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(Nearly) Complete Kalok Octagon Lineup

famicomaster2

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Since I've decided to start participating here a bit more, I figured I would show off some of the things I have acquired. This is my most recent "Complete" section, with two exceptions.
I don't really have any displays set up for my things or any good studio space to take pretty pictures of these things - My workbench will have to do for now.

Drives pictured, top left to bottom right:
-Xebec XE-3080 (Kalok Octagon II KL-380) (80MB) (ATA)
-Kalok Octagon II KL-3100 (Xebec XE-3100) (100MB) (ATA)
-Kalok Ocatgon II KL-3120 (Xebec XE-3120) (120MB) (Rev 1.1) (ATA)
-Kalok Octagon II KL-3120 (Xebec XE-3120) (120MB) (Rev 1.1) (ATA)
-Xebec XE-3120 (Kalok Octagon II KL-3120) (120MB) (Rev 1.6) (ATA)
-Kyocera KC-20B (Progenitor of the Octagon design) (20MB) (ST-412)
-Kalok Octagon KL-320 (20MB) (ST-412)
-Kalok Octagon KL-343 (40MB) (ATA)

I am actually missing two drives from their lineup:
-Kalok Octagon KL-330 (30MB) (ST-412HP)
-Kalok Octagon KL-341 (40MB) (SCSI-1)
The KL-330 is identical in every way to the KL-320 other than the stickers, it's just "RLL" certified for 26 sectors/track.
The KL-341, on the other hand, I've *never* seen a photo of and *never* seen listed for sale, it's only mentions are in TH99 (Not known for reliability) and the CSC Hard Drive Bible.
There are also some listings for a possible KL-360, 60MB ATA unit in the Octagon II lineup, but I've never seen convincing evidence that this drive actually exists either. It's only mention is on a website called "M.Farris"

Not pictured, I have a boxed example of Kalok's most advanced product, the P5 cartridge system. Kalok actually licensed production to Teac which was rebranded as "TEAC-STOR," which is the unit I have. It is a removable hard disk system for ATA machines.
That is, however, unrelated to the Octagon lineup, for which Kalok made their fame... One way or another. 1994 was the final year for the stepper hard disk, and Kalok was one of just two competitors left in the ring, the other being failing "Daeyoung" with just two models - The DX-3100 (100MB, ATA) and DX-3120 (120MB, ATA), which were both slimline drives. Ultimately, Kalok won the war but the price competition had hurt them dearly and they were not long for the world. At the end of Q3 1994, Kalok shut their doors and their remains were bought by a company called JT Storage who immediately canned the entire Octagon lineup and turned the P5 removable drives into slimline ATA hard disks, which were then sold as the CHAMP series. Different from the later Champion units, confusingly.

It's interesting to think what might have been, if the price war had not killed Kalok, or if the JTS buyout had optioned to keep the Octagon II lineup instead of the P5 cartridge system. Maybe the rotary band stepper hard disks would have gone a bit further on. Could you imagine 200MB, 500MB, 1GB stepper hard disks? It's an interesting and not entirely unfeasible thought - We were inches away from this reality.
IMG_20221103_153322.jpg


Hopefully that has been an interesting read to some of you here - I've got a crap load of other things I could show off, but I have always been proud of my Kalok collection and the fact that almost all of these drives work is nothing short of a miracle with their reputation in mind. I'd be happy to answer any questions, comments, concerns you may have. Thanks for reading!
 

daverand

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Might you have a TEC 20 megabyte drive in your collection? This should be a half-high 5" drive, from about 1984-1985....
 

famicomaster2

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Might you have a TEC 20 megabyte drive in your collection? This should be a half-high 5" drive, from about 1984-1985....
Do you mean Teac? I'm not aware of any company called TEC. If they weren't sold here in the US, that would probably be why. I don't list a TEC in TH99 or in the holy text.

As far as I'm aware, the only companies actively selling drives 84-85 were: Seagate, Miniscribe, Micropolis, Rodime, Priam, CMI, IBM Rochester, Tandon, Shugart, Quantum. There may be others I have forgotten, but these were all the "big players" and then some.
 

stepleton

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Apple would have been selling Widget 10 MB hard drives in those years, albeit with an entire Apple Lisa / Macintosh XL as their "packaging". Still, a hard drive of its own kind (i.e. not a rebadged unit), with deliveries in the thousands at least.
 

daverand

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I (briefly) worked on that TEC drive, and never did find out if it went to market or not. Thank you for checking!
 

famicomaster2

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open-loop steppers at >100mb is laughable
Actually, the Octagon II does have a feedback setup. They have double the steps necessary for the amount of cylinders, but every other step is embedded servo information! From what I can tell, it's just a single pattern, but it lets the drive electronics know whether it's between tracks. This did improve reliability a bit. They also gave it half-stepping to further adjust this out, where possible.

Of course they still have the problems related to the actual rotary band itself, but I find it pretty entertaining nonetheless.
 

daverand

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Al is right (as usual). It was a simple stepper, but we did try a few tricks. The microcontroller was seriously under powered (8031? I can't recall now), but it did work...
 

famicomaster2

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Unfortunately, again no mention of Tokyo Electric in either TH99 nor in the bible. Toshiba doesn't appear to have anything listed <43MB either.
 

daverand

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Thank you, Al! The drive was designed in southern California. It was my first time working on that kind of microcontroller, and I did not enjoy the experience. Shortly after that, Definicon started up and I certainly *did* enjoy that!
 

famicomaster2

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Thank you, Al! The drive was designed in southern California. It was my first time working on that kind of microcontroller, and I did not enjoy the experience. Shortly after that, Definicon started up and I certainly *did* enjoy that!
If you've got any "tales from the bottle" so to speak on working on that drive, I'd love to hear them. Industrial microcontroller programming is a unique field, and getting such a (relatively) high speed, high precision device working on such little power must have been an entertaining project. If you've got details to share, I'd be very interested!
Did you do any of the mechanical or analog design, or just the programming for the micro?

took some digging, they show up in the 1985 Disk/Trend Report
Well now I've got a couple more saved searches on eBay. Thanks much!
 

daverand

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The drive was pretty much complete when I got involved. I worked a small amount on the code for the seek processing, trying to understand the ramping that was being do to try to improve the seek time. I did not get very far into the project, but seriously did not like the choice of controller. It was (much) later that I began to understand the challenges that were involved in the hardware, and why that particular one was used. I did not do any of the analog or mechanical work.

I'm not certain if any of the code survived, but I am going through "that era" of software now. If I find anything interesting, I'll post some of the details.

Most of my later work was done in algorithms. I did get a chance to work on several other microcontrollers over the years (8051, and several others), and did some simulation and microcode work for the National Semi processors (NS32CG16 in particular). That was also way too much fun!
 

famicomaster2

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The drive was pretty much complete when I got involved. I worked a small amount on the code for the seek processing, trying to understand the ramping that was being do to try to improve the seek time. I did not get very far into the project, but seriously did not like the choice of controller. It was (much) later that I began to understand the challenges that were involved in the hardware, and why that particular one was used. I did not do any of the analog or mechanical work.
Low seek time was a huge selling point - If it was a stepper drive, the acceleration curves were absolutely crucial. "Bad" companies like Kalok and Computer Memories Inc both had similar approaches to speeding up their drives without actually going to voice coil. Most of CMI's work can be found in a PDF on bitsavers - Super, super interesting stuff! Although, CMI used a 6803, which is a Motorola 6800 with 128 bytes of RAM and a built in PIA.

You seem to have thoughts on the matter, what do you believe drove them to use the particular controller they did?
I'm not certain if any of the code survived, but I am going through "that era" of software now. If I find anything interesting, I'll post some of the details.
Cool! Would love to peek at it if you find anything. The engineering behind the scenes is usually more interesting than the drives themselves.
 

3lectr1c

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Oh that is absolutely hilarious, amazing collection of drives! I’ve heard about how crap the Kalok drives were in terms of reliability, I’m just as shocked as you are that these still work.
 

famicomaster2

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The later drives have the assistance of basic servo data on the disk which helps it center itself over a track more accurately, but the Octagon I (KL-320, KL-330, KL-34x) don't even have that. I actually rather like these drives, they're small but rather quick for their class, they definitely have a reasonable enough access time for their era. That and the sound they make sure is incredible. If you've never heard a KL-320 running defrag, you really ought to!
 

3lectr1c

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I’ve watched videos of the 343 - probably my favorite HDD sound besides maybe an IBM Type 2 drive I saw in another video, and the mid 90s WD drives.
 

famicomaster2

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I’ve watched videos of the 343 - probably my favorite HDD sound besides maybe an IBM Type 2 drive I saw in another video, and the mid 90s WD drives.
Type 2 like the WD-12 / WD-25 drives shipped in XTs? I agree, the Caviars do have an interesting sound do them but I like the Seagate Medalist drives from that era more.

I've got such a large collection of drives these days, some which people have never heard of, and every time I mention one I wind up having to video it for someone who asks. I'm thinking of making myself a little recording studio from an unused closet to record the sights and sounds a bit. Maybe throw in some technical info and documentation, too. Maybe.
 

3lectr1c

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The one in this video:
I’d love to see videos on your rare and uncommon drives!
 
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