Sunday 6 March 2011

The Information Train, First Coupling

I wasn't intending to do entry each day but this one was important to me, yesterday, I formatted my first floppy disk ever! using an original QL, yes I know 'big deal' and 'only 27 years late' especially as most of the equipment is that old. But never the less it happened, it worked however the process didn't go that smoothly. Obtaining a PCML floppy disk interface from RWAP, a brand new disk drive from Maplin, retrieving a dust ridden sawdust covered floppy disk ribbon cable with a twisted pair and slightly rusty but older disk drive (also with a bit of sawdust on it) from my garage. I had everything to try to get things working, so first job was to plug in the interface, switch on and see what gives. The  extensions notice comes up, all well and good but there seems a bit of a delay before F1/F2 boxes appear, hmmn I thought that normally intimates something wrong or expanded memory, and as far as I know the interface doesn't have any. This is not looking good, but pressing F2 the noisy mdv whirring away and I set about checking memory and then finding out after trying every conceivable variation of PRINT MEM to PRINT FREE_MEMORY I came to the conclusion the JM ROM QL doesn't have that keyword, no I didn't have my QL manual with me, yes it's on my laptop in a PDF file downstairs and I am too lazy to get and go down there to look.

You have to consider here that besides all the other reasons for returning to the QL one important one to me is that sorting out these issues is part of the fun of QL'ing and that it uses my brain to do so, as recently I have felt I needed this particular level of challenging tasks to get it moving again. I will let you know if it works in a couple of years.

Well eventually I did go downstairs to the laptop and asked the question on the 'mailing list', got the answer and found out that my PCML interface had 256K ram on it, 'result', I did let RWAP know this just in case he had any others lying about, as this one was not advertised as such.

A few days later returning to the floppy disk set up, I went about thinking that there was something missing, there was, a power supply. I needed one for the floppy disk as unlike the USB version I have for the laptop which just plugs in and that is it, the old method needed a separate supply. I had visions of building one out of and old PC I have in the garage, didn't fancy that too bulky and over the top. Then I remembered I had a duff external hard-drive and casing with its own plug-in to the mains power supply and with a bit of adapting the Molex four pin power lead needed converting to the floppy disk style of power socket (well thats easy I've got that).

Floppy disk in hand, I am already to go, powering up the QL and the Maplin floppy disk drive, connecting the ribbon cable between them, typing in DIR FLP1_ and... nothing 'not found'. Oh well next thing to try was the other three combinations of the ribbon cable, polarity and before the twisted pair. Each time everything was powered down, powered up, F2, type in the command, still nothing.

Some general email conversation with Rich from RWAP covered the issue around new 3.5 floppy drive not having the D0/D1 selection link and causing a problem for the drive to be recognised, remembering this I swapped the Maplin 3.5 floppy drive for the sawdusted version and after another set of trial and error ribbon cable combinations hey presto I have a directory, now to try format!

The final working setup, still yet to be refined and cased appropriately

Anyone want a 3.5 brand new floppy drive?

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