Trace Machine

A very expensive (in the late 1980’s to early 1990’s it was about £15000 in the UK) mass duplication system for floppy disks made by Trace Digital.

 A Trace 7500ST

Worked with an attached controller system based on Unix. They used predefined datafiles to show it how a disk was laid out. This was very important for implementing custom disk formats and Copy Protection as even it could not do a “blind write” of an image, it had to be told how to do it.

The layout of the disk was described using a specialised language called Freeform, and the data files were written to the disk in the form specified by this language. For example, the Bit Cell width, track layout (Amiga, Amstrad, etc.), etc. Although the Freeform script for each disk is not available to us, with some work, our technology allows us to reverse-engineer the disk structure into our own disk description language.

Although our disk layout description technology existed before we knew any details of Freeform, we own a large dept to it all the same because it improved the flexibility of our technology in several important ways, and allowed us to simplify our implementation.

Some have asked whether we could have used Freeform in our technology, and the answer is no, it would not have been a good idea...

  • Freeform is a description of how to write floppy disks on commercial mastering machines, and not ideally suited for preservation purposes.
  • Freeform is not a public domain technology.
  • Freeform is not as flexible as our technology has become, and we are not limited in any way by what Freeform could do.
  • The only thing we have ever seen is Freeform scripts for a few games, nothing that would have helped implement it.
  • The core of our technology existed before we knew any details about how Freeform worked anyway.