Hello from James

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Hello from James

Postby James » Tue Dec 25, 2012 6:32 pm

I got my PCjr used in the late 1980's. It was a great deal. The PCjr with a Rapport Drive II, a dot matrix printer, a desk and a box of assorted software for $100. The software was for the most part IBM PC software that ran fine in the 128K. I added, over time, the PCE Megaboard, the PCE SCSI Drive attachment, PCE JrExcellerator and various other smaller parts and upgrades. The PCE SCSI was an early one that was based on the Seagate ST01 vs the later Future Domain. Everything worked great. The computer was extremely functional. I could remotely sign into the company's MAI BASIC 4 system using Procomm, Lotus 123 v2.2 worked better on it than the 286s at work. Word Processing with Professional Write, I played Space Quest 1-4. I was active on Prodigy and Bix and would often post to the IBM PCjr forum on Prodigy. PCE had a modified driver for Prodigy so it ran in 16 colors. Computer Reset sold a serial port that plugged into the modem slot. I had a Cardinal 2400 Baud Modem. The Cardinal worked with the lower negative voltage on with the 7" power supply but I picked up a 10" power supply anyway.

After I got a 386 in 1993, I gave away the SCSI hard drive system, regretably. The PCjr has been in storage for a lot of years.

I picked up a second PCjr a few years ago for no particular reason. It had a Racore Drive II system and 640 K memory. Don't know that much more about it. It went straight into storage after I tested it.

I have mulled taking the Rapport unit out of storage for a couple of years. Without the hard drive, I considered some kind of parallel solution. Also in storage I have a used Parallel CF card reader that I have never got around to trying with the PCjr. I just ordered the jrIDE from allan and look forward to restoring the PCjr to it's former functionality. It's main purpose will to be play Space Quest and other early DOS games.
Last edited by James on Thu Dec 27, 2012 6:22 pm, edited 1 time in total.
-PCjr (1989)-DOS 3.3, Racore Drive II, jrIDE-128 MB DOM, jrExcellerator, Tandy Mod, Serial Card, Combo v2, Config Plus, IBM Parallel Port, Megaboard, Xircom PE3-10BT
-PCjr (2001)-DOS 3.3, jrIDE-128 MB DOM, NEC v20, Parallel Port, Comswap, Xircom PE3-10BT
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Re: Hello from James

Postby Vorticon » Thu Dec 27, 2012 11:11 am

Welcome James.
In addition to the IDE card, which is amazing, having a 3.5" parallel Backpack floppy drive will increase the versatility of your system especially related to file transfers. I have also a parallel Backpack CDROM drive daisy-chained to the floppy drive for even more versatility, although there is precious little DOS software on CD that will run on the Jr. But with floppy drives practically disappearing from modern systems, a CDROM drive will likely become a must for easy file transfers.
Another worthy addition would be a parallel network device so you can use Mike's mTCP suite for telnet, ftp and a whole slew of other options. One of the most fun things to do with the Jr is telnetting into BBS'es for a cool retro experience :)
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Re: Hello from James

Postby Brutman » Thu Dec 27, 2012 1:20 pm

Hi James,

Welcome to our elite little club.

I am a big fan of the jrIDE and I am glad that another one is going out into the wild. The last version of the CPLD code/firmware from Alan has been perfect for me. The BIOS is still getting better - check back once in a while to see if there is a new update.

It should be very easy to modify the Rapport/Racore expansion chassis to support the jrIDE - just replace the double height board in the Racore sidecar with the jrIDE and remove the Racore memory board. There should be more than enough room to route cables to the expansion deck, and the Racore has plenty of power to supply the drive. If you were to get really fancy you could mount a hard drive in the space where the memory board was and mount a second floppy drive in the external bay. (The second floppy drive would have to use the homebrew 2nd floppy drive modification because you wouldn't have the Racore logic board to use.) For style points you can use a laptop drive to keep it low power and cool.

I have had a SCSI CD-ROM on the PCjr for years but I almost never use it. I enjoyed it for giggles but a CD-ROM really only makes sense if you can't just copy what you need to a local storage device. Even then with the ability to use a parallel port attached hard drive it was not a big deal. Today I use FTP for data copying to other machines. No physical media to touch, and on a PCjr and a Xircom Ethernet adapter you can receive files at 26KB/sec and send files at 34KB/sec. That is quite a bit faster than floppy drive speeds and comparable to CD-ROM speeds without the hassle of handling CD-ROMs.

Look back in the forum for a thread from Niel Balsino. He constructed a Franken-Jr that had like 4 expansion levels and eight sidecars. It was epic ..

I'm mixed on the Backpack drives. I have one and I use it once in a while. But it doesn't change my life. :-)

One mass storage device I really enjoyed over the years was the parallel port Zip 100. With the PalmZip driver it was a reasonable mass storage device. You still had to boot from a floppy disk but after that it was pretty reasonable - a Jr with the equivalent of 3 32MB hard drives was quite usable. And to transfer files you just moved the Zip disc/cartridge to another machine that had a Zip on it.

Anyway, I don't use those anymore either. Networking all of the way! (And yes, mTCP was designed mostly for the PCjr.)


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Re: Hello from James

Postby James » Thu Dec 27, 2012 7:22 pm

The networking idea is interesting. At one point I was considering trying to network the PCjr to a 10 GB Snap Server as a form of mass storage. From what I remember I couldn't figure out how I would get the MS networking software loaded with just floppies. I could see adding a modified parallel port to the PCjr. The bidirectional and LPT2 mods don't look beyond me.

When the jrIDE arrives I am going to try it with the Rapport unit. I can reconfigure the megaboard as a RAM drive. I have a 5.25" in the base unit and a 3.5" in the Rapport unit so I don't want to gut the Rapport. After testing I would go with some sort of digital storage and put it in the sidecar with the jrIDE, if possible. I was using Compaq PC DOS 3.31 because it supported drives > 32 MB and I had an 80 MB. I can't recall any compatibility issues.
-PCjr (1989)-DOS 3.3, Racore Drive II, jrIDE-128 MB DOM, jrExcellerator, Tandy Mod, Serial Card, Combo v2, Config Plus, IBM Parallel Port, Megaboard, Xircom PE3-10BT
-PCjr (2001)-DOS 3.3, jrIDE-128 MB DOM, NEC v20, Parallel Port, Comswap, Xircom PE3-10BT
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Re: Hello from James

Postby Brutman » Fri Dec 28, 2012 9:48 am

Networking is, in a word, awesome.

I'm using a Xircom PE3-10BT device. It was designed for laptops before Ethernet on-board became common. It connects using the parallel port and it runs find in DOS on every machine that I have tried. There is an Olivetti machine out there missing some pins on the parallel port so it will not work on that machine, but that is about the only machine it does not work on. I also have real Ethernet cards that I can test with, but they are using a kludge that hacks an ISA card onto the PCjr sidecar bus. That solution is not suitable for every day use.

For software I'm using an FTP client and FTP server that I wrote specifically with the PCjr in mind. It is not as easy as having a network drive letter, but it doesn't consume memory when you are not using it either.

A long time ago a member here (NTEPB) wrote up a how-to on how to network a floppy only Jr to a Windows machine using NETBUI. It's not posted here on the forum and I don't know why - I just sent him an email to see if he has an update and would like to post it here.

The jrIDE has its own memory on board so the Rapport memory has to be removed. The Megaboard might pose a problem - it depends on where its memory window is located. Make sure to configure it so that the memory window does not overlap the jrIDE memory address. A Disk On Module or Compact Flash card (with an adapter) should work fine on the JrIDE. I'm using DOS 3.3 and DOS 5; I should find a copy of Compaq PC DOS 3.31 because it does have the larger partition support and probably does not have the annoying "free space computation" pause that DOS 5 has.
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Re: Hello from James

Postby jmetal88 » Fri Dec 28, 2012 6:38 pm

Brutman wrote:I should find a copy of Compaq PC DOS 3.31 because it does have the larger partition support and probably does not have the annoying "free space computation" pause that DOS 5 has.


Mike, I just did a search and managed to grab what is supposed to be the English version archive of Compaq DOS 3.31 from VetusWare. Would you like me to upload it here so you can check it out? The archive has five 720kb disk images.
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Re: Hello from James

Postby Brutman » Fri Dec 28, 2012 8:57 pm

Hmm. Given that Compaq is owned by HP now I'd rather not pique their interest, even though it is fairly ancient and not of commercial value to anybody.

Is Vetusware still around? I'm surprised they have not been sued out of existence yet ...


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Re: Hello from James

Postby jmetal88 » Fri Dec 28, 2012 10:28 pm

Brutman wrote:Hmm. Given that Compaq is owned by HP now I'd rather not pique their interest, even though it is fairly ancient and not of commercial value to anybody.

Is Vetusware still around? I'm surprised they have not been sued out of existence yet ...


Mike


Yeah, but they only allow you one download each day. So it's pretty much impossible to pirate on a large scale from them, unless you have access to a whole bunch of IPs and e-mail addresses.

EDIT: And I also had to pick a pretty ridiculous user name in order to get registered with them. It seems like anything common is either already taken or simply not allowed. And for some reason I could only get their confirmation e-mail in my Gmail account, not any of the others.
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Re: Hello from James

Postby jmetal88 » Mon Jan 14, 2013 11:16 pm

Brutman wrote:Hmm. Given that Compaq is owned by HP now I'd rather not pique their interest, even though it is fairly ancient and not of commercial value to anybody.

Is Vetusware still around? I'm surprised they have not been sued out of existence yet ...


Mike


I've been messing around with the disk images tonight. It works with the PCjr and the jrIDE, and seems capable of creating up to a 512mb partition, so I'd say it's something worth checking out. I had to hack IBMBIO.COM in DEBUG to get the DRIVPARM command working, though (see http://www.uncreativelabs.net/textfiles/dos/BDRIVE.TXT for the procedure I followed).

Now for the interesting bit: The boot disks, even though they are 720k images, have less than 360k of data on them. So I just transferred those to 5.25" disks to use them. The other disk images, however, have more than 360k of data, so I have to access them in my 720k drive B.

I'm thinking about trying to put together a couple of 360k disk images that I could possibly send to people who want to try this out. What would you suggest I put on the boot disk and operating disk? I can't fit all the utilities and driver files on two disks, but I thought if loaded them up with just the most useful stuff, it would probably work pretty well. I could just use the same utilities and drivers that are on the MS-DOS 3.3 disks, if you think that would do. I have the two retail MS-DOS 3.3 disks (boot and operating) I can use for reference.
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Re: Hello from James

Postby Brutman » Tue Jan 15, 2013 7:07 am

PC DOS 3.3 came on a two disk set. Making bootable diskettes from that is fairly easy - boot the machine, and format a new diskette using the /s parameter.

PC DOS 5 is a lot bigger and needs to be patched to run on the PCjr. I've sent out images and physical copies of a working boot disk to get people started. You need about two diskettes to get all of the good utilities. And you only need one or two diskettes to get a hard drive installed.

Aside from your machine having a 720KB floppy, what boot disk modifications do you need that others would find useful? I have a small library of boot disks here, but most of them are tailored to a specific device that I want to test. There is very little variation in the DOS being used; it is mostly a matter of changes to CONFIG.SYS.
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