Working with old hardware

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I have a customer's old computer to get some data off of. It has a 20MB MFM or RLL hard disk in it, what appears to be a 360k 5 1/4" floppy and a CGA video card.

My plan was to set up one of my older Socket 7 motherboards with a SCSI card, disable the IDE controller and move the 20MB drive and controller card to the 'newer' computer to extract data.

Does this sound like it would work?

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astro_rob's picture
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Seagate Card, Per Chance?

This sounds like it might be an old Seagate controller card, and if it is, you need to be very, very careful. My experience was whenever the hard drive was disconnected from the card and then reconnected, it would walk you through a hard drive setup routine... not a good idea, and one where I can't remember a work around (last machine I worked on with one of those was a Commodore PC III, 8088, 640kb, DR-DOS 6... been a few years). Also... Seagate ST-225? If so, they have a fairly high failure rate once they have a few years on them.
Going to look up a little more... have to refresh my memory...

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It's not really an apple, is

It's not really an apple, is it. Anyway, your best bet would be to stick a 3.5" floppy in the system that has the MFM/RLL. It probably already has an FDC connector. Assuming you can get the thing booted so as to see both the 20M HD and the 1.4M FD, you should be able to truck everything off the HD in fewer than 20 swaps .. assuming of course you have a new machine that still has a floppy to RECEIVE the stuff.

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LapLink/Interlnk

My personal favorite solution to this problem was always to use either a null modem cable or a LapLink parallel cable between the ancient machine and a more modern one, and use the "INTERLNK.EXE" and "INTERSVR.EXE" programs included with DOS 5.0 and later. (The "INTERSVR" portion will run on DOS versions at least as far back as 3.3, so I'd recommend making the older machine the "server" while transferring the files. )

It's been years since I've needed to do this, of course, but it always worked relatively smoothly, if slowly. (If you're using a serial cable. It's pretty speedy over parallel.)

I doubt transferring the hard disk controller will work particularly well. Is the old machine an XT or an AT? (From the specs I'm guessing XT.) XT hard disk controllers use a BIOS ROM extension that causes problems with the built-in hard disk support in AT and higher machines. It *can* work, but it's a pain. (speaking from experience, here.)

--Peace

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ehhhhhh.

I think I agree with those advocating caution on moving the MFM controller and harddrive. If the old box is still functioning, putting a 3 1/2 drive into it or running a null modem cable out makes sense. Heck, on a 20 mb ST-225, the whole dang drive would fit on less than 20 3 1/2 disks (obviously). If you need an OLD (but new) ISA modem, I can send you one for free. If you'd like to just get the data out on 5 1/4 disks, I have a whole stash of those too free for the taking. Programs like pkzip or arj will allow you to multi-span disks if you are moving large files around. WinXP has no problem with 5 1/4" drives, and to the best of my knowledge, if your newer machine has a floppy controller, it can handle a 5 1/4" drive. I have both the old style cables (keyed card edge connector for 5 1/4") or an adapter for new cables and old drives. I've just been going through this floppy disk thing at work. Good luck.

Mike

if the old box is dead, that is a different story. I do have some working machines that will handle st-225 vintage stuff...

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Dunno

Couldn't you move the drive and the card at the same time without disconnecting it?

To my knowledge, it's either a Micropolis or a MiniScribe drive. (I'm leaning towards MiniScribe) As far as what kind of controller card is present, I'm not sure. I'll take a closer look at it once I get home from work. I had several repairs to work on and I'm down to that one and fixing a power connector on a Compaq laptop.

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Re: LapLink/Interlnk

Eudimorphodon wrote:

My personal favorite solution to this problem was always to use either a null modem cable or a LapLink parallel cable between the ancient machine and a more modern one, and use the "INTERLNK.EXE" and "INTERSVR.EXE" programs included with DOS 5.0 and later. (The "INTERSVR" portion will run on DOS versions at least as far back as 3.3, so I'd recommend making the older machine the "server" while transferring the files. )

It's been years since I've needed to do this, of course, but it always worked relatively smoothly, if slowly. (If you're using a serial cable. It's pretty speedy over parallel.)

I doubt transferring the hard disk controller will work particularly well. Is the old machine an XT or an AT? (From the specs I'm guessing XT.) XT hard disk controllers use a BIOS ROM extension that causes problems with the built-in hard disk support in AT and higher machines. It *can* work, but it's a pain. (speaking from experience, here.)

--Peace

I remember INTERSVR very well. I've even installed Windows 95 using that at one time.

I think the old machine is an XT-compatible. Since I don't have a CGA monitor, it's hard to tell exactly what it is. There is an RCA connector on the back of the video card. If it's composite, I can connect it to the video in on my TV card.

The only problem is I don't have an XT-compatible keyboard. All of the ones I have at home are PS/2 and do not have a switch on the bottom to toggle modes.

As far as moving the card to a newer computer, I was mentioning that I would disable the built-in IDE controller on the newer computer. At the moment the machine has a SCSI card in it, but I may not need that either. It may be a pain, but at the moment I don't have much of a choice.

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after working with stuff like this

i found it best to just transfer by floppy (i would use 3.5", since they aren't as prone to errors on the disks) or use the null modem technique. I had to do something like this with a Tandy before, and I used a null modem and a special program (I can't remember what it was, but It was free on the net) and it basically turned the computer into a drive, and you accessed it like the network or floppy drive on a windows machine. The other thing you can do, is set up DOS on a hard drive you have lying around (try FreeDOS) and just network it with that program described above, and transfer it like that, then throw the drive into a windows machine and copy it from that.
Another thing that would make it easier, is to use Windows 3.1 (Assuming it has enough ram) and it would help to do that.

As far as doing this, i need to know the condition of the machine (does it boot?) and the specs if it does work (try the POST) which will let me evaluate your options better.

The other option is to try to purchase an XT from the net, and charge the client for it, and work on it that way. The other option if it doesn't work, is just buy the CPU and the MLB and see if you can get it working like that. I doubt the CPU is dead (those things are hard to kill) but the board is probably too aged to work.

I know that XT's and XT-Clones are built like tanks, and they run like them. I am willing to bet that it still works.

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hmmm.

I also have an XT keyboard I can part with Smile However, you've got me intrigued if you could use the ISA MFM controller in a more modern machine. I Googled a bit, and found that you aren't alone in your dilemma, but I was unable to find anyone that had taken the project through to success or failure. So. I'm going to try it this evening and see what happens. I'll use an Asus P2B-F mobo (with one ISA slot), with some flavor of PII, a MFM controller from a PC-XT, and a ST-225 with DOS 3.3 on it. We'll see what breaks. Smile Both the drive and controller WERE working...

mike

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Re: LapLink/Interlnk

bfutrel wrote:

The only problem is I don't have an XT-compatible keyboard. All of the ones I have at home are PS/2 and do not have a switch on the bottom to toggle modes.

If you have/find any AT plug keyboards (a thrift shop is worth a shot), quite a few of them will autoswitch, but yeah, that could be annoying.

So the person you're doing this for doesn't have a keyboard either?

Quote:

As far as moving the card to a newer computer, I was mentioning that I would disable the built-in IDE controller on the newer computer. At the moment the machine has a SCSI card in it, but I may not need that either. It may be a pain, but at the moment I don't have much of a choice.

I don't have it in front of me at the moment, but my trusty copy of the "PC Hardware Bible" goes into some detail about the differences between XT and AT hard disk controllers, but... to make a long story short, there are both hardware and software problems with using them. I got one working in a 286 machine once (back in 1989, when I was young and impressionable and broke.), but it was buggy as a bait store, so I gave in and bought an AT MFM controller.

(If you must try it, make sure you can free DMA3 and IRQ 5 in the BIOS so motherboard devices don't try occupying them. I also remember having to underclock the machine to 6Mhz to make it go at all, as at 8Mhz it'd crash.)

One thing *not* to do is try connecting the hard disk to another controller. (Lest you come to the conclusion that nabbing an MFM controller from an old AT is the solution to your problems.) MFM/RLL controllers were pretty picky, and *rarely* could you read a disk low-level formatted by one controller with another.

If you're a glutton for punishment the Linux kernel *does* has a driver for talking to XT hard disks. (So I guess *somebody* needed to do it regularly.) You could try installing the drive and controller in a machine with a working Linux installation on it (go ahead and leave the IDE controller enabled, as it doesn't conflict in hardware with an XT controller), load the xd.o module after you're booted up, and see if your XT drive shows up as a mountable device.

Heh. If I still had any XT hardware lying around I'd be tempted to try it myself.

--Peace

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I'm home!

Taking a closer look at it, it's definitely a XT-class clone with reset and turbo buttons. I have no clue who made it - no cover was provided. The controller card is a Western Digital controller with the following markings:

WD1002A-27X
F300 Rev.X6
10927882

The hard disk is a Miniscribe, model BXX, manufactured 1988.

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Never mind

I connected it and turned it on. Something appeared on the composite input of the TV card, but it was unreadable. Also the hard disk did not power on, even after the computer booted from floppies.

For now it's a bust.

Thanks for all of the help!

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Jon
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Hahaha. ;) Welcome to my wo

Hahaha. Wink Welcome to my world circa '94. Try getting data off an old Seagate MFM drive plugged into an 8-bit (XT) controller card hobbled to the Zorro 1 bus of an Amiga 500. It was called "The Vault" and it was a major PITA to use. I still have some parts laying around in boxes in the lab. The day I got my first SCSI controller (IVS Trumpcard 500, with 4MB RAM card!!!1!1) I gave up on MFM/RLL completely for many years. I still have a few XT/AT class machines with MFM drives in them, and they still work. If you were anywhere near KC and we could get the drive spinning it'd be easy to salvage some data.

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Thanks for the offer

I'm in Raleigh, NC.

Your solution reminds me of a hack I attempted to make to a Tandy 1000EX. I attempted to hack an ISA slot to plug into the proprietary tandy slot in order to use a regular card with it. No magic smoke, but I fried a $99 Tandy serial card in the process. Smile After that I traded in a C128D for a 286 motherboard in order to avoid having to do something like that again.

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You're in Raleigh?

I'm in Clayton. Lemme know if you want to try grafting your parts into some of my boxes. I didn't get a chance last night, but there is always my kids' nap time this afternoon Wink

Mike

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Funny thing is, the 128D is w

Funny thing is, the 128D is worth more than the 286 board, now. Those are nice machines. The hack I had was purpose built by whoever made "The Vault", so I'm assuming their floppy loaded drivers bit-banged the Zorro bus to talk to the ISA card. Of course, the A2000 and up had both Zorro and ISA slots, eliminating these hacks if one bought a bridge card. At one time I had a 286 bridge board that had a 386 CPU upgrade hand wired to it, and of course an MFM controller to a 5.25" Seagate 50MB drive. Think of the old Apple DOS cards, but with real slots to use, and back in '87 or so.

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I know that now.....

I miss the 128D and the 1084S monitor sometimes. I miss it less when I recall that when I got it the floppy was flaky.

The first trip to the repair shop took three months to get it back. When it arrived the floppy was in worse condition than when I sent it to them in the first place. I then sent it into a different repair shop for a non-warranty repair - it expired while in the shop the first time. Afterwards it worked great.

During 1987 I used my brother's C64 and our Atari 2600. A year later I bought my first computer, a Coleco ADAM. Those were the days.

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Re: You're in Raleigh?

pmjett wrote:

I'm in Clayton. Lemme know if you want to try grafting your parts into some of my boxes. I didn't get a chance last night, but there is always my kids' nap time this afternoon Wink

Mike

Thanks for the offer, but it will be returned to the owner of the booth tomorrow. He already knows the status of me trying to power the beast up and that of the drive. I swear when the floppy started to access the disk I scared myself there for a second. Smile

It doesn't help that I work until 6:00PM as a developer/support technician either.