Replace vintage computer hard drives with a CF card

Posted on Monday, September 24th, 2012 in CPLD, Development by DP

J1mbo updated his XT-CF adaptation of our XT-IDE CPLD board. You can check out his wiki page with all the details about the board, the BOM, and the source files. This board allows vintage XT computers to use CF cards as hard drives, which keeps lots of old industrial and medical equipment going using modern parts.

It’s loosely based on our XT to IDE hard drive CPLD board, which is itself a CPLD-based knock-off of the Vintage Computer Forum’s XTIDE board. J1mbo’s version uses a flash card holder instead of an IDE hard drive.

Via the forum.

This entry was posted on Monday, September 24th, 2012 at 9:00 pm and is filed under CPLD, Development. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

22 Responses to “Replace vintage computer hard drives with a CF card”

  1. Hardcore says:

    Bit of a waste of time and money.
    You can pick up an adaptor with an IDE to Smartcard connection for about $5usd.

    • MrTea says:

      Even if he had the only computer on the planet this card would work with, its not a waste of time if the designer was having fun, learning or feeling a sense of accomplishment when complete.

      Plus you are missing the point and obviously never work with old PC hardware. Back then they never provided onboard I/O save for the keyboard controller, just the CPU, support chips, ROM (BIOS), and in some cases, RAM chips. You had to add video, floppy, serial, parallel, joystick, sound, and hard disk expansion cards. The early hard disks in 8088/8086 XT systems were MFM or or in the 286/386+ days, IDE. So an ancient PC XT would not have an IDE controller. I had an AT&T PC 6300 (8088) and a Canon 8086, both had MFM disks, the AT&T was 10MB and the Canon was 20MB (I kick myself for having tore them apart instead of saving them). I have an old 386 motherboard with 4MB RAM kicking around and it only has a keyboard port. I would buy this card for my 386 board.

  2. JesseJ says:

    I disagree with ‘hardcore’, but I’m biased. However, the XC9572 and CoolRunner-II are in two different
    CPLD product families.


  3. Jan says:

    @hardcore XT machines don’t use IDE interface but MFM. Those 5 buck boards dont work with that.

  4. canadave says:

    It’s good that someone has a solution for this kind of problem if needed…kudos to the creators of it.

  5. Darkstar says:

    Every time I see something like this I really hope that someday, someone will come up with something similar for SCSI hard disks. All my old hardware uses SCSI, but the number of FastSCSI harddisks I have keeps decreasing…
    Anyone ever heard of something like that? SCSI to CF/SD would be cool, but SCSI to image-file-over-CIFS-or-NFS would be even greater :)


    • Matseng says:

      You mean something like this?

      They have a lot of different legacy bridge products –

      • Darkstar says:

        Yes, something like that, but these things are quite expensive and not very flexible. For example it would be great if the device supported HDs and CD-ROMs, maybe even one device for many SCSI devices.
        It can’t be that hard to create a SCSI target core in VHDL, maybe sometime I’ll buy an FPGA board and just try my luck with it :)

    • magetoo says:

      Me too. I have seen SCSI interface projects for 8-bit systems, and used at least one external SCSI drive that was using a Z80 internally to talk to the drive, so it seems like a modern microcontroller should have litte problem talking SCSI, especially if it does not need to be very fast. Someone(™) should do it.

      Maybe some day.

      • Darkstar says:

        Yes, the requirements (esp. if you settle with FAST SCSI and don’t need Ultra-2 or something) are quite low. However, having browsed through the relevant T10 docs, I have to admit that the SCSI protocol itself is pretty complicated (esp. with things like disconnect/reconnect, sync negotiation etc.)

  6. Drone says:

    I have a couple of XT mobos old enough to use something like this. They still work (one is running Freesco router software booted from a floppy disc). Unlike more “modern” mobos, these ancient computers still do not FAIL due to cheap (planned obsolescence?) Chinese electrolytic caps. Those were the days…

  7. dr_dee says:

    Hi guys!!! I would like to order it. Is there any site or online-store to make the order?

  8. Frabas says:

    Hi guys. I recently purchased an old Yamaha QX1 Midi Sequencer. Works great, but uses 5″1/4 floppy disks. I know some floppy emulators with SD or USB exists, but I was wondering if a better choice were not to replace the floppy disk controller itself (in this case a MB8877 by Fujitsu) by a microcontroller. Why? Because the FDC has been design to interface a fast MPU with a slow mechanical system, and current floppy emulators must simulate the slowness. Replacing the FDC itself should logically improve performance. Any comment or advice?

    • Cy says:

      Frabas, have you come to any conclusion to the answer for the QX1? I have one but my drive is not so good, it has problems ejecting the floppy, any advice what to do?

      • frabas says:

        Hey Cy, unfortunately, no answer so far. I have the same problem with my QX1: cannot eject disk. It appears the small electromagnet holding the ejection mechanism does not go far enough to allow releasing.
        So far, I have another intrument on my workbench, but I keep in mind to replace the entire Floppy Disk Controler with a PIC 16F819 (see:

    • Cy says:

      Frabas, thanks for the info and link, I will do some research on that controller. I adjusted the latch / spring mechanism a little bit, and it helped with the disk ejecting, but not fully. I push the release very slowly, and it has been working. reading and writing on the disk is fine. do you happen to have a service manual for the qx1? we should keep in touch on this subject, can we exchange emails?

    • Cy says:

      Frabas, do you have a copy of the service manual for the QX1?

  9. AntiqueMan says:

    I’d like to say you guys are great, and I too, would like a way to purchase a finished MFM to CF card. Anything less than the $1700 unit by Datex would be interesting about now.

  10. Sergio says:

    Hello everyone,

    I’m a retro collector, I simply love all this old machines.
    At the moment I’d like to replace an old and now dead MFM hard disk from my Olivetti Prodest Pc1HD.
    The problem is that this pc has the controller integrated with the motherboard, and it doesn’t has any expansion slot, so I’m looking for an alternative solution.

    Is there someone who know if exists an MFM to IDE adapter ? O know how can I resolve my problem ?

    thank you

  11. Mr. Tea says:

    There are commercial MFM disk emulators available but I shudder think of their cost (>$1000 USD). Search for “MFM disk emulator”.

    Here is a page in which someone is using a beaglebone to emulate an MFM disk: It appears to be open source and in working order so that looks like your solution.

  12. Crawford says:

    Yes. I’ve built one of these, I know the guy who designed it. It’s rev 1 right now, and has some green-wire mods that need to be done during the build. It cost about $50 in parts, plus a BeagleBone Black, so call it around $100 total. It’s still a very DIY project, and the expensive ones are all out-of-the box.

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