In fine form: Disk ][ versus DuoDisk


An unfair comparison, if there ever was one. When it was packaged and sent to stores in 1984, the Apple //e and //e Enhanced models came with the DuoDisk, an update to the classic Disk ][ unit.

The DuoDisk was a no brainer. Rather than stacking two Disk ][ drives to the side of the computer, or sandwiching them precariously between the CRT monitor and flexible plastic computer cover, the DuoDisk was designed to blend seamlessly into the existing physical presence of the Apple //e, sitting perfectly between the monitor and the computer.

It took up less space than two Disk ][ units, leaving the user with more room on their desktop (the real desktop – no Windows here).

Then why did I pay almost $80 to ‘downgrade’ my Apple //e from the magnificent DuoDisk to a single Disk ][?

I don’t really know. Something something nostalgia.

So far, it’s been impractical. Without forking out for yet another Disk ][ drive, it’s left me with just the one, which means more manual handling when it comes to swapping floppy disks during ADTPro sessions. It has also put a brief end to my attempts at setting up an anachronistic BBS, with most software out there requiring at least two disk drives.

The single Disk ][ unit is also massive, relatively speaking. It takes up precious space on my already crowded desk.

Despite all this, I don’t regret switching to the Disk ][, and barring an unexpected hardware failure, I’ll be leaving my //e in this configuration for many years to come.

The purchase of the Disk ][ drive and interface card was the pursuit of nostalgia. My childhood //e featured two of these black monolithic drives, and it seemed only natural that my machine in 2015 should look somewhat the same. We did have DuoDisk units at school for use with the //e Platinum, but that had slipped my mind until recently.

The Disk ][ Interface Card also holds the notorious honour of being the oldest component in the //e system, having been originally produced in 1978. The Disk ][ unit itself was likely produced in the early 1980s, perhaps as early as 1979. It has a grey ribbon cable which was synonymous with the later model ][ Europlus and //e machines (as far as I know, drives with the rainbow ribbon were produced alongside the earliest machines, including the original Apple ][ and early ][+ models).

For some reason, much to my surprise, the Disk ][ is much, much quieter than the DuoDisk. Granted, I did service it on its arrival, due to the age of the mechanisms. The ‘clunk clunk clunk’ which was so loud on the DuoDisk is very soft on the Disk ][. It took me a few days to get used to this, but after briefly installing the DuoDisk once again for a quick test, I definitely prefer the noise of the Disk ][.

Related or not, the Disk ][ is also having an easier time at reading some of the original disks that I’ve since collected, including original Apple II Prodos and Apple II System Utilities. These would not read on the DuoDisk (potentially indicating that I need to service the DuoDisk, as I have since with the Disk ][).

And finally, it’s nice to be able to feature a system component that was almost exclusively designed, streamlined and tested by the Woz. It is the granddaddy of Apple floppy disk drives, bringing medium-density storage to the masses at a time when floppy disks were mostly unaffordable for the home or small business. The lineage of removable media can be traced back to the floppy disk (if we ignore cassette tape storage), and like the //e itself, it’s a part of computing history.

In fine form: Disk ][ versus DuoDisk

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