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Vintage Computers Any vintage computer systems, calculators, video games etc., but with an emphasis on 1980s and earlier equipment.

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Old 8th Nov 2018, 11:15 pm   #1
GMB
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Default Can anyone read the old CF2 discs ?

A friend of mine wants to read a CF2 disc, as used by Amstrad.
The requirement is just to read the data, not decode it necessarily.

Can anyone do it?
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Old 9th Nov 2018, 5:15 am   #2
JohnBHanson
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Default Re: Can anyone read the old CF2 discs ?

Do you know what machine it was written on? And is it with CP/M or Locoscript?


Also by "Read" do you mean transferred to (for example) transferred file by file to a PC disk.

It does look like you don't want the file format converted - is that correct.
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Old 9th Nov 2018, 8:48 am   #3
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Default Re: Can anyone read the old CF2 discs ?

Assuming they are Amstrad PCW discs, I have a machine with both a 3" drive and a 3" one. The result would still be a CP/M disc, but I have a DOS utility to then convert to PC format, though I'm not sure I've tried running it under XP (which is the oldest system I have easy access to).
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Old 9th Nov 2018, 9:48 am   #4
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Default Re: Can anyone read the old CF2 discs ?

I had an Amstrad PCW before I moved to a PC. There was a method of connecting the PCW to a PC called Locolink which, from memory, made the PCW look like a drive on the PC. I used this to transfer all the files from my PCW to a PC before I got rid of it. I can't be sure as it was about 20 years since I last did any transfers but I think the files had be converted to text files by the PCW before transferring them.

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Old 9th Nov 2018, 10:43 am   #5
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Default Re: Can anyone read the old CF2 discs ?

As I said the discs (2 off) are Amstrad, presumably the old Amstrad word processor.

To be clear, by "read" I mean read and copy data to any media that can subsequently be read by a modern Windows PC (fitted with floppies). So writing an IBM-style floppy or transmitting as RS232 data if necessary.

If the transcription process decodes the files then that's great, but we are systems programmers so decoding a filestore and a word processor format are no big deal.

Dave, I don't think we have a problem with CPM filestore so long as the disc data is readable on a modern machine, so could be mounted as a raw disc on a Linux system for example. Most of the difficulty these days is that Windows likes to make it hard to access hardware directly (we used to do weird stuff on old Windows systems, pre NT, creating discs for alien systems).

So if someone can confirm they can do this then please send me a pm.
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Old 9th Nov 2018, 10:53 am   #6
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Default Re: Can anyone read the old CF2 discs ?

Quote:
Originally Posted by GMB View Post
As I said the discs (2 off) are Amstrad, presumably the old Amstrad word processor.
As I say, I'm fine as long as they are for the word processor (PCW) as opposed to the Amstrad CPC. I seem to recall that the two used different formats.

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Dave, I don't think we have a problem with CPM filestore so long as the disc data is readable on a modern machine, so could be mounted as a raw disc on a Linux system for example.
In that case I should be able to produce an acceptable 3" disc for you.

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Most of the difficulty these days is that Windows likes to make it hard to access hardware directly.
That was the reason for my caveat about the DOS format conversion program.
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Old 9th Nov 2018, 1:01 pm   #7
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Default Re: Can anyone read the old CF2 discs ?

Now confirmed as Amstrad PCW8512.

Another tack I forgot to mention is that we could capture the printer output of a working one of course.
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Old 9th Nov 2018, 4:23 pm   #8
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Default Re: Can anyone read the old CF2 discs ?

PM sent.
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Old 9th Nov 2018, 5:14 pm   #9
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Default Re: Can anyone read the old CF2 discs ?

Quote:
Originally Posted by GMB View Post
Now confirmed as Amstrad PCW8512.

Another tack I forgot to mention is that we could capture the printer output of a working one of course.
Careful - printer is very non standard interface so all you would get (at best) would be a bit-image.
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Old 9th Nov 2018, 5:24 pm   #10
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Default Re: Can anyone read the old CF2 discs ?

There was a serial/parallel interface unit for the PCW machines which plugged onto the system bus connector. So you might be able to get the data out that way -- if you could find the interface and the software to drive it.

I never had an Amstrad PCW but I seem to remember some oddity with the drives. Something like the original drive (A was 40 cylinder, the add-on drive was 80 cylinder. The 40 cylinder driver was a 'flippy', you could turn the disk over. I am not sure the add-on drive was, it may well have had 2 heads

FWIW 40 cylinder drives with 2 heads existed and the disks were not data-compatible with the flippy type. One side was effectively recorded in the opposite direction (the motor did not reverse on the 2 head version when you changed sides...)
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Old 9th Nov 2018, 5:42 pm   #11
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Default Re: Can anyone read the old CF2 discs ?

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Originally Posted by TonyDuell View Post
There was a serial/parallel interface unit for the PCW machines which plugged onto the system bus connector. So you might be able to get the data out that way -- if you could find the interface and the software to drive it.
I believe that was what LocoLink used, although I don't currently have a copy. I do, however, have the interface - which was also used for connecting an external printer, or could be used for running the Kermit inter-computer communication software.

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Originally Posted by TonyDuell View Post
I never had an Amstrad PCW but I seem to remember some oddity with the drives. Something like the original drive (A was 40 cylinder, the add-on drive was 80 cylinder. The 40 cylinder driver was a 'flippy', you could turn the disk over. I am not sure the add-on drive was, it may well have had 2 heads

FWIW 40 cylinder drives with 2 heads existed and the disks were not data-compatible with the flippy type. One side was effectively recorded in the opposite direction (the motor did not reverse on the 2 head version when you changed sides...)
Yes, that sounds about right. I must admit I had forgotten about that complication. I only have a single-sided A: drive in my PCW - as I said, the B: drive is 3".
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Old 9th Nov 2018, 7:50 pm   #12
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Default Re: Can anyone read the old CF2 discs ?

The software for driving the serial/parallel interface was included as standard in the PCW. You just fit the interface to the connector on the back and the interface is functional. There was an article in Practical Electronics in the mid 80s on building an interface which was actually written by one of my university colleagues.

I had a PCW8256 with extra RAM to take it to 512k, an external RAM pack and the serial/parallel interface and a 3" B drive. The supplied dot matrix printer was noisy and slow so I added a Canon BJ10 inkjet printer which connected to the parallel connector. I also had the Locolink interface and software. I can't remember where the Locolink interface plugged in but it may have been the connector where the serial/parallel interface connected to.

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Old 9th Nov 2018, 8:51 pm   #13
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Default Re: Can anyone read the old CF2 discs ?

All this mention of the LocoLink is a bit spooky, given recent communications between Dave Moll and myself. At present I still have one, though no PCW to use it with.
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Old 9th Nov 2018, 9:40 pm   #14
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Default Re: Can anyone read the old CF2 discs ?

My PCW 8256 is presently in store at the back of the shed. I did upgrade it with a second internal drive and an external 3 1/2" drive for 720k floppies that can be used as either the A or B drive. I have software and (PCWToolkit) that allows you to copy files to the external drive in either PCW or DOS format. I used to use it to transference files to my work Windows PC. It was working 2 years ago. I have plenty of 720k floppies if you still need the files copied.
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Old 9th Nov 2018, 10:21 pm   #15
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Default Re: Can anyone read the old CF2 discs ?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Herald1360 View Post
All this mention of the LocoLink is a bit spooky, given recent communications between Dave Moll and myself. At present I still have one, though no PCW to use it with.
Hence my reference to not currently having a copy.
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Old 10th Nov 2018, 8:35 am   #16
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Default Re: Can anyone read the old CF2 discs ?

A very long time ago I also used to have an Amstrad PCW. They were basically glorified typewriters as Mr Sugar drove a horse & cart through the established standards for the various ports & drives, so you couldn't just go out and buy a replacement 3.5" floppy disk drive. I had to hunt around to get 720K floppies, although you could re-format 1.4Mb disks to 720K Amstrad under CPM.
Locomotive Software was offering Locoscript 2 at the time and add-on HDD's. These were pitifully small, even by the standards of the time.At least you weren't hammering at the Locoscript boot disk every time. I copied mine.
These machines had the Z80 CPU which was a dinosaur even in 1993.
The CPM operating system was very much like DOS.
The whole thing worked, even though that 9-pin dot-matrix printer sounded like a bunch of enraged bees & it was glacially slow on the 'best quality' setting.
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Old 10th Nov 2018, 4:02 pm   #17
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Default Re: Can anyone read the old CF2 discs ?

CP/M was quite widely used in the early days, until displaced by IBM DOS. From Wikipedia:

Bill Gates claimed that the Apple II family with a Z-80 SoftCard was the single most-popular CP/M hardware platform.[26] Many different brands of machines ran the operating system, some notable examples being the Altair 8800, the IMSAI 8080, the Osborne 1 and Kaypro luggables, and MSX computers. The best-selling CP/M-capable system of all time was probably the Amstrad PCW. In the UK, CP/M was also available on Research Machines educational computers (with the CP/M source code published as an educational resource), and for the BBC Micro when equipped with a Z80 co-processor. Furthermore, it was available for the Amstrad CPC series, the Commodore 128, TRS-80, and later models of the ZX Spectrum. CP/M 3 was also used on the NIAT, a custom handheld computer designed for A.C. Nielsen's internal use with 1 Mbytes of SSD memory.
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