BeebMaster - Technomatic Winchester drive

My Beebs


I have had my Technomatic Winchester drive since February 2003 and in that short time it has become a pivotal part of my little Econet. Permanently connected to Station 1 via the 1 MHz bus, it provides 28 MB of storage space in a box just slightly bigger than a double 5" drive.

It sits on top of my FileStores, although it is not connected to them, and both things live in a glass-fronted cupboard to keep the noise down. The Winchester has a very loud fan which is unbearable when combined with the FileStores' clattering fans. One day I might put a sound file on here of just how much noise these things make!

The picture shows the Technomatic sitting on top of my FileStore E01. This was before I got my FileStore E20, which is now sandwiched between the E01 and the Technomatic.

There are three elements inside the drive: firstly, a host adaptor made by Akhter which is a board which allows the Winchester to communicate with the BBC. This is the bit that everyone is after nowadays so that they can try to attach massive SCSI drives to their Beebs.

The host adaptor is connected to the Winchester drive controller. This is a separate board. I think on modern hard drives the controller is part of the actual drive but in the 1980s, Winchester controllers came on their own separate board. The board in my Winchester happens to be an Adaptec ACB4070. This is attached by another ribbon cable to the drive itself which is a Seagate ST225N.

Akhter host adaptor, Adaptec controller, Seagate drive - a bit of a cheek for Technomatic to call it their own!

I had it in pieces at the start of April 2003 to see if I could figure out how it all went together. Unfortunately it took me about four days to get it to work again as it just would not respond to the BBC. I thought I had damaged it but I eventually realised that the connector to the 1 MHz bus was the wrong way round!!! This is what happens when ribbon cable connectors have no bump on them.

I use this drive a lot now and rarely use floppy discs with Station 1 except when making backups. Even when transferring files from Station 128 or Station 200, I tend to store the files temporarily on the FileStore and then copy them on to the Winchester with "Copyfiles" or *XFER on the Advanced Disc Toolkit ROM.

So far I have found the Winchester very reliable. In the early days it did develop quite a big disc error covering a few consecutive sectors but I mapped these out using the "SuperForm" programme and I have not had any trouble since. I think I may have been a bit over-zealous in mapping out the dodgy sectors because I find that if you verify the drive as soon as it is switched on, it reports five or ten disc errors across the drive. If you leave it to warm up for a while it tends to forget there was a problem.

I have tried to connect it to the "FileStore Bus" at the back of my FileStore a couple of times. Although the drive light comes on during the start up procedure, it does not seem to be recognised. Either it is not suitable to be attached to a FileStore or it needs to partitioned in some way.