The Ultimate SCSI2SD For Samplers Site - the Final Word

SCSI and Samplers - A Short History

2019-07-16 (Last Update: Tue, 16 Jul 2019) Garth Hjelte 0 General


In the mid '80's, samplers started using SCSI, a hard drive protocol designed for fast storage communicate and large capacities. Emu started the trend with their OMI optical drives, and then it went hogwild from there. By the end of the 80's, all samplers had at least a SCSI option to them.

Early SCSI Drives
The drives started out with SCSI CD-ROM Drives in their 650mb glory. Then fixed hard drives like small 40mb things were put inside units like the S1000HD, and the external SCSI ports attached to many (LARGE) external SCSI Drives.

Then the Syquest removable drives came out, and they were perfect for musicians. Syquest drives soon because too unreliable,a n they were eclipsed by ZipDrives and Jaz Drives, made by a Utah company called Iomega. That pretty much rode out the 90's.

Enter USB
SCSI was always a touchy protocol - thus the term "SCSI voodoo" - and as soon as USB came out, almost instantaneously SCSI died a quick death. In fact it was so quick that the cottage industry of USB-SCSI converters couldn't even hit the ground running. Of course, at that time in the MI world, software samplers were taking over and people weren't paying attention to their hardware samplers anymore.

Enter Memory Cards
Coincidentally, at the same time, memory cards - solid state storage - started taking over the removable media market. Fueled by camera use, it became huge fairly quickly - not as quick as the SCSI->USB transition, but fast enough.

It started off with SmartMedia cards, then Compact Flash cards, then the current fashion - the SD card.

The Microtech PCD-47
Unlike the SCSI->USB transition, there was enough time for a cottage industry of SCSI card readers to emerge. The most famous of these was the PCD-47B, made by a relatively small company called Microtech. For those who were able to get heir hands on them, they were great. The problem is that by the time the music industry public noticed the PCD-47B, it was out of production and they were very hard to find.

This was the case through the 2000's and 2010's - until...

Innovators To The Rescue
Being that SCSI was about as dead as a doornail, there was little chance that a modern SCSI SD card reader would ever be created by a large company with the resources to market it and deploy it large scale. And that didn't happen. What DID happen was certain sole individuals created their own designs.

It first started with ArtMix, a single-person company out of Japan. They created since looking SCSI CF card readers that worked fairly well. They also made an SD model. Again, the good thing about this is that they worked fairly well. The bad thing was that in certain cases it didn't. Adding to that, the web site really never made it into English and being a foreign company with no US distribution, it was vulnerable to competition.

Digression - What's The Market?
Before we finish our story (with SCSI2SD), we should know what the demand for this type of thing is. As was stated earlier, when software samplers were being replaced by software samplers, musicians stopped caring about SCSI and that sort of storage. But the music industry is teeny-tiny, how could that support a SCSI memory card reader in production and designed well?

The answer is in the renaissance in the 2010's of vintage computers like the Amiga, Atari's, and other old systems that used SCSI as well. So it just wasn't the music market that had to make this happen, it was the vastly bigger nostalgic computer market. That set the stage.

A Australian designer named Michael McMaster designed SCSI2SD as a open-source project, and although he still is the sole designer,, it didn't take too much time before word got around that this was THE THING everyone was waiting for. It certainly helped that it worked on just about everything you connected it to. It also helped that it was being produced and available, as opposed to the PCD-47B where everyone waited until one appeared on eBay.

But it wasn't just that it worked and was available - it was the brilliant idea of exposing it as multiple ID's - like multiple drives on just one board. After that, game over. Or game started =) The v5.0 came out and sold like gangbusters. The designer listened, and came out with a v6.0 that corrected two faults - the non-standard form factor of the v5.0 and the use of regular SD cards, but also improved the design by giving it 7 max ID's, up from 4 of the v5. Unfortunately it was a bit more expensive - no problem for certain people - so the designer brought the form factor and regular SD size to the v5 area with the v5.1.

Now, these were produced as PCB boards, so the public and certain small companies like Chicken Systems started putting these in 3D-printed external cases. Many people didn't necessary want them mounted into their samplers.

Then came the mini-sized Plug-In Drive -the v5.5. That's where the story ends for now, but it's a happy ending. Now with the current vintage synth/sampler explosion, this is the right technology and the right time at the right price. Woo hoo!

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