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Would it have made any sense if Atari had used 5 1/4" floppies?

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it might have been an idea for Atari to make addit. DD's for the ST (of the 5.25 variety) and create some standard file formats so that you could port over text, sound and gfx/picture files from the A8 (or c64)

 

So you could use some A8 files (or c64) on the ST and visa versa

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3.5" DS DD == 720K

5.25" DS DD == 360K

Yes, but "double density" is just a term as such... and 5.25" disks went through many more densities than 3.5" so there were more steps. (you had single, double, quad, and high density) DD 3.5" data was denser than DD 5.25" (much closer to QD 5.25"). I was mainly suggesting QD or HD formatting for a single sided drive on the ST... QD is the same capacity as DD 3.5" but could use both sides on a SS drive unlike 3.5".

 

There is only one good argument in favor of 5.25" disks and that is that they were cheaper. Also I think they look cooler than the smaller disks but the practically of the latter ones is more important.

Cheaper, and more common... if they wanted any sort of PC cross compatibility in the mid 80s, 5.25" was necessary for sure. (hell, you could potentially cross format for the A8 even -given the rather similar formatting- though maybe not Apple or especially not Commodore's funky stepped CLV format -the latter would be about as realistic as formatting Mac floppies on the ST)

Of course, single sided drives would limit cross compatibility with PCs to some specific situations. (ie any disks intended to be used both ways would need to be formatted single sided and flipped rather than double sided for a DS drive -so disks formatted specifically for PCs without the ST in mind could be problematic)

 

Of course, Atari could have opted for a DSDD 5.25" drive for the same 360k capacity as their SSDD 3.5" drives as well as direct PC compatibility (prior to HD disks really taking over), but that looses the other advantages going forward. (if a SS QD or especially HD drive was fairly close in cost, that would be generally preferable but not quite as friendly for PC compatibility as you'd have the SS limit)

 

If they DID go with DSDD 360k PC type disks, they'd probably later skip QD altogether and make the switch to HD like IBM and NEC did... actually, one other possibility would be tweaking the formatting a little to extend capacity a bit like the Amiga and some extended PC drivers supported. (possibly allowing 440 kB with DSDD rather than 360 kB)

 

 

 

it might have been an idea for Atari to make addit. DD's for the ST (of the 5.25 variety) and create some standard file formats so that you could port over text, sound and gfx/picture files from the A8 (or c64)

 

So you could use some A8 files (or c64) on the ST and visa versa

A8 maybe, but probably not C64 due to the funky formatting (same for C128 3.5" and Mac 3.5"), Apple II disks probably wouldn't work very well (it was managed on the A8 though) either, but at least they're CAV. (you'd need software specifically supporting the 35 track format)

 

That point is sort of moot for the long run though as the A8 declined pretty fast in the mid 80s. (and changing that is another discussion entirely)

 

 

 

 

 

After all this is said and done, Atari made a mistake NOT making a 5.25" drive available, since it was accepted and dug in tech at the time. People would have figured out a way to make newer tech work with it as it came along just like we do today (NOT comparing today's tech to back then but comparing our methods).

 

And to that, what methods do I refer? Making floppy drives compatible between systems so that more data could have been shuffled back and forth. Someone would have made it happen, it is inevitable that it would have since we are now making things run on hardware just like we did back then on things it was never meant to run on.

Yeah, for business machines to have PC compatibility it would have made sense as a standard accessory... or if the had a MEGA like machine from the start, maybe even have an internal expansion bay facilitating a 5.25" drive (and versions including one standard along with the 3.5" drive).

You wouldn't need DOS emulation to support compatible disk and file formats cross-platform as such. (just drivers supporting a common file format system and disk formatting, plus common/compatible applications on both system -be it word processors, spreadsheet software, etc as happened later between PCs and Macs)

 

But my premise was working in that compatibility to the integral standard of the ST with other potential advantages. (albeit not so much if only DD was used initially... though a modified format supported on the ST would have been interesting -as above, something like the Amiga with 440 kB 5.25" disks with extended sector count -but also support for normal IBM formatting/reading/writing)

 

 

 

 

And where would 5.25" drives have left the STacy?

With a somewhat different form factor... assuming they didn't switch to 3.5" exclusively for it (sans external drives) as it was 1989 by then.

Obviously a half height drive if not a little more compact than that (like the drives that embedded 3.5" and 5.25"), but it would probably involve rearranging some internal components and the overall form factor rather than making it significantly bulkier in general.

Edited by kool kitty89

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"Hi, we're Atari, trying to sell you the next generation of computers. For less money. Oh yeah, but our computers come with those old 5.25" floppy drives."

 

I wasn't interested in 5.25" diskettes anymore. Neither were most other people I knew. It was 1985 and we were all moving on with the times and looking forward.

 

Once there were people who loved 8" disks. Back in 1985, I'm sure someone said "Wouldn't it be cool if the Atari, Apple, and Commodore computers used 8" disks instead of those 5.25" disks? 8" disks were way better." And aren't we all glad that 8" disks were replaced by 5.25" disks?

 

I wouldn't to be "stuck" with 5.25" disks in an ST any more than I would go back to using 3.5" disks or Zip drives today. 3.5" disks were an improvement for their time.

 

As for PC users who continued to use 5.25" disks into the 90s... everyone I knew who did that still walked around saying that the mouse and GUIs were the stupidest things ever and DOS ruled. They would spend hours showing me some PC crap that looked and functioned horribly, saying it was as good as the Amiga/ST/Mac while simultaneously bashing the Amiga/ST/Mac. I'm fairly certain catering/appealing to that group by making 5.25" drives an ST standard wouldn't have done Atari any favors, since they were the wrong demographic in the first place.

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Once there were people who loved 8" disks. Back in 1985, I'm sure someone said "Wouldn't it be cool if the Atari, Apple, and Commodore computers used 8" disks instead of those 5.25" disks? 8" disks were way better." And aren't we all glad that 8" disks were replaced by 5.25" disks?

Unlike 8" disks, 5.25" disks and drives were relatively similar in size and capacity with more going forward... please take the context I addressed into account.

 

5.25" was the standard through the 80s and still widely supported in the early 90s on PCs...

 

The main context was to use at least QD disks (360 kB/s) or possibly HD disks which had been adopted as the standard successor to DD 5.25" by IBM in 1984. (on the AT)

 

I wouldn't to be "stuck" with 5.25" disks in an ST any more than I would go back to using 3.5" disks or Zip drives today. 3.5" disks were an improvement for their time.

Yes, improvements in some ways, but for the time the ST was strongest (especially in the US), 5.25" would have been extremely attractive for a number of reasons I already addressed. (cost, utility, compatibility -especially with PCs, etc)

 

As for PC users who continued to use 5.25" disks into the 90s... everyone I knew who did that still walked around saying that the mouse and GUIs were the stupidest things ever and DOS ruled. They would spend hours showing me some PC crap that looked and functioned horribly, saying it was as good as the Amiga/ST/Mac while simultaneously bashing the Amiga/ST/Mac. I'm fairly certain catering/appealing to that group by making 5.25" drives an ST standard wouldn't have done Atari any favors, since they were the wrong demographic in the first place.

I wasn't talking about "users" either, but general commercial software/media support (by the early 90s it would have been 1.2 MB HD drives exclusively), not about users clinging to old tech.

 

I'm talking about advantages in practical use, cost, production, standardization, etc.

 

Mac, ST, and Amiga were all niche and PCs were becoming a major standard (fairly apparent even in 1984 -especially with the appearance of clones) and it would hame been quite advantageous to push for some level of cross compatibility in software. (especially for business applications)

And if you want to get into PC stuff too, there's one other major issue that the ST and Amiga suffered: lack of models with built-in hard drives. (at least it took way too long for it to happen even on high-end models -and on the Amiga you had more trouble to even get an external HDD -unlike the ST which at least had ACSI from the start)

 

 

 

Also remember the context is compared to Atari's heavy use of single sided 3.5" drives early on with only 360 kB capacity anyway, so no better in that sense than what PCs had been using for 4 years other than some aspects of convenience and durability. But a SSQD 5.25" drive while similar capacity would be able to use both sides via flipping unlike the 3.5" one.

Or if they did go with low end DSDD 5.25" drives, they potentially could have tweaked the formatting to support more sectors like the Amiga did, so still better capacity than early STs and Macs. (and they could later move on to the HD format being adopted by PCs)

 

 

 

 

 

 

One other interesting note is that, in Japan, in addition to NEC's dominant 8-bit 8801 and 16-bit 9801 computers almost exclusively using 5.25" (like IBM switching from 360 kB DD to 1.2 MB HD -and the 9801 was very similar to IBM compatibles), there was also one of the most prominent competing 16-bit computers adopting 5.25" built-in standard as well.

And note that that wasn't some early 80s machine, but a high-end 10 MHz 68000 based home computer released in 1987, the X68000 was introduced with dual 1.2 MB DSHD 5.25" floppy drives and 1 MB of work RAM (plus just over another MB for total graphics memory) on the initial models. (a machine with graphics and sound capbilities rivaling contemporary arcade machines and almost totally outclassing the Amiga -a few trade-offs) Though later introduced "compact" models switched to 3.5" HD floppy drives.

 

 

 

 

 

"Hi, we're Atari, trying to sell you the next generation of computers. For less money. Oh yeah, but our computers come with those old 5.25" floppy drives."

And as to this.... you could say the same thing about using single sided 3.5" drives due to cost reasons... ie:

"Yeah, we've got these neat 3.5" drives... but they hold the same amount as the old 5.25" drives IBM's been using for 4 years"

 

And again, I wasn't mainly suggesting for "old" 5.25" drives (ie DSDD like IBM/compatibles were using predominantly -let alone old SSSD drives...), but "new" 5.25" drives like the 720 kB (360 per side) QD or the even newer 1.2 MB HD format adopted by IBM in '84.

Edited by kool kitty89

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"Hi, we're Atari, trying to sell you the next generation of computers. For less money. Oh yeah, but our computers come with those old 5.25" floppy drives."

And as to this.... you could say the same thing about using single sided 3.5" drives due to cost reasons... ie:

"Yeah, we've got these neat 3.5" drives... but they hold the same amount as the old 5.25" drives IBM's been using for 4 years"

 

But it was all about perception. People just wanted the "cute" NEW smaller disks that Mac showed. Hell, they seemed really high-tech at the time....indeed. I don't think the 360K handicap was on people's minds at the time. Just the perception that this was new. However, if I **HAD** to choose between 360K 5.25" or 360K 3.5" (referencing where you say they hold the same amount as old 5.25") then I'd have to take the 3.5, so I don't have to worry about disk sleeves and can toss them on the desk. I'm not defending the single-sided part, but I'm advocating the 3.5" part and suggesting that its "new" perception had a lot to do with advancing the idea that the ST was a next-gen machine.

 

And again, I wasn't mainly suggesting for "old" 5.25" drives (ie DSDD like IBM/compatibles were using predominantly -let alone old SSSD drives...), but "new" 5.25" drives like the 720 kB (360 per side) QD or the even newer 1.2 MB HD format adopted by IBM in '84.

 

I don't know when 1.2MB 5.25" was developed (1984, say you?) but it was never really popular. My first PC (1990) was an actual IBM PS/2 (a mistake that I didn't keep long before building a clone) and it had 1.44. When I built my first 286 clone, I got a big tower and I was all excited about the possibility with 6 exposed drive bays. I was really jazzed to have floppy drive choices. I put in a 1.44MB, 1.2MB, and 360K. I think the only time I ever used the 1.2MB was just to format a box of discs and tell myself how cool it was. The PCs at school had 360K so I used that, and of course 1.44MB was all the rage in those days. I think the 1.2MB could read 360K but not format or write (????) so it was best to have both. So maybe 1.2MB was devised in 1984 but I don't think it was too popular. It was really cool, though. Maybe it was popular before I got into PCs? Was this the standard floppy for an AT-class true-blue IBM? Was retail software ever distributed on 1.2MB?

Edited by wood_jl

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In the UK we mainly used the BBC Micro in schools along with 5.25" disks and the Atari ST/E was my first experience of 3.5" disks at home or at friends places. However I did not use HD 1.44MB disks until around 1999 and most people I knew were still using cassette based systems until the late 1980s. Also the IBM PC and clones did not really begin to take off until the mid to late 1990s, and as for MACs well, it was a non-starter in the UK and only began to sell in the last decade. Computers in the UK were seen as games machines or for boffin scientific types and it stayed that way until the mid/late 1990s. The only thing that made the PC popular in the UK was the internet, or World Wide Web as it was known then; if the internet had not come along the UK might not be using PCs much. Apart from Floppy drives and disks, I remember being in total awe of anyone owning a hard drive and that was well into the 1990s. My first drive came as part of a new digital studio multitrack recorder in May 1997 and it was quite a luxury I can tell you!

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But it was all about perception. People just wanted the "cute" NEW smaller disks that Mac showed. Hell, they seemed really high-tech at the time....indeed. I don't think the 360K handicap was on people's minds at the time. Just the perception that this was new. However, if I **HAD** to choose between 360K 5.25" or 360K 3.5" (referencing where you say they hold the same amount as old 5.25") then I'd have to take the 3.5, so I don't have to worry about disk sleeves and can toss them on the desk. I'm not defending the single-sided part, but I'm advocating the 3.5" part and suggesting that its "new" perception had a lot to do with advancing the idea that the ST was a next-gen machine.

True, but by that same argument: perception would also be important for PC cross compatibility.

PCs were the dominant/defacto "serious business" machines by the time the ST was released (in the US), and using a compatible disk and file format could have been equally (or more) critical compared to seeming next gen.

 

Actually, in that context, Atari screwed up in several other areas: for both the "serious business" (or high-end/advanced look in general) and from the next-gen look, the console form factor was a bad decision all around... sure it made sense as a low-end option, but not having a box/desktop form factor at release probably played a massive role in perception (and in practical use as well -bulky console rather than a sleeker keyboard, no easy internal expansion -or external even, though that's a separate problem- etc, etc). That, of course, is parallel to the disk drive issue, but IBM compatibility (even if just in disk/file formatting) would have been extremely significant in the US. (in Europe, it wouldn't have mattered much either way as the ST was still the only mass market option -Amiga not falling into that category until ~1989, and if anything, using 5.25" disks might have hurt CBM/Amiga support more than Atari, early on at least)

 

And even if they still went with 3.5", they definitely should have had 5.25" drives available as a standard accessory option for both console and desktop models. (if for no other reason than practical business use cross platform with PCs -as such they could probably stick with common 360 kB DSDD drives alone for a lowest common denominator standard -and by the time HD really took over, 3.5" drives would be more common on PCs anyway) For that matter, DSDD 720 kB drives should have been at least optional from 1985 onward as well. (maybe better to have standard on all built-in console models too as it would be far easier to replace external drives or bay mounted drives -on desktops- than an embedded internal drive as such)

 

 

 

I don't know when 1.2MB 5.25" was developed (1984, say you?) but it was never really popular.

I don't know when 1.2MB 5.25" was developed (1984, say you?) but it was never really popular.

They were very widely supported... if you had a new 5.25" drive in the late 80s or early 90s on a PC, it was almost certainly HD. 360 kB DD and 1200 kB HD were the only 2 5.25" formats officially supported on the PC. (QD support was extremely shaky and hit and miss) Later software and games on 5.25" switched totally to HD... otherwise it would have been totally impractical to have 5.25" alongside 3.5" HD games (or pretty impractical even alongside 720 kB 3.5"). They fell out of favor around 1994 (about the same time CDs were also pushing 3.5" out of the market), though 3.5" HD was the defacto standard by that point too. (new games -like X-Wing- were certainly still being released on 5.25" though -I saw dozens of examples at local garage sales in the mid/late 90s -actually I never saw X-Wing on floppy other than the 5.25" version that I saw several times)

 

I doubt it was ever dominant over 3.5" HD after that was established in the late 80s, but I wouldn't at all have been surprised if it was far more popular than the 720 kB DD 3.5" format ever was on PCs.

 

My first PC (1990) was an actual IBM PS/2 (a mistake that I didn't keep long before building a clone) and it had 1.44. When I built my first 286 clone, I got a big tower and I was all excited about the possibility with 6 exposed drive bays. I was really jazzed to have floppy drive choices. I put in a 1.44MB, 1.2MB, and 360K. I think the only time I ever used the 1.2MB was just to format a box of discs and tell myself how cool it was. The PCs at school had 360K so I used that, and of course 1.44MB was all the rage in those days. I think the 1.2MB could read 360K but not format or write (????) so it was best to have both. So maybe 1.2MB was devised in 1984 but I don't think it was too popular. It was really cool, though. Maybe it was popular before I got into PCs? Was this the standard floppy for an AT-class true-blue IBM? Was retail software ever distributed on 1.2MB?

 

 

 

From what I understand it was more or less the standard 5.25" format on PC by the end of the 80s (ie DD only drives were no longer being installed in new machines), but 3.5" was also becoming more common by then, almost totally 3.5". It was an IBM established standard...

The PS/2 line is where IBM went a bit wierd all around, largely tied to trying (far too late) to establish proprietary standards that would given them control over the PC market: 3.5" (DD only on the low-end 8086 models) and 5.25" drives only available as expensive add-ons (not compatible with standard IDE drives iirc), MCB expansion slots (except the only semi PS/2 model 25 with ISA slots), adding MCGA/VGA, and OS/2. Of that only the PS/2 serial mouse/keyboard ports, 3.5" drives and VGA became overall standards, but clones (and software in general) still widely supported both disk formats (or more than 2 if you include all densities -but HD on both sides was pretty much the standard by then) and rather than pushing for the expensive to license MCB design, EISA was developed (a standard 8.33 MHz 32-bit extention of the ISA expansion bus -different than the high-end VESA), and that was a big breaking point from IBM standardization over to 3rd party standardization.

 

1984-1987 would have been the period where 1.2 MB HD floppies would have been the highest standard on PCs. (3.5" DD was supported, but rather uncommon -and with PS/2 it mostly leapfrogged HD disks -software companies still tended to cater to DD 3.5" to a fair extent to cater to the lowest common denominator and due to lower cost until the early 90s -not sure on the exact timing of that)

 

I don't think we have any DD specific 3.5" or 5.25" drives at home (we kept a ton of out old computer stuff)... then again my dad didn't start building our home (office and family/shared) systems until ~1992/93 (prior to that it was all loaned from work -and the ones he built were largely used parts and a few good deal/on sale stuff -he was friends with the owner of a local used hardware warehouse, so we often went there), though we also got a CD-ROM drive very soon after that. (probably in 1993, but definitely by 1994) I think most of our machines tended to have both 3.5" and 5.25" drives installed, though with some issues in windows later on (and general lack of use even if it was working), 5.25" became mostly vestigial anyway. (in one case, it had to stay as it was a combo 3.5/5.25" drive, though that became worthless too a few years back when XP didn't want to recognize 3.5" or 5.25" drives on my old PC anymore -or maybe it was an issue with that old drive, but I never pushed it as I almost never used 3.5" disks at the time and I usually had the ability to copy any needed data over to a flash drive anyway)

 

 

But, anyway, what you describe isn't at all surprising... and even if it hadn't been a PS/2 machine (which was all 3.5"), there'd have been a very strong chance of getting only a 3.5" HD on most other machines as well, if you were only getting 1 drive, as 3.5" was already dominant (ie all new software was supporting it alongside 5.25" and it was the preferred/higher capacity format ... not to mention the drives would have been far cheaper by that point and probably very close to the cost of HD 5.25" if not actually cheaper in some cases -like with CD and DVD, much of the early cost isn't just tied to mass production volume and economies of scale, but the highly patented technology and high license/royalty overhead applied early on regardless of manufacturing cost -back in the mid or even late 80s, 5.25" drives and disks likely would have had a much more significant advantage on that front, but something that wouldn't remain true as time went on -likewise, most floppy drives were more expensive to manufacture than CD-ROM drives even in the early 90s, but it was the high license/royalties/profit margins on CD-ROM combined with lower production that kept it expensive)

 

It would have been around 1984-1988 (perhaps '89) where HD 5.25" was more popular than 3.5" HD on PCs, though again I'm even more unsure of where 360 kB fits in. (1.2 MB drives were almost completely backwards compatible, so software publishers would almost certainly have favored that format predominantly until HD really became dominant -QD was probably never used for commercial software since IBM jumped straight to HD -as did contemporary Japanese computer manufacturers... I'm not sure where QD was actually used commercially and the only reason I actually suggested it for Atari as it should have been a cheaper option than HD while maintaining compatibility with DD and offering double the capacity for ST specific stuff)

Edited by kool kitty89

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I think the 1.2MB could read 360K but not format or write (????) so it was best to have both. So maybe 1.2MB was devised in 1984 but I don't think it was too popular. It was really cool, though. Maybe it was popular before I got into PCs? Was this the standard floppy for an AT-class true-blue IBM? Was retail software ever distributed on 1.2MB?

 

Yes, the 1.2 MB drive was the standard floppy for AT class machines. Yes, lots of retail software was published in 1.2 MB disks. Yes, there is a compatibility "problem" with 360K drives. A HD drive can read and write 360K disks. But disks that were ever written on a 360K drive, and then written on a HD drive, can't be read on a 360K drive.

 

Releasing a computer on the price range of the 520 ST with HD drives wouldn't have been realistic. Not only because the higher cost of the HD drive, but also because it would require an HD controller or an overclocked one (as in the Mega STe).

 

A 5.25 80-tracks drive (what you call QD) might have been possible. I don't know if that would have been cheaper or not than the 3.5 drive. But I don't think it would have been very useful for compatibility purposes (either with the PC or with the Atari 8-bit). It wasn't a standard PC/DOS format, let alone single sided.

 

Flippies on the ST? I guess you never tried using flippies on the PC (or even on a XF-551), did you? Yeah, possible, but not much more than possible. Btw, most 80 track drives didn't support flippies at all.

 

Third party 5.25 drives, both 360K and 720K models, were widely available for the ST. And even a few HD ones (HD required custom hardware, as the Happy Discovery Cartridge).

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Releasing a computer on the price range of the 520 ST with HD drives wouldn't have been realistic. Not only because the higher cost of the HD drive, but also because it would require an HD controller or an overclocked one (as in the Mega STe).

OK, that makes sense... and something I mused on but wasn't sure of.

 

A 5.25 80-tracks drive (what you call QD) might have been possible. I don't know if that would have been cheaper or not than the 3.5 drive. But I don't think it would have been very useful for compatibility purposes (either with the PC or with the Atari 8-bit). It wasn't a standard PC/DOS format, let alone single sided.

Hmm, OK, so a double sided drive would have been a must for any useful cross-compatibility... or maybe restricting disks to being single sided.

Wouldn't 80 track drives also be backwards compatible with 40 track DD drives, so STs could use QD and also use DD formatting for PC compatibility? And it wouldn't have to be cheaper than the SSDD 3.5" drive they initially used, but at least cheaper than contemporary DSDD 3.5" drives. If 80 track DD drives lacked the 40 track compatibility of 80 track HD drives, that would have been less favorable for sure.

 

However, in the context of using plain 360 kB DSDD drives/disks only from the start, it probably would have needed a cost advantage over SSDD 3.5" to really be worth it... Without cost advantages (for drive or media) you'd only have the PC compatibility as a potential advantage and that would be significant but not necessarily enough to overcome any detraction from the aesthetic and practical advantages over 5.25" ... it would really have depended on how marketing spun it and how much cross-compatibility was really taken advantage of in software. Well... there would also have been potential for Apple II and Atari 8-bit formatting compatibility on top of that, though practical use would have been limited. (especially with the decline of the A8 -Apple II probably more significant for longer, but well behind PC)

In Europe, PC compatibility would have been a non-issue, as would A8 or Apple disk compatibility... C64 disks would be impractical to emulate, but maybe BBC/Acorn disks could have had some useful support. As it was, the ST established itself as a new standard anyway (and the similarity to the Amiga helped that platform gain momentum too), so the only real advantage would be nominal cost and utility. (ie how much cheaper or more useful would it be and would the benefits outweigh the disadvantages of convenience/durability/aesthetics)

 

Given the fact that 40 track DSDD drives should have been cheaper/more common (as well as media) than even low-end 3.5" drives, it should have retained both advantages for the US market, and cost would have been significant in Europe.

 

And going forward from 360k disks could have meant either bumping to 720 kB or straight to 1.2 MB disks later on. (if 720 kB 80 track drives were cost effective in 1984/85, that would have been a far more attractive option and retained PC compatibility with 360k 40 track formatting -I think it avoided the moderate compatibility issues that HD drives had as well)

 

 

Third party 5.25 drives, both 360K and 720K models, were widely available for the ST. And even a few HD ones (HD required custom hardware, as the Happy Discovery Cartridge).

Might it not still have been more significant is Atari themselves offered/promoted comparable drives? (and pushed PC format compatibility as such on a software level)

 

 

 

 

 

There's also the issue about 3.5" later becoming the full de facto standard at the end of the 80s and in the early 90s, but that would only have really mattered if the ST had remained strong on the market after 1990, so it's a bit moot in that context. (unless you bring in other variables)

Edited by kool kitty89

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Wouldn't 80 track drives also be backwards compatible with 40 track DD drives, so STs could use QD and also use DD formatting for PC compatibility? ...

If 80 track DD drives lacked the 40 track compatibility of 80 track HD drives, that would have been less favorable for sure.

...

(if 720 kB 80 track drives were cost effective in 1984/85, that would have been a far more attractive option and retained PC compatibility with 360k 40 track formatting -I think it avoided the moderate compatibility issues that HD drives had as well)

 

An 5.25 80 tracks drive in DD mode (QD) is, for good and for bad, as compatible with a 360K drive, as a full HD 1.2 MB drive. The compatibility problem is because the narrow head (80 tracks) vs. the wide head (40 tracks), not because of the HD capability. It is not that "moderate". It makes transfer of data from the 80 track drive to the 360K drive problematic, at best. And it is a hardware issue, can't be solved with software.

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As much as I hate to disagree I must, Oliver. Getting a working 3.5" drive in an ST is a hard thing to do and there are plenty of working 5.25 various cap. drives still out there in working condition. Yes, the 5.25" disk was on its way out but it stayed that way for a long time, and was still in use when the first CD-roms started being used.

 

If Atari had used the 5.25" disks there would be a lot more working drives out there still (like in most of my vintage machines here, they all have working 5.25" drives while their 3,5" drives bit the dust long ago).

 

All in retrospect.

 

I don't think Atari would have cared too much about how many floppy drives still worked down the road as their intended lifecycle was probably only a few years anyway. Machines were moving up in capacity pretty quickly at that time and CD-ROMs were starting to be talked about. Also, hard drives were already in place, so the only real benefit to floppies was to transfer user data from one machine to another and their cheap price. With data in large amounts, people ended up using null modem cables or parallel links to move it.

Edited by Cliff Friedel

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Wouldn't 80 track drives also be backwards compatible with 40 track DD drives, so STs could use QD and also use DD formatting for PC compatibility? ...

If 80 track DD drives lacked the 40 track compatibility of 80 track HD drives, that would have been less favorable for sure.

...

(if 720 kB 80 track drives were cost effective in 1984/85, that would have been a far more attractive option and retained PC compatibility with 360k 40 track formatting -I think it avoided the moderate compatibility issues that HD drives had as well)

 

An 5.25 80 tracks drive in DD mode (QD) is, for good and for bad, as compatible with a 360K drive, as a full HD 1.2 MB drive. The compatibility problem is because the narrow head (80 tracks) vs. the wide head (40 tracks), not because of the HD capability. It is not that "moderate". It makes transfer of data from the 80 track drive to the 360K drive problematic, at best. And it is a hardware issue, can't be solved with software.

OK, so 80 track drives would be a bit iffy in general... especially taking disks formatted on PCs into STs (as would more likely be common given the % of PCs in the US). That could have allowed a smoother transition to HD disks than PCs had, but then again, no different than 3.5" DD to HD in that respect.

 

So it seems that if they did take interest in pushing for some level of reliable PC cross-platform support as well as low-cost, common DSDD 5.25" drives would have been the best bet... but then no better in capacity than the SS 3.5" they used initially anyway. (so cost/availability and compatibility would have been the only pros and durability/aesthetics/convenience would be the disadvantages) Plus, moving forward would result in problematic compatibility in any case as you'd have the same 80-track 5.25" issues or you could go straight to 3.5" and change formats altogether. (perhaps jump straight to 3.5" HD, or at least DSDD from the start) At least then it would be obvious which disks were compatible with what drives...

 

 

On the other hand, going from SS 3.5" to DS, to DSHD would allow full forward/backwards compatibility and a fairly smooth transition (as long as all disks/drives were able to recognize the formatting properly)... but historically that didn't really happen as the shift to DS drives was rather inconsistent and not clearly marked as such. (they probably should have made all models with integral internal drives DS only -and probably should have allowed the MEGAs to have 2 internal drives that were bay mounted to allow relatively easy addition/replacement)

And in such a case, 5.25" drives would have been accessories only. (though official Atari Corp support and a push for some level of related PC compatibile formatting would have been quite useful -especially if they'd pushed MEGAs from the start and allowed 5.25" internal drives optionally)

Though cross compatibility of DD and HD 3.5" disks was hardly perfect either and less consistent than 80 vs 40 track 5.25" drives, so that wouldn't universally be better either. (but cross compatibility would have been more foolproof none the less so long as users and drives/software properly recognized the density being used -and wouldn't have to use a different drive to reliable rewrite certain formats...)

 

If there wasn't a significant cost difference from SS 3.5" and DS 5.25" drives in '85/86, then 5.25" standard probably wouldn't have been worth it. (especially if Atari had managed things better in other areas)

 

 

Or if they threw an emphasis on PC compatibility out the window anyway, starting with 80 track 5.25" disks could have been preferable if cost was favorable: especially if DSDD drives were close to the cost of SS 3.5" drives, to allow full 720 kB DS support from the start. (and later progression to 1.2 MB HD without the compatibility issues PCs suffered) Though that not only would be less useful for PC 5.25" compatibility, but also the long-run potential for 3.5" support on PCs in the early 90s. (the ST's market didn't get big enough or stay strong enough for that to really become an issue though... and 5.25" HD drives on PCs in the late 80s and early 90s probably would have been significant enough for a fair amount of cross-compatibility anyway -albeit not with 80 track DD drives/disks)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I don't think Atari would have cared too much about how many floppy drives still worked down the road as their intended lifecycle was probably only a few years anyway. Machines were moving up in capacity pretty quickly at that time and CD-ROMs were starting to be talked about. Also, hard drives were already in place, so the only real benefit to floppies was to transfer user data from one machine to another and their cheap price. With data in large amounts, people ended up using null modem cables or parallel links to move it.

Yes, though the capacity offered by early machines was no better than PCs had offered some 4 years earlier with DSDD 40 track 5.25" disks.

 

80 track 5.25" disks would have been nice, especially if more cost effective, but as mentioned above it seems that there would have been enough problems with that to make PC compatibility shaky. (issues with 40 track disks)

 

There's a lot of unknowns that leaves this premise open ended though: most significantly cost of the drives and disks in question in the mid/late 80s.

Another consideration in such a hypothetical discussion is whether the ST would have done better/lasted longer due to other reasons and thus made 3.5" more important and future proof. (for the mid/late 80s alone, 5.25" was more attractive, and Tramiel didn't seem to be thinking in the super long-term in other areas, so 5.25" could have made sense in that respect too)

 

 

And yes, CD-ROM and HDD were getting more significant (HDD significantly earlier than CD-ROM), but for low-cost machines you's be likely to have neither until the early 90s... and that's where floppies were critical for mass storage into the early 90s. (and then they became largely relegated to rewritable/transferable/portable storage which wasn't displaced until flash drives became common -and to some extent, compact external hard drives)

Edited by kool kitty89

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Hmm. Atari did miss a trick or two. Unlike the current "IBM" floppy standard interface, it would not have cost very much to enable up to four FDD on the ST series (two extra drive select lines was all that was needed).

At, or soon after the launch of the ST range Atari should have launched a "business" system with main unit and separate keyboard (like the MegaST) but with a 16MHz 68000, two 3.5" DS DD FDD's and an optional single or twin external 5.25" FDD. If marketed correctly (another one of Atari's weak points) with the right application software it could have given the rather bland IBM (compatible) PC's a lot more competition.

 

I think that the reason for Atari using 3.5" drives was more about what was "new", what was "cool" and the style of the machines.

A lot of people like shiny new things. They would go for 3.5" over any existing FDD anyway. A new type of "modern" floppy disk to go with the "modern" 16/32 bit new Atari computer was seen as the future. In the UK IBM type machines were seen as boring, dull uninspiring, no good for games and they got a lot of sharp comments in magazine reviews (I can't think of any that any of the magazines of the time liked).

Also I am sure that there was speculation not long after the STFM was launched that they got the single sided drives for a good price. That's why double sided drives were not used.

 

The one of the biggest problems for users, was not that the 520STFM had a single sided drive, but that it was not possible to "boot" from an external drive. Coupled with the the case/panel design of the eject button and slot, and the need for an engineer to fit a replacement FDD, this made upgrading rather costly and messed up the look of the machine.

 

In the UK many external FDD's were made by Cumana. They supplied both 3.5" and 5.25" drives. I don't know if a 5.25" drive with a suitable lead was a standard item supplied by Cumana, but I have heard of people using 5.25" drives with ST's.

 

Of course in the UK apart from schools (which used 5.25" drives with Acorn BBC machines and Research Machines computers) and some businesses there were not many standard 5.25" drives around. So the 3.5" drive did not have any real competition.

 

One last comment, is the 3.5" drive not a Sony design? I think that it is likely that it was being marketed in Japan a lot more than the comments so far would indicate.

Edited by 1024MAK

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Like I said the only real reason to use 5.25" disks was for legacy reasons, the ST was a new start and the second most technically advanced machine out their in circa 1985....so sticking 5.25" drives would have cosmetically aged the machine.

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Hmm. Atari did miss a trick or two. Unlike the current "IBM" floppy standard interface, it would not have cost very much to enable up to four FDD on the ST series (two extra drive select lines was all that was needed).

At, or soon after the launch of the ST range Atari should have launched a "business" system with main unit and separate keyboard (like the MegaST) but with a 16MHz 68000, two 3.5" DS DD FDD's and an optional single or twin external 5.25" FDD. If marketed correctly (another one of Atari's weak points) with the right application software it could have given the rather bland IBM (compatible) PC's a lot more competition.

Yeah, I certainly agree, things like that would have been much more significant than any change with the FD on the low-end models (or in general), and that's certainly another topic I've put thought into. (actually much more so than the FD issue which was a simpler idea I was tossing around and wanted to get some feedback on, and it seemed like a simpler topic to pose than some more complex issues that have already been addressed to some extent in off-topic tangents of other threads)

 

I think that the reason for Atari using 3.5" drives was more about what was "new", what was "cool" and the style of the machines.

A lot of people like shiny new things. They would go for 3.5" over any existing FDD anyway. A new type of "modern" floppy disk to go with the "modern" 16/32 bit new Atari computer was seen as the future. In the UK IBM type machines were seen as boring, dull uninspiring, no good for games and they got a lot of sharp comments in magazine reviews (I can't think of any that any of the magazines of the time liked).

Also I am sure that there was speculation not long after the STFM was launched that they got the single sided drives for a good price. That's why double sided drives were not used.

Yeah, it may have been cheaper initially, but not in the long run, and it's up to marketing and public perception wither the cost difference (if significant) is enough of an advantage anyway. And IF Atari had made better choices on other things, the long run could/would have been far more significant.

 

Since PC cross-compatibility would have been mainly important on business-specific machines anyway, an accessory indeed could have made more sense in general, and also mainly in terms of getting into the US market as Europe didn't have much stock in the PC until later. (and if they WERE going to cut into the US market better, they needed to do it fast too, while PC market share was still small enough to not utterly overwhelm them too quickly -Commodore made some mistakes in general too, and if they didn't do things differently, Atari Corp could have taken advantage of that too, especially as they needed every bonus they could get with the funding constraints -and they did take advantage of some of that to some extent as it was-)

 

The one of the biggest problems for users, was not that the 520STFM had a single sided drive, but that it was not possible to "boot" from an external drive. Coupled with the the case/panel design of the eject button and slot, and the need for an engineer to fit a replacement FDD, this made upgrading rather costly and messed up the look of the machine.

The convoluted placement of the joy ports didn't help either. (could at least have put the drive on the left side and put the cart slot and midi ports to the back while keeping the right side joy/mouse ports)

Any such embedded/low cost model should have been complementary to the more "professional" desk top form factor. (though it would have been nice if even th elow-end units had at least 1 expansion slot externally -could have done it like many earlier computers using a single consolidated cartridge/expansion port, the CoCo actually had a nice set-up with an external expansion module somewhat akin to the canceled 1090XL module -for that matter the 1200 XL could have used an ECI like configuration to almost the exact same thing years earlier -and it had the side mounted cart slot to facilitate that too)

 

Anyway maybe they could have allowed a simple manual switch to toggle bootable drives. (or maybe a button you held down while booting the system)

Was that the same for HDDs? (no booting)

 

Of course in the UK apart from schools (which used 5.25" drives with Acorn BBC machines and Research Machines computers) and some businesses there were not many standard 5.25" drives around. So the 3.5" drive did not have any real competition.

Yeah, and it was the ST that really set that standard too. ;) (Mac was too low market share and Amiga too until later)

 

One last comment, is the 3.5" drive not a Sony design? I think that it is likely that it was being marketed in Japan a lot more than the comments so far would indicate.

Yeah, but that's also a negative point: Sony owned the rights and it was heavily patented for the time (like CD or DVD early on), so that's one universal cost disadvantage to 5.25" until later on.

 

It would have been attractive for in-house produced Sony computers, but iirc the MSX was the most prominent computer being produced by Sony at the time, and indeed 3.5" was the more common disk format on the MSX (carts and tapes were very popular too though) with the exception of South American 5.25" use I think.

 

However, in Japan, NEC totally dominated the home/business computer market until DOS based PC clones started taking over in the early 90s (spurred by DOS versions finally supporting Japanese text) -incidentally the botton of their computer market falling out also put them in a worse position on the video game market and probably led to some of the major screw-ups leading to their decline in Japan in that market in the mid 90s.

It started with the CP/M compatible PC-8000 released in 1979 followed by the 1981 PC-8801 which grew quickly and also got enhanced with increased baseline standards as well as higher end units (though never really great for video games graphics hardware wise AFIK but like PCs it got lots of support due to market share), one interesting thing is that some later models used 8086 derivatives with a built-in Z80 compatibility mode (a feature NEC added to their 80186-like 8088/8086 based CPUs -but dropped with the mode 286-like derivatives).

Then there was the more PC-like x86 based PC9801 series released in 1982 which became the business standard with the 8801 relegated more to the lower end market as time went on. Both got strong game support, though weren't optimized for that in general. (PC8801 had 640x200x8 colors at the lowest resolution of common models, and it was planar graphics, so even more of a pain to deal with -many games opted for using only 2 bitplanes with 4 colors dithered to approximate 320x200 with 10 colors -often with coarser dithered patterns as well)

 

All of those machines focused on 5.25" early on, actually I think the PC-9801 more prominently used 8" floppies early on (I hadn't realized that, but double checking, it seems to have been the case), which does make some sense as a business machine (8" drives were external) and Tandy did the same thing with the Model II, but for built-in drives it seems to have pretty much been 5.25" DSDD and DSHD formats used in the 80s and exclusively for internal 8801 drives (1 or 2 DD or HD drives depending on the model), there seems to have been a single 1988 model that offered optional 3.5" add-on drives.

 

That formed a defacto standard for competition, and for the 8801 that was namely the Sharp X1 (very similar to the PC-8801 other than audio) and Fujitsu FM-7 with similar video display modes (facilitating ports of common games), but using a 2 MHz 6809 and OS9 rather than CP/M Z80 unless a Z80 board was plugged in to an expansion slot. (the FM-7 actually had a dedicated 2 MHz 6809 also driving graphics, so substantially more powerful than the other 2 machines).

 

Sharp went on to release the very powerful 68000 based X68000 in 1987 with arcade quality graphics and sound and using 2 5.25" floppy drives built in (3.5" drives were used in portable models), it later added a hard drive standard and went to 16 MHz over the 10 MHz initial models and later added 68030 models.

 

Fujitsu on the other hand released the 386SX based FM Towns in 1989 with very powerful graphics and sound hardware, 1x CD-ROM standard along with 1 or 2 3.5" FD drives (I think by that point NEC was moving towards 3.5" standard on the PC9801 too, paralleling PCs in the US). Going a step further from the x68000's arcade oriented hardware, the FM Towns pushed more for multimedia support on top of that as well as being more compatible with x86 competition. (more so as time went on, not just NEC, but the DOS clones that started to appear more commonly as well)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Like I said the only real reason to use 5.25" disks was for legacy reasons, the ST was a new start and the second most technically advanced machine out their in circa 1985....so sticking 5.25" drives would have cosmetically aged the machine.

More cross-compatibility with industry standards than legacy support for 8-bit machines; that and potential cost, but whether the initial cost savings were worth it is another matter. (and, again, in that context, the 5.25" support was more important for business applications and could have been supported as accessories for business oriented machines in the line)

 

As to being the second most technically advanced... if you included cost into it, yes, but take a high end 286 AT machine with HD and DD 5.25" floppy drives, hard disk, and EGA graphics (let alone super high end accelerator boards), and it's another story entirely. ;) The OS was a sticking point, though technically you could install GEM as well (but the Apple lawsuit ended up crippling some PC versions of GEM -oddly not Atari for whatever reason). OS/2 was more impressive, but that wouldn't be for another couple years. (and by that point, IBM was pushing 3.5" HD drives too)

 

The ST may have been much more cost effective and easier to program for, but not more powerful. (for some things the Amiga would also be at a disadvantage -but mainly CPU/FPU intensive scientific applications, and the ST/Amiga could have won there too if they'd had high-end models with faster CPUs and FPU options too -the A2000 didn't address that either, it would have with a double speed CPU and optional FPU though -especially since there was fastram)

Actually the canceled EST seems like it could have filled that role very well (and was in development well before the MEGA was released too), that certainly would have been interesting to see, even if the blitter2 and/or SHIFTER2 were left out, and especially with lower end parallel versions comprising something similar to the MEGAs. (various models with 68ks or '020s and optional FPUs with different RAM configurations)

http://www.atarimuseum.com/computers/16bits/est.html

They eventually did something somewhat late that with the TT, but that was 4 years later.

Edited by kool kitty89

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I think, as far as adoption in commercial circles, the brand name 'Atari' on the machines did more to restrict the machine into the entry of business world than the use of 3.5" disks. The problem is Atari brand is associated with games consoles at this time and therefore seen as the product of a toy company, so it really was a dead end for mass adoption by corporate clients despite it being a fantastic machine for business.

 

PCs evolve over short continuous cycles repeatedly, the ST would be stuck with 5.25 disks for good because it is an all in one design not a chassis you can plug and play with parts to make up your own 'PC'. So consequently Atari had to look 3-4 years further into the future than the next 12 months on PC development cycles because of this all-in-one machine ethos. ST games need to boot from drive A so no point selling external 3.5" drives 36 months later to people with 5.25" internal drive STs and games companies would not bend over backwards to support it either...PC is different as it is a much larger market and nothing actual boots from floppy except DOS so not an issue like ST/Amiga gaming.

 

Also Atari had no real interest in this area, if they had they would have written a reasonable software PC emulator to run in TOS anyway. Without a different brand name AND native software 8086 emulator as part of the OS it made no sense to have a 5.25" drive. And anyway you can always connect an external 5.25" drive via third parties so it was no excuse.

 

The Sharp X68000 used 5.25" disks.....bet none of those games load at all now ;)

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I think, as far as adoption in commercial circles, the brand name 'Atari' on the machines did more to restrict the machine into the entry of business world than the use of 3.5" disks. The problem is Atari brand is associated with games consoles at this time and therefore seen as the product of a toy company, so it really was a dead end for mass adoption by corporate clients despite it being a fantastic machine for business.

What other option did Tramiel have?

 

Do you think an unknown like "Trammel Technologies" would have sold better than using a huge brand name like Atari?

 

Then again, you also wouldn't be arguing that if Atari Inc had managed its multidivision status better... a ton of screw-ups and missed opportunities there. (even with the A8 alone, not only did they miss some of the higher-end/business market but also missed potential to cut directly into the lower bracket as well -ie A800 should have kept the Apple type expansion plans and the 400 was OK as is was other than maybe marketing early on and the keyboard, but they also delayed revisions to consolidated models with less shielding too long -even without any hardware enhancement over the 400/800, just cost reduction and a sleeker form factor and a good keyboard for the 400 -in parts of Europe they could have removed all shielding for that matter from the start and they also messed up in understanding the nature of the EU market -the 400 could have been a viable mid-range computer better than the Sinclair stuff or the VIC -and earlier than the latter- but still much cheaper than the BBC Micro)

For that matter they could have taken notice of the popularity of cassettes not only for computers, but potentially for consoles and pushed something like the Starpath Supercharger for the VCS in Europe, or maybe even model with the cassette interface built-in. (they also missed a decent opportunity for a direct VCS derived low-end computer or an add-on for such which was very possible and was in development as the Graduate at one point, but Warner/Atari went crazy and kept adding features to the point where it wasn't remotely cost effective anymore) Hell, a VCS based computer could have been a hell of a lot nicer than the ZX80/81 for a lot of things (especially games) and even better in some areas than the Speccy 48k. (namely audio, but even graphics in some respects -like the color palette) Actually more so if it wasn't just an add-on but a true modification thereof (like a full 6502 with interrupt support and larger address space but with VCS cart compatibility -and tapes if a VCD tape unit was released- interrupts could have made working with TIA a fair bit easier in some respects -I'd think it at very least would allow vblank and maybe hblank time -which ammounts for almost 1/2 the CPU time- to be allotted more easily to the CPU while it was still dedicated to driving TIA in active display -for the computer mode maybe they could have had ROM/bios routines to drive TIA for character/bitmap graphics to some extent -it seems tricks were possible to get it to roughly 160x192 pixels for text even though TIA normally did 40 "pixels" across for the playfield -even programs in 1977 were pushing that like for BASIC programming though some later games still pushed really low res TIA "pixels" for scoring)

 

 

PCs evolve over short continuous cycles repeatedly, the ST would be stuck with 5.25 disks for good because it is an all in one design not a chassis you can plug and play with parts to make up your own 'PC'. So consequently Atari had to look 3-4 years further into the future than the next 12 months on PC development cycles because of this all-in-one machine ethos. ST games need to boot from drive A so no point selling external 3.5" drives 36 months later to people with 5.25" internal drive STs and games companies would not bend over backwards to support it either...PC is different as it is a much larger market and nothing actual boots from floppy except DOS so not an issue like ST/Amiga gaming.

Totally wrong. Initial STs only offered external drives and ALL STs supported external drives too, they could have tweaked things further to support that more too.

OTOH, you make a good point, the ST shouldn't have been only an all-in-one design either, at least not for higher end models. (should have had desktops from the start)

 

Lack of expandability was one of the weak points of the ST... let alone easily replacable internal drives. (at least on MEGAs)

 

Aside from that, PCs do still need to be replaced, there's only so far you can push such a design, and you also couldn't upgrade a machine nearly as easily (let alone build a PC at all) as you could by the early 90s. Plus, some upgrades could haev cost as much as buying a new ST anyway, until clones and economies of scale really pushed cost down towards the late 80s. (and much more so once totally off the shelf -and used parts warehouses- in the early 90s made building a custom machine at low cost far more feasible in the US -less so in Europe I'd imagine due to the low availability of PCs prior to that -especially for cheap used/refurbished parts, in the early 90s my dad built most of our PCs with a mix of used and low cost/on sale components from the cases to the monitors to the motherboards to the CPUs/video/sound cards -CPUs were usually new and Cyrix or AMD manufactured) Granted, the less tech savvy would have to opt for off the shelf machines unless they had friends to help them. (or a custom PC builder locally with competitive prices) OTOH it would more often have been tech savvy consumers who got STs in the first place in the late 80s. (in the US at least -Amigas too for that matter)

 

 

Also Atari had no real interest in this area, if they had they would have written a reasonable software PC emulator to run in TOS anyway. Without a different brand name AND native software 8086 emulator as part of the OS it made no sense to have a 5.25" drive. And anyway you can always connect an external 5.25" drive via third parties so it was no excuse.

As it was, 3rd parties DID support 5.25" drives on the ST, and as for Atari, they may not have taken interest, but they DAMN WELL SHOULD HAVE!!! Especially since they did end up manufacturing PCs themselves not too much later. ;)

For Europe it wouldn't have mattered, but for the US it would have been extremely important. (especially if done in software, not a hardware add-on) And aside from actual DOS emulation, they could have supported file compatibility such that certain programs released on both ST and PC (or different programs supporting compatible file extensions) could move files back and forth. (like business documents, spreadsheets, etc)

 

Hell, Atari was selling their PCs in the late 80s predominantly with 5.25" drives too. (presumably the baseline DSDD 360 kB drives for minimal cost and maximum compatibility)

That includes their later switch to lower-cost generic motherboard use with the 16 MHz 366SX based PC-5 (also with 40 MB HDD and 256k VGA adapter)

http://www.atarimuseum.com/computers/pccomputers/pc-5.html

Actually that machine would have been considerably more capable than the STs being sold at the time. (especially running GEM or OS/2) Aside from lack of onboard sound and the fact that it probably cost a lot more than even contemporary MEGA STs. (no idea on the pricing though)

 

The older PC-1 with the MEGA-ST like pizzabox form factor (though seems to have an easily removed 5.25" drive bay) is sort of what I was thinking for a desktop ST in 1985 if it had used 5.25"

http://www.atarimuseum.com/computers/pccomputers/pc-1.html

 

Though the pizzabox form factor would make internal expansion less simple (not sure if that was an issue on the MEGAs), though an external side expansion interface or careful internal design could have helped there. (you might have had horizontal ISA lots internally, but that would limit things to only a couple slots)

 

 

The Sharp X68000 used 5.25" disks.....bet none of those games load at all now ;)

Why? How would you know the quality of magnetic media used on their HD floppies? (the magnetic layer itself was a big factor in reliability of early disks, the physical form factor was a separate issue and with later high quality media, that would be moot -or actually maybe favor 5.25" in some respects due to the larger surface area of the data being packed onto -if both used equal quality magnetic material and were of a similar density -HD vs DD vs SD used different magnetic dopants)

5.25" disks sitting quietly in a box should be no more prone to data loss/corruption than 3.5" disks under identical circumstances.

 

Unless you just mean random disks floating around not keep in sleeves or boxes. (most 5.25" games I've found are in the original boxes though) But for that matter, if you've got 5.25" in that condition, 3.5" disks would have a pretty good chance of getting ruined too, aside from magnetic fields there's sheer physical damage: 5.25" may bend easier but 3.5" could still pretty easily get wedged in odd places, get the dust cover damaged/ruined, have the internal fabric disk tear, etc. (either would get ruined if they went through the wash though... and that happened to me as a kid once or twice :( ... actually, 5.25" disks don't have that paper/fabric layer inside that's the main reason the 3.5" disks got ruined in the wash, so 5.25" might actually have survived better, let alone being much less likely to be left in a pants/shirt pocket in the first place :P)

Hell for that matter, 5.25" disks could be more resistant to damage from water/drink spills for the same reason: sure you've got cases where the spill was small enough to be wholely deflected by the shutter on the 3.5" disk (especially if it's face up), but others where it would be far worse for 3.5" if the liquid actually got inside... especially if it was sticky/sugary and not just water (even water might ruin the fabric layer though) where the 3.5" disk was ruined but the 5.25 one could be saved if carefully cleaned with plain (distilled/deionized) water and then dried. (without heat obviously)

I've actually had a bit of experience recovering disks like that oddly enough.

 

Hell, I think most of our old 8" floppies still work for that matter. (haven't played around with our TRS-80 model II that much to really find out, but the couple I tried ~6 years ago were OK -didn't care much as it was all old business stuff)

 

 

And not just the Sharp, but ALL major Japanese computers up to the end of the 80s were pushing 5.25", though HD 5.25" seems to have been stronger than in the US even. (again, games distributed on HD3.5" disks seem to have also opted for HD 5.25" -ie the majority of early 90s games still supporting floppies up to '94 when 5.25" support really died off, the same time 3.5" was also quickly dying in favor of CD-ROM -it's hard to find PC games released after 1992 that wasn't on CD, much easier to find CD exclusives though -or CD versions with enhancements over floppy and not just lower cost/convenience)

 

It seems NEC actually favored 8" floppies early on for some things. (would make sense for large backups and mass storage prior to HD floppies coming along)

Edited by kool kitty89

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All I know is in 1986 the only machines in my school with 5.25" disk drives were BBC Micros, all the 8086 Nimbus PCs were 3.5" based.

 

So what impact would it have in design to

 

A. make 1040 STF with heavy bulky 5.25 drives?

B. force games onto dual formats and cause headaches for consumer, retailer and distributors?

 

The truth is I never lost a branded 3.5 disk to corruption, and apart from the C= SFD-1000 5.25 drives were dog slow and noisy and more prone to alignment problems. The 3.5" meda was a superior design.

 

And 3.5" could go up to 3mb unformatted anyway. You have a love affair with 5.25, but apart from mould growth on disk surface from damp storage I have 99.999999% of 1000s of 3.5" disks still working and maybe 75% of my A8/C64 disks.

 

Progress was required for fixed bespoke designs like Apple/Atari/Commodore/Acorn with a longgggggggg lifespan. 5.25" may have been cheaper initially but so what.

 

Next you will be saying we should still use MFM HDs for Falcon ;)

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Would it have made any sense if Atari had used 5 1/4" floppies?

 

Um no it would not. Why? Well it's simple. At the time the Macintosh (also a 16 bit GUI computer with a 68000) came out with the 3.5" drive and it was cutting edge. The Commodore Amiga 1000 also came with one, so it would of been really stupid if Atari (the toy computer company) would of released the ST with a 5.25" drive! Nothing else to discuss... :P

Edited by tjlazer
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Funny how in that go around of Atari/Amiga that in time Amiga/Commodore became the "toy" machine. (A500) and St was considered more business/music oriented. They even brough out an Amiga console in a last gasp effort. Finally coming full circle for what the machine had been intended for back in 84.

5.25" had no role to play in this series for either of them.

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All I know is in 1986 the only machines in my school with 5.25" disk drives were BBC Micros, all the 8086 Nimbus PCs were 3.5" based.

You weren't in the US. ;) (granted I wasn't even born yet, but I think I've gleaned a reasonable perspective of the time at least)

5.25" was the defacto standard into the late 80s, and the lowest common denominator through the late 80s (by the early 90s the 360k disks started getting really inconvenient and DD 3.5" -very quickly HD 3.5" exclusively- and 5.25" HD became the formats supported for late floppy disk games before CD took over -a few in the mid 90s that dropped 5.25" entirely and only came in 3.5" -interestingly a lot of online articles on PC games -on wiki and dedicated gaming sites- seem to omit 5.25" support on games I know for a fact were released on 5.25" HD, like X-Wing -several of which I've seen more often on 5.25 than 3.5", including X-Wing -the 1994 DOS CD version is far more common though)

 

Again, Atari themselves followed that too... the big shift for 3.5" came with the release of the PS/2 in 1987, but it didn't become the defacto standard for a few more years. (though by the end of the 80s, several low-cost clones were shipping with 3.5" only vs 5.25" only a year or so earlier -or other cases where the higher end/mid range machines pushed for 3.5 vs lower end/cost sticking with 5.25" DD like the Tandy 1000 HX vs the EX)

Once 3.5" hit mainstream on PCs it seems HD became the defacto standard with 3.5" being there, but largely supported by software vendors due to catering to the lowest common denominator.

 

 

A. make 1040 STF with heavy bulky 5.25 drives?

B. force games onto dual formats and cause headaches for consumer, retailer and distributors?

 

The truth is I never lost a branded 3.5 disk to corruption, and apart from the C= SFD-1000 5.25 drives were dog slow and noisy and more prone to alignment problems. The 3.5" meda was a superior design.

 

And 3.5" could go up to 3mb unformatted anyway. You have a love affair with 5.25, but apart from mould growth on disk surface from damp storage I have 99.999999% of 1000s of 3.5" disks still working and maybe 75% of my A8/C64 disks.

No love affair, just interest in practical use in the context of the time.

 

However if you read my recent posts, I conceded that it did make more sense overall for the low-end/common standard for the ST line to go with single sided DD 3.5", especially in the premise of Atari getting more important things right in general. (to the extent where the line could have had a longer life, and use of 3.5" disks would have actually mattered more)

As such, other comments still stand about using external 5.25" accessory drives for PC compatible file sharing while having 3.5" DSDD standard internal on the higher-end desktops (ie MEGA, which should have been there in '85/86 as well as faster CPU models avaiable -aside from issues like scroll registers in the SHIFTER or a bare bones DMA audio circuit or a low-cost general purpose expansion port on all models -and scrap the cart slot, let alone the possibility of LOWER-end machines than the 520/"260" possibly more like the A600 in some respects).

 

I know 3rd parties also supported 5.25" drives of various types, but Atari promoting PC compatible file sharing was significant, at least in the US market. (which would also favor the DSDD 3.5" as PCs that did have 3.5" could have trouble working with SS disks, or vice versa) Then other issues like supporting more than 2 FDD select lines, booting from external FDDs, etc.

That and actually pushing for programs using compatible file formats and file extensions with PC/DOS programs. (be it the DOS version of an ST program, or a different program that still used a compatible extension for a text file, bitmap image, etc)

Edited by kool kitty89

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All I know is in 1986 the only machines in my school with 5.25" disk drives were BBC Micros, all the 8086 Nimbus PCs were 3.5" based.

You weren't in the US. ;) (granted I wasn't even born yet, but I think I've gleaned a reasonable perspective of the time at least)

5.25" was the defacto standard into the late 80s, and the lowest common denominator through the late 80s (by the early 90s the 360k disks started getting really inconvenient and DD 3.5" -very quickly HD 3.5" exclusively- and 5.25" HD became the formats supported for late floppy disk games before CD took over...

 

No, no, no, a thousand times NO.

 

In the late 80s, the 5.25" format was going away. I installed plenty of floppy controllers for PC people upgrading to 3.5" drives. Systems sold then often came with a 3.5" A drive and a 5.25 B drive. For awhile you could buy a mech that had both a 3.5 and 5.25 in the space of a 5.25 drive. The B drive was there only for backward compatibility.

 

I think the 5.25 hung on as long as it did simply because of the cost. A new 3.5" drive was easily over $100, and you usually needed a new controller card ($50-$100) to use it. (this is the XT and AT time frame, everything had a controller card).

 

It would have been stupid to go with the dying 5.25" format, the decision to use the 3.5" drive was one of the better ones Atari made (though they should have gone double sided).

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All I know is in 1986 the only machines in my school with 5.25" disk drives were BBC Micros, all the 8086 Nimbus PCs were 3.5" based.

You weren't in the US. ;) (granted I wasn't even born yet, but I think I've gleaned a reasonable perspective of the time at least)

5.25" was the defacto standard into the late 80s, and the lowest common denominator through the late 80s (by the early 90s the 360k disks started getting really inconvenient and DD 3.5" -very quickly HD 3.5" exclusively- and 5.25" HD became the formats supported for late floppy disk games before CD took over...

 

No, no, no, a thousand times NO.

 

In the late 80s, the 5.25" format was going away. I installed plenty of floppy controllers for PC people upgrading to 3.5" drives. Systems sold then often came with a 3.5" A drive and a 5.25 B drive. For awhile you could buy a mech that had both a 3.5 and 5.25 in the space of a 5.25 drive. The B drive was there only for backward compatibility.

 

I think the 5.25 hung on as long as it did simply because of the cost. A new 3.5" drive was easily over $100, and you usually needed a new controller card ($50-$100) to use it. (this is the XT and AT time frame, everything had a controller card).

 

It would have been stupid to go with the dying 5.25" format, the decision to use the 3.5" drive was one of the better ones Atari made (though they should have gone double sided).

 

I already agreed with that side of things... by the end of the 80s the DD 5.25" disks WERE just the de-facto standard, in the early part of the late 80s that wasn't so much the case (ie just after the PS/2 appeared).

 

Cost really would have been a big issue though, but then again, market price of 3.5" drives (let alone HD 3.5" drives) might have been a different context from what Atari was pushing as the baseline with SSDD in bulk. (albeit probably still a significant mark up due to tighter licensing of a more heavily patented newer product as such)

 

 

But assuming they could have gotten a good price on the drives in '85 even relative to 40 track DD 360k 5.25", it definitely would have been preferable for the standard as a home computer leaving the 5.25" stuff as an accessory for cross-compatibility. (namely for business applications)

 

If, however, they could have gotten a really good price on 80 track DSDD (720 kB) 5.25" drives in '85, especially if significantly cheaper than the SS 3.5" drives used, then that would be a major consideration to make from a sheer practicality and cost effectiveness standpoint. (you'd still need 40 track drives for full PC cross compatibility as there's the same issue with DD 80 track as HD 80 track -everything works fine for 40 track disks except if you format a disk on a 40 track drive and modify it on an 80 track drive, in which case it is then only readable by 80 track drives)

So that could have been a sticking point, though if that was the case, they could also have switched to 1.2 MB HD 5.25" without any compatibility hickups of the 40 to 80 track transition on PCs. (more like DD vs HD 3.5") And eventually they would have had to switch to 3.5" too, more so if the ST line remained strong in the early 90s.

 

 

 

Hell, if 720k 80 track DD drives had been the common standard on PCs, 1.2 MB HD would have been much more foolproof of a successor and 3.5" in general probably would have taken significantly longer to be come dominant. ;)

Edited by kool kitty89

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I don't think it was a cost standpoint for Atari. They knew the future was 3.5" drives, and with the Macintosh having one they wanted to compete. Plain and simple. It was bone headed for them to go with single sided 3.5" but atleast they did it and allowed the option of the DSDD drive as an upgrade. Can't imagine how bad it would of been had they gone with a 5.25" drive as standard!

 

As far as the 80's, it progressively was going to 3.5" by the end of the decade. (I was there LOL) I think it was only older PC's and 8-bits that hung on to the 5.25" drive (Apple II, Commodore 64/128 and Atari 800/XL/XE)

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Speaking as someone who was alive and installing these things back then...

 

The 5.25" was on the way out before the ST was released, in fact the 3.5" format was 2 years old when Atari sold their first ST.

Heck, the PC folks were moving on to the 1.44 drives by 1987-8.

 

The only reason PC people were still using 5.25" drives because of the existing media in use, and the high cost of the 3.5" drive upgrades (drive and controller cards).

 

Anyone who saw a 3.5" disk back then instantly recognized that they were superior to the 5.25" disks.

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