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It works!

Postby Franko » Wed Sep 19, 2018 1:23 pm

Hi all,

While cleaning out our attic this week, I came across a couple of cartons containing my IBM PCjr and accessories. I plugged it all in, and amazingly it still works. Yet more amazingly, at least the first couple of diskettes I tried also worked fine.

The PCjr, which I bought new in 1984, has a whopping 128K RAM and came with a monochrome IBM monitor. Its two cartridge slots are filled with one for Cartridge BASIC and the other a Quicksilver cartridge to make the computer boot faster.

One of the main things I did with the computer back in the day was that I bought a copy of IBM Macro Assembler and taught myself assembly language. Spent a lot of time in Peter Norton's book "Programmer's Guide to the IBM PC" looking up interrupts and so on. My crowning achievement was a two-way telecom program I used with a modem to get on systems like CompuServe.

At this point, my main issue is how to transfer data in and out of the PCjr. Will post on that in another forum section here.
Last edited by Franko on Thu Sep 20, 2018 12:50 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: It works!

Postby KenG » Thu Sep 20, 2018 5:25 am

Welcome. If you have or get a parallel port sidecar, you can use a parallel port compact flash adapter or backpack 3.5" drive. I have both. I used the compact flash as a hard drive until I bough my jr-IDE. Read through the topics here. You can learn more about the PCjr here than anywhere else I have seen.
Enhanced PCjr with a jr-IDE (1GB DOM) and a parallel port side car with a compact flash reader and backpack 1.44mb floppy attached. Tandy video mod.
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Re: It works!

Postby Franko » Thu Sep 20, 2018 6:24 am

Thanks for the suggestions. My PCjr has a parallel port sidecar, and I'll look around for parallel port CF adapters and backpack 3.5" drives. I do see several references to the jr-IDE, and it sounds as though that's the direction I'll be wanting to go.
Last edited by Franko on Thu Sep 20, 2018 9:51 am, edited 2 times in total.
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Re: It works!

Postby Franko » Thu Sep 20, 2018 9:01 am

KenG wrote:If you have or get a parallel port sidecar, you can use a parallel port compact flash adapter or backpack 3.5" drive.

One other question -- which specific CF adapter and backpack 3.5" drive did you go with?
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Re: It works!

Postby Brutman » Thu Sep 20, 2018 11:10 am

I'm going to suggest a few different routes:

  • Get a "mothership" machine .. something that can create 5.25 double density floppies (not high density) and also write 3.5" images. Preferably something with a hard drive and network capability. That way if you wipe out your boot disk by accident you can create another one on another machine.
  • Find a 3.5" Backpack drive that attaches to the parallel port. Not as desirable because you still need to have a 5.25" boot floppy, but it does make data exchange easier with minimal RAM usage. (The Compact Flash drivers take up a lot of RAM compared to the Backpack floppy drive drivers.)
  • Zip drives, parallel port hard drives, etc. Basically the same, but not as widely usable as the 3.5" floppy drive. (You can use a USB 3.5" floppy drive on any computer and trade diskettes.
    Zip drives, parallel port hard drives, etc. require you to have a compatible drive elsewhere, and probably not on a parallel port.)
  • Networking. Find a Xircom PE3-10BT and hang it on the parallel port. Then get mTCP. I use this on a hard drive equipped system. You can't recover from a corrupted boot disk with this setup, but it's great for general file transfers.

I use all of the above methods. :-) In my toolbox I have:

  • A 3.5" parallel port Backpack Drive
  • Parallel port Zip drive (Using Palmzip.sys, a paid but totally worth it device driver.)
  • Compact Flash
  • Anything else I can hook up with a parallel port attached SCSI adapter. (Zip, SCSI drives, CD-ROM)
  • IDE hard drive via jrIDE: This can be moved to a Linux or Windows box easily
  • Networking via the Xircom PE3-10BT
  • Good old 5.25" floppy drive sneaker net to a 386-40 machine.

And of course, not all at the same time ... I have multiple driver diskettes and boot configs depending on what needs to be done.
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Re: It works!

Postby Franko » Thu Sep 20, 2018 12:42 pm

Thanks, sounds like great advice. I'd been leaning toward looking for a Compact Flash adapter that can plug into the PCjr's parallel port, but your warning about RAM usage is taken -- and the PCjr is a 128K model. So I'll focus more on finding a 3.5" backpack drive.

My No. 1 priority at this point is to preserve the files I'm able to read off my 1980s-vintage 5.25" floppies, and to be able to make new bootable 5.25" floppies if the current ones go south. So your mothership is an attractive idea. I also have a Windows desktop, but it's less than five years old. If I can find my cannibalized 5.25" floppy drive(s), is there a controller that will allow them to be plugged into a current-day Windows system? Or is the mothership approach more about finding something like a 386?
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Re: It works!

Postby Brutman » Thu Sep 20, 2018 1:09 pm

Here is what I'd look for in a "mothership" machine:

  • Pentium 1 to Pentium 3
  • Something that can run both DOS and Windows 98
  • Floppy controller on the motherboard and a BIOS that supports 5.25 360K drives
  • USB 2.0 support
  • Network (built-in or PCI)
  • Bonus: both ISA and PCI slots

You can go earlier than a Pentium 1, but then you might be giving up USB and PCI, which can be useful. I think you definitely want USB 2.0 so go for newer than older unless you want to play a specific class of DOS games on the machine.
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Re: It works!

Postby Franko » Thu Sep 20, 2018 1:27 pm

Thanks, I've had machines pretty much exactly like that, but unfortunately they are long-gone.

On another front, I ordered a Micro Solutions 3.5" backpack drive for parallel port from eBay. I gather there's a relatively small driver that needs to run on the PCjr. So it looks as though there's a chicken and egg problem: Without a mothership that can write to a 5.25" floppy, is there a way to get the driver onto the PCjr as it's currently configured?
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Re: It works!

Postby KenG » Fri Sep 21, 2018 7:59 am

If you PM me with your address, I can send you a diskette with the driver.
Enhanced PCjr with a jr-IDE (1GB DOM) and a parallel port side car with a compact flash reader and backpack 1.44mb floppy attached. Tandy video mod.
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Re: It works!

Postby Franko » Fri Sep 21, 2018 12:33 pm

That's very kind, Ken. Thanks much -- just PM'd you.
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