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Slow/defective 1050 drives with lazer upgrade

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Hi All,


I am getting back in to the 8-bit scene after quite a few years away. I have a 1050 with a Lazer/USD upgrade, and it has suddenly started giving me boot/read errors. I have been using it for a couple of weeks since getting it out of storage. I have done some very basic maintenance, using IPA on the drive head to clean it (it was quite dirty), and have put some lithium grease on the spindles (I'm not sure if I should use any anywhere else)? The drive was fine until earlier today, but suddenly started giving me boot/read errors. I checked the drive with the lazer utilities disk, and the drive RAM/ROM passed OK, but when I do an RPM test, it gives me "ERROR can't measure".


I have borrowed a couple more 1050's (also lazer enhanced). One gives "RPM too low"/"ERROR can't measure" messages when I do an RPM test. The third 1050 is well behaved. When I try to do a sector copy from this drive to my own drive (the one I have cleaned), my drive sounds like it formats the destination disk (I hear the drive head stepping across the disk several times), but then it reports a disk error on the (my) destination drive. The drive head seems to be moving around the disk appropriately (from the sound of it, but I haven't checked with the case removed). When I use my drive as the source drive for a sector copy, it gives a disk error straight away.


The drive started giving me boot errors when I was trying to read some old disks. I am hoping to unearth some missing programs, but want to get all three drives working first, as I expect some of the disks to be of fairly marginal quality, so want to be able to read on several drives. I haven't tried re-cleaning the drive head on my drive yet, just in case the old disks I was using where toxic, so to speak.


Both defective drives were made in Singapore, and have a Tandon drive mechanism.


Any ideas on what next steps I should take?


I have also built an SIO2Pi cable, so can copy ATR files from the internet to the working 1050 (I copied a few ATRs to my 1050 when it was still working, and also managed to make a working backup of my original Mercenary disk, using the Lazer backup software), so can run further tests if anyone can point me in the direction of appropriate ATRs?


My goal is to get both defective drives running correctly. I'm including a photo of the Lazer/USD upgrade in case anyone is interested in these upgrades (the wire heading off from the chips is for switching between Lazer/USD mode). I should point out I am not a hardware hacker, though I have access to people who do understand electronics, etc. I've also had a quick skim through the 1050 field service manual, but am hoping that someone more knowledgeable than me can point me in the right direction.


Any help would be very much appreciated. Also, hope I am not trading on anyone's toes here, as I am a new member!




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Interesting.. I'm not familiar with the lazer 1050, I thought it was a happy clone - but I don't see any additional RAM on your board other than the double 6810 for the USD.


Are the symptoms any different in USD mode?


Can you try swapping the double 6810 RAM stack from the working drive?


You could also swap the entire drive mech with another drive to determine if it's the drive or the board at fault actually... not too easy to swap IC's when they're all wired in like that.

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Make sure the wire is connected to the 4pin header at the front of the drive. that's connected to the actual R/W head. It won't be able to read or write anything without that. I'm sure you just disconnected it to lift up the mech for the picture, just checking! :)


Still curious if the lazer upgrade uses more than 256 bytes of RAM, and where it is. Not sure why they would switch out the 6507 for a 6502 otherwise...

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Hello Nezgar,


Thank you very much for your replies - apologies for the slow response. I managed to get some free time for the drives today.


I took your advice and swapped the drive mechanisms around. Putting my drive mechanism in the working 1050 didn't help. But on very close inspection of the drive head, it was obvious that it was dirty - but the dirt looked like part of the drive head, and had survived earlier cleaning. With some more persistent cleaning the drive mechanism started working. I put it back into my drive, tested it and the RPM was fine and the read-write tests at single, enhanced and double density all passed. The drive seems fine now. The power connection (the barrel part) seems a little bit temperamental, I have read that white vinegar is good for cleaning the 1050 part of the power connector (also bicarbonate of soda paste), I am not sure about how to clean the PSU part. On the other hand, the drive as a whole seems fine, so this is an obvious success (thanks very much for the help)! Also, I roughed up the upper disk pad with the end of a paper clip while I was trying to figure out the problem, but this didn't make any difference, but maybe it was a good thing to do (I have done this on all three drives now).


For the second drive, I swapped the mechanism into the working drive, but this had no effect (the motor was still spinning at an irregular rate). I ran an RPM test, but the speed was all over the place. Listening to the drive it sounds like it is really struggling at times. I am not sure if this is a belt problem, or if the bearings need lubricating - but I have also read that lubricating the bearings just makes a big mess inside the drive, so I thought better of that. However, I have read elsewhere that it is possible to clean/lubricate the bearings (upper and lower spindle), but I am holding off that for now (as I am not sure how to do this).


I have made a 20 second video of the drive spinning which I have attached to this message.


Also, I've attached another picture of the Lazer/USD modification, this time from another angle (actually, this may be from one of the other drives). I hope this helps, but given the state of the upgrade, I really don't want to remove any parts as I think that would be asking for trouble.


Thanks for the help you have already given - any help on the remaining problematic drive would be much appreciated.





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Yes, motor/bearings need work or else if it is belt-driven it could just be slipping. You can use "belt dressing" or even a little brake fluid on the belt it and leave for a bit. If not, replace it (the belt).

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Good to hear the head cleaning worked. If you are using old disks, monitor the head after using each disk. Because of their age, many will continue to shed gunk on the head as you use them. The more polished and shiny the magnetic surface the better I've found. Good to keep the drive open for a while as you weed out disks that do this from your collection.


My first thought seeing the variable speed is the belt also. I have a few drives that don't have as much 'turning power' with some disks that are 'tighter'. The belt is mostly visible/accessible to clean from the bottom of the mech. Also see how freely the top pressure spindle and bottom hub turn on their own.


How does it do when it's turning with no disk inserted? (Close door with no disk for 7 seconds or so of spinning)


Cleaning the belt and the small electric motor spindle may help, but Best electronics has new replacement belts for $6 I think, and I can attest they work WELL. They are very tight compared to the aged original ones, grip well and don't slip on disks that had a hard time turning previously.

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My take on the 20 seconds of video has me wondering about

that piece of foam under the pressure pad lifting arm.

If it was replaced, then that could be the entire issue as

I've done just that and every single time I have to trim

the foam down into a deep Vee shape to lessen it's down

force upon the jacket or the motor can't spin at a

steady rate as the friction of the disk inside the

jacket is way too much for it. Whatever foam they

used originally was extremely weak, I have found nothing

suitable for it's replacement either without having to

resort to severe snipping of it's width.


Nezgar's third paragraph question answered above

would easily detect this fault too.


Here is a post where I oil my spindle bearings and

top spinner.



Since that thread died rather suddenly I'm wondering if I

should offer the top spinner assembly as I oiled it?

I'll take the dry one in exchange and oil it for the

next guy? Postage and a pittance is really all it's

worth, I didn't spend a half hour on that part. If

anybody is interested contact me via PM, I'll send

mine as soon as I get yours. I could even just do yours.

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Hi Nezgar, R.Cade and 1050,


I have had a closer look at the defective drive, and compared it to a working one.


The belt seems a bit looser in the defective one, but the upper spindle, and also the lower spindle seem to be a bit harder to rotate. The sponge mentioned by 1050 hasn't been replaced, so I think this can be excluded as a source of trouble.


I have made 3 videos of the drive spinning when I close the door. They are attached to this and two following posts.


I'm very tempted to start with lubricating the upper and lower bearings as I have some Lithium grease available. The only drawback is it doesn't sound like a very simple procedure, given 1050's description (if I try this I might try and take pictures, though I may run out of hands). I don't have any "belt dressing" liquid, but will ask around to see if I can "borrow" some. A new belt sounds like the simplest solution (but also has the longest turn-around [ho-ho]), but if the old belt lost tension due to the spindles not spinning properly, this is probably only half a solution.


Any help would be appreciated!






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The spindle rotation speed does seem to have a bit of irregularity even with no disk inserted. I'm not sure how to lubricate the bottom spindle, but the top one is easy to pop out after removing a few screws to allow it to lift higher to rotate out and then you separate the parts to lubricate and clean up before reinstalling.

I'm very tempted to start with lubricating the upper and lower bearings as I have some Lithium grease available.

Yuck, lithium grease is messy and looks gross. Upon advice from my brother who has been restoring Apple Lisa machines for ages, I recommend this 3-in-1 oil: https://www.amazon.ca/3-ONE-100355-Multi-Purpose-Pack/dp/B0002JN5PG/ref=sr_1_3?ie=UTF8&qid=1527832198&sr=8-3&keywords=3-in-1+oil- I found it at my local canadian tire. Its light liquid, so you can drip it into the top spindle bearing, or onto a q-tip for application on the drive rails. And it doesn't leave the white messy residue.


Anyhow I'd try lubricating the top spindle before replacing the belt for sure.


As for turnaround for a new belt if needed - even though I'm in Canada, from date of order at BEST, Ive only waited at most a week for items to be in my hands.. but they do have a minimum order, ($20?) but its easy to find other useful things :)

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Massive 4K quality videos don't render very well on

my XP. Have to run them thru VLC at 10% speed to even

see any movement at all. But I do see the ring 'O

fingers giving a variable pattern with your lighting

or camera shutter speed which means RPM is all over

the place with zero load already. Spindle does need

lubricating would be my suggestion. From the bottom

side you will either see a ball bearing or a brass

sintered bushing with a C-clip holding it in there.


That one can be lubed right there, no disassembly

required. But the other one deep inside is also

thirsty. Just had a thought that might work. If

you'll drill an oiling access hole into the space

between the bearings or bushings, you could use a

needle oiler to put say two drops in there and leave it

upside down overnight.


3-in-1 oil is similar to 30 weight motor oil and

is entirely suitable even though I will always use

my 90w gear lube for it's better lasting abilities.

And that's just a personal choice there.


Had some luck with the motor itself too. Pulley end

is sintered bronze so after removing the belt to

keep it oil free, place a drop under the pulley and

let it sit there for a day. The oil will weep thru

the bronze bearing and lube the output shaft well

and good for decades to come. On the top side there

is a removable cover that houses the tach, I had to

resort to gripping the head of the screws with some

close cut, flush cut nippers from harbor freight to

loosen them, but under there is a magnet and under

the magnet is the other sintered bronze bushing that

also needs one drop or less of oil and it should sit

there at least overnight if you want it truly oiled

well. A paper towel on edge and held taught can be

drawn thru that slim space to pick up any excess on

both ends. The motor has been lubed pretty much for



A similar bottle based needle oiler:



Time how long it takes to get 2 drops out of it and

put the needle in the access hole drilled and squeeze.


From underneath you'll see two bands of black markings.

Closer inspections will show 50 Hz and 60Hz text to

show which one will stand still when at synchronous

speed when viewed with florescent lighting under those

two power grid AC cycle systems. Don't believe it as

we may have a situation where they only stand still

when turning 300 RPM or 360 RPM and ours was always

normal at 288 RPM. In other words the sync bars could

very well not ever really work for us.


At any rate, that sync bar platform is flat all across

there, the spindle extends from it. The upper bearing

is just below that level so when drilling an access

oiling hole, drill it dead center between the bottom

and the top and you should break thru into the empty

space where the spring is. No need to worry about zinc

pot metal shavings ruining a thing if they get in there,

they will just pile up in some out of the way corner to

do nothing much ever again.


Drilling a hole is certainly easier than dealing with

that very strong spring mano e mano, I think I'm

drilling holes from here on out myself. And I doubt

there is even a need to plug the hole when done oiling

either. Wadded paper towel diaper under the bottom

bearing for a day should sop up all of it. Unfortunately

lithium grease as good as it is for engine assembly

lube doesn't lend itself very well to this method of

lubing. Best to choose a high quality oil, time your

2 drops and go that route. If you have ball bearings

instead, the overnight wait can be dispensed with.

For ball bearings, a half hour will be plenty enough

time for the oil to wet all surfaces inside the shields

of same. But I would still let it sit upright on a wad

of paper towels just in case there is an excess drop

that would eventually seep thru the bottom bearing which

can be oiled from the bottom very easy.


These ball bearings can not possibly fail in the crushed

ball bearing mode as is likely to happen in an automobile's

alternator for example. We aren't making that much torque,

these bearings are just locking up and spinning on the

loose fit axle they are supposed to slide upon anyway.

That mode just causes excess friction and variable friction


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arriving here a bit late


but form the image, it's a Doubler and not a Laser.


Doublers remove U8 & U10 (ram and prom) and replace with 2x ICs - as per your pic


Happy Clones (Laser) remove U9 & U10 and a board is inserted into the vacant U9 slot



do you have any ICs that you could revert the drive to stock?

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Hello Nezgar, 1050,


Thanks for advice on lubricating the spindles. I managed to get some 3-in-1 oil, this is what I used on the spindles. I will try and down-scale any more videos I upload. I didn't pick up on any strobing, I found turning up the audio feed highlighted the problem best.


For the upper spindle, I have tried to lubricate the upper spindle by putting a drop or two of oil at the top of the assembly, by the C shaped clip. I'm hoping that capillary action will draw the oil into the assembly. I also tried to put a drop of oil inside the upper assembly, using the needle part of a safety pin. This was extremely fiddly, as I had to get the needle tip and drop of oil into the gap between the brass (?) plate and the black disk. I'm a bit reluctant to drill into anything, and if drilling is preferably to disassembly, then I will have to think carefully about how to disassemble the upper assembly.


For the lower spindle, I just put a couple of drops of oil by the C shaped clip on the underside of the drive. Again, I figured that capillary action would draw in the oil if I left it.


For the spindle (pulley?) on the motor, I also put a couple of drops of oil where the pulley rotates (thanks for the tip on removing the belt!). Also, I noticed that a hair had got into the gap between the pulley spindle and the drive, but I couldn't extract it, so I will have another go tomorrow (black line in picture below).


I'm going to leave the drive overnight to give the oil a chance to soak in to the spindles. I'm still not sure that the upper spindle can actually be lubricated this way, but I will see how it turns out.


I haven't found a source for belt dressing fluid, but will see if I can "borrow" some by asking nicely.


I'll let you know how the drive behaves tomorrow.


Thanks for the help, it's much appreciated!








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Hi brenski,


The drive has a two position switch that sets it to either a US Doubler or Lazer drive. I use the Lazer utilities to test the drive - one position the Lazer utilities detect a Lazer drive, the other position is US Doubler mode. I tested this with the ATR image of the Lazer utilities (LPS) posted to Atari Age a while ago, and also the Lazer utilities disk (the protected one).


Hope this helps.

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Hi Nezgar, brenski,


Out of curiosity, how much RAM would it be if it was a Lazer enhancement (I am assuming it would be the same as a Happy mod, but I don't know for sure, or actually how much RAM a Happy mod would include).


Also, forgot to mention I only have upgraded drives.


Hope this helps.

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Happy 1050 adds either 6KB or 8KB to the base 256bytes (128 in the 6532 RIOT, and 128 in the 6810).


For example, 18x256 byte sectors would need 4608 bytes RAM to buffer a DD track.


US Doubler only increases the base single 6810 (128 bytes) to 2 for 256 bytes to buffer only a single DD sector, relying on an alternate formatted sector skew for ultraspeed mode.

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Hi Nezgar,


I just tried it with the Lazer utilities disk, and it reported as being a Lazer drive. Then I tried it with the Happy (7.0) utilities disk, and it reported as being a Happy Drive.


Are there any ATRs that will give more information? There is a chance the Happy utilities disk has been hacked to work with a Lazer drive. I guess you could see if an 8K ram chip would fit the bill for the upside down chip on the original picture, am guessing 6K would be provided by a 2K chip and a 4K chip (two RAM chips in total)? Do you have any idea which memory chip it could be, I could Google the pinouts.


8K memory would give 64 single density sectors, but no memory for program code in the drive, or track information. Would be interesting to see what the smallest code you could upload to the drive could be, just to use the rest of the drive memory for reading a track from the disk.


Do you have any information on programming a Happy or Lazer drive (I have seen some info on sending SIO command codes, but I mean in terms of code the 6502 on the 1050 would execute)?

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Is there enough slack on the wires connected to that small chip above the CPU to rotate it enough to read any identifying codes printed on the top, or take a picture?


Early next genuine happy 1050's used 3 2KB SRAM chips. Later when SRAM prices fell, later boards used a single 8KB SRAM chip.


I never had a lazer, but from what I've read on older threads here, it was basically a clone of happy, but a slightly modified ROM, and different utility software. that's why basic tests will recognize either drive, because that simple test is merely checking for a response to an extended command a stock drive doesn't support.


To be absolutely sure it's not actually a 100% happy clone, run the ROM/RAM diagnostic tests from the Happy utility disk. Since you already indicated it passed the equivalent lazer diagnostic tests, I'm expecting ROM test will fail, maybe RAM tests won't? I tried the lazer utilities that surfaced in the past on a happy, and it failed for me...


Also try the happy backup utility, since it functions be uploading extra custom code to the drives RAM for more copying functionality. There are other utilities to upload alternate code to Happy drives too, I can dig up my previous posts.

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Hi Nezgar,


This (or something similar) might be the RAM chip (not sure about the 200ns timing) - https://m.ebay.com/itm/1-MOSTEK-MK4801AN-3-5V-200ns-8K-1Kx8-SRAM-VINTAGE-24-PIN-DIP-/321992068895?_mwBanner=1&_rdt=1


The chip is glued on, and the soldering was done in the mid eighties, so might be a bit brittle.


I tried the RAM/ROM tests from the happy disk I have (7.0) and the drive passed ok. I will try with some of the happy ATRs posted on AA, or try searching on some of the archives for them. Probably won't have any time to do any more with the drive later in the week/next week.


Hope this helps.

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That chip looks very similar to what would be on most happy upgrades. I just don't see it on your board. Actually... maybe its underneath your 6810.


I remembered incorrectly about lazer utility not working on happy, It was IS Plate software I was thinking of...


Previous post that has link to disk with Happy utilities to reprogram happy drive to a Archiver 1050, or Stock 1050:



Check if the ROM test prints 'PASS' (Rev 1 Happy 1050 ROM) or 'Pass' (note the lowercase letters, for Rev 2 Happy 1050 ROM)


You mentioned you're using the v7.0 happy software, you can get 7.1 from this thread:




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Hi Nezgar,


I miss-counted the number of pins on the upside down chip - it's 16, not 22. I searched a bit more, and there are 4164 chips that might be a good candidate, e.g.: https://www.jameco.com/z/4164-150-Major-Brands-64KX1-DIP-16-DRAM-150NS_41662.html#specs- only problem would be single bit addressing might be a bit slow?


The Lazer and Happy utilities that I have both print PASS for RAM test #1,#2 and the ROM test, so it looks like I have revision 1 ROMs.


The Happy utilities you pointed me towards (7.10) gave "Disk error 1764 8A" on RAM test #1, and said to hit return to restart (e.g. didn't perform RAM test #2 or the ROM test).


I am sure I had a copy of the 7.10 software, as I used it to read/write Atari files to PC-DOS disks, but I can't find the disk I had that had this software on. I hope the convert utility on the 7.10 ATR works OK with the Lazer drive, as I haven't seen 7.10 Happy software hacked for the Lazer (in the same way as I have 7.0 Happy software for the Lazer).


I have tested the oiled drive, but it still doesn't work - it sounds the same as before, so I think the next step is to try and get some belt dressing fluid, and then if that doesn't work, replace the belt. Unfortunately I will be busy with other stuff so have to put the drive away for a bit.


Do you have any info on Lazer drive programming, e.g. what environment a 6502 program would be operating in, e.g. register addresses for drive chips, etc.?

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I think I read that cloned happy boards, probably like lazer, may have a slightly modified Happy utility disk. I'm curious to compare your happy 7.0 disk with the original. You can either post an ATR here and I can compare, or download the 7.0 disk from here and see if it fails on your drive too, and compare the disk image with yours.


Although, comparing 3 different ATR's I have for the main happy 7.0 disk i'm seeing byte differences, so now i'm not sure haha.

You can try this: http://ftp.pigwa.net/stuff/collections/atari_forever/Tools%20-%20atr/HappyBackup7_side1.atr


Aside from that, maybe it really does have bad RAM. I had one clone happy board that was intermittently flakey until I figured out what the RAM chips were (the creators scratched off all the chip identifiers) and it's been good since.. But i guess you have to sort out the belt issue first.

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Have sent off for some belt dressing fluid, on the basis that it might help the non-working drive, and is probably good for the working drives. Also just acquired another 1050, and found what appears to be a Happy clone inside it, though haven't had a chance to delve too deeply.

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