reviewed by Les Ellingham



Issue 12

Nov/Dec 84

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An 810 drive modification

Some owners of the 810 Disk Drive may not know that you can use the reverse side of a single-sided disk simply by cutting a notch on the side of the disk opposite to the existing notch. It is quite easy to do but it is fiddly and can be dangerous, especially if, like me, you use a scalpel! In the States a 'Nibble-Notch' is available but costs around $19 for overseas shipment which is a bit expensive for a ticket collectors punch! An alternative, which does much more than just allow you to write to the reverse of a disk, is the Autotect Disk Modification from Magical Electronic Services.

The Autotect package.

The Autotect consists of a plug in circuit board, a switch box with LED, a few cable ties and a four page set of instructions for fitting and use. As well as being able to write to the reverse of a disk without cutting a notch, you can, depending on how you connect the board, have automatic write-protect without using write-protect labels and there is also a switch that enables the drive to be quietened down. One of the fears about using a device which ignores write-protect labels is that you may inadvertently delete a wanted file but the Autotect overcomes this problem by having a constantly flashing red LED when write-protect is off. You can still write over a file but your eyesight would have to be pretty poor not to notice that LED!

Two configurations are possible depending on how you connect the board. Firstly, with the LED on red you can write to any disk with or without a notch or write protect label and, with the LED on green, all disks are write-protected. The alternative is to have the drive act as normal, i.e. as if it had not been modified, when the LED is green and have the write enable facility on all disks when the LED is flashing red. I prefer the latter as I find it easier to stick a write protect notch on those disks I know I want to protect but occasionally I want to add something to those disks and I can then simply flick the switch and add the file or write onto the other side of the disk. Either way, the choice is yours and the instructions are quite explicit on the correct way to connect up the Autotect for each operation.

The board has a switch which can be set to one of three positions to quieten down the noise of the drive when the drive head moves across tracks. Three positions are giver as the drive may not function correctly with this facility. It certainly does quieten the drive but I found that even in the `less quiet' position my drive just kept on spinning forever. It may work on other drives but I don't really consider this feature to be particularly important anyway and I have just left mine in the 'off' position.

The switch box and LED fits on to the outside of the drive and looks very neat, being the same colour as the drive and slightly larger than a matchbox. Having a look inside the box reveals a simple rocker switch and LED and, if you don't mind drilling a few holes, these could easily be removed and fitted to the front panel of the drive with the switch where the Atari logo is and the LED beside the busy light. The unit nevertheless looks good stuck on the outside, much better in fact than you might think.

Fitted and looking quite neat

The instructions are quite clear except on one point and fitting the unit is relatively easy with no experience or tools required other than a screwdriver to remove the drive lid. The exception referred to is in fitting the connector from the switch where the instructions say that 'the black side of the plug should be facing up'. In fact mine had no black side and a piece of intelligent guesswork was required.

I have now been using the Autotect for several weeks and quite simply would not want to be without it Definitely one of the best additions to my system and highly recommended.