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.
Thanks to Chuck over at the Vintage Computer Forum who pointed me in the direction of the source files and executable of Unsqueeze at the Retroarchive and to the DOS version