Tech Flashback: SyQuest 88MB Removable Hard Disk Cartridge

If you said “Hold on a sec, didn’t you did this already?, no you’re not insane. I did cover the topic of SyQuest drives and disks before.

But now, the cartridges and drive are mine – after strenuous work with ddrescue, three of four cartridges were rescued twice separately and checksummed identically.

What does this mean? It means we can be a bit more thorough in our explorations and even destructive if needs be! And I can do so in the comfort of my own home where my camera and flashes reside! This would be a good chance to get a good set of photos! Click for larger, of course.

I guess it needs no introduction after the last post …

Cartridge Case Front Cartridge Case Back

Open Case

Cartridge Front Cartridge Rear

But that’s really where we stopped before – with nasty camera-phone shots replaced with proper photos from my DSLR. The case is pictured, front and back, insides, and cartridge front and back. The brown translucent plastic already gives you a glimpse of the inside – so I guess you can gather it’s not going to be much too exciting.

Platter Mount

Here’s the platter attachment mechanism. There is a large “flat” area, with brass studs which are rounded off flush or slightly below the plate. There is a set of springy metal fingers which centre the platter on the spindle’s projection. This attachment is firmly attached to the disc and is restricted in height movement so the disk never scratches against the enclosure itself.

The cartridge is held together by eight screws – so why don’t we carefully open one of the cartridges, taking care not to put any fingerprints on it …

One thing to remember is to score the spine label first, so the case halves come apart easily.

Cartridge Top

Here is the cartridge top with the swing-aside door swung out to let the heads in. Visible is the moulding indentations to let the heads access and swing across the platter’s surface. The centre area contains the spring which is responsible for returning this sliding door back to the closed position.

Platter Itself

This is the glorious platter itself. Isn’t it a lovely bronze colour? That’s why we call these things “spinning rust”. Older disks were made with lower co-ercivity magnetic material which was iron oxide based, giving it the brown rust colour. Newer media is much shinier and less coloured. Here’s another cropped photo of it.

Cropped Platter

It’s not that easy to get a nice shot of shiny platters. The centre area seems to be covered with an aluminium foil thing which covers the screwheads or other fastening mechanism.

Platter Polish

Looking at it at an oblique angle, we can see the concentric rings from the surface polishing of the disk. There’s quite a bit of dust settling here, so I got out my photographic blower to clear it out before reassembling.

Disk and Package

So there we are, a dismantled SyQuest cartridge. When I get around to it, I’ll do the same with the drive with a focus on not damaging anything.

About lui_gough

I'm a bit of a nut for electronics, computing, photography, radio, satellite and other technical hobbies. Click for more about me!
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2 Responses to Tech Flashback: SyQuest 88MB Removable Hard Disk Cartridge

  1. Sudsy says:

    Do you have the smaller version of this? It held a 3.5:” drive. I was wondering what would happen if you put a 3.5″ hard drive platter in it’s place. Would it read?

    • lui_gough says:

      There was indeed a 3.5″ version of the Syquest, quite a few of them were branded EZ. Unfortunately, the 3.5″ cartridges are a completely different format that ABSOLUTELY require the 3.5″ drive to operate. It will not fit in, nor interoperate with the 5.25″ Syquest Alta series. Furthermore, you must ensure the drive supports equal or higher capacity than the cartridge (e.g. a 200MB 5.25″ drive can read 200, 88 and 44Mb cartridges, but a 44Mb drive cannot read any cartridges aside from the 44Mb cartridges) due to the backward compatibility matrix. Refer to the list of models at the Wikipedia article: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/SyQuest_Technology#Products

      – Gough

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