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.
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!
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.
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.