The SD2IEC: A 1541 disk drive replacement and more!
Can you ever have enough Commodore computers? Probably not, but the home models can be a pain in the arse to set up and show off or even just play with. Not only do you need to find desk real-estate for the rather large power bricks and joysticks but you also need to find room somewhere for the equally large 1541 disk drive. Even the 1541-II drive takes up space and it has its own PSU which also has a footprint!
Figure 1. Desk clutter with the Commodore 64C
Then there is the software itself. I do have an XA1541v2 interface which offers one solution . This allows me to write disk images from my Internet PC to a REAL floppy disk in a 1541 so I have no shortage of programs. However if you have a few C64s, a Vic-20, a C16 and a Plus/4 then keeping separate disk libraries for all these can be a hassle. In fact, it was the acquisition of these last two models (the C16 and Plus/4) that got me thinking about an alternative. I'm always impressed with hardware which can emulate drives. My Commodore Pet runs off a PetDisk, which is a disk substitute using a micro-SD card. I also have similar flash card disk drive substitutes for my Apple Lisa 2, Apple IIGS, BBC(b), TRS-80 Model 1/Dick Smith System 80 and and TRS-80 Model 4. It was time for a similar solution for my Commodore home models.
I wanted something that:
- would work with all of my machines (including my SX-64).
- didn't need a separate PSU.
- was reasonably compatible with a real 1541.
- was easy to use and set up.
- was inexpensive.
The solution: The SD2IEC
Acquaintances at the Vintage Computer Forums came out with some good suggestions and eventually I settled on the SD2IEC. A few people seem to be making these but I chose sd2iec.co.uk as my supplier. They sell a variant which taps into two different sources of power depending on the machine it is attached to. This variant draws power from the user port of a C64, SX-64 and Vic-20, and the cassette port of a C16 and Plus/4. It also comes in its own case in a range of colours to suit the machine. As I would be using it with many Commodore types I decided on a transparent (hence generic) case as shown in the photo below.
Figure 2. The 2D21EC (image from http://www.sd2iec.co.uk/catalog/i11.html)
After checking a few things with the maker/supplier (which were clarified promptly) I laid down my 43 english pounds and waited for the unit to arrive. It didn't take long at all.
The drive arrived well packed in an anti-static case. It was nicely assembled and was accompanied with a single double-sided A4 sheet titled "SD2IEC Hints and Tips". I felt confident I could work my way through the instructions but in the end I didn't have to. Over the page there was a highlighted section for those (like me!) who wanted to take the easy option. This involved downloading a large self-extracting installer file containing a software collection covering all Commodore 8-bit home computers that could use the 1541 drive. You simply extract the collection into an empty, formatted SD card.
Figure 3. Easy start instructions
After doing this, things couldn't be easier. You simply plug the SD2IEC into whatever machine you are going to use, switch the computer on, then enter a couple of commands. After this you select the directory which corresponds to your model and suddenly you have a HUMONGOUS software library for it...programs are selected with the cursor keys and run by pressing ENTER. Brilliant!
I tested the drive with the software library on all my relevant Commodores. It worked perfectly.
There are many things to like about the SD2IEC from sd2iec.co.uk. It's a reasonable price with a low shipping cost. It has a small case with the colour matched to your machine if you wish. It draws its power directly from the computer and variants exist which are wired to use different sources of power, thereby making the unit transferable amongst the different Commodore models.
Figure 4. Power supplied via the user port on a C64 (left) or cassette port on a C16 (right)
Figure 5. The perfect accessory for all my Commodores!
What impressed me the most though wasn't so much the hardware itself, but the way the supplier made it easy to populate my SD card with software and then run this from the card in the SD2IEC. It is all the software I would ever want, for all the machines I have!
I'll never have to download D64s/PRGs or shuffle those floppy disks again!
29th March, 2014