User avatar
intric8
Seattle, WA, USA
Website

Posted Sun Oct 04, 2020 11:09 am

For the longest time I’ve been avoiding the GoTek, which is a digital floppy disk emulator and hardware replacement that allows Amiga disk images (ADFs) to be put onto USB sticks and loaded just like they were original floppy disks. I’ve seen so many hack jobs over the years that right off the bat the very concept of using such a device was a major turn off for me. On top of that, the original GoTek device’s user experience is pretty lacking and is kind of a pain in the butt to use.

But, the Sirens sing: the typical barebones GoTek solution is *really* damned cheap. Like, less than $30 on Amazon. So for a lot of folks it’s a no-brainer to go this route versus investing in a 30 year-old floppy drive that will ultimately use 30 year old decaying disks. Plus you can just download ADFs off the internet to your USB stick and plug it in. It’s frictionless.

I hear that. I get it. Now get off my lawn! ;)

For me, all of my original floppy drives work perfectly and 99.9% of my disks do, too. So I never really saw a pressing need to “fix” something that wasn’t broken. Moving an ADF from the internet to an actual physical floppy might only take 5 minutes, too. No big deal. Plus, I enjoy making disk labels.

But now that I’ve been a beta tester of new Amiga games for Doublesided Games, moving ADF files to original floppies for each dot-release during development was a major drag and made me want to procrastinate testing. That’s not a good situation.

I decided that I would at least entertain the idea of a GoTek as an external floppy drive - just not replace the internal DF0:. No way no how, missy! This allows my original hardware to stay as-is but will also allow for nearly seamless testing of new ADF files as they drop.

The “problem” with Gotek devices if you want to make them external is that they don’t come with floppy drive interface circuitry. Think of the GoTek literally as an internal disk drive. That’s what it was intended to replace. You can’t just sit one of those on the table and plug a cable right into it. GoTek’s were designed to be internal drives that use the computer’s floppy drive power and ribbon cable.

Solution: Use an external floppy drive as a donor device, remove its drive mechanism and re-use its case, disk interface circuitry and power cable for the GoTek. Plus, any external floppy drive will have a nice case and cable ready to plug into the back of any Amiga. Boo-ya!

OK, but which external drive should be used? 

It turns out that there is one that is PERFECT for this kind of operation. It’s an astonishingly perfect fit, requires no special parts or tools and essentially is a plug and play affair that will have you up in running in about 2-3 minutes. All you need is a screwdriver.

In order to follow in my footsteps, you’ll need to acquire the very slim and sleek external floppy drive by California Access called the CA-880.

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The drive is kind of long, but it's really short in height. This is because the drive controller is right behind drive mechanism inside the case.

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You can daisy-chain another drive to this one if you so desire. But more importantly, you can keep this drive connected to your machine and turn it off when not in use - a really handy feature.

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The CA-880 donor drive. And yer dang tootin' I'm hanging onto the original drive assembly for safe keeping.





I know I’m not the first person to do what I’ve done, but after going through the process I wanted to try and bang a gong and flash some mirrors into the sun to get more purists to at least ponder this approach more seriously.

I was able to acquire a CA-880 drive pretty easily on Ebay over the summer. The drive’s face is plastic and was fairly yellowed, but that didn’t bother me since it was coming out. Bonus: the actual drive case is painted metal, so it looks almost as good as the day it was made. Save for the rubber feet on the bottom, which seem to have decided to go on a little stroll.

So I had my donor external drive. Next, I got a Gotek. But because I didn’t want to deal with the pain of a base model, I actually purchased an upgraded version that comes with a little OLED screen showing you the directory you’re in and the current ADF selected. It also comes with a large, metallic (pro-stereo-style) knob for going up or down a directory. This is really handy if you’re playing or testing a multi-disk game. Insert Disk 2? Just rotate one notch to the right and Disk 2 starts to instantly load. This model also has a tiny little speaker to imitate disk access, or even the soft perpetual “click” when the drive isn’t in use. Talk about realism!

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The GoTek I got is gray, not beige. Probably the only thing I could complain about. But that is really a minor nitpick.


So now I had my case with drive interface, power and cable. And I had my souped up GoTek.

It was time to put it all together.

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The CA-880 only has a few screws to deal with.

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Once you remove the screws, you need to carefully remove the 2 shells as there are a couple of cords to disconnect.

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The GoTek's plastic housing has screw holes that match perfectly to the CA-880's case holes.

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Just plug the CA-880's supplied ribbon and power cables. Easy peasy.

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The Gotek's housing fits perfectly into the slim CA-880's case. It's almost too good to be true.

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Size and color comparison to the AppleCD 330e Plus, and an Amiga 3000.

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Size comparison between the CA-880/GoTek and an Iomega Zip Drive.

So now when I get a new set of 3 ADFs from Doublesided Games, I can just pop them into the USB and fire things up with zero hassle.

It's not going to replace my internal drives, but it's absolutely going to be a very cool and useful addition to my Amiga battle stations when the DF2 drive can be respected as a drive from which to load disks.

User avatar
blakespot

Posted Sun Oct 04, 2020 4:40 pm

Very nice! I took advantage of the 520ST’s external A: drive to do similar to a broken SF354 drive. It’s perfect - the boot drive. I can load into A: and B: from this HxC-2001.

https://flic.kr/p/J6Lq9o

User avatar
keithal

Posted Sun Oct 04, 2020 6:09 pm

Thank you for this post. I, too, have been resisting the gotek's and similar, but will likely buy a few to get some of my a500's back up and running. Nice looking post, lots of photos, done really well.

There's a few parts that you might want to clarify. The floppy drive controller logic is contained in Paula --- it's not in any drive, internal or external. You're right that there's interface circuitry (drivers and/or buffer chips) that allows for longer cables, adapts the connector from the 34-pin to the external 23-pin, maybe provides some basic protection, for the external drives.

You also mention serial cables, but external floppy drive cables are not what most people consider serial. While the data is indeed flowing to/from the drive bit-after-bit, serially, on the data pin, serial normally refers to RS-232 data on either DB25 connectors, or DE9 connectors. You can't use serial cables as external floppy cables or vice versa -- or at least you shouldn't because of either connector incompatibility or because you're shorting waaayyy too many pins out. Floppy cables have approximately half of their pins(usually the odd pin numbers) as grounds and are connected together.

The Amigas have a serial port, but that floppy drive connector is not it, and shouldn't be confused.

Thanks again for the post!

User avatar
intric8
Seattle, WA, USA
Website

Posted Sun Oct 04, 2020 7:21 pm

Thanks for your in-depth comments, keithal. You're 100% right. And I'm not a hardware guru by any stretch, so when I say things I know I'm very likely stomping on some engineer's head somewhere. Sorry about that.

I'll see what I can pull from your comments and append my original post in the next day. I really appreciate the help!

UPDATE:
I think I've made the necessary fixes. Thanks for the assistance in getting the facts more accurate.

User avatar
3D-vice
Germany

Posted Mon Oct 05, 2020 2:34 am

Having the GoTek in an external floppy case is a beautiful way to maintain the original look of e.g. an Amiga500. One could even boot a workbench from the GoTek after enabling the Amiga to boot from DF1.

User avatar
keithal

Posted Mon Oct 05, 2020 1:58 pm

intric8 wrote:
Sun Oct 04, 2020 7:21 pm
Thanks for your in-depth comments, keithal. You're 100% right. And I'm not a hardware guru by any stretch, so when I say things I know I'm very likely stomping on some engineer's head somewhere. Sorry about that.

I'll see what I can pull from your comments and append my original post in the next day. I really appreciate the help!

UPDATE:
I think I've made the necessary fixes. Thanks for the assistance in getting the facts more accurate.
No problem -- happy to help!

Looks much better.

Thanks for the amiga love!

User avatar
fxgogo
Website

Posted Tue Oct 06, 2020 8:49 am

Nice result. Looks clean and in line with all the other equipment. HAs anyone tried this alternative to the Gotek? It is called the Open Flops. It does do some interesting things like emulate two drives.

User avatar
obitus1990
New Orleans, LA, USA

Posted Wed Oct 07, 2020 6:15 pm

Nice solution...as Keithal mentioned, you don't need anything other than a cable to connect the existing GOTEK enclosure to your Amiga, though. I bought a cable from a person on Amibay that pretty much does nothing but sell cables he makes there (I think his username is Amigoun). It's an IDC floppy cable that he cut one end from and then wired to a DB23 connector, and then separated two other wires from it at the IDC connector end that he connected to a Berg connector. The berg connector in turn gets connected to the gotek to power it, and the IDC female connects to the pin header on the Gotek. A very simple, elegant solution. Reprogram the Gotek with Flash Floppy firmware and you're good to go.


User avatar
jrobbins70

Posted Thu Oct 15, 2020 10:05 pm

I bought a pre-configured GoTek drive (Amiga firmware already installed) on ebay and have been very happy with it. I found a website that has a thousand application software ADF files and I've installed all of my favourites from the past. It was Amiga Bill that recommended the GoTek to me.

I also have a real DF2: drive connected to my Amiga 3000 for my previous personal software collection and well just because it's cool to have the real hardware too.

J





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