SUMMARY: read/write optical disks anyone?

From: Kerry Duke (
Date: Tue Jan 12 1993 - 12:46:38 CST

I recently asked about read/write optical drives for SUN systems. I appreciate
the kind replys (even the *gentle* reminder to supply the net with a summary).

> I haven't seen any discussion recently about what read/write Optical drives
> are people currently purchasing. The drive is to be used for archiving
> engineering data.
> If you can point me to any reviews, or if you have any first hand opinions,
> I would appreciate them.
> BTW, I have a quote for a Ricoh Hyperspace Rewriteable Optical Drive w/cable
> and 12mos warranty for $2,625.

Apparently the Sony mechanisms provide slower performance than some of the
others. The MAXTOR Tahiti product is much faster but might have problems in
its 1Gb mode. The Ricoh drive is fairly new; noone said they had seen it.
There are several other manufacturers each with their fairly new product.
Buyer beware!

Most products require there own driver. Be careful of Solaris 2.1, it isn't
known whether any of these units will/have work(ed) on the new OS.

Products mentioned were:
Epson 3.5" 128Mb (128Mb/side), 40ms access, $45/disk
MAXTOR Tahiti II 5.25" 650 or 1Gb (325 or 500Mb/side), 80ms access, $300/disk
Pinnacle Micro Jukebox $11K
Ricoh Hyperspace 5.25" 650Mb (325/side), 37ms access, $145/disk
                                        $2,6K from BayState Computer, Boston
Sony 650Mb
Sony SMO-S501 (260Mb/side) $5.1K from SUN

Additional Summaries:
        MacUser, July 1992
        Imaging, The Imaging Industry Magazine, September 1992
        Magneto-Optical drives by Peter Baumann, July 92 (included)

Thanks go to ... (Mark S. Anderson)
bernards@ECN.NL (Marcel Bernards) ( ger barrett )
analogy!markh@uunet.UU.NET (Mark Holm) (Bill Duncan) (David Galloway)
Bill D <100016.2320@CompuServe.COM> (Bill DeStefano) (Pam Boge) (Peter Baumann)

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>From Fri Jan 8 10:31:48 1993
Date: 08 Jan 93 10:08:52 EST
From: Bill D <100016.2320@CompuServe.COM>
To: Kerry Duke <>
Subject: Re: Read/write optical disks anyone?
Content-Length: 2596

Hello Kerry,

I have two optical drives which I use on a Macintosh network.

One is a 5.25" model, 650/1000Mbyte Tahitti mechanism (1990 vintage), and the
other is a 3.5" model with the 128 MByte Epson mechanism which I just
purchased last month.

The larger Tahitti drive holds a lot but it is rather slow - in the 80ms
access range. Also the size is misleading. It is not a straight 650 or 1000
MBytes, its 325 or 500 Mbytes per side. Yes, you have to unmount, eject, and
flip it over to get the full advertised size. This solution is good for
backups and files that are seldom used, but it is annoyingly slow for everyday
use. Also the media for this drive is fairly expense though (in the $300 a
disk range). Keep in mind that this drive is three years old so maybe the
newer models sport better performance.
Now the 128Mbyte Epson 3.5" drive is much faster (40ms access, 768 kbytes/sec
sustainable transfer rate), and although it isn't up to par with the speed of
a magnetic hard disk, it is livable under most circumstances. The media is a
convenient size (just a little thicker that a regular 3.5" floppy) and it's
cheap - around $45 for a 128 Mbytes. I really like this drive.

There was a nice writeup on optical drives in the July 1992 edition of MacUser
magazine. It reviews several drives and discusses the technical aspects of
the technology. Things have changed a little since then but it is still great
reading. If you cannot locate it, I can fax it to you.

I also manage a Sun network and I have considered trying to use these drives
on it by I haven't had the time to do so. In the past I was unable to find
any information on the topic (ie. will the SunOS sd driver handle the
optical?, what paramters do I use to format it?, etc.). I have asked many
vendors at UNIX expo in 90, 91, and 92 and I've received very little help. I
even tried asking Sun support, but you know how that goes.

Some well known vendors of opticals are PLI in Fremont California
(800-288-8754), DGR Technologies in Austin Texas (512-476-9855), Pinnacle
Micro (800-553-7070), MicroTech (800-626-4276), and Mass Microsystems (800)
I have dealt with PLI and DGR and both have provided me with excellent
service. The problem is that none of these people know much about UNIX.

If you find out anything interesting or would like to discuss this at length,
please feel free to call or email me.

Good luck.

Bill DeStefano
Nouveau Systems, Geneva (Switzerland)
Friday, 8 January 1993

voice: 011 41 22 798 8844

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>From Mon Jan 11 04:05:37 1993
Date: Mon, 11 Jan 93 10:05:43 +0100
From: (Peter Baumann)
Subject: MO-drives
Content-Length: 3673


Here is my summary from July 92. In the mean time some new drives have reached
the market including the new line from Ricoh. You should be careful with
access times. If you mostly use large files as we do in image processing
data transfer rates are much more relevant. We bought a Maxtor Tahiti II and
are pleased with the performance of the drive. We only use the 600 MB
cartridges and haven't had any problems yet. Additionaly we are able to hook
the drive up to a PC when we have to acquire large amounts of data off location.
I hoipe this is some help to you!

ciao, Peter

DDD L RRR | Peter Baumann
D D L R R | Abt. SM-ES, DLR, Bunsenstr. 10, W-3400 Goettingen, FRG
D D L RRR | Tel. (0551) 709-2190 FAX: (0551) 709-2101
DDD LLLL R R | internet:

Hi netlanders!

I put an inquiry on Magneto-Optical drives on the net a while ago and got very
helpful infos back. Now that I have all the infos I wanted here is the summary:

There seem to be basically three different MO-devices. One is from Sony, one is
the Maxtor Tahiti II and Ricoh also manufactures one. I only have extensive
infos on the Maxtor and the Sony and all further comments relate to these two
drives. A new drive from Pinnacle Micro was also mentioned. They claim 1.4 MB
sustained transfer rate for this drive, so I assume this must be another device
but nobody has used it so far. HP and Kodak supposedly also manufactur
Both drives use cartridges with a capacity of ca. 650 MBytes, which is split to
both sides of the cartridge, so you can only access 1/2 of the capacity at one
time. The Tahiti II has an additional operating mode which uses 1GB cartridges.
The drives can be used whithout any drivers unless you want to operate the
Tahiti in the 1GB mode. Both drives seem to operate well when using the ISO
650 MB mode, but there are problems using the Tahiti in 1 GB mode. Media seems
to be an important issue as well and I got recommendations to use Sony.
The most important difference between both drives is the data transfer rate.
A couple of VERY NICE people ran some benchmarks for me on large files. The
SONY delivered dissapointing results:
data transfer for writing : ca. 70 KB / sec.
data transfer for reading : 150-230 KB / sec.
data transfer for writing : 240-310 KB / sec.
data transfer for reading : ca. 560 KB / sec.
These results are for writing a 10 MB file with a blocksize of 8 KB and reading
it right back. The Tahiti II also has a much shorter average access time of
28 ms compared to 90 ms for the Sony. Pricing: (AKRO Datensysteme,
UnterschleiBheim, Germany, DM 1 = ca. US $ 1.50)
Sony: 4854.-, Sony media 264.-
Maxtor: 7153.-, 1 GB media 526.- (no price for ISO media yet)

We will buy a Maxtor Tahiti II and operate it in ISO mode. To end the summary
I would like to thank all who responded very much, especially those people who
ran the speed benchmarks for me!

Phil Antoine (antoine@RadOnc.Duke.EDU)
Claus Assmann <>
James J Dempsey <> (Lance Eric Greenwade) (Joachim Holzfuss) (J. Matt Landrum)
Seth Robertson <> (Danielle Sanine)
kalli!kevin@fourx.Aus.Sun.COM (Kevin Sheehan) (Wolfgang Solfrank)
ukrainec@nimios.Eng.McMaster.CA (Andrew Ukrainec) (Dunstan_Vavasour) (Tom Vijlbrief) (nancy voorhis)
wertz@carto.ssd.IMD.Sterling.COM (Mike Wertzberger)
Dave Wilmot <>
Alex Zbyslaw <>

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  Kerry Duke
  System Manager Internet: Kerry.Duke@Analog.Com
  Analog Devices Incorporated Voice: 617-461-3598
  Norwood, MA 02062 FAX: 617-461-3010

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