Tom's Fidelipac Dynamax DCR1000 Digital Cart Machine Page
I worked in radio back when cart machines used the traditional endless-loop tape cartridges. Recently, I got involved in rebuilding a radio studio and was looking for something to replace the ancient cart machines with when I happened upon a used DCR1000 on the large auction site. I actually had no idea digital cart machines using computer diskettes had ever existed and I was intrigued and purchased the set. Unfortunately, although each of the two master players worked fine by itself, neither could play a disk that had been recorded on the other. Fortunately, I was able to purchase a second DCR1000 system shortly thereafter, which mostly worked. Its acquisition has enabled me to know how to replace the drives on the first set and to pass useful information along to folks like you via this webpage.
The DCR1000 consisted of two parts: the DCR1020 master player and the DCR1040 record module. The latter took its power from the former via a multi-wire cord and data was exchanged between the two via a ribbon cable. The master player could also power sub-players, although I've never seen a photo of one or anything to indicate these were actually produced. When first introduced, the master player sold for $2,750, subplayer for $1,650 and record module for $2,600. Therefore, a typical control room set consisting of two master players and a record module would set a station back $8,100. The cost of the same system had increased $350 by 1996.
The DCR1000 apparently was originally announced in early 1991, with delivery anticipated to begin that summer. Based on the pre-release information, it would appear that the unit was originally intended to use either a standard DS/HD diskette for recording 30-second stereo spots at 44.1KHz or a DS/ED (extended density) diskette for sixties at the same bitrate. This latter type of diskette was used briefly by the MFM drives in certain microchannel IBM computers of the time. It had a 4mb unformatted capacity, double that of the common 3.5-inch diskette. However, Fidelipac instead seems to have introduced their own proprietary 13.3mb diskette in place of the more readily available and lower cost ED. Although the disk drives in the original two machines I have seem to have sensor switches for the ED diskette, they appear not to recognize or be able to use these disks. Post-1991 advertisements for and reviews of the DCR1000 mention only the use of the 2mb and 13.3mb capacities.
When the LS-120 SuperDisk was introduced, Fidelipac offered these drives as an upgrade or factory-installed option. The LS-240 could also be used. The use of an optical-magnetic disk greatly increased the versatility of these machines thanks to the much greater recording time.
I've read online comments to the effect that the diskette drives in these were rather unreliable and especially prone to microswitch failures. Some stations apparently resorted to substituting a standard computer drive, and in fact, it appears Fidelipac may have ended up doing the same thing. Of the four master players I own, two have the original NEC FD1335H 2mb/13mb diskette drives in them. Dating from early 1994, these drives have a black bezel, but more importantly, they differ from most off-the-shelf drives in that the power and data connectors are on the upper edge of the back panel. This was necessary because the shelf on which they mount has a back on it which would otherwise interfere, were they in the traditional lower position. Although each side of the shelf has holes for three mounting screws, these drives can only use two of them. The other pair of players I have are from late 1995 or early 1996. Although these two were likely manufactured on the same day, each of them contains a standard drive of a different type, both of which have beige bezels. One is a Newtronics (Mitsumi) D359T5 and the other a Sony MPF520-1. The Sony is rather loud, so I installed another D359T5 taken from a computer in its place. The transplant didn't work at first, until I discovered that the original Newtronics had a jumper wire soldered between a pin of the data connector and one of the micro switches. Once this modification was made to the transplanted drive, it functioned fine. I suspect a modification or two may have been made to the Sony drive, as well. This drive has the oddity of not being able to activate from a diskette that is write-protected. I'm about 90% certain that these drive substitutions were made by Fidelipac, rather than done in the field. First, a nice job was done cutting away the interfering back of the steel mounting shelf, apparently using a metal-cutting bandsaw, which most stations wouldn't own. Second, the ribbon data cable is appropriately sized and formed to reach the connector, which is now on the opposite side of the shelf. The cable used in my earlier machines was much longer. Finally, the diskette drives are mounted using six screws and lock washers that match the type used in my first machines. The key here is that only four screws could be used with the NEC drives. I might also add that the manufacturing dates on the Newtronics and Sony drives seem to be in line with when the master players in question were likely manufactured. Plus, the jumper installed on the Newtronics looked factory-done in addition to being of a gauge thinner than the insulated wire most stations would have access to. One could surmise that with the original type of drive having problems, Fidelipac started procuring substitutes from any source available. One rather doubts these other drives could handle the triple-density diskettes they were supposedly selling, however.
UPDATE Roughly a year after purchasing the newer set, I bought a single DCR1020 master player for parts. Dating from 1992, this unit differs in significant ways from those produced later on. It used a metal cover with fewer and a different arrangement of ventilation slots and has none on the right side. Inside, the NEC FD1335H was mounted hanging below a metal bracket that was essentially the mirror image of those without a back from 1996. This was likely a result of there being no cover over the drive's circuit board, unlike later versions. In addition, an SCSI connector that could accept another drive as well as three resistor arrays were not installed on the lower board in this unit. The layout of the board is also different at the far end. Most importantly, this early version is programmed differently and appears not to be forward-compatible. Although diskettes formatted on this machine can be used without problem on newer players, the reverse is not true. In fact, something gets encoded on the diskette that will display a warning on a newer machine if an attempt is made to record on it in stereo at 44.1KHz. Of course, that particular option was not available initially when using a 2mb diskette. In addition, only a single setup option (for handling multiple cuts) is available rather than the 23 or so that appeared by 1996. I suspect Fidelipac eventually offered an update for earlier machines, probably involving a swap of a proprietary IC or two.
I understand that Fidelipac eventually came out with a second generation of digital machine (prehaps model DCR10) that was a single, wider unit which could be customized with recording capability/options, but I've never seen one offered for sale. Of course, once stations began storing and accessing their audio on computers, the digital cart machine was rendered as obsolete as its continuous-loop analog predecessor.
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