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1.44MB Parallel Floppy Drives, NIB, Cheap!

Raven

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http://cgi.ebay.com/MicroSolutions-...66:2|39:1|72:1546|240:1318|301:1|293:1|294:50

I found these while looking for one, and purchased one immediately. It says more than 10 available! I might get a second one when the first comes in and I verify it works well. I know I won't order "more than 10", so I thought I'd toss you guys this find. :)

I searched for them in retail websites, and found that they cost $100 or so without shipping - this guy is charging $5 each, and shipping to me was $10.. GREAT deal!
 

per

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I wonder if these will work from DOS or if Windows is required?

I think they'll work in DOS, if you install the proper drivers. Talking about the parallel port, there is actually nothing Windows can do that DOS can't do (but you'll need software sometimes AKA drivers in order to do it in DOS).
 

Chuck(G)

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I've worked with a lot of these (used to sell them).

The drivers supplied are for DOS, not Windows, although they'll obviously work in Win3.x and Win95.

These things are pretty neat in that they have a standard 1.44MB floppy combined with a NSC 8477 controller, a small (8051) microcontroller and some (16K, I think) RAM and a bit of NVRAM for storing configuration data. Commands are sent via the parallel port as if you were talking directly to the controller. There's nothing an ISA floppy controller can do that these babies can't--including single-density support.

The other tidbit is that the controller in each one of these will support up to two 360K/720K/1.2MB or 1.44MB drives (and probably 2.88M). Just pull the PCB out and set your unit up with whatever.

If these get to be a big group thing, I can dig up the notes on the protocol that I reverse-engineered years ago.

$4.95 makes it worth the price of the drive and wall wart alone.
 

Unknown_K

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Same company sold a few tape backup solutions using the same printer port. Looks like a decent deal if you want to spend $10 for shipping.
 

Jorg

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Does it work with the early LPT ports on for instance an XT?

Too bad they are in the US, I might be a handy thing if it does work ^^
 

mbbrutman

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And in case you have a pre-historic parallel port, converting it to be bi-directional is fairly easy. I have a good writeup here:

http://www.brutman.com/PCjr/parallel_port.html

That page is PCjr specific, but the chips and the technique apply to the IBM parallel port implementations on the monochrome adapter and other early cards. (I used those original modifications to do the PCjr sidecare modification.)


Mike
 

Chuck(G)

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Hi
Some of the earlier parallel ports are not bidirectional. This
might be what he is talking about.
Dwight

Doesn't matter, Dwight. The Backpack "nibbles' over the status lines when it's sending data to the host if a bidirectional port isn't available. Host-to-backpack of course, is 8 bits.

I've run mine both ways--with and without bidirectional support. It doesn't make as much difference as you'd think.

At any rate, bidirectional parallel ports weren't officially available until the PS/2 and even then, not very common on 386 and 486 class systems for some time.
 

Raven

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If what you say is true, and I had suspected in the first place, that it can support any floppy drive, I'll probably buy another and pop an Epson dual floppy in for maximum leet, and perhaps remount it in a 5.25" enclosure.
 

Raven

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The Epson dual floppy doesn't work in it (it tries to read the 1.44MB drive and fails).

It detects the Backpack drive as a 1.4MB no matter what you plug into it, so it must use some sort of specific identification on a per-controller basis. As well, though it tries to read mechanically, it will not access a 5.25" drive. Perhaps if you could trick the drivers somehow into knowing it was a 5.25" drive instead of a 3.5" one, but I have no idea how to do so. From the dysfunctionality of the Epson drive, we can also deduce that it doesn't support more than a single drive per controller (It also did nothing when put onto the second plug on a cable, the original cable only had one plug for that matter).

I did buy another one, before testing this, when the first one arrived. Even without the capacity to use non-1.44MB drives, it's still quite useful for portables and the like. It's important to note, however, that they will not function on a modern OS, as the company that made them went belly-up. Only their CD-ROM/RW and external HDD units work on newer OSes.
 

mbbrutman

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It's been a while, but I'm running my Backpack (purchased from this seller) on a PCjr. The DOS drivers work out of the box, and surprisingly it reads faster than it writes. (That is probably due to the nature of writing to floppies.)

Even worse, it reads and writes faster than the native 5.25 360KB drive on the system. I'm seeing write speeds around 16KB/sec and read speeds around 28KB/sec. The native drive and controller clocks in around 11 or 12KB/sec.

This is definitely a good purchase.
 

Chuck(G)

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The Epson dual floppy doesn't work in it (it tries to read the 1.44MB drive and fails).

Two things that I can think of:

1. Use an external supply for the Epson--I seem to recall that it requires both +12 and +5 volts on the supply lines. The backpack only supplies +5.

2. There is a configuration utility for the backpack that will allow configuration of up to 4 drives. I'll need to dig around a bit for it.

I found it... (This may be the only place on the web where it's documented.) To change the drive configuration on a Backpack drive (and apparently this also applies to the hard disk Backpack), use the SETID utility and invoke it thus:

setid DRIVETYPE

(You must have BACKPACK.SYS loaded.) It'll ask you for a new backpack ID (change it if you want to, but you don't have to) and then give you a menu of possibilities for each of 4 drives. It might be possible that the BP supports up to 4 floppies, but I haven't investigated that. It does support 2 floppies, however.
 
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