I've been fortunate to have had a pretty good year and decided to splurge for a piece of CMD tech I've always wanted: a CMD HD (hard drive). I’ve wanted one of these to pair with my RAMlink.
The RAMLink is simply amazing, full stop. How they have never been reverse engineered by now kind of boggles my mind. Adding an original CMD hard drive solution with a RAMLink really takes everything to the next level of ridiculous.
Before I go too far here is my new HD-200 - with enhancements.
These mechanical hard drive solutions were designed and produced by CMD in the USA in 1990 and sold as late as 2001.
So, you're asking yourselves, what's the big deal with these old things? If you aren't versed in CMD's JiffyDOS it is easy to dismiss and wave away. But we really need to start with an understanding of JiffyDOS to fully grasp the entire picture.
The Commodore 64 and CBM’s floppy disk drives were notoriously slow - even for the times. They were lightning fast compared to cassette drives, but even the previous generation’s PET computer drives were faster than the C64's due to several reasons. JiffyDOS replaced the disk kernals and made the mechanisms 9X faster than stock. This meant if you swapped out the kernal ROM chip in your C64 and 1541 drive (or any other model drive), your disk reads and writes could feel, well, pretty modern. The JiffyDOS upgrade also gave you a ton of shorthand commands that allowed you to much more quickly load, list and run programs from disk rather than type out long BASIC statements.
JiffyDOS was extremely compatible with software and didn't get in the way of most software loaders or copy protection. And, you had access to all of your hardware and ports. Also, the CMD DOS Wedge (an extra set of desperately-needed commands and features that CMD's hardware solutions could take advantage of) that you get with it is a reason in its own right to have it.
Jim Brain at Retro Innovations:
A list of JiffyDOS awesomeness, because we like lists.JiffyDOS should not be confused with Cartridges, Turbo ROMs, Burst ROMs or “Parallel” systems. Ultra-high-speed multi-line serial technology enables JiffyDOS to outperform these products without any of their inherent disadvantages. JiffyDOS leaves all ports on your computer open, works with virtually all software, speeds up PRG, SEQ, REL and USR files, and does not require any extra cabling.
[Note:] JiffyDOS support is included natively in uIEC and all other sd2iec-based solid state drive solutions for the Commodore. Thus, by installing JiffyDOS in your C64 or C128, you can immediately enjoy all JiffyDOS functionality when using these devices.
- IT IS FAST
- Uses no ports or cabling.
- Built-in DOS Wedge commands. These are easy-to-learn commands that eliminate the need to type complicated instructions when you need to perform common disk operations such as scratching and formatting disks.
- In addition to the standard DOS wedge, JiffyDOS includes a number of special commands (useable in the BASIC screen modes you're used to) that make using the C64 even easier. This includes things like disabling the head rattle on 1541s, locking and unlocking files, listing files directly from disk and dumping the screen to a printer.
- There are lots of convenience features, too: You can list a directory without disturbing memory, Load and run the first program on disk, Pause, inspect and restart BASIC or JiffyDOS listings.
- Works with virtually all software.
- Compatible with Commodore's REUs as well as the RAM operating system used by CMD in the RAMLink.
- Compatible with all hardware and peripherals for C64 and C128.
- Uses stock disk and file formats.
- Can be disabled and "switched out" in the event a program won't load (sometimes happens with some heavily copy-protected games). With the flip of a switch you can "downgrade" to a stock config.
- Made for virtually all disk drives ever made back in the day (the list is long, yo).
In other words, if you have the JiffyDOS C64 Kernal installed in your computer and get a CMD floppy drive or hard drive, the JiffyDOS (JD) kernal is already inside and ready to go. And, these drives have buttons on the front of them to swap drive numbers (very cool and handy) or disable JD whenever the rare instance occurs. If you're lucky enough to have a RAMLink, simply popping it into the cartridge bay overrides a non-modded C64's kernal - thus you don't even have to install a new JD kernal in that C64 or 128. In C64 mode you "get JiffyDOS for free." And, that means your disk loads are fast right out of the gate.
At the end of the day, it's really hard to fully explain the vast improvement to your overall Commodore experience when you upgrade your machines and drives to JiffyDOS. But it is dramatic.
But wait, there's more...
If you have a CMD storage solution it opens a whole new world of possibilities. Why? Because the drive can be partitioned into 16MB chunks. (16MB on a C64 is pretty big!)
Back in the day, CMD offered drives that ranged in size from 20MB all the way up to a gobsmacking 2GB - this was as early as 1995! And it was possible to create custom capacities all the way up to 4GB - just like original Amigas. The HD number on the front of the case basically told folks how big the sucker was on the inside assuming there were no customizations.
In 1990, my HD-200 would have been the top of the line model available. When originally released, the HD-200 with 200MB was offered for $1,999. This would have been a staggering $4,558 in 2022 dollars!
By 1995 the sizes had increased and prices dropped such that the lowest model available was the CMD HD-340, and it cost $349 (about $682 today). An HD-2000 with 2 Gigabytes cost $999 in 1995 (about $1,860 in 2022). Obviously, these drives were for the ultra hard-core and well-heeled, like BBS sysops and GEOS maniacs.
Their value today has dropped considerably less than inflation-adjusted 1995 prices, but they still generate crazy prices due to their scarcity and the pent up demand for these artifacts. The good news is we can modernize and "pump them up" to provide many more years of use with SCSI2SD-type devices. Doing so, they now produce no noise or heat and draw very little power. You get all of the gorgeous looks, functionality and usability of a CMD drive with modern internals.
Another list. This time why CMD HDs are so fantastic!
- Four modes of operation: 1541, 1571, 1581 emulation modes and Native mode.
- Native mode supports up to 16 MB partitions (with a 2GB drive - that’s a LOT of partitions!) with true subdirectories.
- Built-in GEOS and CP/M compatibility.
- Capable of booting GEOS and all applications.
- Capacities up to 4GB.
- Serial bus interface supports Standard Serial as well as high-performance Fast Serial and JiffyDOS protocols.
- SCSI! Can also be used with Amiga, IBM-compatibles and Macintosh computers should you ever wish to move it over to one of those platforms.
- Partitions for other types of computers can co-exist on the drive.
- Built-in real time clock for time and date-stamping of files.
- SCSI port allows for even more SCSI devices to be attached.
- Swap button on the front lets you flip from drive 8 to drive 9.
- Front panel buttons allow for manual selection of partitions!
- Write-protect font panel button.
- Compatible with all serial modes and burst commands.
Mine was upgraded with a Zulu SCSI with a 2GB card. Frankly I'll never even get close to filling up 2GB so I'm totally good with this right now.
My HD-200 (or should I call it an HD-2000?) also came with a brand new modern Ray Carlsen PSU, which is really nice.
Last night I located an uber-rare Parallel cable that will allow me to connect my RAMLink to the HD-200 for ridiculous file sharing to commence. I plan on creating a partition for GEOS, C64OS and another for vast storage (including a RAMLink Backup).
CMD was really and truly a hardware company that released Commodore products almost 5-10 years too late. Most folks had moved onto 16-32 bit machines, PCs and Macs by the time these incredible innovations hit the market. But we can still find CMD hardware here in the US. And when we do, we can act like that 8-bit power user we'd always dreamed of being. It's never too late!