Commodore 8-inch floppy disk drives

We don’t typically associate the ginormous 8-inch floppy disks with Commodore. But Commodore produced no fewer than four different models of 8-inch floppy drive for its PET/CBM line of computers.

The Commodore 8060, 8061, and 8062 floppy drives

Comodore 8-inch floppy disk drives
The 8-inch Shugart SA-800 mechanism on the far left dwarfs the full-height 5.25-inch mechanism from the IBM PC in the center, and a 3.5-inch floppy drive on the right. The more common Commodore 4040 drive used drive mechanisms the same size as the one in the center.

The Commodore 8060, 8061, and 8062 drives all used full-height Shugart SA-800 drive mechanisms.

These Shugart drives are huge. I encountered a couple of old 8-inch Shugart SA-800 floppy drives in a computer lab in the mid 1990s in college, and the drives in a simple enclosure were nearly the size of a small form factor desktop PC of the era.

The 8061 had single-sided drives in it, while the 8062 had double-sided drives. Both models were introduced in mid 1980, and they weren’t cheap. The 8061 retailed for $2,500 while the 8062 retailed for $3,500. That was about twice as much as Commodore charged for a comparable 5.25-inch floppy drive. The drives look more like mainframe peripherals than PET/CBM peripherals.

All three drives connected to the PET’s native IEEE-488 bus, which was much faster than the infamous IEC bus on later Commodore drives like the 1541. Use with a C-64 would have required an IEEE-488 interface. There’s no reason they wouldn’t work together, I just never saw anyone do it.

The Commodore 8280

The Commodore 8280 replaced the earlier 8060 series, using half-height drive mechanisms that were more compact. An 8280 is closer in size and design to a more common 4040 or 8050 drive, and looks more like a PET/CBM peripheral. It’s still enormous, but only about half as enormous as an 8061 or 8062 would be. It still weighed about 35 pounds. The 8280 stored 1 megabyte per 8-inch floppy. Like the earlier drives, it used an IEEE-488 bus to connect.

All of the Commodore 8-inch floppy drives are rare today, as they were always specialty devices. If you needed to interchange data with an IBM 3740, these drives did that job. But the 3740 was aging at this point, and Commodore’s tenuous grip on the business market was about to slip.

If you just needed the storage capacity, a CBM 8050 or 8250 drive was much more practical, as it had similar storage capacity but used 5.25-inch disks.

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