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Anyone familar with HxC Universal Floppy Emulator?
06-05-2017, 02:29 AM
Post: #1
Anyone familar with HxC Universal Floppy Emulator?
The thread title is a question for members, particularly European ones. A group in France has developed a floppy drive replacement aimed at the retro gaming community. It can be used in place of a 3.5" drive, drive content can be stored on an SD card or USB flash device, and the user can select which file in flash storage will appear inserted in the floppy drive from the front panel. See these links for details

http://hxc2001.free.fr/floppy_drive_emulator/
http://hxc2001.com/

What caught my attention was the wide range of tracks, sectors, sector size, bitrate, RPM, SD/DD, and track encoding method (FM/MFM) supported by the emulator. Since the drive emulator was meant to go into a range of old computing devices (Atari, Amiga, Sinclair, etc.) it had to match the way their controllers used the floppy drive. The floppy emulator supports both reading and writing files to the flash storage disk image by the computer.

In addition to supporting a broad range of floppy hardware replacement scenarios, there is also software to take old floppy disk images (sorry, no LIF but Teledisk format is supported) and transfer them to your flash device. I believe it also allows you to create a target disk on flash and add files to that simulated disk. Seems like the perfect way to archive old disks and transfer content between your PC and an old machine.

Given that there is some overlap between forum interests and general retro computing, I was wondering if anyone has one of these devices. Depending on version, they range from 60 to 100 Euro, and they do show up on TAS (priced in GBP, interestingly enough!). I'm sorely tempted to get one of these, but would like to hear from anyone who has used them.

Comments anyone?
~Mark

"Don't assume quotations pulled from the Internet are genuine."
-- George Washington
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06-06-2017, 10:13 AM
Post: #2
RE: Anyone familar with HxC Universal Floppy Emulator?
(06-05-2017 02:29 AM)mfleming Wrote:  The thread title is a question for members, particularly European ones. A group in France has developed a floppy drive replacement aimed at the retro gaming community. It can be used in place of a 3.5" drive, drive content can be stored on an SD card or USB flash device, and the user can select which file in flash storage will appear inserted in the floppy drive from the front panel. See these links for details

http://hxc2001.free.fr/floppy_drive_emulator/
http://hxc2001.com/

What caught my attention was the wide range of tracks, sectors, sector size, bitrate, RPM, SD/DD, and track encoding method (FM/MFM) supported by the emulator. Since the drive emulator was meant to go into a range of old computing devices (Atari, Amiga, Sinclair, etc.) it had to match the way their controllers used the floppy drive. The floppy emulator supports both reading and writing files to the flash storage disk image by the computer.

In addition to supporting a broad range of floppy hardware replacement scenarios, there is also software to take old floppy disk images (sorry, no LIF but Teledisk format is supported) and transfer them to your flash device. I believe it also allows you to create a target disk on flash and add files to that simulated disk. Seems like the perfect way to archive old disks and transfer content between your PC and an old machine.

Given that there is some overlap between forum interests and general retro computing, I was wondering if anyone has one of these devices. Depending on version, they range from 60 to 100 Euro, and they do show up on TAS (priced in GBP, interestingly enough!). I'm sorely tempted to get one of these, but would like to hear from anyone who has used them.

Comments anyone?
~Mark

I use it all the time with my TRS-80 and Superbrain CP/M machines. It works great!

Tom L
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06-06-2017, 01:26 PM (This post was last modified: 06-06-2017 01:38 PM by Martin Hepperle.)
Post: #3
RE: Anyone familar with HxC Universal Floppy Emulator?
Hi,

for testing I installed a "HxC Slim" inside a 9153 HP-IB hard-disk + floppy enclosure to replace the 3.5" SONY drive and it worked fine. I have not yet tried to replace one of the older SONY drives in the 9121/9122 boxes.

I also tried to replace a Tandon TM-100-2A 5.25" disk drive in my 9130A disk unit (for the HP 86A) and there I was not able to get a stable system. The emulator has problems with seeking over larger number of tracks and so far I have not resolved the issue.
I guess it is a result of the HP 86A not using a standard floppy controller but rolling its own communication which may lead to slightly different timings.
The symptom is that an INITIALIZE command fills the disk track by track as it should, but when it returns to the first track to write the volume and directory structures the HP 86A gives me a "ERROR 130 : DISC".
On the other hand the HxC emulator works in other systems like the Tandy, so there is still hope that some tweaking may succeed.
One caveat is to use fast enough SD cards. Slow cards lead to errors.

You can easily import any LIF image file into the system and store it on a SD card. Multiple images can be cycled through by pressing a button.

See also Document describing my experience

Martin
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06-06-2017, 11:07 PM
Post: #4
RE: Anyone familar with HxC Universal Floppy Emulator?
Hi Martin,

Excellent information - love the write-up. I'm thinking of two targets, a HP9133XV with the older Sony OA-D31V-14 drive and a HP9121 with the Sony OA-D30V-1 drive. From what I've found on the web, these are likely the first 3.5" drives made. I did find an Australian blog post about using the HxC in a 9121, but the post never finished with a success/failure outcome. I did find that you could not swap the D30V and D31V drives, so I suspect there may be a small difference in pin assignments (the D30V motor ran continuously when put in the D31V's place).

Outside of the HP'verse I have an AT&T 7300 Unix PC purchased back in the mid-80's when they first came out (you really don't want to know what they cost then!) Although originally furnished with a 360K 5.25" drive, I hacked it to take 720K/1.44M 3.5" drives. Love to get it out of storage and run full-up System V in 1MB of RAM, 20MB of disk Smile

Thanks to you both,
~Mark

"Don't assume quotations pulled from the Internet are genuine."
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06-06-2017, 11:50 PM
Post: #5
RE: Anyone familar with HxC Universal Floppy Emulator?
(06-06-2017 01:26 PM)Martin Hepperle Wrote:  I have not yet tried to replace one of the older SONY drives in the 9121/9122 boxes.

Some of the Sony 3.5" drives used in older HP equipment has a different pin out on the connector that supplies both power and data over the 34 conductor cable, so verify what you have before you plug the emulator in.
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