Roland VS-880: how quickly the original DAW became obsolete

Once state of the art, now barely supported: adventures upgrading a Roland VS-880 after tracking down old software

The VS-880 was state-of-the-art when I first bought it in 1996. But here we are almost 20 years later, and technology doesn't look back, making everything in its wake obsolete — and so are my archived songs and albums from 1996-2000.

I decided to transfer four albums from the VS to computer and was prepared to play each track in real time and record to computer using Logic Pro X. I bought a lot of retro gear on ebay to make it work, including a 4 gig laptop IDE hard drive. They don’t make a drive that small anymore, but it was the max size supported at the time (the VS shipped with a 580 MB drive).

Luckily when I bought one of the rare CD burners compatible with the VS on ebay (The Que! Drive, which is really just a Roland-branded Plexwriter 8/20), the seller included the original upgrade CD for the VS which is no longer available from Roland.

VS-880 update CD-ROM from 2002: Since it supports all the VS models up to 2002, I’ve made it available here in case anyone needs these legacy support files for VS-880, VS-880ex, VS-890, VS-1680, VS-1824, VS-1880, VS-2400, VS-2480, or VS-2480CD. It comes with extensive documentation about how to upgrade the firmware via MIDI. Yes, really. It's slow and unusual by today's standards, but it works. I've done it twice, once in 1997, and again in 2014.

Contents of the CD-ROM:

The VS-880 LCD display while uploading MIDI files to change the firmware (you can see the software upgrading from version 3.100 to 3.205 which is needed to use the CD burner):

Here's how the MIDI files look in Logic Pro X (they are just control signals, no music):

The documentation has some dire warnings:

Front page of the manual:

Download VS Workstation Update Assistant

VS CDR II PDF documentation