Basket Case

Got another CoCo 3 from eBay. $20 shipped,  knew it only gave a green screen with no text. Figured I’d give it a go thru.

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Looks like I’ve got my work cut out for me…


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Fixing an unpopular CoCo1 mod

Greetings CoCoNutz!! One of the mods that was done to my HJL CoCo1 was not a popular one with me:

 

What’s wrong with this pic?

As you can see, the reset button was forcibly removed from this CoCo. The black part of the button was actually in the bottom of the box while the spring and shorting pins were still in the CoCo.

So, I made a trip a few weeks ago to Radio Shack and bought a normally open, momentary switch. I also used two wires from a PC CD audio cable. The results are below:

Which tabs are the actual reset tabs?

As I understand it, not all CoCo reset switches operate the same. When the CoCo was on, I used a straight edge screw driver to short out the pins on the switch to determine which ones I needed to solder the wires to; when shorting the pins caused the CoCo to reset, those were the ones I used.

Next, I drilled a hole in the case with a 1/4 drill bit and installed the switch into the CoCo1′s case, as shown below:

New reset button

That’s an easy mod, that in this case was necessary.


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CoCo 1 Upgrade

Got bored when I was recovering from the flu a few weeks back,  so I upgraded the HJL CoCo 1 with a 63C09 cpu.

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Testing Darren Atkinson’s SDC Floppy Emulator

It’s no secret the current crop of CoCo floppy disk replacement devices had one major shortcoming – the inability to use software in which the author wrote his or her own floppy disk access routines. Drivewire and the SuperIDE; CoCoNet and the Micro SD Pak suffer from this problem.

 

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Above is Darren’s answer to this problem – the CoCo SDC. It fits in an FD-501 or 502 case and solves the afore mentioned compatibility problem. It uses an Atmega microcontroller to emulate a CoCo floppy controller.  It also has 8 banks of user programmable flash. It ships with a modified version of RS-DOS, called SDC-DOS in bank 0 and DECB in bank 1.

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Above is the first test machine – my newly acquired 64k CoCo 1 with the HJL-57 keyboard.

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At boot you are greeted DECB 1.1 screen,  but in a similar fashion to HDB DOS, you also see the SDC-DOS and version label as well. There are a number of command extensions Darren has added to SDC-DOS, and I’ll cover a few of them here.

The following examples are based on how I have my SD card arranged. I used an 8GB SanDisk SDHD card.  Also, due to the current firmware of the CoCo SDC, it only supports 8.3 file names.

The DRIVE command has several functions, as shown below:

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DRIVE 0, “APPS/TW64/TW64.DSK” in this instance,  assigns my Telewriter image on the SD card to drive 0.

Issuing just the DRIVE command will display the current drive status and assignments.

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DIR -
will display the directory of the root of the SD card.

Issuing:

DRIVE 0, UNLOAD

Will remove the mounted image from drive 0.

You can also view the images in the SD card folders:

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In this case, entering:

DIR “GAMES/SUNDOG/COCO3/SINSTAR/

…rewards us with the disk images of the Sinistaar game.  We’ll load this game later when I switch to the CoCo 3.

One of my favorite apps for the CoCo was Telewriter 64. During junior and high school, I made a lot of money from friends by typing their book reports and printing them on my Okidata 82A.

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If you’ve ever used TW64, you know this screen. I had to download the manual from the Color Computer Archive to remember how to use it…

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That was fun… On to the CoCo 3.

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There were a few issues I had with my SDC unit when it first arrived. So I used it without the FD-50x case for a while to get easier access to the switches; hence the top less status of my Coco 3.

Notice the CC3? I didn’t until just now. The SDC evidently detects the model of CoCo you’re using.

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Games like Sinistaar, with multiple disks are right at home with the SDC – as long as the disks have the disk number after the name. Entering the following:

DRIVE 0, “GAMES/SUNDOG/COCO3/SINSTAR

Will cause the SDC to mount the first disk image in the folder that has the number one at the end of it.

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When running a game or app with multiple disks, when asked for the next disk, push the button on the SDC. The red LED with flash the number of the next disk. It will look for them in sequential order.

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And I can’t say enough about how much quicker the SDC loads data than real floppy hardware.

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I posted a video on YouTube several years ago, of Sinistaar loading and gameplay. Then I had to repost it with the 4+ minute load time edited out. Using the SDC,  load time is drastically reduced.

Darren had stated that the SDC can use a Drivewire 4 server as a source for disk images. I have not be able to test this yet.  Likewise,  I have not been able to test the ability to handle hard disk images either.

As stated earlier,  I had a few problems with my SDC. Darren worked with me diligently to get them resolved. In fact,  it’s highly possible my CoCo was at least partly responsible and hosed things up during a firmware update. Either way,  is fixed now and works great.

There’s still additional features waiting to be reviewed. No idea when I’ll be able to get to those,  but,  I wanted to get something posted about this great device. Darren has done the CoCo Community a great service in creating this floppy emulator. It’s worth every penny.

UPDATE – 2/10/2014

Above I made mention that I had a few issues with my CoCo SDC. I didn’t want to go into those problems until there was some sort of reason WHY the problems occurred, as well as HOW to avoid it in the first place. Now we know… My SDC was accidentally shipped with SDC-DOS 1.0, which would cause a problem with a CoCo 3 when using the DIR command with any of the available arguments – which I can confirm that it did. Darren emailed me immediately when he discovered this and sent the new version and instructions on how to flash the update into the SDC. The problem I encountered was when I attempted to update the SDC using my CoCo 1; the update completed and then booted into ECB – not SDC-DOS. Darren was able to get me back running pretty quickly, and after some explanation by him, I understood how – but that’s not important right now. What plagued both of us was WHY it happened, and why my CoCo 1 was detected as a CoCo 2 (as shown in a picture above). It turns out that my CoCo 1 is an ‘E’ board, and Darren has an ‘E’ board CoCo 1 identical to mine (right down to the HJL-57 keyboard). After some testing Darren was able to replicate the problem I had and find a solution:

From Darren:

Looks like the D and E boards of the CoCo 1 will require a mod to allow programming the Flash. I’ve attached an edited version of one of your pictures showing where capacitor C85 is located. Cutting the front leg of this capacitor results in a faster transition of the CTS* line. I don’t believe cutting this leg will cause problems for other cartridges but I can’t be 100% sure about that.

Now, I don’t pretend to think that’s why the CoCo was mis-identified as a CoCo 2. I do believe Darren is still working on this. I’ll update this as soon as there’s a resolution to that as well.

This review/test will be continued as I have time to look at the other features offered by the CoCo SDC – so check back frequently.


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Mystery package arrives…

Hmmm… what do we have here? Looks like an FD-501 controller too me.

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FD-502?

Hmmmm… Funny thing about looks. They can be quite deceiving..

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What’s this? Darren Atkinson has whipped up a floppy disk emulator for the CoCo. The next few days should be fun…


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