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I am a sucker for 8 bit junk components, and recently picked up a Sider hard disk for my Apple //e. I was able to talk myself into the purchase by fondly remembering how I lusted after this piece of equipment back in the day, and how cool my Apple //e will be when it has a hard disk drive attached!

Unfortunately, I was only able to get the drive and I am beginning to realize that this is going to be a long term project. I do not have a controller card for the drive, nor did the prior owner, so other than knowing the drive will spin up when power is applied, I have no way of knowing what condition the unit is in. For example, there is no way to tell if the heads were ever parked (and even if they were, the power on test probably un-parked them). So I am (of course) worried about mechanical problems with a 30-ish year old hard disk drive and anxious to try and get it working again (and determine if I got suckered into buying a really sexy paperweight).

Enough background, my question is what should I look for in a controller card? I've read that the Sider was SASI (the forerunner of SCSI) and that the RamFAST card by Sequential Systems would be a good choice for a controller (assuming I can find one). I've also read that Apple produced a SCSI controller for the //e and //gs but I am uncertain if that card would work with a SASI drive (assuming the drive is SASI). I have been scanning ebay and there are a few auctions for cards but no concrete information if they would work. Also, they are not cheap and I would prefer to avoid throwing good money after bad if the drive is a dud.

As always, any and all input is greatly appreciated!

  • According to Wikipedia, SASI is a subset of SCSI-1, so it's a decent bet that an early SCSI card can talk to the drive. – Mark Oct 15 '16 at 18:08
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    I read that also Mark, from wikipedia: "SASI is a fully compliant subset of SCSI-1 so that many, if not all, of the then-existing SASI controllers were SCSI-1 compatible.[3]" - But I interpreted "SASI controllers were SCSI compatible" as not necessarily equal to "SCSI controllers were SASI compatible". – Geo... Oct 15 '16 at 18:43
  • In case it helps, a diagram for a SASI controller card + 6800/6809 driver software can be found here, though the SS-30 pinout is different from the DB25 pinout. – dirkt Oct 15 '16 at 19:28
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I've never used these, but look around on comp.sys.apple2 for answers to your questions ...

There are rumours that some of the later Sider models were actually SCSI. Almost all were SASI.

The SASI ones need the original controller to be read if you want to keep what's on the drive.

The only SCSI card that can use the Sider is the RamFAST/SCSI (because the card designers included support) but if the drive has a notice on the bottom about supplying termination power you must disable termination power on the RamFAST card or else magic smoke may be released!

You will need to reformat the drive using the RamFAST utilities. The Sider utilities won't work.

Other cards like the Apple SCSI card cannot be used. (Apple didn't care about Xebec.)

The RamFAST manuals including the helpful "unofficial" manual are online.

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If you want to access what is on the disk, most likely you'll need the Xebec SASI interface card (this is what came with the Sider). The ROM versions on the card could make a difference since there were a few revisions and even one aftermarket one that allowed the whole 20MB to be used instead of the standard 16MB limit of the stock ROMs. However, if you don't care about the contents, you're probably fine with the other suggested solutions.

You will need a DB25 SASI (SCSI?) terminator plug. The device will not talk to the interface card without one.

If you can power it up, great! However, be careful since the power supply is probably going to die soon. If you had a Sider back in the day, it was probably left on a lot (mine was for a BBS). I last powered it on in 2002, but attempting that several months ago resulted in the power supply making 2 popping noises and no spin-up. It is a standard 5.25" half height drive inside, though the cable is ~50pin wide cable, but standard 4-pin molex for power. Note that the front "door" will break off (glued tabs), but I think you can avoid that when opening the rest of it.

If I had the forethought years ago, I would have plugged it into a simple SCSI-1 interface to dd dump out the contents. I've never read anything that said it would work, but I've seen enough to suggest that simple operations should work; I don't think there is any risk of electrical incompatibility (read: fry something), but don't take my word on that since I haven't done it myself nor have I read to suggest it won't fry anything.

Good luck!

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