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PCI-e real floppy controller

 

Overview

If you make these, I want to hear from you. use the contact me link to your left.

a real analog floppy controller like they used to make for the ISA bus and were common in the 90's is something we need again, but this time for the PCIe bus. I hear PCIe may be replaced with something else soon, so get ready for change.

I figure if a chip company starts making the chip, someone will start making the card.

proposal

I would like to propose/hope that someone create a PCI-e floppy controller. from what I understand, what's out there now are few chips, and usually has an old ISA bus interface (PC AT-style which fell into disuse decades ago). nobody has produced a PCI-e floppy controller chip or analog USB floppy other than kyroflux. this may be part of the reason nobody is producing floppy disks anymore - no availability.

card manufacturers all over have either ignored me or told me that it could not be done. my guess is because maybe you can't daisy-chain an ISA-to-PCI bridge and a PCI-to-PCI-e bridge with windows, because special drivers are required that are supposed to be built into windows, and I am not sure if the drivers work with the bridges daisy-chained (possibly hiding the ISA-to-PCI bridge?).

card manufacturers have also told me "a chip is not available". but trying to think of possibilities and solutions as an Engineer, I had thought it might require several chips but could maybe still be do-able.

I want to keep a real analog floppy controller available using a real analog floppy drive with real floppies available in the current bus style.

why not?

  • card manufacturers have also told me that the floppy is in disuse. with the availability of a chip, this may change.
  • profits was also an issue.
  • the floppy has been all but eliminated. a few mfrs still make floppy drives. apparently they are of lower quality than they used to be in 1990. (but I still need an analog one to work with spinrite)

why?

  • we have PCI floppy controller cards. but most motherboard today have eliminated the PCI bus in favor of PCI-e.
  • people who wish to preserve their software have a hard time preserving their investment.
  • grc's spinrite data recovery software uses a real analog floppy controller. today's USB floppy drives are digital. the only analog solution left is kyroflux and catweasel and kuroflux is open source hardware (and I didn't care for the catweasel name), meaning you may have to make your own Printed Circuit Board and burn your own [E]PROM. also, I think catweasel is PCI not PCIe.

how

there are also bus conversion IC's, from ISA to PCI and others from PCI to PCI-E. those typically require a driver to work with windows, and the driver is usually built into windows I think, which is a nice step. but I don't know if the drivers will work when the bus chips are daisy-chained. however, there's another solution:

another solution: an ASIC or FPGA?

an ASIC or FPGA is a programmable chip that if I remember right contains fusible links you blow, and these links let you connect up it's internal digital logic and analog stuff, and it contains an array of cells of these. you use CAE software like ORCAD, or a Mentor Graphics package to design your ASICs with a circuit-CAD-like package that you lay out your circuits on and route. it was fun. CAE packages are expensive, 2 decades ago they were $1k-$10k.

MOSIS is a prototyping IC fab plant. I think for $400 (2 decades ago) you can do an ASIC. but the price has probably changed since then. it's a low-cost fab for 1-offs and low-quantity runs. an ASIC

main uses for PCI-e card and analog FDC chip

the main uses for this chip and PCI-E card I think we need I can think of would be for:

  • OS developers who need to write boot images using rawrite, in order to make bootable cd's
  • making spinrite floppies and discs, a data recovery utility that also marks out new/marginal bad blocks in the hard disk and moves the good data to a safe place as best it can.
  • making bootable freedos software test floppies for whatever reason. some manufacturers use freedos as an OS for updating firmware and such.
  • making bootable cd's(!). many cd burning packages include the ability to specify a boot image, and usually this is floppy-sized, and is done originally with a floppy drive to read the disk with rawrite to make the cd image.
  • formatting 720k disks and writing to 720k disks. some usb floppy drives can't do this.
FDC - Floppy Disk Controller IC's
these may have an ISA bus. card makers say making a PCI-e card cannot be done. is it because of the drivers? I wish I knew.
winbond had a chip when they were in business?
bus bridges or converters
$
ASICs
ASICs (maybe it was FPGAs) are expensive I am told, that was 2 decades ago, wondering if this is still true. you have to program them. this is something you take to MOSIS to fab and it costs about $400 to make a prototype (2 decades ago). it's cheaper than doing the raw design. a lot of the stuff you need like digital logic and analog are all there.
plda.com PCI-e 3.0 ASIC IP for making ASICs which could fill the bill.