Macintosh 128K 400K External Drive

At A Glance

The Macintosh 128K 400K External Drive was an external disk drive originally designed for use with the original classic Macintosh 128K and Macintosh 512K.

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Additional info

The Macintosh External Disk Drive was the original of a series of external 3.5″ floppy disk drives manufactured and sold by Apple Computer exclusively for the Macintosh series of computers introduced in January, 1984. Later, Apple would unify their external drives to work cross-platform between the Macintosh and Apple II product lines, dropping the name “Macintosh” from the drives. Though Apple had been producing external floppy disk drives prior to 1984, they were exclusively developed for the Apple II, III and Lisa computers using the industry standard 5.25″ flexible disk format. The Macintosh external drives were the first to widely introduce Sony’s new 3.5″ rigid disk standard commercially and throughout their product line. Apple produced only one external 3.5″ drive exclusively for use with the Apple II series called the Apple UniDisk 3.5.

The original Macintosh External Disk Drive (M0130) was introduced with the Macintosh on January 24, 1984. However, it did not actually ship until May 4, 1984, sixty days after Apple had promised it to dealers. Bill Fernandez was the project manager who oversaw the design and production of the drive. The drive case was designed to match the Macintosh and included the same 400K drive installed inside the Macintosh. Although very similar to the 400K drive which newly replaced Apple’s ill-fated Twiggy drive in the Lisa, there were subtle differences relating mainly to the eject mechanism. However, all of these drives were labeled confusingly identically. The Macintosh could only support one external drive, limiting the number of floppy disks mounted at once to two. However, both Apple and third party manufacturers developed external hard drives that connected to the Mac’s floppy disk port, which had pass-through ports to accommodate daisy-chaining the external disk drive. Apple’s Hard Disk 20 could accommodate an additional daisy-chained hard drive as well as an external floppy disk. The standard formatted capacity of the drive was 360K, however, Apple employed its GCR formatting technique which spun the disk at a different rate on the outer edges to increase the total disk storage. Despite the greater storage capacity, the drive could not be used on the Apple II. Nor could the Lisa accommodate it as an external drive, despite being originally offered with two 871K drives. These drives only support the original Macintosh File System (MFS), though they can be used on any Macintosh which does not also support a SuperDrive (which systems produce a disruptive signal). While 400K disks can be formatted using a Hierarchical File System (HFS) system, they cannot be used as startup disks, or read on an original 128K Macintosh. Unfortunately, when the Macintosh first debuted, a major criticism levied against it was the inadequacy of the single internal floppy disk drive, making the need for two floppy drives a requirement for most purposes. Therefore the external floppy disk drive became critical to the success of the Macintosh.

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