Hard Disk Recording to SD Cards on the Atari Falcon

Hard Disk Recording to SD Cards on the Atari Falcon

Warning: 1. If you wish to perform this mod, do so at your own risk.  AMN is not liable for any damage you may cause to your equipment.  2. Not all SCSI devices will work with this mod, it is a matter of trial and error.  3. Always keep your floppy drive somewhere safe and don't rip the floppy drive cable off the motherboard - you will need your floppy drive when changing/resetting your NVRAM chip and installing a new hard drive!

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Now isn't this sexy (in a geeky sort of way)? With this mod, you can swap SD cards between your Atari Falcon and PC extremely fast! I was inspired to perform this hardware modification by all those on Atari-Forum.com who replaced their noisy IDE drives with silent Compact Flash cards. The difference here is that I use Cubase Audio Falcon (CAF) for direct-to-disk recording which only records to SCSI drives, even though it can read audio files from the IDE drive. Therefore, I needed to find an internal 50-pin SCSII II PCMCIA Card Reader with a PCMCIA to SD Card Adapter and connect it to the external SCSII II port.  If you don't need direct-to-disk recording, you can also connect your 44-pin IDE port to an IDE Multi Card Reader.  I wanted the best of both worlds, so all three of my Atari Falcons have dual CF IDE drives and 3.5" SCSI II PCMCIA to SD Card Drives!


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The 50-pin SCSI II PCMCIA external card reader is hard to find and often very expensive.  I bought mine on Ebay for a little over $200 US each.  They were actually external units so I had to take them out the internal 3.5" drive out of it chasis and power supply.  It fit perfectly inside my old floppy port and took the same 4-pin +5V power supply. Don't let the price deter you! Recently, I've seen much cheaper units on Ebay for $50 US that were pulled from old Dell PCs.  I think it's a matter of luck vs. patience to find a quality drive for a good price.  Next, I attached a custom made external SCSI II to Internal SCSI II ribbon cable which actually does not exist anywhere online or in a store.  I ended up paying around $30 each for someone to make them for me.  If you know how to make cables, it will cost you less than $10 in parts! ;-p


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This next step is easy but very important. Despite what you might think, the ribbon cable does not slip under the cover easily.  You must file a wide slit in the lower case that goes below the lip that slips in to place with the upper lid.  If you don't, the upper lid cut the delicate ribbon cable - believe me, I learned the hard way.  All you need is a metal file and 1000 grit automotive sand paper to make a clean, even slit to pass the cable through unscathed.  The RF shielding underneath will also necessitate a some fancy folding techniques to pass the cable through without causing the upper lid to bulge.  Make your SCSI II ribbon cable no less than 12" long.


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If you're going to use Atari Cubase Audio Falcon for direct-to-disk recording, you might have compatibility issues with the SCSI driver in HDDriver v8.23 interfering with the Cubase SCSI driver.  If you are a legitimate owner of this software, the HDDriver mastermind, Uwe Seimet, will gladly e-mail you HRDriver 7.93 which should solve this problem.  After I completed this mod, I found a pleasant surprise - the SCSI SD card is hot-swappable! Isn't that worth labeling this machine an Atari Sparrow FX-1?  ;-)


Uwe Seimet, developer of HDDriver, offers some advice on this hardware hack: Whether this set-up works for everyone or not depends on the card reader and is a matter of trial and error. Some card reader models may work with HDDRIVER 7.9, others may not. Some SCSI devices require certain features that are only available on HDDriver 8 and above. Note that for HDDriver, it does not matter whether a SCSI device is a real hard drive or something else that behaves like a hard disk drive; all that matters is that the device is compliant to the SCSI specification.  It's also not too surprising that the SD card is hot-swappable. As long as the card reader properly supports the SCSI standard it will report the media change just like any other SCSI drive with removable media support. From HDDriver's perspective the card reader is not different from any other removable media drive.