Floppy drives still do.
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MFM was relatively simple to implement, and quite robust. RLL Run Length Limited encoding used the same electrical interface and cables but a different data format much as Morse Code and Baudot code are different. RLL did, however, require a very accurate drive mechanism.
Early attempts to increase speed and storage capacity by adding an after-market RLL controller to an MFM drive system often resulted in poor reliability. This gave RLL an undeserved bad name.
Later on, many drive manufacturers introduced RLL certified models, and these were generally just as reliable as their cheaper, smaller MFM drives. See Miniscribe below.
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Technically, there was no such thing as an 'RLL drive'. The drive type MFM or RLL was solely determined by the low-level format, and this in turn, depended on the drive controller card.
Not many early drives, however, were capable of taking an RLL format reliably. The card we used to call a 'controller card' and plug into IDE-equipped systems was actually just an interface between the drive controller proper on the actual drive and the PC bus.
It should really have been called a 'host adaptor'. Since late days, this is integrated into the motherboard and it is unusual to have an IDE host adaptor as a separate, plug-in component. IDE and SCSI drive electronics are 'smart' enough to take care of encoding in such a way that we no longer need to know the details.
Miniscribe and An interesting pair of drives, identical except for the badge. They sold in vast numbers. On top, an immaculate late-model which left Miniscribe's Singapore production line on 15th August Underneath, an dated 28th March Almost fifteen years later, both still work perfectly. Notice the 's large black and silver stepper motor at lower right. The was a neat, modern looking 3. The was the exact same drive without the certification.
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In other words, Miniscribe produced these drives and then tested them. The very best ones were sold as s, the also-rans as s. Of course, there was nothing to stop you buying a 20MB and putting it with an RLL controller to get 30MB — except that it was unlikely to work properly for very long. We used to do the reverse sometimes: buy an and put click on an MFM controller to make an almost bullet-proof 20MB drive system.
It was fairly expensive, but ideal for reliability-critical jobs. Since the was RLL certified, we already knew it was a particularly good drive, and by running it on an MFM controller we had a huge margin of safety. I can't remember ever seeing one of these under-stressed s fail.
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Notice that the modest-looking capacity per platter is actually quite high when you consider that the discs are much smaller than was common at the time. Standard nylon power plugs varied in size even more in those days than they do here, and getting a tight-fitting power cable out of an without breaking the PCB was often very difficult.
The small white three-pin connector just above and to the left of it, by the way, is for a dating quest xt gold point activity LED, and the light blue washer semi-visible through the gap between the power socket and the data cable edge connector is a shock mounting for the HDA. You get a better view of it in the picture above.