An Essential Drive

You knew this day was coming but its arrival is still a shock: The once-mammoth magneto-optical drive (OD) is now not only outdated, but outgrown as well NeXTSTEP 3.0 won't fit on it. The least expensive method by far of distributing large amounts of data is CD-ROM, which NeXT has embraced with the demise of the innovative OD.

NeXT's reversal of optical-media strategy gives users greater data capacity and access to the great variety of CD-ROM discs available for other computers. The trade-off is that this read-only technology leaves us high and dry for storing data.

Despite the large numbers of CD-ROM drives on the market, NeXT is signaling its intentions by offering its own branded drive. If you've ever used CD-ROM drives before, you'll find this a slim and compact drive. The internal power supply, fan-free design, and lack of a power light combine to make the drive completely unobtrusive.

The back of the drive has dual centronics-style SCSI ports, a push-button SCSI address selector, stereo audio-out ports, a ground connector, and a standard power cord. The face of the drive sports a headphone jack with its own volume control, activity-indicator light, eject button, manual-eject hole, and a small NeXT logo. A standard CD-ROM disc caddy, necessary for this front-loading drive, is included. You must supply your own SCSI cable. No software is needed.

Once you have attached this drive to the SCSI bus of your NeXT and your system is up and running, simply insert a CD-ROM disc into the caddy and slip it into the front slot of the drive. The disc mounts into the File Viewer. All the standard ways of ejecting discs work as expected.

Although any model of NeXT works with this drive, your version of NeXTSTEP determines the CD-ROM formats you can read. NeXT- STEP 2.0 reads only ISO 9660-formatted discs, while 3.0 users can read that format along with the Rock Ridge, Macintosh HFS, and NeXT proprietary formats.

In my testing of dozens of discs, the NeXT read every one flawlessly. While I could not run Macintosh or DOS search-engine software from those discs, I could generally find the files I needed just as easily with the Workspace Manager's built-in Contents Inspector.

NeXTSTEP 3.0 will be provided on CD-ROM discs, so every NeXT network site is going to need at least one drive. Power users will also want their own, to access the thousands of CD-ROM titles on the market today. NeXT's model is the best I've seen by a modest margin and the bundle offer (drive plus NeXTSTEP 3.0 upgrade for $695) makes it an excellent value.

by Rick Reynolds


4 Cubes

An excellent implementation of the basic CD-ROM drive. A necessary piece of hardware for all networks and many power users.


NeXT Computer. Call 800/848-NEXT for distribution outlets.