Microdrive Duplication - I wonder ...

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NormanDunbar
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Microdrive Duplication - I wonder ...

Postby NormanDunbar » Fri May 04, 2018 8:11 am

Does anyone know how, back in the day, microdrive cartridges were duplicated for the mass market - I mean the ones with software on.

It came to me in the night, so I'm just curious.

Cheers,
Norm.


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Re: Microdrive Duplication - I wonder ...

Postby Dave » Fri May 04, 2018 8:42 am

We just used two QLs.


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Re: Microdrive Duplication - I wonder ...

Postby tofro » Fri May 04, 2018 8:50 am

Norman,

don't know how, but have found some information on who, which is interesting:

Sinclair User 37 wrote:IN A recent unheralded move, Sinclair has slashed the price of microdrive cartridges from £4.95 to £1.99.

The move is designed to encourage software houses to develop programs on microdrive and to that end a special offer of free duplication services at Ablex continues.


So, apparently, Ablex (the microdrive cartridge manufacturer) was offering free duplication services to software houses to promote usage of the media. How they actually did it I don't know. Even if Ablex had access to the "raw tape" before it went into the cartridge loop and they could have used any means of copying the data to the tape beforehand, I doubt that would have worked.

Given the low volumes of software that was actually sold on mdv, I would assume they'd done it just like we do - Using Spectrums or QLs with lots of drives attached to them and some specific software.

Tobias


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Re: Microdrive Duplication - I wonder ...

Postby NormanDunbar » Fri May 04, 2018 9:20 am

I used to run the Quanta library (as a sub-librarian I mean) and the C68 side of it. I remember copying discs for whole weekends at a time using a QL with a Miracle Hard Drive and a set of floppies. It was not fun!

That's probably why I was wondering - I must have been having nightmares about it. ;)

Even using my "fast sector copy" routine to copy floppy to floppy didn't really help - that only copied used sectors. The fuller the source the longer it took anyway.

Oh well.


Cheers,
Norm.


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Re: Microdrive Duplication - I wonder ...

Postby RWAP » Fri May 04, 2018 12:15 pm

The other question surely has to be for the copy protection schemes which used bits of software (or bad sectors) at specific bad sectors on the tapes.

I wonder how many tapes they had to go through in order to find one which would allow them to store to a specific sector on the tape!


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Re: Microdrive Duplication - I wonder ...

Postby NormanDunbar » Fri May 04, 2018 12:46 pm

Hi Rich,

I'm sure they simply flipped a byte or two in the map where an empty sector was marked as free to mark it as bad, made a note of the sector number, and plugged that into the main code.

Test and make read only. Job done.

A fiddle, yes, but I can't see any other way, unless of course there are real bad sectors on the tape.

Cheers,
Norm.


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Re: Microdrive Duplication - I wonder ...

Postby Dave » Fri May 04, 2018 6:11 pm

We had a 640K QL.

We loaded the duplicator software onto it. It would ask for the image to copy, and we'd insert a master microdrive. It would format it to RAM1_

Then it would prompt us to put a microdrive in 1 & 2.

It would copy to 1, verify, then do a low beep, copy to 2, verify, do a high beep, and repeat.

On a low beep I'd swap 1, on a high beep I'd swap 2. If the screen was green I'd chuck it in the ok box, if it was red I'd chuck it in the reformat box.

This would do about 50-100 mdv's/hour depending on the amount of content. About 95% would write and verify first time. About 80% of the failures would write/verify the 2nd time.

Copying floppies was easier and quicker. We had a 1 to 10 duplicator. The unpleasant bit was the roll of labels, and putting a bunch of labels on "the right way up" (shutter at top, label would be visible right way up if you ejected the disk) but Tony liked the shutter at the bottom, which to me was weird.


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Re: Microdrive Duplication - I wonder ...

Postby tofro » Fri May 04, 2018 7:30 pm

If I'd have been the tape dubber, I'd probably have required the software houses to provide a dubbing program that would copy one master to 7 copies. I am pretty sure the tape copier wouldn't have wanted to be bothered with myriads of different protection schemes.

Tobias


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