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MITS Altair DRS

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  • Steve
    Here s a question for all of the hardcore Altair experts out there: What was the MITS Altair DRS? I never heard of it. I have ever seen any advertisements or
    Message 1 of 15 , Jun 16, 2006

      Here's a question for all of the hardcore Altair experts out there:  What was the MITS Altair DRS?

      I never heard of it.  I have ever seen any advertisements or documentation, nor do I recall seeing anything in the old Byte, Kilobaud, or Computer Notes periodicals.  The device is a mystery to me, and I would think that no such device ever existed if I didn't have an actual front panel in my posession.

      Click here for image 

      It was obviously designed to use the same size enclosure as the Altair 680 computer (dimensions are 10.75" x 4.375"), and the LED legends indicate that it was definitely a mag tape storage unit.  The artwork is in the 8800b style, so this was a late entry into the MITS product line.  I suspect that it was never actually released, but the front panel is certainly not a one-off mockup, so there must have at least been quite a bit of internal documentation and perhaps some ad copy. 

      That's all I know about it.  Is there anyone out there who can enlighten me?  What kind of tape drive do you think was mounted in that cutout (3.0" x 0.875")?  For that matter, what do you think "DRS" means? Digital Recorder System?

      Steve

       

    • John & Susan
      Just a guess - could it be something that was produced after MITS was bought out by Pertec Computer Corporation? John ... From:
      Message 2 of 15 , Jun 16, 2006
        Just a guess - could it be something that was produced after MITS was bought out by Pertec Computer Corporation?
         
        John
         
        -----Original Message-----
        From: altaircomputerclub@yahoogroups.com [mailto:altaircomputerclub@yahoogroups.com]On Behalf Of Steve
        Sent: Friday, June 16, 2006 3:06 PM
        To: altaircomputerclub@yahoogroups.com
        Subject: [Altair Computer Club] MITS Altair DRS

        Here's a question for all of the hardcore Altair experts out there:  What was the MITS Altair DRS?

        I never heard of it.  I have ever seen any advertisements or documentation, nor do I recall seeing anything in the old Byte, Kilobaud, or Computer Notes periodicals.  The device is a mystery to me, and I would think that no such device ever existed if I didn't have an actual front panel in my posession.

        Click here for image 

        It was obviously designed to use the same size enclosure as the Altair 680 computer (dimensions are 10.75" x 4.375"), and the LED legends indicate that it was definitely a mag tape storage unit.  The artwork is in the 8800b style, so this was a late entry into the MITS product line.  I suspect that it was never actually released, but the front panel is certainly not a one-off mockup, so there must have at least been quite a bit of internal documentation and perhaps some ad copy. 

        That's all I know about it.  Is there anyone out there who can enlighten me?  What kind of tape drive do you think was mounted in that cutout (3.0" x 0.875")?  For that matter, what do you think "DRS" means? Digital Recorder System?

        Steve

         

      • Steve
        Could be, but no matter who was in control, I don t recall seeing it advertised. It s possible that Pertec simply killed the product, as they did many others,
        Message 3 of 15 , Jun 16, 2006
          Could be, but no matter who was in control, I don't recall seeing it
          advertised. It's possible that Pertec simply killed the product, as
          they did many others, when they acquired MITS.

          Steve
          =========================

          --- In altaircomputerclub@yahoogroups.com, "John & Susan"
          <okkyungc@...> wrote:
          >
          > Just a guess - could it be something that was produced after MITS
          was bought
          > out by Pertec Computer Corporation?
          >
          > John
          >
          > -----Original Message-----
          > From: altaircomputerclub@yahoogroups.com
          > [mailto:altaircomputerclub@yahoogroups.com]On Behalf Of Steve
          > Sent: Friday, June 16, 2006 3:06 PM
          > To: altaircomputerclub@yahoogroups.com
          > Subject: [Altair Computer Club] MITS Altair DRS
          >
          >
          >
          > Here's a question for all of the hardcore Altair experts out
          there: What
          > was the MITS Altair DRS?
          >
          > I never heard of it. I have ever seen any advertisements or
          > documentation, nor do I recall seeing anything in the old Byte,
          Kilobaud, or
          > Computer Notes periodicals. The device is a mystery to me, and I
          would
          > think that no such device ever existed if I didn't have an actual
          front
          > panel in my posession.
          >
          > Click here for image
          >
          > It was obviously designed to use the same size enclosure as the
          Altair 680
          > computer (dimensions are 10.75" x 4.375"), and the LED legends
          indicate that
          > it was definitely a mag tape storage unit. The artwork is in the
          8800b
          > style, so this was a late entry into the MITS product line. I
          suspect that
          > it was never actually released, but the front panel is certainly
          not a
          > one-off mockup, so there must have at least been quite a bit of
          internal
          > documentation and perhaps some ad copy.
          >
          > That's all I know about it. Is there anyone out there who can
          enlighten
          > me? What kind of tape drive do you think was mounted in that
          cutout (3.0" x
          > 0.875")? For that matter, what do you think "DRS" means? Digital
          Recorder
          > System?
          >
          > Steve
          >
        • D. Hugh Redelmeier
          ... I don t know anything about this artifact, but I ll add to the speculation. Pertec made tape drives for minicomputers before they bought Altair. So it
          Message 4 of 15 , Jun 17, 2006
            | From: John & Susan <okkyungc@...>

            | Just a guess - could it be something that was produced after MITS was bought
            | out by Pertec Computer Corporation?

            I don't know anything about this artifact, but I'll add to the
            speculation.

            Pertec made tape drives for minicomputers before they bought Altair.
            So it isn't a big stretch to think they might have tried to make a
            tape drive interface for the Altair when they acquired Altair.

            I don't know what form factors of tape were available in the Altair
            era. Here are some guesses:

            - 9 track. Pertec certainly produced these. Way too big for the
            slot.

            - Philips Compact Cassette. This is audio tape. Hacked for digital
            uses for many micros (Kansas City encoding, Tarbell, ...).

            - digital tape in Philips Compact Cassette format. A company called
            iocomm (I think) made really neat drives. They were not cheap but
            they were a really good tradeoff before floppy drives. They were
            originally an outgrowth of their courseware products.
          • Steve
            Rumor has it that Pertec discovered MITS when they awoke one day to learn that MITS was their largest customer. Their 8 and 5 floppies, 14 hard drives,
            Message 5 of 15 , Jun 17, 2006
              Rumor has it that Pertec "discovered" MITS when they awoke one day to
              learn that MITS was their largest customer. Their 8" and 5"
              floppies, 14" hard drives, and 9-track tape drives were all marketed
              as the major components of various MITS storage systems. Pertec
              wanted those resale profits, so they bought MITS (they bought Icom,
              too, who was also selling Pertec-based systems). So as you said,
              Hugh, it wouldn't have been a surprise if PCC was behind the
              development of the DRS. However, I don't think they made any small
              tape cartridge drives as would be required here.

              There was a tape drive available back then (~1976-78) that was about
              the size of the cutout. It used an endless loop cartridge, not
              unlike an 8-track music cartridge. You'll notice that the DRS front
              panel has no rewind functions indicated, so this could have been the
              type of tape used. Maybe. I don't recall who made that drive, but I
              know that it was used in OCI's "Veritext" word processing systems and
              I think it used a 3M DC100A 1/4" Data Cartridge. Does this ring any
              bells? Does it make sense?

              Steve
              ========================
              --- In altaircomputerclub@yahoogroups.com, "D. Hugh Redelmeier"
              <hugh@...> wrote:
              >
              ...
              > I don't know anything about this artifact, but I'll add to the
              > speculation.
              >
              > Pertec made tape drives for minicomputers before they bought Altair.
              > So it isn't a big stretch to think they might have tried to make a
              > tape drive interface for the Altair when they acquired Altair.
              >
              > I don't know what form factors of tape were available in the Altair
              > era. Here are some guesses:
              >
              > - 9 track. Pertec certainly produced these. Way too big for the
              > slot.
              >
              > - Philips Compact Cassette. This is audio tape. Hacked for digital
              > uses for many micros (Kansas City encoding, Tarbell, ...).
              >
              > - digital tape in Philips Compact Cassette format. A company called
              > iocomm (I think) made really neat drives. They were not cheap but
              > they were a really good tradeoff before floppy drives. They were
              > originally an outgrowth of their courseware products.
              >
            • D. Hugh Redelmeier
              ... Perhaps you are referring to the stringy floppy . Google got me here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stringy_floppy There are links to Digibarn and an
              Message 6 of 15 , Jun 18, 2006
                | From: Steve <alltare@...>

                | There was a tape drive available back then (~1976-78) that was about
                | the size of the cutout. It used an endless loop cartridge, not
                | unlike an 8-track music cartridge

                Perhaps you are referring to the "stringy floppy". Google got me
                here:
                http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stringy_floppy

                There are links to Digibarn and an interview with a user.
              • Steve
                Something like the stringy floppy, anyway. The Wickipedia page you referenced says that The Stringy Floppy was a continuous loop tape drive developed by
                Message 7 of 15 , Jun 18, 2006
                  Something like the stringy floppy, anyway. The Wickipedia page you
                  referenced says that "The Stringy Floppy was a continuous loop tape
                  drive developed by Exatron for use with the Radio Shack TRS-80
                  microcomputer", which might have been after MITS was out of
                  business. From the looks of the photos, it looks like it might have
                  perfectly fit in the cutout, though.

                  ( http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/7/78/Esf_model_1.jpg )

                  Steve
                  ========================
                  --- In altaircomputerclub@yahoogroups.com, "D. Hugh Redelmeier"
                  <hugh@...> wrote:
                  >
                  ...
                  > Perhaps you are referring to the "stringy floppy". Google got me
                  > here:
                  > http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stringy_floppy
                  >
                  > There are links to Digibarn and an interview with a user.
                  >
                • billdeg@aol.com
                  The stringy floppy is about the size of a guitar effects pedal. Here are more pics: http://www.vintagecomputer.net/tandy/trs80_1/exatron_stringy_floppy/ It
                  Message 8 of 15 , Jun 19, 2006
                    The stringy floppy is about the size of a guitar effects pedal.
                    Here are more pics:
                     
                     
                     
                    It would sure be a hoot if I could get an Altair and stringy floppy talking to each other....hmmmm...
                     
                    Bill D

                    Check out AOL.com today. Breaking news, video search, pictures, email and IM. All on demand. Always Free.
                  • Craig Landrum
                    ... I suspect that the cutout was simply for an information LED panel. I ve seen a number of 9-track drives that were top-loaders and also had from panel
                    Message 9 of 15 , Jun 19, 2006
                      On Sunday, June 18, 2006 at 12:53 AM, Steve sent:

                      >Rumor has it that Pertec "discovered" MITS when they awoke one day to
                      >learn that MITS was their largest customer. Their 8" and 5"
                      >floppies, 14" hard drives, and 9-track tape drives were all marketed
                      >as the major components of various MITS storage systems. Pertec
                      >wanted those resale profits, so they bought MITS (they bought Icom,
                      >too, who was also selling Pertec-based systems). So as you said,
                      >Hugh, it wouldn't have been a surprise if PCC was behind the
                      >development of the DRS. However, I don't think they made any small
                      >tape cartridge drives as would be required here.
                      >

                      I suspect that the cutout was simply for an information LED panel.
                      I've seen a number of 9-track drives that were "top-loaders" and
                      also had from panel info displays about the size of the cutout.

                      So...my guess? A 9-track.

                      --
                      Craig Landrum
                      Chief Technical Officer
                      mindwrap, inc.
                      Phone: (540) 675-3015 x 229
                      Fax: (540) 675-3130
                      email: craigl@...
                    • Steve
                      OK, I ll put Stringy Floppy and 9-track on the list of possibilities. If the cutout is just for some kind of display, then another possibility is that the box
                      Message 10 of 15 , Jun 19, 2006
                        OK, I'll put Stringy Floppy and 9-track on the list of possibilities.

                        If the cutout is just for some kind of display, then another
                        possibility is that the box contained the control electronics for an
                        external large tape drive.

                        Geez, I wish we could get a definitive answer about this.
                        =======================================

                        --- In altaircomputerclub@yahoogroups.com, Craig Landrum <craigl@...>
                        wrote:
                        >
                        > ...
                        > I suspect that the cutout was simply for an information LED panel.
                        > I've seen a number of 9-track drives that were "top-loaders" and
                        > also had from panel info displays about the size of the cutout.
                        >
                        > So...my guess? A 9-track.
                        >
                        > --
                        > Craig Landrum
                        > Chief Technical Officer
                        > mindwrap, inc.
                        > Phone: (540) 675-3015 x 229
                        > Fax: (540) 675-3130
                        > email: craigl@...
                        >
                      • H.E.Robert
                        Hi Gang, The only problem with the 9-track, (call me a geek, as I have 2 in my collection), is that they require a Rewind button, and usually a load and
                        Message 11 of 15 , Jun 20, 2006
                          Hi Gang,

                          The only problem with the 9-track, (call me a geek, as I have 2 in my
                          collection), is that they require a "Rewind" button, and usually a load
                          and unload button as well. My guess would be more like an audio
                          cassette, but that would need a rewind as well....but an 8-track
                          wouldn't???? Did anyone ever hook an 88-ACR up to an 8-track recorder/
                          player?....maybe that's why we never saw it!;-)

                          Just Bob!

                          Steve wrote:
                          > OK, I'll put Stringy Floppy and 9-track on the list of possibilities.
                          >
                          > If the cutout is just for some kind of display, then another
                          > possibility is that the box contained the control electronics for an
                          > external large tape drive.
                          >
                          > Geez, I wish we could get a definitive answer about this.
                          > =======================================
                          >
                          > --- In altaircomputerclub@yahoogroups.com, Craig Landrum <craigl@...>
                          > wrote:
                          >
                          >>...
                          >>I suspect that the cutout was simply for an information LED panel.
                          >>I've seen a number of 9-track drives that were "top-loaders" and
                          >>also had from panel info displays about the size of the cutout.
                          >>
                          >>So...my guess? A 9-track.
                          >>
                          >>--
                          >>Craig Landrum
                          >>Chief Technical Officer
                          >>mindwrap, inc.
                          >>Phone: (540) 675-3015 x 229
                          >>Fax: (540) 675-3130
                          >>email: craigl@...
                          >>
                          >
                          >
                          >
                          >
                          >
                          >
                          >
                          >
                          >
                          > Yahoo! Groups Links
                          >
                          >
                          >
                          >
                          >
                          >
                          >
                          >
                        • Steve
                          Not only are are there no rewind or reverse indicators, but EOT and BOT are represented by the same LED (which would indicate the point at which the loop is
                          Message 12 of 15 , Jun 20, 2006

                            Not only are are there no rewind or reverse indicators, but EOT and BOT are represented by the same LED (which would indicate the point at which the loop is spliced).  That's why I originally thought that an endless loop tape must have been used.  I'm fairly certain that a Stringy Floppy or something like it must have been used. If someone had a Stringy drive, we could measure the front projecting "nose" and determine how well it would fit in the DRS's cutout.  If you look at the pictures that Bill posted a few messages ago, it sure looks like it might be a good fit.  Here's the closeup photo:
                            http://www.vintagecomputer.net/tandy/trs80_1/exatron_stringy_floppy/exatron_reading.jpg

                            I have never tried using an 8-track music cartridge with an ACR board, but I have used cassettes and open reel audio decks with no problems.  I see no reason why a PROPERLY ALIGNED 8-track wouldn't work too, but I don't think that's what was used in the DRS.

                            Steve
                            =====================================


                            --- In altaircomputerclub@yahoogroups.com, "H.E.Robert" <ueoguy@...> wrote:
                            >
                            > Hi Gang,
                            >
                            > The only problem with the 9-track, (call me a geek, as I have 2 in my
                            > collection), is that they require a "Rewind" button, and usually a load
                            > and unload button as well. My guess would be more like an audio
                            > cassette, but that would need a rewind as well....but an 8-track
                            > wouldn't???? Did anyone ever hook an 88-ACR up to an 8-track recorder/
                            > player?....maybe that's why we never saw it!;-)
                            >
                            > Just Bob!
                            > ...

                          • billdeg@aol.com
                            I hope that this helps: The stingy floppy was introduced in April 1979 at the Computer Faire in San Francisco USA. Although the drive was produced in 1979,
                            Message 13 of 15 , Jun 20, 2006
                              I hope that this helps:

                              The stingy floppy was introduced in April 1979 at the Computer Faire in San
                              Francisco USA. Although the drive was produced in 1979, there were no
                              quantity of tapes available until 1980.

                              The order form for the purchase of a stringy floppy includes a field to
                              select the drive software for either the TRS 80, SWTP or S-100. I have a typed
                              copy of the s-100 assembler, but it's for the Cromeco.

                              The "nose" protrudes 1/2 inch from the drive. The dimensions of the hole
                              from which the nose protrudes is 3" wide x 1" tall

                              The Stringy Floppy Wafers are 2 11/16" x 1 9/16" (must be metric).

                              Most of the documentation refers to the TRS 80 with Level II BASIC, except
                              for the Cromeco assembler.


                              Bill D

                              > If someone had a Stringy
                              > drive, we could measure the front projecting "nose" and determine how
                              > well it would fit in the DRS's cutout. If you look at the pictures that
                              > Bill posted a few messages ago, it sure looks like it might be a good
                              > fit. Here's the closeup photo:
                              > http://www.vintagecomputer.net/tandy/trs80_1/exatron_stringy_floppy/exat\
                              > ron_reading.jpg
                              > <http://www.vintagecomputer.net/tandy/trs80_1/exatron_stringy_floppy/exa\
                              > tron_reading.jpg>
                            • Steve
                              Bill- Well, the size is about right, but the date pretty much rules out the Stringy Floppy. MITS must have planned to use something else. I guess this moves
                              Message 14 of 15 , Jun 21, 2006
                                Bill-

                                Well, the size is about right, but the date pretty much rules out the
                                Stringy Floppy. MITS must have planned to use something else. I
                                guess this moves the DC100A back to the top of the list.

                                steve
                                ===============

                                --- In altaircomputerclub@yahoogroups.com, billdeg@... wrote:
                                >
                                > I hope that this helps:
                                >
                                > The stingy floppy was introduced in April 1979 at the Computer
                                Faire in San
                                > Francisco USA. Although the drive was produced in 1979, there
                                were no
                                > quantity of tapes available until 1980.
                                >
                                > The order form for the purchase of a stringy floppy includes a
                                field to
                                > select the drive software for either the TRS 80, SWTP or S-100. I
                                have a typed
                                > copy of the s-100 assembler, but it's for the Cromeco.
                                >
                                > The "nose" protrudes 1/2 inch from the drive. The dimensions of
                                the hole
                                > from which the nose protrudes is 3" wide x 1" tall
                                >
                                > The Stringy Floppy Wafers are 2 11/16" x 1 9/16" (must be
                                metric).
                                >
                                > Most of the documentation refers to the TRS 80 with Level II BASIC,
                                except
                                > for the Cromeco assembler.
                                >
                                >
                                > Bill D
                                >
                                > > If someone had a Stringy
                                > > drive, we could measure the front projecting "nose" and
                                determine how
                                > > well it would fit in the DRS's cutout. If you look at the
                                pictures that
                                > > Bill posted a few messages ago, it sure looks like it might be a
                                good
                                > > fit. Here's the closeup photo:
                                > >
                                http://www.vintagecomputer.net/tandy/trs80_1/exatron_stringy_floppy/ex
                                at\
                                > > ron_reading.jpg
                                > >
                                <http://www.vintagecomputer.net/tandy/trs80_1/exatron_stringy_floppy/e
                                xa\
                                > > tron_reading.jpg>
                                >
                              • billdeg@aol.com
                                I am curious if there are any existing S-100 or SWTP-based stringy floppy drives out there. I may have been unclear in my earlier post, a separate piece of
                                Message 15 of 15 , Jun 22, 2006
                                  I am curious if there are any existing S-100 or SWTP-based stringy floppy
                                  drives out there. I may have been unclear in my earlier post, a separate piece
                                  of software was not shipped with the stringy floppy drive. The drives shipped
                                  with firmware (a ROM I suppose, I never checked) appropriate to the system
                                  they were to be used.
                                  Bill

                                  In a message dated 6/21/2006 11:06:05 PM Eastern Daylight Time,
                                  alltare@... writes:

                                  << Bill-

                                  Well, the size is about right, but the date pretty much rules out the
                                  Stringy Floppy. MITS must have planned to use something else. I
                                  guess this moves the DC100A back to the top of the list.

                                  steve >>
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