Sugar baby! Shugart for the C64

When we talk about disk drives for the C64, we mostly tend to think about the classic 1541 and 1571 drives running the 5,25” formats.
To a lesser extent we associate 3,5” disks with the C64 (with the 1581 drive) as most of us used these disks in the Amiga’s or PCs during the 80s and 90s.
There were of course several other formats, such as the 3” and 8” disks but surely these could never have been used on a C64 as there was simply no floppy drive for them … or was there?

When we look at the disk drives of the 80s, we see all these formats in use on PCs and the likes, and zooming in on the technology behind them, we find that all these drives used what is called the Shugart bus (named after Shugart Associates, a computer peripheral manufacturer that dominated the floppy disk drive market in the late 1970s and is famous for introducing the 5,25” floppy disk drive).

As is the case with most of these famous developments, the history behind Alan Shugart, his company and the events that lead to the creation of the quintessential drive is filled with anecdotes.  Whether they’re true or not, remains a mystery, but they provide a fantastic read.  So the story goes that the idea for the 5,25” floppy drive came when a team of Shugart sat down for lunch with a customer who complained that the 8” drive was too big for the personal computers then emerging in market.  When they asked what the size should be, the customer pointed to a napkin on the table and said, “About that size”.  They returned to the lab with the napkin and designed the 5,25” floppy drive.

Anyway, back to our C64. The controller or Shugart bus that was used in PCs could handle up to 4 disk drives of the formats mentioned above.  The German company Roesmoeller saw here a great opportunity and decided to build a Shugart controller for the C64.  Towards the end of 1986, beginning of 1987, they succeeded and presented this controller as a board that you could hook up to your C64 and then provided connectivity to up to four drives, ranging from the 3” to the 8” format.
The picture above shows a demo model of a disk drive station, having 4 disks (in the 4 formats) and ready to be attached to your C64.

The price of the Shugart bus (board) was calculated to today’s currency roughly 300 Euro.

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