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Coleco ADAM microSD Floppy Emulator (user review)

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I personally think that a drop in replacement for the DD Drive would have been the way to go with built in flash memory that connects to any PC USB port.

 

Drag and drop all disk and ddp images.

 

And when I say drop in replacement that it would use the internal connectors of the DD drive as well.

 

Cost effective?

I know I would pay $200 for that device if the bugs were worked out and the damn screens back light stayed on.

Maybe even a little more.

 

It beats Ebay gouging for limited original disk drives.

The problem with using the ADAMNET internal Digital Data Drive connectors is that you would be limited to 256K Digital Data Pack images only. If one were to change the operating system inside the ADAM then one could patch the internal DDP ADAMNET connectors to use 1.44MB or up to 32GB size images.

 

Correct me if I am wrong, but I always thought the ADAM Memory Console operating system using ADAMNET assigned 256K of storage to the Digital Data Drives. If the Digital Data Drives had the capability to communicate with ADAMNET and assign 320K or 1.44MB then the big question is why did Coleco not make the Digital Data Drives with the same ADAMNET cord that is used on the Coleco Disk Drives?

Edited by HDTV1080P

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The problem with using the ADAMNET internal Digital Data Drive connectors is that you would be limited to 256K Digital Data Pack images only. If one were to change the operating system inside the ADAM then one could patch the internal DDP ADAMNET connectors to use 1.44MB or up to 32GB size images.

 

Correct me if I am wrong, but I always thought the ADAM Memory Console operating system using ADAMNET assigned 256K of storage to the Digital Data Drives. If the Digital Data Drives had the capability to communicate with ADAMNET and assign 320K or 1.44MB then the big question is why did Coleco not make the Digital Data Drives with the same ADAMNET cord that is used on the Coleco Disk Drives?

Dang son, why you got to get into the heads of the Coleco designers. BUT, that is a darn good question, obviously they wanted internal no fuss onboard storage......data drive. Possibly if things had not gone haywire, the ADAM night have had an external dat drive. I firmly believe that almost nothing is impossible to add to the ADAM, it just takes "out of the box" thinnking and the ability to engineer and tie the hardware in with innovative software. We just don't have that level of expertise available? Or if we do, it is such a big task, nobody wants to tackle it alone.

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I looked at the connectors on the schematics and they are very limited.
You have Adamnet, Ground + 5 +12 for motors and filter for logic
-5 -12 ect...going off memory.

They are just Adamnet connectors.

The Digital Data Packs are no different than disk drives and only the bios inside the drives themselves has their limitations.
They are tapes that think they are disk drives.

If you read the System manuals they even say that each peripheral has an independent cpu, 6801 I believe, that is on the Adamnet.
The keyboard has one, the printer has one, all the drives have one.
Whatever drive you boot from becomes drive A or 1 and then the next one on the net becomes B, 2 and so on.

The ADAM is an amazing machine for it's time and I have zero clue why no one has expanded the thing way beyond it's designation.
It has plenty of address lines, a place for the modem, memory and that slot number 1 was used for an alternate or expanded Rom in Europe to change the fonts.

Slow by today's standards but I bet I could connect it to my WIFI and control the lights in the house if I seriously wanted to.

Hell, the Roller Controller is nothing but an upside down mouse when mice were unheard of on a home computer back in 1984.

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As an experiment to prove OR disprove my theory I am going to disconnect one of my internal DDP dives and connect it to an external power supply I have coming in the mail and then connect it to the external ADAMNET on the side.

I bet you it will work.

If I screw up my machine then oh well.

I am also ordering the SD card drive emulator after Christmas.

 

Look, I have nothing better to do with my life since I retired so I might as well screw with this thing.
I'm already working on a game so this is just icing.

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BTW, the reason why they didn't use the standard ADAMNet connector internally was because of the +12v for the drive motors.
Does the Disk Drive use an external power supply not connected to the ADAMNet???

I even asked the dude why they didn't use the DDDrive connector and he said he didn't want to rely on a 35 year old power supply.

Well, hate to tell you but the Digital Data Drive do, they still work and I promise you that those motors draw more power than that SD Card emulator.

You want to lower the cost then have an internal connector so you save on an adamnet cable and power supply.

There are so many ways to improve this product but as far as I am concerned, right now I just need a way to transfer my game that I am working on to a real ADAM to test.

BTW, I don't want to sound like I am knocking a solid product but lets hope there is a version 2 down the road that fills in the gaps.

Edited by Mike Harris

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I looked at the connectors on the schematics and they are very limited.

You have Adamnet, Ground + 5 +12 for motors and filter for logic

-5 -12 ect...going off memory.

 

They are just Adamnet connectors.

 

The Digital Data Packs are no different than disk drives and only the bios inside the drives themselves has their limitations.

They are tapes that think they are disk drives.

 

If you read the System manuals they even say that each peripheral has an independent cpu, 6801 I believe, that is on the Adamnet.

The keyboard has one, the printer has one, all the drives have one.

Whatever drive you boot from becomes drive A or 1 and then the next one on the net becomes B, 2 and so on.

 

The ADAM is an amazing machine for it's time and I have zero clue why no one has expanded the thing way beyond it's designation.

It has plenty of address lines, a place for the modem, memory and that slot number 1 was used for an alternate or expanded Rom in Europe to change the fonts.

 

Slow by today's standards but I bet I could connect it to my WIFI and control the lights in the house if I seriously wanted to.

 

Hell, the Roller Controller is nothing but an upside down mouse when mice were unheard of on a home computer back in 1984.

 

Thanks for the info, its good to know that the BIOS on the Digital Data Drives determine the size of the drive that is reported over ADAMNET. I guess the reason why they did not use the same ADAMNET connector as the Disk Drives is because it would not provide the needed +12 and +5 volts at the amps needed to power the Digital Data Drive. ADAMNET is very neat on the ADAM computer because ADAMNET can be accessed by many different size connectors and at different locations on the memory console. The side expansion module interface is also is able to access ADAMNET and most likely the internal expansion module interfaces can access ADAMNET also.

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I looked at the connectors on the schematics and they are very limited.

You have Adamnet, Ground + 5 +12 for motors and filter for logic

-5 -12 ect...going off memory.

 

They are just Adamnet connectors.

 

The Digital Data Packs are no different than disk drives and only the bios inside the drives themselves has their limitations.

They are tapes that think they are disk drives.

 

If you read the System manuals they even say that each peripheral has an independent cpu, 6801 I believe, that is on the Adamnet.

The keyboard has one, the printer has one, all the drives have one.

Correct on all counts. You should join the Coleco ADAM Facebook page seeing as a former Coleco employee who developed some of the firmware used by the hardware and is very knowledge about the entire architecture of the ADAM is an active poster.

 

Whatever drive you boot from becomes drive A or 1 and then the next one on the net becomes B, 2 and so on.

Under EOS, this is incorrect. The Drive assignments are hardcoded into the Operating System so in SmartWriter Data Drive #1 is always A, Data Drive #2 is always B, Disk Drive #1 is always C and Disk Drive #2 is always D. In SmartBASIC, the Data Drives are "d1" and "d2" and the Disk Drives are "d5" and "d6".

 

Most don't know that the ADAM supports up to 4 Digital Data Drives and 4 Disk Drives thru EOS, however the firmware that was written and included on the Disk Drive controller board only supports 2 Disk Drives and I assume the same holds true for the firmware for the Digital Data Drives. In SmartBASIC, these additional drive assignments would be "d3" and "d4" for Data Drives and "d7" and "d8" for Disk Drives.

 

Under CP/M you are correct. The drive CP/M is booted from becomes A: and then additional drives in the systems are assigned B:. C:. etc. Memory Expanders are assigned M:

 

The ADAM is an amazing machine for it's time and I have zero clue why no one has expanded the thing way beyond it's designation.

It has plenty of address lines, a place for the modem, memory and that slot number 1 was used for an alternate or expanded Rom in Europe to change the fonts.

It is an amazing computer for the era and was expanded way beyond it's designation with:

- 64K up to 2MB Memory Expanders

- Parallel Interfaces

- Serial Interfaces

- MFM and RLL Hard Drives

- IDE Interface Cards

- 80 Column Units

- Midi Interface

- Speech Synthesizers

- Clocks Cards

 

etc., etc., etc. Modern hardware devices have also been developed to use CF Cards thru an IDE Interface and SD Cards thru the ADAMNet Virtual Disk Drive.

 

Hell, the Roller Controller is nothing but an upside down mouse when mice were unheard of on a home computer back in 1984.

Something that I have been telling people for over 30 years especially BITD when everyone was screaming for a Mouse to be developed for the ADAM. Well, a Mouse was, but the Roller Controller was still a better option.

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When I wrote that piece I was using CPM.

I haven't booted into SmartBasic in maybe 20 years other than trying it on an emulator.
Seriously there is 100% no reason as in it is nothing more than Basic while CPM is an actual Operating system that allowed me to play Zork.

 

 

BTW...CPM 3?? source code has been released if anyone wants to tackle the update to ADAM.

Edited by Mike Harris

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Forgive me if I am wrong but from what I remember you can copy a disk straight to a DDP and boot with no problem.

Copying a DDPack to Disk is not really a big deal but it is involved.

The only difference between a DDP is that it lays out it's blocks for the shortest route to the information being is that it is not a disk.

A Super Game track 0 is at the beginning of the tape and on a blank tape for Smart Basic and such track 0 is in the middle.

A Super game will load and go through it's motions but if it needs a critical piece of information instead of it going so far down the tape Coleco programmers just put it on say track 130 or whatever was closest to where you were at on tape.

So when you converted the tape to a disk you would have to edit the table entry after you copied the block over to disk.

But booting from a disk drive after copying a Super game off DDP always worked for me up until it tried to load a specially laid out 1k block.

 

 

000 (B) 001 (p1) 002 (p2) 003 004 -----------------127

128 129 130 (p3) 131 (p4) 132------------------256

 

Something like this (b) is boot (p*) is program parts

So putting it on a disk and it's looking for track 131 on a disk drive is when it fails.

 

 

If I remember, I have a copy somewhere, DK JR was on a shorter tape which looked something like this.

 

000 (B) 001 (p1) 002 (p2) 003 004 ------032

128 129 130 (p3) 131 (p4) 132-------160

 

It was a regular DDP that they cut off to cut the cost.

 

BTW
Do you people out there see any reason to buy two of these drives for one machine?

I could see two REAL disk drives way back when but not with this deal.

Edited by Mike Harris

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Using SD cards is better then disk drives (Faster, more storage, and more reliable). The advantage of having two Coleco ADAM microSD Floppy Emulator’s, is that it saves time on media swaps when copying or accessing the media. Just like it’s nice to have two Disk Drives or two Digital Data Drives, it is also nice to have two SD drives.

 

You can always start out with buying one Coleco ADAM microSD Floppy Emulator, and then in the future you can purchase a second one as long as they are still being made years down the road. In the rare case that one were to break 10 years from now, having a second one is ideal as a spare to read the SD and microSD cards on the ADAM computer.

 

Coleco never used any copy protection technology on the ADAM or ColecoVision, which allowed consumers to make a fair use backup copy of any Coleco program purchased at the store. Other companies like Walter Software used copy protection for the ADAM computer in the later years. However some (actually many) Coleco supergames were designed to only run from Digital Data Pack. For example try making a backup copy of Buck Rodgers the Superagame from DDP to another right hand directly DDP, and the backup copy well work perfectly as long as Digital Data Drive #1 is used. However try copying that Buck Rodgers the Supergame to a Disk Drive or SD card and even though a perfect backup copy is made, the program well not run since it was designed to only run from a Digital Data Drive #1. Walter’s Software was able to modify all the Coleco supergames so that they would run from disk back in the mid 80’s. In late 1984 the latest Coleco games coming out for the ADAM were offered on Digital Data Pack and Disk, and Coleco started to make games so that they would run in any drive including Digital Data Drive #2 and Disk Drive #2 without any modification needed. It was mainly those first 1983 ADAM supergames that only ran from Digital Data Drive #1 since the game programmer never considered the game being ran in Digital Data Drive #2 or a Disk Drive until sometime in 1984.

Edited by HDTV1080P

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Copying a Data Pack to a Disk is not a problem at all IN MOST INSTANCES and there are numerous programs available that will aid you in doing so such as File Manager v3.0, Backup+ 3.0, Quickopy, etc., etc. The only thing you have to be aware of is the actual amount of blocks used on the Data Pack compared to only having 160K available on a Disk.

 

There are special Data Packs called Right Directory DDPs (used for the Super Games like DK, DK Jr., Zaxxon, Dragon's Lair, Sub Roc, Jeopardy) as you mentioned and you can't copy these directly to a Disk without modifying the program code seeing as how Coleco programmers arranged the program code on the Data Pack to shorten load times. All the aforementioned programs where disassembled in the 80s and modified to work from 160K disk. All the images are archived and available for download to use on an emulator, copy to an microSD Card for use with the MicroFox VDD or copied back to actual ADAM Disks thru numerous DOS or Windows utility programs.

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Posted (edited)

I just recently sent for a sample of a 256MB SD card from the Onefavor company. This 256MB SD card is made in the country of Taiwan. While the construction quality is good and it works in the Coleco ADAM microSD Floppy Drive emulator (when using the full size third party SD card reading hardware device), the one sample I received is too slow with a Windows writing speed of around 0.5MB/s.

 

Here are some more detailed test results of 3 different SD cards.

 

1. The Onefavor 256MB SD card has around a 0.5MB per second transfer rate under real world conditions. To move 140MB of data from a Windows 10 PC to the Onefavor SD card took almost 4 minutes (3 minutes and 52 seconds).

 

2. On a Memory Partner 256MB SD card has around 6MB per second transfer rate under real world conditions. To move 140MB of data from a Windows 10 PC to the Memory Partner SD card took around 24 seconds.

 

3. On a SanDisk 32GB SDHC card has around 41MB per second transfer rate under real world conditions. To move 140MB of data from a Windows 10 PC to the SanDisk SDHC card took around 3 seconds.

 

I am looking for a 256MB SD card that would meet or exceed the speed performance of the Memory Partner 256MB SD card which is 6MB/s for some samples and 5.5MB/s for other samples. The Memory Partner brand is still the best 256MB SD card on the market for speed. The problem is some of the Memory Partner SD cards have to be reformatted when they come from China since they have viruses on them. Also some of the Memory Partner SD cards have bad lock switches and need to be tossed in the trash when they arrive. The construction quality of the Onefavor 256MB SD card is the best, however the card is too slow with a real world transfer speed of only 0.5MB/s.

 

Companies no longer make SD cards under 2GB in size, and one has to find old stock of new 256MB SD cards for the Coleco ADAM microSD Floppy Drive Emulator. Sure one can use a name brand high-end SanDisk 32GB SDHC card that is made in China in the Coleco ADAM microSD Floppy Drive Emulator, however the problem is because of the firmware issue, only a maximum of 140MB of space is useable, and a lot of empty space is wasted. The ATARIMAX Ultimate SD Wafer drives, and Harmony Encore SD Wafer drives can use the entire 32GB of space on a SanDisk 32GB SDHC card. I wish the Coleco ADAM microSD Floppy emulator would use the entire 32GB of space on a SanDisk 32GB SDHC card, then I could fit the entire ADAM computer collection on one 32GB SDHC card. If the Coleco ADAM microSD Floppy Drive Emulator had another button that allowed one to jump back and forth 100 1.44MB disk images at a time and a firmware update then it would be possible to use more then 140MB of space. However, there is no plans to issue a firmware update or release a new and improved Coleco ADAM microSD Floppy Emulator. So one has the choice to use lower quality 256MB SD cards with their Coleco ADAM microSD Floppy drive Emulator or to use high quality up to 32GB SDHC cards with only 140MB of useable space.  

P7240001.JPG

Edited by HDTV1080P

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You can use 2GB uSD cards and format them with a smaller partition. The floppy emulator only sees the partition, not the raw size of the SD card.

In this case, just using 2GB or 4GB SD cards formatted to an arbitrary smaller size should work just fine.

It would be cheaper too.

 

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2 minutes ago, MrPix said:

You can use 2GB uSD cards and format them with a smaller partition. The floppy emulator only sees the partition, not the raw size of the SD card.

In this case, just using 2GB or 4GB SD cards formatted to an arbitrary smaller size should work just fine.

It would be cheaper too.

 

Yes I could use 2GB or 4GB size SD cards instead of 32GB. Its hard to find anything less then 8GB SDHC in retail stores. Getting a 256MB SD card for $2 is ideal as long as the quality and speed is good for the 100 1.44MB 3.5 inch floppy drive images. One can have a pack of 10 256MB SD cards for around $20-$25 that is equal to 1,000 1.44MB floppy drive images. 

 

Personally for important things I use the SanDisk Extreme Pro 32GB SDHC with my Coleco ADAM computer, and I have just learned to live with the wasted space issue of 140MB maximum for each SD card. 

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A lot of the 256MB SD cards are only qualified for around 5,000 to 10,000 overwrites. The 4GB and up ones are qualified for an MTBF of 100,000 to 1,000,000 writes. Because of the circular method of the wear leveling algorithm, a 256MB card will last a long time - several months of constant writes. A 4GB card could be written to constantly for several decades before reaching the same point. More modern cards also have far better wear leveling algorithms. 

At this point, all 1GB and smaller SD cards are reject dies from 2G+ cards, where the working section suits use under-formatted, so wear leveling is really a best effort and there's no guarantees.

That's the only other consideration I think might persuade any opinions.

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