Diablo 30 Series

1970Diablo 30 Series Cartridge Disk Drives

First Highly Successful OEM Cartridge Disk Drive Manufacturer

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Why its important


The Diablo 31 became the dominant cartridge disk drive for minicomputers and early workstations. The small rack mount form factor and front load gave small computer users great flexibility in loading software, good mass storage performance, and essentially unlimited shelf storage capacity. This type of drive fostered the rapid growth of several minicomputer manufacturers and the development of more complex applications.


Discussion

Diablo Systems Inc. Hayward CA, was founded July 1969 by George Comstock and Dr. Andrew Gabor. It was initially financed by Itel, and sold to Xerox in April 1972 for about $28M [Oakland Tribune, April 25, 1972] The company's first product was a front loading cartridge disk drive that used cartridges compatible to the IBM-2315. Initially offered as the Model 30 at 1.25 megabyte capacity, it was quickly replaced by the Model 31 with twice the capacity, 2.5 megabytes.

Dr. Gabor designed the drive with two technologies that were new to small disk drives - a rotary to linear positioner that used an Inductosyn for position feedback and a DC motor as the power source. Another DC motor was used as the direct drive spindle. Unlike most prior designs the motor, spindle and blower were packaged togetherin one integrated unit. The drive was rack mounted and power supplies were provided by the customer.

Digital Equipment Corporation was the first OEM customer and obtained a license to manufacture the product, but decided to design their own interface and cartridge compatible drive. Other notable customers were Data General and the Xerox PARC ALTO workstation.

Although not the first cartridge disk drive, (see IBM 2310), and probably the 3rd manufacturer of 2315 compatible cartridges to ship (it followed CMD and Iomec), Diablo became the dominant OEM supplier of cartridge disk drives in the 1970s.

FCS was to 1970 to Digital Equipment. DEC selected Diablo as a supplier before the first prototype was functional. Note product shipped to DRI, Staines UK before August 1970 a likely licensee of Diablo [Oakland Tribune, Aug 5, 1970].

Probably the disk drive used on the "World's First Fully Functional Microcomputer (with peripherals)"

Diablo later offered a fixed plus removable version of the Model 31.Product Brochure attached. Diablo continued to offer cartridge hard disk drive products throughout the 1970s.

Diablo expanded into the "daisy wheel" printer market, offering near IBM Selectric typewriter print quality for word processors.

Diablo Systems, Inc. continued as an independent subsidiary until 1979 when Xerox merged Diablo's disk drive operations into Xerox's recently acquired Century Data Systems. The Diablo disk drive product line ceased to exist shortly thereafter.


Additional Information
Oral History of George Comstock, CHM Accession #102658008
"THE IMPACT OF REMOVABLE CARTRIDGE DISK DRIVES", George Comstock, Proc COMPUTER SYSTEMS DESIGN II 1972 WEST CONFERENCE, Feb 1972, p 149-153


Author :Tom Gardner

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