?p=116 trying to keep old equipment running can be costly, because even though you can get a 500GB hard drive for around $100 now, it costs just as much to get a 50MB hard drive for my old Tandy! The mid 90's had a breakthrough where the cost of hard drives seemed great because they finally got less that $1.00/MB. Then a few years ago, they finally got down to less than $1/GB. As terabyte drives become more popular, I wonder how long it will take until the $1/TB barrier gets broken.

John Sheesley - TechRepublic Pro
John Sheesley - TechRepublic Pro

Actually, that's what I did. I have a Tandy 1000 TX sitting on my desk at work right now that I bought almost entirely for the hard card that's in it as well as the 3.5" floppy. I just never moved them to the old 1000A. I think the hard card is starting to bad now too, so, might hafta go looking again.

John Sheesley - TechRepublic Pro
John Sheesley - TechRepublic Pro

Yeah a whole system would be cheaper, esp off of eBay. That is, like I said, assuming the stuff works when you get it. This is an original 1000, which is about 4 models behind the RL/X series. The RL was a nice computer indeed. The IDE drives in it won't work in an original 1000 though. There was one that worked in the 1000SX and TX line. I may have to find one of those.

John Sheesley - TechRepublic Pro
John Sheesley - TechRepublic Pro

This is just on an old machine of mine - the first computer I ever bought, so there's a sentimental factor. Certainly if that was a production machine that was doing actual WORK, a virtualized environment, or just plain migrating it to something different would be preferable. I dont think anyone has come up with a VM that can emulate the Tandy graphics and sound however.

John Sheesley - TechRepublic Pro
John Sheesley - TechRepublic Pro

Cool. Thanks for the offer. Click the Contact link on the Classics Rock blog and send me an email and we can discuss details.

eM DuBYaH
eM DuBYaH

If you're even tempted to blow $150 for a 50M HD, I'd just drop a little more money and get an entire dual core system with 3 gigs of ram and a 320G HD. http://www.tigerdirect.com/applications/searchtools/item- Details.asp?EdpNo=3523912&sku=T70-2209&CMP=ILC- FPM02 (no, i don't work there) and throw out the Jurassic Parts!!

RknRlKid
RknRlKid

I've had those other models too, so you may have other options. MFM or RLL drives will still work, with an 8-bit card. If you want a comparatively bigger drive storage wise, there are 8-bit SCSI cards too. Another good option if you can find it is the Acculogic 8-bit IDE card. As I recall, there is a trick to it though. Its been a while since I've dealt with one. Not trying to make it sound like I am selling stuff (I'm really not), but all this does bring back memories. I still have boxes of these kinds of parts in the closet. I know I have at least two of the Acculogic cards, one Western Digital SCSI card, and lost count of the MFM's. Fixing XTs used to be a desired skill set. Now its just ancient memories!

John Sheesley - TechRepublic Pro
John Sheesley - TechRepublic Pro

There's certainly an economic argument to be had by not investing additional money in old equipment, but it's not unlike keeping a classic car up to date. Even an Edsel is worth something today...

John Sheesley - TechRepublic Pro
John Sheesley - TechRepublic Pro

8 Bit SCSI would be a good idea, however, I don 't think that there were any SCSI cards that were compatible with the Tandy 1000 line. At least not the original 1000's. Radio Shack did a good job of making them software compatible, but they tweaked the hardware enough that you were locked in sometimes to their hardware. For example, you could use a standard Western Digital RLL or MFM 8 bit controller, but the Tandys used a different IRQ to talk to the controller than a regular IBM clone. So you either had to set a jumper, or if the card didnt HAVE a jumper, you had to do a little bit of solder work to reconfigure the card.