Coleco ADAM microSD Floppy Emulator (user review)
(also called a MicroFox Virtual ADAM Disk Drive)
A brief history before the official user review
When the Coleco ADAM first came out in October 1983, the computer system used blank 256K Digital Data Packs for loading programs and storing one’s personal files (The Digital Data Drives were a high-speed computer grade automated tape drive). In 1984 Coleco released a 5.25 inch 160K ADAMNet floppy disk drive that was faster and more reliable when compared to 256K Digital Data Packs. Back in 1984, one could connect a maximum of two Coleco 5.25 inch Disk Drives at once, and the only major disadvantage of the original Coleco Disk Drives was that they were only single sided drives that could only store 160K worth a data. With most Coleco ADAM programs being on a 256K Digital Data Pack, it made it impossible to copy some Supergame programs to disk if the game used more than 160K of storage space. When Coleco stopped making the ColecoVision and ADAM in January 1985, soon after some third party companies started offering Disk Drive upgrade services. The Coleco ADAM disk drives back in 1984 use to sale for $199.99 brand new. Sometime in 1985 or later, some people sent their Coleco disk drives into 3rd party companies to get them modified to 320K double sided 5.25 inch and later on 720K 3.5 inch disk drives. The fees for the upgrade service were around $300+ on top of the price of $200 for the original Coleco disk drive that was purchased in the store. It was really cool when people were showing up with modified Coleco disk drives that stored 320K of data on a double sided 5.25 inch disk drive. For the first time one could make an exact bit for bit copy of a 256K Digital Data Pack to a 5.25 inch 320K Disk Drive. Later on what was more interesting is that people were showing up with modified Coleco Disk Drives that were converted to 720K 3.5 inch. After owning a Coleco 5.25 inch 160K Disk Drive for awhile, I ended up getting rid of it and getting a 720K 3.5 inch converted Coleco Disk Drive. I loved the storage space plus the plastic protective disk drive shell with built in write protect switch was very nice. There was some reliability issues with some of the Coleco 5.25 inch Disk Drives. It might have been a quality control issue was some version numbers, since I know some people have owned Coleco disk drives for 34 years and they still work fine. However, other people around 1984 and 1985 had a few Coleco ADAM Disk Drives that broke or ran too warm and overheated. The Coleco Disk Drives were much more reliable when compared to the Coleco Digital Data Drives.
In the late 80’s around 1988 or 1989 Micro innovations released the very first third party ADAM Disk Drives that were engineered from scratch (This is when I got rid of my original modified Coleco disk drives and purchased Micro innovations disk drives). First came the 320K 5.25 inch model and then the 720K 3.5 inch model. Later on there was the top of the line 1.44MB 3.5 inch model from Micro innovations that I really enjoyed. Micro Innovations either made a 1.2MB 5.25 inch Disk Drive, or a third party company was converting Coleco Disk Drives to 1.2MB (The latest version of File Manager supports 1.2MB 5.25 inch disk drives, but I never owned a 1.2MB drive since I preferred the 1.44MB 3.5 inch top of the line model). The Micro Innovations 320k, 720k, and 1.44MB models ran a lot cooler when compared to the original 160K Coleco Disk Drive. Micro innovations disk drives were also much more reliable when compared to the Coleco Disk Drives. The 1.44MB Disk Drive was also the fastest disk drive on the market (except for the Micro innovations IDE hard drive that was released later, but the hard drive is not considered a floppy disk drive). One could connect up to 4 Micro innovations disk drives to their ADAM computer if they special ordered two of the Disk Drives with a special eprom. The standard Coleco and Micro innovations disk drives came with a device #1 and device #2 eprom that was changed by an external toggle switch on the case. With the special eprom installed the toggle switch became device #3 and device #4. As far as I am aware only the Filemanger 3.1 and File Manger 4.06 supported Disk Drive #3 and #4.
Coleco ADAM microSD Floppy Emulator (user review)
Since around 1991 to the year 2016 the 3.5 inch 1.44MB Micro Innovations disk drive with a list price of $299.99 was the top of the line ADAMNET storage device for one to use with their ADAM computer. That all changed on December 2016 when Microfox Technologies released the Coleco ADAM microSD Floppy Emulator for only $130 plus shipping.
Every ADAM computer owner should own at least one microSD floppy Emulator
The Coleco ADAM microSD Floppy Emulator is an ADAMNET drive that uses microSD cards. There are many positives about this product, however to have a fair review one also needs to mention some negatives about this product so that possible future improvements might occur on future hardware revisions.
I purchased a total of two microSD Floppy Emulators back on December 2016. However, I waited until January of 2018 to finally use and test the product. Therefore, the reason why this user review is occurring over a year later after purchase is because I am finally making the time to use the product. In theory, this microSD floppy emulator should be more reliable when compared to any disk drive on the market since microSD technology has no moveable parts to wear out. However out of the two microSD drives I purchased one of the power supplies was defective and needed to be replaced. On the second working microSD drive power supply, it needed to be replaced because of some picture quality interference issues when used with my ADAM setup (1.44MB 3.5 inch Disk Drives use to cost $299.99, to keep the microSD floppy emulator at only $130 price it is shipped with a very low priced power supply). In addition, one of the enclosed CD-R’s was defective. Then on top of that issue after I ended up getting a working power supply, one of the Virtual ADAM Disk Drives went bad and would not power up. Since it had been over a year since I purchased this product I thought the ADAM NEWS NETWORK was going to charge me to get the product repaired. However, to my surprise the ADAM NEWS NETWORK sent me two new power supplies that were also a different brand and model that performed better when compared to the other brand and model that originally shipped with the product. I also received a new CD-R disc that worked fine. However, the most awesome thing that occurred is the ADAM NEWS NETWORK replaced my Virtual ADAM Disk Drive free of charge even after being purchased over a year ago (The prior unit had a blown circuit board that most likely was caused by a bad power supply). The ADAM NEWS NETWORK has excellent customer service with their email support and they stand by their products and replace or repair defective products in a few days after they receive the defective product. I hope that both microSD floppy Emulators will continue to work for at least 10 year to a lifetime (only time well tell).
After doing some extensive research and testing, I located a couple high-end power supplies that are 100% compatible with the Virtual ADAM Disk Drive in case one wants to upgrade their power supply. For the United States use the best wall style power supply to use with the Coleco ADAM microSD Floppy Emulator is the ANVISION CS-1203000 that can be purchased for only $10.35 with free shipping from Amazon (Amazon prices can change daily). The ANVISION CS-1203000 is a very stable 12 volt DC power adapter with a maximum of a 3 amp capacity. For those that prefer a high-end Desktop style power adapter the ANVISION CS-1205000 is $15.68 with free shipping from Amazon plus USA customers need the 6 feet 14 gauge power cord for $3.33 since the Desktop adapter does not come with the power cord. The Desktop style power supply produces a stable12 volt DC with a maximum output of 5 amps. The Virtual ADAM Disk Drive draws less than 0.5 amps of power (most likely around 0.3 amps). It is a low power device. An optional United Kingdom, Europe, and Australia power cord can be purchased for around $5 for the ANVISION CS-1205000. Both of the ANVISION power adapters accept 100-240volts at 50/60Hz and have all the required safety certifications including the latest level VI energy efficiency rating. In addition, both adapters have an EMI/RFI ferrite bead to eliminate or reduce interference.
The existing firmware in the ADAM microSD Floppy Emulator supports the FAT and FAT32 file system, therefore microSD and microSDHC cards up to 32GB in size can be used. However the firmware does not support exFAT therefore 32GB to 2TB microSDXC cards are not supported. In addition, even though 32GB microSDHC cards are supported, one disappointing thing is the current firmware only allows one to use a maximum of 144MB of space on a microSD card or a SD card with a special adapter. The advantage of the ATARIMAX Ultimate SD Wafer Drive, is that one can use the entire 32GB of space on the SDHC card, and with a coming soon to be released firmware update exFAT with a storage space of 2TB is supported. In addition, the ATARIMAX Ultimate SD Wafer Drive instantly can have its firmware updated by inserting a SD card. The microSD Floppy Emulator from Microfox Technologies is not firmware upgradable by microSD card. Also at this time, Microfox Technologies has no plans on offering a firmware update since the entire drive would need to be sent into the factory and taken apart in order to offer a firmware update. So any bugs one discovers will most likely not be corrected in a future firmware update. Also, keep in mind the $129.95 ATARIMAX Wafer Drive will not read ADAM disks and Digital Data Pack images from the existing firmware, since the ATARIMAX products have always been designed to read ColecoVision/ADAM cartridge rom images (The Coleco ADAM microSD Floppy Emulator comes with CopyCart + 2.0 that allows one to make backup copies of any game cartridge rom image up to 32KB in size). Also even though the ADAM computer is a much more powerful computer/videogame system when compared to the ColecoVision, there was only around 500,000 ADAM computers sold versus a minimum of 2 million ColecoVision’s back in the 80’s. My point is that since there are less ADAM users when compared to ColecoVision users, this means the Coleco ADAM microSD Floppy emulator is a niche product. However the Virtual ADAM Disk Drive is a must have product that every ADAM owner should own since it operates better than any ADAM disk drive that I have every used, and it has no moving part to wear out, therefore in theory it is also more reliable when compared to a real disk drive.
The reason behind the 144MB microSD storage limitation
So even though the Coleco microSD Floppy Emulator well work with FAT32 and 32GB microSD cards, only a maximum of 144MB of storage space will be recognized by the firmware. The reason for this is that the Virtual microSD ADAM Disk Drive firmware was designed to hold a maximum of a 100 ADAM disk images, and up to 1.44MB in size per disk image. Micro Innovations back in the early 90’s did develop and sale at least one ADAMNET hard disk drive, and therefore its disappointing that this Virtual ADAM microSD disk images cannot use up to the full 32GB of storage space, and instead are limited to 1.44MB of storage space per disk image. In addition, it would have been ideal to have the ability to add more than 100 ADAM disk images on one microSD card (Perhaps offering different folders to place those disk images in).
Therefore, what this means is that there is no logical reason under the existing firmware for one to use microSD cards larger then 256MB since only a maximum of 144MB (140MB) can be used by the drive. Unless there is a firmware update any microSD card larger then 256MB is a waste of one’s money most of the time (The exception occurs when a higher capacity SD card sometimes offers better quality construction and lifespans) . However, the Coleco ADAM microSD Floppy Emulator ships with a 2GB microSD card, because the reality is microSD and SD cards between 1MB to 2GB are out of production (some online dealers have new and old stock of SD cards available until inventory is depleted). Only SDHC cards 2GB to 32GB, and SDXC cards 32GB to 512GB are in production (1TB and 2TB SDXC cards are in the lab and will be released in the future). Since SD cards are out of production and since SDXC cards with exFAT cannot be used by the Virtual ADAM Disk Drive, this means only microSDHC cards between 2GB to 32GB that support FAT32 are available for purchase. However many retail stores do not stock SDHC cards under 8GB in size, which limits some consumers to purchase 8GB, 16GB, and 32GB size microSDHC cards as blank floppy disks at their local store. One day in the years to come SDXC cards might replace SDHC cards.
I did not like the microSD ejection slot on the Virtual ADAM Disk Drive since I had to insert my finger nail in the slot to eject the card and when inserting the card a couple of times I missed the slot and the card got stuck in the case. I like how the Harmony Encore ATARI 2600 SD Wafer Drive and the ATARIMAX Ultimate SD Wafer Drive use a full size SD card slot. Therefore, I decided to purchase a 60CM microSD to SD card extension cable for only $2.45 plus free shipping. This ended up being an excellent low cost product to use with the Coleco ADAM microSD Floppy Emulator. I can now use both full size SDHC cards and microSDHC cards up to 32GB in size (I use a microSD adapter with the full size SD card reader at the end of the extension cable). However the microSD to SD card extension cable does not support the write protect lock switch feature located on all full size SD cards. What this means is that full size SD cards cannot be write protected like floppy disks are (that is one advantage of a real floppy drive). When the write protect tab is placed in the lock position, the Virtual ADAM Disk Drive will still write to the SD card. However, the same thing occurs on a Windows PC when using the exact same microSD to SD card extension cable. The extension cable manufactories would need to place a write protect lock switch on the microSD side of the cable in order to active the write protect feature, however no such cable with a built in write protect lock switch exists. It is also possible that even if the cable supported write protecting of SD cards, that the firmware for the Virtual ADAM Disk Drive might not support that feature since it was designed to be used with microSD cards that has absolutely no write protect lock switch. I wish the Virtual ADAM Disk Drive had a full size SD card slot or at least a switch on the base unit to active write protect for microSD cards. All 5.25 inch and 3.5 inch disk drives have a write protect mode to prevent one from accidently erasing a floppy disk. One just needs to be more careful when using the Virtual ADAM Disk Drive so they do not accidental erase an important personal file that cannot be replaced (Some ADAM users have personal files from the year 1983).
SD and microSD compatible issues. The Virtual ADAM Disk Drive has some compatibility issues when using certain brands and models of SD cards. I placed a few SD cards in the unit that were not recognized by the drive, however a Windows PC, Atari 2600 Harmony Encore SD Wafer Drive , and ATARIMAX Ultimate SD Wafer Drive recognized that exact same SD card just fine. However when I used a high quality full size SanDisk 32GB SDHC card it worked perfectly fine in the Virtual ADAM Disk Drive. I need to do some more testing but some microSD and SD cards between 16MB to 2GB have compatibility issues. microSDHC and SDHC cards between 2GB to 32GB so far appear to work fine with the Virtual ADAM Disk Drive.
Passive ADAMNET communication versus active ADAMNET communication
Both the Coleco ADAM floppy drives and Micro Innovations disk drives use the much better passive ADAMNET communication. For example all ADAM floppy disk drives have a input and output 6 pin ADAMNET communication jack. One can connect up to two Coleco Disk Drives at once or up to 4 Disk Drives at once for Micro Innovations (Drives are connected in series with each other). If one decides to turn off one of the disk drives, ADAMNET continues to work and the keyboard and any other ADAMNET device like a second Disk Drive or both Digital Data Drives can continue to work. Micro Innovations passive ADAMNET technology is even better then Coleco’s since it passes not only the communication data but also the power signal on the ADAMNET for items like the keyboard. Therefore one can literal plug the ADAM keyboard into the back of the Micro Innovations Disk Drive and still use the keyboard. The Coleco passive ADAMNET only works with items like a second Disk Drive and one cannot plug the Coleco keyboard into the back of the Coleco Disk Drive. So in summary all ADAM floppy disk drives from the 80’s and early 90’s use passive ADAMNET technology that allows one to switch devices on and off on ADAMNET, plus the Micro Innovations disk drives pass power that allows the keyboard to be plugged into the back of a disk drive. One can also turn a disk drive off and still use the ADAM computer.
There is no on/off switch on the Virtual ADAM Disk Drive, which is a negative (but one cannot turn off the power or it jams ADAMNET until the drive has its power restored). On the Microfox Coleco ADAM microSD Floppy Emulator it is active powered ADAMNET device. As soon as one unplugs the power cord to the microSD Floppy Emulator while it’s connected to the ADAM computer, it completely jams the ADAMNET connection, including the keyboard that is connected directly to the memory console. ADAMNET becomes unjammed as soon as one restores power to all of the connected microSD Floppy emulators. For some reason the hardware design on the microSD floppy emulator is using active powered ADAMNET passing technology instead of passive no power ADAMNET passing technology (with passive power the memory console powers the ADAMNET communication going through the device). What this means is that if someone has one or two microSD Floppy Emulators, and if one does not want to use one of those drives for a few ADAM computer sessions, then they have to disconnect both the power cord and the ADAMNET cable from both Virtual ADAM Disk Drives. As far as I am aware no other ADAMNET device will jam ADAMNET communications if it looses power or is turned off (The ADAMNET jacks on Micro Innovations disk drives use passive technology where even the ADAMNET output jack and anything on ADAMNET still works when power is lost). As soon as power is restored to the Virtual ADAM Disk Drive ADAMNET starts working again.
Therefore, the way the Coleco ADAM microSD Floppy Emulator handles its ADAMNET communication is disappointing since one has to always have the unit powered up. If one wants to turn the unit off they have to disconnect both the power adapter and the ADAMNET cable from the memory console.
The Coleco ADAM microSD Floppy Emulator is a highly recommended product that all ADAM computer uses should own
I own both a working Micro Innovations 5.25 inch 320K Disk Drive and a 3.5 inch 1.44MB Disk Drive. I did extensive testing with the Coleco ADAM microSD Floppy Emulator, and overall even though it has some problems, it is a better product when compared to any ADAM floppy disk drive created. It is extremely easy to use once one understands how to use it, and in theory should be more reliable since there is no moveable parts. There are many broken ADAM Disk Drives that are appearing on EBAY since they are up to 34 years old. No one makes new Disk Drives for the ADAM computer anymore. I always dreamed about someone making an ADAMNET to USB interface for the ADAM that would allow low cost under $10 USB 3.5 inch 1.44 Disk Drives to be used (However with microSD and SD card technology being used as modern day storage, all disk drives and blank floppy disks are now out of production). In addition, after using the Coleco ADAM microSD Floppy Emulator I really do not want to go back to disk drive technology.
The enclosed CD-R that comes with the Virtual ADAM Disk Drive is a nice item to have. It contains the instruction manual for the product and an exact bit for bit copy of all the programs that are installed on the 2GB microSD card. If one accidently erases the microSD card, one can place the microSD card in their computer and copy and paste all the original programs back on the microSD card from the provided CD-R (And CD-R’s once written to can never be erased). The Virtual ADAM Disk Drive comes with a massive amount of licensed and public domain games . Some of the programs I never seen before. For example the best ADAM software backup utility is File Manager. File Manager 2.2 came out in 1988 and offers support for 160K, 320K, and 720K disk drives. File Manager 3.1 came out in 1991 and offers support for 1.44MB disk drives (plus there most likely is some other improvements).The ADAM Virtual Disk Drive comes with File Manager 4.06, and that is a program that I have never seen before. File Manager 4.06 that came out in 2010 offers support for 1.2MB 5.25 inch disk drives. I went down the 1.44MB 3.5 inch disk drive route with the ADAM and never owned a 1.2MB disk drive when Micro Innovations released it. Perhaps File Manager 4.06 offers hard drive support, however I do not have a hard drive to test it. The 3 noticeable differences in the programs is that each newer version kept adding support for the latest capacity disk drives.
There are many websites that are offering both public domain and with permission licensed versions of both Coleco ADAM and third party Coleco ADAM software programs that can be downloaded to a SD card or microSD card and then ran on the Virtual ADAM Disk Drive emulator (Sample 1, Sample 2.).
How to change microSD cards or SD cards on the Coleco ADAM Floppy Emulator
Remember the Virtual ADAM Disk Drive only accepts microSD cards, however with a special extension cable with SD adapter that was mentioned early in this post one can use both full size SD cards and microSD cards with an adapter. When powering up the Virtual ADAM Disk Drive with no SD card inserted, the unit will not display anything on its LCD screen. However as soon as a SD card is inserted the Drive LCD screen will power up. When one ejects and inserts a new SD card, they also need to power cycle the Virtual ADAM Disk Drive after each new SD card is inserted so that the Drive sees the new card. Each SD card holds a maximum of 100 1.44MB Disk Drive images due to limitations in the firmware.
The Coleco ADAM microSD Floppy Emulator uses Chinese parts and then is assembled in the United States by ADAM News Network. For being manually assembled by hand, the front face of the product looks professional, however the left and right sides of the case have some minor cosmetic issues (This product might have cost $200+ if it was professional assembled in a Chinese automated robotic factory).
The LCD screen on the Virtual ADAM Disk Drive always displays the name of each Disk or Digital Data Pack image that was last mounted (last used file) upon unit power up. Changing the ADAM disk file name located on the LCD screen requires one to place the microSD card in a computer device to make the name change. Using the previous or next button will allow one to scroll threw up to a 100 different ADAM Disk images with the name changing on the LCD screen with each push of the next or previous button. Clicking on the mount button will active a red light that has the same function as inserting a 3.5 inch 1.44MB floppy disk in a real ADAM disk drive. Then one pulls the rest button on the ADAM memory console to load the program. Pushing the mount button a second time turns off the red light and has the same function as pushing the eject button on a 3.5 inch 1.44MB floppy disk drive. The active light also flashes and has the functions of a disk drive activity indicator when ADAMNET is reading and writing data to the SD card. As an ADAM image is being loaded from the SD card, there is also a neat advancing block number that advances in the upper right hand corner of the LCD screen. This virtual ADAM microSD Floppy emulator is faster than the flagship Micro Innovations 3.5 inch 1.44MB Disk Drive. SD cards are also much faster than the ADAM computer. There are some higher end 32GB SDHC cards that have 300MB per second read speeds. Even cheaper 32GB SDHC cards have around 80MB per second read speeds that are so much faster than the ADAM computers processor and memory. When I was loading 1MB of data from the SD card to the ADAM’s internal 1MB memory expander, it was faster than a real disk drive, however I was disappointed that it took a few minutes instead of being instant. On a Windows computer it takes less than a second to copy and paste data from a SD card to a solid state drive. ADAMNET is a nice easy to use communication interface, however I do not remember the exact speed, but I do believe that it travels at around 56,000 baud. A engineer at Micro Innovations once told me that the internal expansion interface slots in the ADAM computer are much faster than ADAMNET, and that is one of the reasons the first hard drive for the ADAM computer used an internal expansion slot instead of ADAMNET.
Currently a maximum of two Coleco ADAM microSD floppy emulators can be connected to the ADAM computer with the disk drive #1 and #2 configuration. However the first hardware revision of the Virtual ADAM floppy disk emulator is suppose to have a jumper on the circuit board that allows one to change the switch to disk drive #3 and #4. When I tried to special order two more Virtual ADAM Disk Drives configured as Disk Drive number #3 and #4, my order was refunded and I was informed that in the second hardware revision that was made the jumper to active disk drive #3 and #4 was removed. I thought about taking my original first revision December 2016 Virtual ADAM Disk Drives apart and changing the jumper, but I decided not to at this time since I was told that more testing needs to be done to see if the disk drive number #3 and #4 function works properly. It’s too bad Mirco innovations, and the ADAM microSD Floppy Emulator never made a 4 position switch to change the drive to disk drive #1, #2, #3, and #4. However at least Micro Innovations disk drives could be ordered with the special drive #3 and #4 eprom. Only File Manger 3.1 and File Manager version 4.06 to my knowledge can access a third and fourth disk drive. Back in the early nineties, some people owned two 3.5 inch 1.44MB Disk drives configured as disk drive number #1 and #2, and then they used File Manager with one or two 5.25 inch disk drives configured as Disk Drive number 3 and 4.
The Coleco ADAM microSD Floppy Emulator is an amazing product. One can download or upload ADAM images to or from a microSD card that is connected to a computer with Internet access. Then once on a microSD card the real ADAM program or game can be used on a 1983 ADAM computer. Then with the included File Manager 4.06 program, the microSD image can be copied to or from a real disk drive or Digital Data Drive. This device is an extremely easy way for people to transfer and share their homebrew ADAM programs with other people on the Internet. I have some rare public domain and third party programs for the ADAM computer that are not offered on the Internet. Maybe with permissions from the authors I can one day upload those rare programs on the Internet so that they are not lost forever.
Every Coleco ADAM owner should own at least one Coleco ADAM microSD Floppy Emulator, since it’s a must have item. 3.5 inch 1.44MB Disk Drives for the ADAM computer use to sale brand new for around $299.99, the Coleco ADAM microSD Floppy Emulator for $130 plus shipping is a bargain (Even without the drive, the included bundled software on the microSD card is worth over $130+).
Edited by HDTV1080P, Wed Mar 7, 2018 3:39 AM.