Epson PX-8 Terminal

I’ve been messing around with some terminal stuff today.  I have almost no experience of terminal software so it’s not coming naturally to me.  What I had hoped to achieve was to use the PX-16 with its clearer screen as a dumb terminal for the PX-8.

I don’t yet have a serial cable that fits the PX-16 so I’ve been experimenting with the PX-8 hooked up via RS232 to my Windows 95 box.  By luck one of the PX-8’s I have came with a pre-configured copy of Kermit.  I downloaded Kermit for Windows 95 and set about trying to get them to talk to each other.  After a bit of fiddling I managed to get the PX-8 acting as a sort of dumb terminal for the other box.

What I really want is to do this the other way around but due to my ignorance of the subject I don’t know if that’s even possible, whether you can control a CP/M box via DOS or if you need two CP/M based machines.  In my mind the terminal is just acting as screen and keyboard for the other machine but it doesn’t seem to be working that way.  Still early days and some reading required.

This is just a quick video of me changing directory and listing the directory of the Windows 95 machine on the PX-8.

Who Are You Calling Fugly?

Epson PX-16 (Gorgeous)

OK, I know it looks a bit like a cash register, especially when it’s sitting on the disk unit but I like it!  I’ve removed all of the internals today and given the cases a good clean inside and out.  I’ve secured the FDD and HDD in the working disk unit and made an attempt to get the FDD working.

Epson SMD-400 FDD

The FDD is an Epson SMD-400.  Like the HDD it has a non-standard connection, with power being supplied via the interface cable as opposed to the usual separate cable.  Unlike the HDD it doesn’t work and I’ve been unable to make it read or write to any disks.  I’ve had it apart and fiddled a bit with the spin speed and head alignment but no joy.  Oddly a cable to nowhere has been soldered to the board, I have no idea what it would have been connected to but hope it’s not something painfully obvious like the head.

The unit does spin up and the head moves around but it fails on every disk I’ve tried.  It would of course be nice to slot another drive in there, I’ve got plenty of them but of course they all require a separate power cable.

Piggybacking the FDD

With no serial cable and no FDD I’m rather limited on what I can do with the machine as I’m unable to get any files on to it.  In desperation I opened up my Windows 95 box and trailed the cable from its floppy into the PX-16 disk unit so the Windows 95 box could power it.  However with it connected to the floppy interface on the PX-16 the Epson won’t start up.

PX-16 XTGold

I gave up and turned my attention to the installed modem.  It has an RJ connector that I’ve not seen on a UK modem before.  Usually they’re RJll’s with 4 connections.  This looks more like an RJ45 and it has 8 connections, although it’s a UK specified machine and the modem is made by a UK company.

I started up Term and sent some modem commands to COM 2 and got the usual OK’s back.  I tried to kludge a cable together but was unable to get a dial tone.  So a slightly more frustrating day today although I did have fun playing with XTGold which was on the disk I’d salvaged from the Equity, it seems like quite an impressive file manager.

More PX-16 Adventures

Things are progressing quickly with the PX-16.  Having got the main unit working my attention was today turned to the two disk units that came with the Epson.  Designed to hold either one or two FDD’s or an FDD and an HDD the units sit under and clip onto the main machine.  The two units are then connected via a cable at the back.

JVC JD-3824

The first unit I tried seemed dead, no amount of fiddling would coax it into life.  The second unit however powered up first time, although the FDD in it won’t currently read or write to any disks.  The dead unit had a daughter card and from it a cable with a 26 pin connector which I assumed was for the HDD, although I’d not seen that sort of connector before.

Epson Equity

I enquired over at the Vintage Computer Forums as to whether anyone recognised this connector.  Mike S & Chuck G pointed me in the direction of the JVC JD-3824 drive, Chuck remembering it from a Gridlite he used to own.  I did a search for JVC JD-3824 and had a doh! moment when my own blog came up.  This is the drive in my Epson Equity.  I was considering, somewhat reluctantly, taking the Equity apart and trying the HDD in the PX-16.

26 Pin Connector

Then I remembered I had another Equity, seriously beaten up and not working, tucked away somewhere.  I dug it out, took it apart and low and behold there was a JVC JD-3824 drive in it and on the drive that familiar 26 pin connector and cable, I love moments like that!

JVC JD-3824 in the PX-16

I quickly removed the drive, cleaned it up and put it in the PX-16 drive unit into which I’d also installed the daughter card from the dead unit.  I turned it on and… nothing.  Then I noticed a jumper by the mainboard connector to the daughter card.  On checking the unit from which I’d removed the daughter card I realised the jumper was in the alternative position.

PX-16 & Disk Unit

I swapped the jumper, turned the unit on and the HDD whirred into life.  Not only that but it actually booted to the drive’s original installation of MS-DOS.  I was astonished to say the least, it’s noisy and clunky but I love it.

PX-16 Mainboard with ROM Sockets (Right) & Modem (Left)

The PX-16 is highly configurable, in fact it’s so highly configurable that it makes my head hurt.  There’s a bank of DIP switches in the unit to set depending on which configuration you require.  This includes two boot modes, one of which behaves like a regular PC but also denies access to the system’s ROM’s.  I’m still trying to fully understand the other mode.

I’d like to try and get the FDD working next and I want to build an RS232 cable at some point.  The system also came with some additional RAM which I can’t seem to access in the PC boot mode although it’s available in the standard mode so I need to look at that.

Additional RAM

There’s also a Modem in the unit which I’d like to try and I need to do some swapping around to get all the working components into the cleanest cases and secure the various drives properly.