As I mentioned in an earlier entry, the Epson TF-20 5.25 inch floppy drive requires its OS to be loaded from disk before the unit will communicate and work with the PX-8.
My over riding intention since acquiring the TF-20 has been to back up the single boot disk that came with the system given that it’s over 20 years old and should the disk have failed the drive would have been rendered useless.
My initial attempts failed, although I have a copy of Copydisk and it was apparently successfully formatting and creating disks with the system tracks, when I tried to boot the drive with those disks, no luck.
I spoke to F J Kraan who advised that the proper disk type was Double Density (DD) as opposed to the High Density (HD) that I was using. I tracked down some DD disks and repeated the process and it works. I have of course therefore made several back up boot disks and feel somewhat relieved.
Incidentally the HD disks give the impression of working for general file usage, but success is intermittent, with occasional bad sector errors. Meanwhile the working PF-10 has decided to well, stop working, hopefully this last burst of activity wasn’t its last hurrah.
I’m waiting on some C size batteries to try in the drive to see if it’s a battery issue or not. Meanwhile I took one of the PF-10′s apart and took some crumb trail pictures with my phone.
(Update:- I’ve installed the four new C size batteries in the PF-10, but still no joy, harumph!)
Well it seems Epson PF-10 floppy disk drives are somewhat like buses, you don’t see any for ages and then two come along at once. Much to my surprise given what I’d read and been told about the rarity of the PF-10, another one appeared on Ebay.
This one was listed along with a PX-8 which I didn’t really need however I decided it was worth bidding just to acquire the drive. I duly won the auction, the PF-10 arrived and… it works!
It’s a bit temperamental but I like a challenge. It’s in very good condition, especially compared to the rather beaten up drive I previously bought and it is sitting right next to me now, looking all Silent Running like, and somewhat dwarfed by the TF-20.
Thus far I’ve managed to read, write and format some disks with it, the battery is a bit flaky and the drive unfortunately won’t run of off the power adapter, although it will take 4 C type standard batteries if required. I’m going to swap out the battery for the one in my other drive which seems more successful at holding a charge. I’m also going to set the required dip switch so I can daisy chain it with the TF-20.
As a bonus (I hadn’t noticed it in the picture) the accompanying PX-8 was fitted with an external RAM disk which I had been on the look out for anyway. Unfortunately it’s currently giving me BDOS errors whenever I try to access it. I’m hopeful however that this is an issue with its batteries as opposed to any other damage. I took it apart to confirm that battery type which turned out to be an Epson RB 101, 4.8V 500 mAh.
I’ve taken some pictures, unfortunately they are with my phone so I apologise for the quality, I’ll hopefully be able to take some proper photos soon, note the cheesy 70′s wood panelling, very apt.
I continue to tinker with my growing collection of old Epson computer equipment. The TF-20 is a strange hulk of a drive. Rather like the old Commodore 1541 the drive has a processor of its own comparable to the computer it serves.
In the case of the TF-20, a Z80 supported by 64 kByte of RAM (presumably these things cost serious money back in the day.) In order for the drive to work with systems such as the PX-8 you must first load the drive’s OS from a system disk. This is causing me some concern as I only have one disk that will boot the system and if that fails the drive will be essentially useless to me.
Along with the drive came a few 5.25 inch floppies with an eclectic mix of files on them. Two that caught my eye were Diskcopy and Copydisk. My first inclination was to try and make a couple of backups of the boot disk.
I thought I’d found what I needed with Copydisk which gave the following options:-
- Copy System Tracks
- Copy Complete Diskette
- Format and Copy System Tracks
- Format and Copy Complete Diskette
- Initialize Directory Tracks
After placing a write protect sticker over the notch of the boot disk (this reminded me of using scissors to cut out notches on the opposite side of disks so you could use both sides) I pretty much tried every combination of these options with some new blank disks I’d managed to find on ebay.
Whilst the formatting and copying all worked well, none of the newly created disks would boot the system so for now I’m relying on the squeeky old boot disk. The OS will remain in memory as long as you don’t disconnect the power cord from the TF-20 however the onboard power adapter gives off the sort of aroma that makes you want to stick a smoke detector directly over it so I’m not relaxed about leaving the power connected.
I’ve also been sorting through the fairly large collection of PX-8 related files I’ve downloaded and have transferred a few basic games via Filink directly onto floppy. There’s a certain buzz from loading these files with no real idea what you’re going to be presented with. I think the most surprising so far was FIF which turned out to be Madame Fifi’s Whorehouse, a somewhat lewd text adventure game.
A lot of the files have extensions such as CQM, DQC, BQS which I initially thought had perhaps become corrupted given their similarity to COM, DOC, BAS however on investigation it transpires these are files compressed with a program called SQ which replaces the middle character of all the files it archives with a Q. So far I’ve been unable to find a way of opening these archives.
As yet no joy with the PF-10, the unit spins up but I’m getting bad sector errors on all the disks I try to access. I’m not particularly surprised, in fact I would have been more surprised if it had worked. However I shall try and clean the heads and have a poke around to make sure everything that should be moving freely is doing so.
More luck with the TF-20 which is in fine working order. Both bays are working well and I’ve managed some read and write operations on both. The unit itself in monstrously heavy, most of the weight is I assume coming from the built in transformer. So far I’ve tried the unit with a PX-8 and PX-4. Along with the PF-10 the TF-20 came with a huge bundle of PX-4 related items. The PX-4 itself, several spare keyboards, a couple of cassette units, a ram disk and a rom holder all of which are interchangeable on the PX-4 (also apparently known as the Epson Pine.)
I also have some promotional literature for the PX-4 and an original UK price list which I’ll scan in and post. For now some pictures of the TF-20.
I recently acquired a parallel port interface for the Atari Portfolio, it’s actually an original DIP (Distributed Information Processing) model and looks as good as new. In order to transfer files to and from the Portfolio and a PC I need a DB25 male to male straight through cable which I have on order.
In the meantime it occurred to me I could hook up my Epson P-40 portable thermal printer with a standard parallel printer cable and confirm it’s in working order.
I connected everything together, created a bit of text in the Portfolio editor and then hit a snag, I couldn’t work out how to make it print. In mitigation I don’t have a manual for the Portfolio however after a brute force attack, ie trying every combination of key presses I could think of I found the required menu.
Much to my surprise the Epson immediately burst into life and printed my text, I almost imagined it sitting there thinking, is that all you’ve got?
(Update, Video Available)
Some obligatory pictures:-
This weekend I was very grateful to Urbancamo who as promised built me a suitable cable to connect my PX-8 to my DOS box. To connect the RS232C port on the PX-8 to a PC Com port I needed a male 8 pin mini din to female DB9 connector. I found an open ended 8 pin mini din cable on Ebay and Urbancamo kindly added the required female DB9 connector wired with the following configuration.
Having trawled through a load of old machines that were piled up at work, most butchered for parts I found one venerable Fujitsu, Pentium based machine running Windows 95. Apart from a system fan that sounds like it’s rubbing up against a cheese grater it’s in good working order. Most importantly it had a suitable Com port and a working CD drive.
I grabbed a load of PX-8 files from F J Kraan’s excellent PX-8 resource and transferred them by CD to the Fujitsu. I cleared up the autoexec.bat file and added a line to set the Com port’s parameters to match the PX-8′s (Mode COM1:4800,N,8,2,P) with the knowledge that Filink seems to find any excuse to hang and that several reboots were probably on the cards.
Once the two machines were connected I loaded up Filink on both and set about transferring some files. Oddly the transfer would begin and then Filink would attempt to access the floppy drive on the DOS box (which had no disk in it as I’d booted from the hard drive and not used the floppy for anything) causing the transfer to fail.
I dug out an old floppy disk put it in the drive, it was formatted but empty and tried again. This time the transfer worked with the floppy drive access light flashing momentarily. Quite what difference having a blank disk in the drive made I’ve no idea but Filink won’t work without it there, weird!
Now I have a working method of transferring files and, excitingly (if you like that sort of thing) I found a PF-10 on Ebay and it should be here within the week. Fingers crossed it works.