Background
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Background Information

First Things First

Reading and writing audio data from a SCSI DAT drive requires that the drive have special firmware. A normal DAT drive that is used for data backup does not have this firmware and cannot read/write audio data. For information on which DAT drives can do audio, keep reading.

A History Lesson

Note: This chronology is a distillation of information that I have heard/read over the years and may not be entirely accurate. If you know different, let me know.

Years ago, the ARDAT company and SGI (Silicon Graphics, Inc.) got together and developed firmware with special commands to allow a data-only SCSI DAT drive to read and write audio data, just like an audio DAT deck. ARDAT was later bought by the Archive company, which sold the 4320 model with the audio firmware. The 4320 firmware was contained in a ROM chip that had to be swapped out. A latter model, the 4326 was a DDS-2 capable drive and had flash-upgradable firmware. Archive was later bought by Conner Peripherals, who continued to sell the 4326 as the CTD-8000. Seagate bought Conner a few years back and now sells a DDS-3 drive that can take audio firmware (I don't know the model number). Note: Max from Germany tells me that Seagate never actually sold this DDS-3, audio capable drive to anyone.

An additional note about drive names: The 4320 model drives went under the name Python. The 4326 models sold under the name Perigrine. The Perigrine drives identify themselves as Python, for backwards compatibility. The newer Seagate DDS-3 drives are called Scorpion.

As far as I know, all of the above mentioned drives that had audio firmware were sold to SGI as OEM units. In late 1998 I bought my SGI-brand drive (with a label on the bottom that said Seagate CTD-8000) from someone who was selling them new, in the OEM packaging.

The 4326/CTD-8000 data-only drives are EXACTLY the same as the audio-capable drives, except for the different firmware. I don't know, but I assume that the same is true of the newer models from Seagate. If you contact Seagate about purchasing audio firmware, they will tell you that the audio firmware is not available from them and that you should contact SGI (if they admit to knowing anything about audio capability, that is). SGI swears that the firmware is not exclusively licensed to them and that Seagate can sell it to anyone it wants (this information is from an old newsgroup posting by an SGI employee).

BTW, the firmware can be upgraded in one of two ways: either with a special firmware tape that you insert into the drive, or via a program that reads a hexadecimal firmware file and sends it across the SCSI bus to the drive.

In addition to the audio-capable drives that Seagate sold (are still selling?) to SGI, Sony is now also making an audio-capable, DDS-3 drive for SGI. I don't know yet whether Sony will sell the drive to anyone else. I understand that the Sony drive (I think it is an SDT-9000) uses a superset of the Seagate audio commands, so it should be backwards compatible.

The problem with all of this is, until recently, the only software that was available to use these drives (assuming you could get one) came with an SGI workstation. Needless to say, that is not within the budget of many of us. On the links page, you will find references to other, more recent software developments for other operating systems. Since at the time, there was no Windows program that would talk to one of these audio-capable drives, I started to write such a program.

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Copyright 2000 by Joseph Gray
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