Author Topic: Retrofitting an AR/Telenex 8800 Turbo Datascope with a SSD  (Read 1466 times)

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Offline kc7gr-15

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Retrofitting an AR/Telenex 8800 Turbo Datascope with a SSD
« on: November 19, 2016, 11:06:39 pm »
Good day, fellow techies,

This marks my first attempt at a photo-illustrated repair/refit job. The target device is a serial protocol analyzer or 'Datascope,' made by Atlantic Research/Telenex in the mid-to-late 90's. Despite their age, these are highly versatile instruments which are still capable of decoding and analyzing numerous data transmission protocols on multiple types of hardware interfaces. My particular unit was a sales demo, originally, so it came equipped with a dual-port V.35/RS232 interface and just about every software option made for these beasties (including such exotics as SS-7, X.25, async, sync, HDLC, etc.)

The goal with this unit was simple: Replace its electromechanical hard drive with a solid-state unit. A couple of obstacles presented themselves right off the top.

  • These units made use of a SCSI-1 (50-pin) single-ended disk interface.
  • The operating system and disk format match nothing commonly used in the PC world. An exact, byte-for-byte image of the original drive would need to be saved and re-used with the new drive.

Here's an interior 'Before' shot of the unit's guts. The 3.5" half-height hard drive is mounted inside the gold-toned aluminum bracket on the front-left. You can clearly see the 50-pin SCSI cable near the middle of the shot.

Removing the drive cage is pretty easy. You've got three captive screws, flat-blade (note: Only two of the three are shown in the photo), and two Phillips pan-heads to worry about.

This is what the assembly looks like when you first pull it out.

And this is the drive, removed from the cage. Nothing particularly special about it: 2GB SCSI-1.

First step was to take a snapshot of the drive, software-wise. I was able to do this with a USB-to-SCSI adapter and a software tool from Micro-Magic called 'SCSI Mechanic.' Here's a link:

It's still available, though not particularly cheap (around $200, as I recall), but it is exceedingly powerful in terms of analyzing and working with all types of disk drives (it's not limited to SCSI -- It will also do USB, SATA, SAS, IDE, etc.) When making an image copy of whatever device it's connected to, it doesn't care about OS, sector size, format, or whatever else might be non-standard. You tell it to make or restore a bit-for-bit image copy of a drive and it will do just that. Period!

Next step: Find a reasonably-priced solid-state SCSI-1 drive, or its equivalent. This proved... challenging... to say the least.  |O However, a happy accident led me to the 'SCSI2SD' board, available here:

The really nice thing about this unit is it doesn't care about disk format or OS, either. You stick a compatible SD card in it, set it up using a free utility, provided by the board's manufacturer, and off you go! In my case, I found a Kingston 8GB SD card worked very well indeed. From what I've read, it can be used ANYwhere a SCSI-1 drive was used originally. Certain older HP logic analyzers come immediately to mind.  :-+

Here are a couple of screenshots showing the settings I used.

Yes, the Telenex expects to see its boot drive as SCSI ID 6. This was not uncommon with test equipment, or even many older computer setups. It has to do with device priority, though I have no real clue if the Telenex's innards care one way or the other. Here's a shot of the board once I had it configured and equipped. Note the cable for the Telenex's front-panel disk activity LED, attached by me -- The SCSI2SD board can easily accommodate this, as the designer built in an extra limiting resistor.

Next step: Using SCSI Mechanic once again, transfer the image file created from the original hard drive to the SCSI2SD card. This took about 40 minutes which, considering everything was having to move over USB, wasn't too bad.

Next, using the SCSI2SD board as a template, I carefully marked and drilled mounting holes in the original drive cage. Although the board's holes specify the metric M3 size, I found that 4-40 hardware fit perfectly. This meant a #32 (0.116 in) drill. Note the use of standoffs, both to prevent the board from shorting to the cage and to make the 50-pin header accessible to the drive data cable.

Next, the board is mounted into the old cage. Then the cage gets reinstalled into the unit. I had to do some creative re-folding of the 50-pin cable to get everything seated right (if I'd had the raw materials, I probably would have just made a new cable -- I still might, down the road a bit).

The final step: Plug it in and power it on, and.... HERE IT IS! In all its orange neon dot-matrix display glory!!  :-+

Now, you may have noticed I didn't make any mention of using the original disk drive's power cable. This is because, thanks to some ingenious design work on the part of the SCSI2SD board's creator, it's not necessary. The board operates quite well, using the +5V present on the TERM PWR line in the 50-pin SCSI cable. This one was, quite literally, plug-and-play (once I got the drive image restored, of course).

That's it! Next on the project list will be replacing the CRT display in my HP 8751A network analyzer with an LCD screen. I'll post details on that one as well.

Happy tweaking.
Bruce Lane, ARS KC7GR
'Quando Omni Flunkus Moritati' (Red Green)
The following users thanked this post: oPossum, zucca, Melt-O-Tronic

Offline zucca

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Re: Retrofitting an AR/Telenex 8800 Turbo Datascope with a SSD
« Reply #1 on: November 19, 2016, 11:34:47 pm »
Very nice, please do not stop to post your projects!  :popcorn: :-+
Can't know what you don't love. St. Augustine
Can't love what you don't know. Zucca

Offline cheeseit

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Re: Retrofitting an AR/Telenex 8800 Turbo Datascope with a SSD
« Reply #2 on: November 20, 2016, 12:31:21 am »
+1, very interesting! And nice to know about that SCSI2SD card, that could come in handy some day.

Offline iamdarkyoshi

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Re: Retrofitting an AR/Telenex 8800 Turbo Datascope with a SSD
« Reply #3 on: November 20, 2016, 10:55:50 pm »
While technically it is a "solid state drive", I expected more like a sata ssd with high read/write speeds...

Nice work though!

Offline kc7gr-15

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Re: Retrofitting an AR/Telenex 8800 Turbo Datascope with a SSD
« Reply #4 on: November 21, 2016, 05:39:37 am »
SATA? In this thing?  :-DD

Even if I had the reverse-engineering skills to take apart the disk controller, disassemble its firmware and somehow redesign it to use SATA, the effort would be a huge waste of time. These instruments, while certainly powerful in their own right, don't run fast enough to where such a thing would be of any benefit over the existing SCSI-1 interface.

Not everything needs a high-power, high-speed storage interface like SATA. In this context, it would be like using an antiaircraft gun to take out a wasp's nest.

Thanks, though, for the chuckle. ;D
Bruce Lane, ARS KC7GR
'Quando Omni Flunkus Moritati' (Red Green)

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