The USB key’s Grandfather.

Last week I’ve mentioned a cool device I wanted to present here. So here we go. Although Tandon was founded in the mid-’70s and around in the storage market, my first hands-on encounter with the brand was in the late ’80s. It was the time I bought – yet another overpriced device – an ad-PAC. This was the standalone version of the Personal Data Pac the company integrated into their top of the line desktop PCs. These puppies were the first removable Winchester disk drives. And when Tandon said removable, it meant motorized! This is not one of those caddy based manual extraction mechanism popularized in the ’90s.

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I bought my 40MB ad-PAC to quickly exchange files with the gang of the time. If you had the cash, you could also expand easily your system’s storage capacity. And because you could not extract manually the PAC – if you wanted to keep it alive – you had to go thru the ejection process (a command to type). The drive heads were automatically parked for you during the process (so, no need to type the park command). In the ’80s, there were, of course, a few drawbacks associated with such a device. And I am facing one of them right now. My ad-PAC works perfectly after all these years, but the host PC (literally one of the first DeskPro 386/25 made by Compaq – more on that story later) has lost its BIOS setting. Yeah, Compaq didn’t offer a ROM based BIOS interface and you had to use a setup software to do the job. And the 1988-built Tadiran Lithium battery died a long time ago. Now I need to find the content of the original disks on the web and write them to a 5.25 floppy. Grrrr. Another drawback: you need an RLL controller board. And the one I used was long like a forearm. What I didn’t know back in the time though, is that I was using the ancestor of the so versatile USB key.