Author Topic: Vintage chip Programmer : " Micropross ROM 3000U "  (Read 18359 times)

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Offline VinceTopic starter

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Re: Vintage chip Programmer : " Micropross ROM 3000U "
« Reply #75 on: December 28, 2022, 09:00:12 pm »
Looks like the site MK already showed me... at first I dismissed it because it looked like to me like it was only about enabling a very specific feature, 240 pixel vertical resolution, and that was it. It looked like neither the S/W / project nor the board, were capable of modifying every aspect of the video signal. Plus, I am not a F/W engineer, nor a video protocol guru, so even if the board were capable of arbitrary timings, I would not be competent to make use of it...

But I looked at it again and it looks like I was wrong... there seems to be a user friendly interface to let you repurpose the video chip, and it has presets for NTSC and PAL signals.... i.e stuff that's even farther from CGA than my signal is.... so maybe there is hope for me as well.   OK OK.... I will keep that in mind, will look at it in more detail at some point...


Anyway, some good news : I did what I said I would do... I added a XOR gate on the breadboard to create a composite SYNC signal, as per what I saw on YT.
Well, my old book on logic gates says there are somehow only two TTL chips that do XOR ... 7486 and 74136... with my usual luck, despite having a broad collection of crusty TTL chips.. I didn't have any of these two !  :palm:  I didn't feel like using multiple chips to cobble together my own XOR gate either, too much mess on the bread board and not enough Dupont wires.
So instead I went for the next candidate : XNOR gates. Book says there is only ONE chip that does it... 74266. Well I DO have a few of those !  :-+
Problem.... it's got an open collector output !  :palm:  Would that output be good enough to handle my sync signals without "deteriorating" them to the point that it might upset the video chip... and what resistor to use to get optimal signal shape ?!  More headaches in perspective, grrr...
I let destiny do the math for me : a 3.9K resistor happened to be on the breadboard from a past experience I guess. Good enough I thought, so I used that and scoped the output... perfectly square signals I was greeted with, what a relief !  :phew:

So I connected that to the video board, and hey presto, much better now !!!  :)

As I thought, it now works well enough that it's usable, but not quite perfect because it's not CGA, only close to it.

So, what do we get in exchange for our XNOR gate ?

1) The board is now reliable. It never freezes, not even once. So the F/W must have been upset by my separate sync signals I guess. Poor F/W it is.

2) The AUTO push-button now works : as soon as I press it, the red LED next to the MCU, blinks for 3 or 5 seconds while it's trying to figure the sync signals out.

3) Once that's done, I get a meaningful  and stable picture, woohoo...


The horizontal side of things is working well, as I hoped, because at 15.4kHz it's close enough to CGA for the chip to make the effort.
So I was able to adjust the horizontal position of the picture to center it on the screen, and adjust the size.

However as I anticipated, the vertical sync is too far from CGA, so it kinda works but not perfectly.
The vertical position control behaves weirdly. The best / most useful I could get for a picture, is to get the bottom area of the screen, where the menu bar is, to roll over and display instead at the top of the screen. If I try to put it at the bottom, and I can't achieve it anyway, it destroys the picture.
So now I have a stable and usable picture. Menu bar is at the top instead of the bottom but who cares... let's just  say I customized the F/W in the  programmer to suit my particular taste !  :-DD

So now I can watch the entire boot process and see exactly what's going on. It's just... so cool.  8)

This is what we see :

1) At power up, displays logo and "Insert system disk and press F1", and the leftmost "button" in the menu bar is active and shows "BOOT", which ads up.

2) That lasts only a split second, so I had to remove the system disk from the floppy drive to force the machine to stay in this state so I would have time to take a pic of it and a video clip. That's why it says "Failed" with some error codes... it can't find the floppy in the drive.






3) There is  line of text in reverse video that blinks, this is what I thought might be a blinking cursor a weeks back when I was first watching at the signal in the time domain on my scope. It's more than just a cursor then.

4) I was right : the programmer thinks it is a full fledged model 5000 rather than the humble deaf and mute model 3000 that it is ! Really interesting, that.

5) OK so then I insert the system disk and reboot it so it can actually boot from the drive. It reads the disk for about a minute, during which the blinking text reads " REVISION 5.40AP ".  Also, the menu bar contents change : the "BOOT" option on the left is gone. Now the only button available is the rightmost one, which reads "ABORT". Ads up... first you press F1 to boot, then while booting you can abort the boot process.

Then in the video, at T = 1min14s or so, the drive stops working (I turned off the sound in the video, sorry you can't hear the drive working to make the video less boring)) , boot process is complete. At that point the blinking text now VERY BRIEFLY says " ERASING MEMORY  ".

6) Then the logo and text disappear, screen is cleared and we get just the menu bar at the bottom, well the top here sorry. Again only available menu option, still the rightmost, that says " END ". Underneath the menu bar, it reads " REMOTE CONTROL ".



Now in video :






So how cool is that ? It is SUPER cool !  >:D  :box:


Even cooler : that French forum is cool too, lots more people active in there than I would have imagined !
I have had already two people reply, and those two actually have a 5000 model and both live not too far from me (100 / 150kms away), and we are thinking of setting up a gathering at my place with their 5000 so I can see this beast in the flesh and do some reverse engineering in my lab  8)

Maybe this spring. Some time anyway.
« Last Edit: December 29, 2022, 12:39:24 am by Vince »
 
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Offline Robert763

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Re: Vintage chip Programmer : " Micropross ROM 3000U "
« Reply #76 on: December 28, 2022, 09:24:01 pm »
Well done Vince!
Now you need a 5000 system disk!
The most important thing to find when you see a 5000 is what the keyboard is. It could br a dumb matrix, An IBM "PC" or "AT", A serial RS232 or something special.

Robert.
 

Offline VinceTopic starter

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Re: Vintage chip Programmer : " Micropross ROM 3000U "
« Reply #77 on: December 28, 2022, 10:51:19 pm »
The guys on the French forum last night sent me several 5000 boot disk images... so I am covered. From what I understand there were several revisions of the 5000 model, and not all system disks work on all variants of the programmer... and god knows if any work on my 5000 wannabe 3000 model !  :-DD

But I can just try them all and see what happens, no worries.

The real issue is that making these disks is a chore, a whole can of worms, an adventure in its own right... many people tried and only one succeeded, but he first and last posted 2 years ago... hopefully he can still be reached. He did give some info on how he did it, but basically the problem is that just like everything in this programmer, the disk too is custom... Basically you can't read it as is, on a regular PC. It uses a special format. From what I understand, said an engineer who worked on this design back in the day, and who posted on the thread in 2014... it's a regular PC format but it uses 256 bytes blocks instead of 512, something like that, don't quote me...
A guy who posted in 2020 seemed well versed in exotic floppy formats, so he managed to do it and found it easy but... I am not him.
I think he said that he first had to convert the disk image file to some other format, which he could then use with an MS-DOS based S/W that can do very low level stuff on floppy disks, and let you customize each and every parameter. So you better know what you are doing... He posted screen captures of that S/W. Below.



Also said IIRC with that low level stuff that's required... not all floppy drives are equal... some will work others won't. It's pot luck. Well he also knows enough that he picked a random drive from his junk box, and modified the electronics of it to get it to work... I am not at that level...
Also, IIRC you need DD disks, not HD. So first need to find those, and hope they are in good shape...

So I will work at it for sure, but it's gonna be a tough fight I anticipate, and will require many hours on my vintage PC, which I need to excavate... and I have zero space right now to install it anywhere... OK maybe I can buy a cheap foldable camping table and install it in my bedroom, to keep company to some of my boat anchors... but that's a bit extreme...


Now as for the K/B... the situation is even worse I think...
Now that I now more about these programmers, and read the manuals for the 5000 model.... I have to revise the theories I made very early on when I was totally clueless.

Before, I thought may be the two serial ports were meant to connect to the remote desktop computer with one port, and use the other to attach a K/B for local operation. It does not hold water any longer.

The much more likely scenario now, is that this machine is meant 100% to be remote controlled, no K/B envisaged for that second serial port. Instead, that port is I think used to control another programmer. the 5000 manual says that these programmers can control other programmers via that second serial port, in a master / slave fashion.

So out with the idea of an external K/B that would use some RS232 standard somehow, that I could buy off the shelf. No.

It's clear the only K/B this programmer was ever meant to be used with, is the one that's built into it, which is obviously proprietary if just by the looks of it... and the 5 custom functions keys to begin with, that match the 5 boxes in the menu bar on the screen.



When the guys visit me with their 5000, at least one quick simple thing we could try, is to extract the K/B from their programmer and see if I can plug it into my programmer, see if that works... if it does, maybe try to reverse engineer the electronics and signals on the connector, snif some signals with the scope, to at least get an idea of what it's like... maybe it miraculously uses a standard protocol / interface, and only the physical presentation of the K/B is custom.... but somehow I doubt that. Just like they made a custom video interface because it was more convenient for them.... there is no reason why they would not make their own K/B interface if that was simpler for them. But maybe I could design an interface to get a standard PS/2 or old serial K/B to work with their custom interface. But that would take a lot of R&D and reverse engineering time, so I would need a 5000 unit to stay home with me for many months.. they aren't gonna let me do that of course...

Yeah... this programmer is a huge PITA isn't it ? It fights hard every step of the way... nothing comes easy  :scared:

OK so the next steps for me then, must be :

1) Try to setup my vintage computer in a semi permanent manner so I can work on it for a few weeks or months, while I am fighting to write the disk images to an actual floppy.

2) Look into that video board F/W customization UI, to see if I can sort out the vertical sync problem... because I just realised, looking at others pics, that errors codes and error messages are sometimes displayed right above the menu bar... and since the bar is at the very top on my screen... I can't see these codes and messages if any... that's a problem. >:(

3) When I get to meet with the guys, do some reverse engineering work on the built-in K/B. So that won't be before spring at best.


Oh boy.... lots of work ahead...
« Last Edit: December 29, 2022, 12:31:15 am by Vince »
 
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Offline TERRA Operative

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Re: Vintage chip Programmer : " Micropross ROM 3000U "
« Reply #78 on: December 29, 2022, 07:26:03 am »
I know that DOS software. I was using it to create disk images for my HP 4155B Semiconductor Parameter Analyzer a little while back. :D
Luckily now I have one working disk, the machine can make its own copies...


Good luck on the reverse engineering, I'll be watching with interest. :)
Where does all this test equipment keep coming from?!?

https://www.youtube.com/NearFarMedia/
 
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Offline pcprogrammer

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Re: Vintage chip Programmer : " Micropross ROM 3000U "
« Reply #79 on: December 29, 2022, 07:37:59 am »
Quote
Yeah... this programmer is a huge PITA isn't it ? It fights hard every step of the way... nothing comes easy 

Wouldn't be fun if it was easy.  >:D

I have seen a youtube video made by Adrian Black of Adrian's digital basement where he uses that software to make some disks for some old computer.  Will see if I can find it again. He also uses some, a bit more expensive, video converters which I wrote about earlier in this thread. Those converters can be set to proprietary settings to handle almost any video stream.

An idea to see if your programmer is the same as the 5000, is to swap the boards when the guys with the 5000 come over to play. Maybe there is also an option on their machine to duplicate the disks.

Keep up the good work. It is fun to read about it.  :-+

Edit: Found the video. Around 34 minutes in he starts using the disk software. Imagedisk 1.18 might be from here http://dunfield.classiccmp.org/img/index.htm

« Last Edit: December 29, 2022, 07:52:31 am by pcprogrammer »
 
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Offline m k

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Re: Vintage chip Programmer : " Micropross ROM 3000U "
« Reply #80 on: December 29, 2022, 07:57:00 am »
I'd say that this floppy emulator thingy is the hardware everybody will eventually need.
Maybe that's the next step, after all the upcoming WIN/DOS stuff.
Advance-Aneng-Appa-AVO-Beckman-Danbridge-Data Tech-Fluke-General Radio-H. W. Sullivan-Heathkit-HP-Kaise-Kyoritsu-Leeds & Northrup-Mastech-REO-Simpson-Sinclair-Tektronix-Tokyo Rikosha-Topward-Triplett-YFE
(plus lesser brands from the work shop of the world)
 

Offline VinceTopic starter

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Re: Vintage chip Programmer : " Micropross ROM 3000U "
« Reply #81 on: December 29, 2022, 12:43:15 pm »
Thanks people !

Yes this is it, that's this ImageDisk S/W, thanks for the link to download it.

That video is cool, Adrian is getting very nerdy in this one. At 13minutes he uses some sci-fi class graphical S/W to work at a super low level on that floppy !!  :o
... makes ImageDisk look very simple in comparison... so I will make the effort to lean to use t.

That video was interesting and relates to my problem, when he speaks about DD and HD floppy drives, and "sfot" and "hard" sectors, never heard about that before, I have now.
I note that the README file for ImageDisk also mentions it works for soft sector drives.
Adrian says you CAN make a DD disk on an HD drive but it's pot luck. Much more reliable if you can do it with a proper DD drive to begin with.
I have plenty of floppy drives... I am sure none of them are old enough to be DD only, but at least if one is giving troubles, I have many others to try out...

Video confirms what I read on the French forum : guy had to convert the disk image to the IMD format used by ImageDisk, before he could write it to an actual floppy.
Says the IMD format basically is just adding meta data to tell the S/W what low levels parameters to use... which means you have to know these to begin with... it's chicken and egg situation.
But the guy on the forum who used ImageDisk I think must just read his existing system disk, that came with the machine, so that ImageDisk could read it and firugre out the low level parameters.

Yeah.... I am starting to see how it all works, hope is seeping into my head....

Video : yes I remember those expensive video converters.... expensive, too much for me right now. I will resort to that only if I fail with that GBS-8200 tweaking S/W.
I also think I have got to the point where I can tidy up my mess in that department : A huge breadboard sitting inside the programmer, lots of chips, lots of wires... not very practical when I need to put the programmer aside, then put it back on the bench time and time again.... and I can't use the breadboard for other things ! >:(

So now that we have figured th video problem, I think it's time to tidy up all that mess. So I will get rid of the breadboard, make a little board, tidy up the wiring etc...
From our experiences it looks like I don't need the inverter chip to reverse the polarity, nor the HCT buffer either.. I just need the one TTL  XNOR chip and the pull-up resistor for it... and that's it !
So I will order a bunch of cheap proto boards in small sizes, and make something very clean and compact.


OK, I kept the best for dessert !!!

An hour ago, on the French forum someone pointed out to me that in the big ZIP file on of them sent to me, there was an .EXE file in the ROM3000 folder hmmmmm !!!!!!
Yummy !

File is barely 100KB in size so I had not much hope that it would be our remote control S/W.... but of course I was curious, so I loaded the program inside of DOSBOX emulator, and see what it resulted in !
YES, this S/W tries to connect to the programmer via the serial port !!!  :D
I took screen shots of all, not many, screen I get greeted with : first a black screen with just a prompt asking my if I have a colour or monochrome monitor, and to what COM port on the PC, I connected the programmer.



So I answer that and then I get a more fancy / user friendly screen, that says it's S/W version 7.7, and displays that screen while it's trying to connect to the programmer.
It stays there forever (well maybe it would eventually time out if I stayed there for an hour...), so I press the ESC key to get out of there.




Then it reacts by showing me this marvelous help screen that explains how to proceed to connect to the programmer :

1) connect it the serial port #1 of the programmer

2) Boot the programmer from his system disk

3) The best bit I absolutely needed : it gives you an ASCII "graphical" representation of the 6 DIP switches at the back of the programmer to tell you how to set them to configure the serial port properly !! VICTORY !!!  :box:




OMG... I am in business now !

So I need to dig out my Vintage PC, get a cable... luckily I think I have a DB9 to DB25 adapter somewhere....


STAY TUNED !!!  :D

« Last Edit: December 29, 2022, 12:46:03 pm by Vince »
 
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Offline pcprogrammer

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Re: Vintage chip Programmer : " Micropross ROM 3000U "
« Reply #82 on: December 29, 2022, 02:07:42 pm »
Hi Vince,

to make the needed floppies you can probably just use the drive from the programmer itself. By the looks of it it uses a 34 pin ribbon cable, which might have the same layout as the drives found in PC's.

Since it uses a western digital controller it should not be to hard to verify the connections.

I found a bunch of DD disks in my stash. Have to see if they don't hold any secrets, but if not you can have some if you like.  8)

Offline VinceTopic starter

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Re: Vintage chip Programmer : " Micropross ROM 3000U "
« Reply #83 on: December 29, 2022, 02:27:50 pm »
OK... I was so excited, I did make the effort to set up my vintage PC.

Pushed some stuff aside the bench, managed to free a square foot of space, just enough to sit the computer case in that spot.
K/B and monitor... conveniently sitting atop the EPROM programmer, so no space problem here, great.

Transfered the MS-DOS program easily to the vintage PC thanks to prior experiments to network my vintage PC and my main desktop computer.
So that was already working, took only a couple minutes to get the file onto the vintage PC.

I have got Windows2000 and Win95 on that computer, so started Win95. Launched the program in a window.... crashed.
OK fair enough... so I rebooted the machine and pressed F8 to get the boot menu options. Selected "MS-DOS prompt only", to get a real DOS environment.... I thought.
Nope, program still crashed ! Look, it displays a few line of garbage then computers is unresponsive... only thing the K/B reacts to, is ALT+CTRL+DEL ...

You just can't make that shit up can you !!!   :scared:

This freaking program works fine inside a shitty DOS emulator under a modern Linux computer... but it crashes miserably on a Vintage PC of the era ?!   :wtf:

I.... I.... I don't know what to think.... I am cursed, that must be it.

If you can make any sense of the crap it threw on the screen when it crashed, be sure to speak up.

What good is my vintage PC if it can't run old DOS programs ?

I don't understand what's going on..... bakc in the day when Win95 came out, I was under the understanding that the "MSDOS only" boot option gave you an actual DOS environment, so you had 100% compatibility with your old DOS programs... because it was running an actual DOS, not an emulation or anything. Looks like maybe that was not 100.0000 % true ?

Or maybe it's some weird incompatibility that particular computer ? It's an IBM Aptiva, custom motherboard... I know back in the day seom had problems with the supplied modem or sound card... but I am not using any of that. You would think the serial port would be something that's hard to get wrong would you ?

I just do'nt know... I am.. baffled, and massively disappointed and depressed....

The program is a single, standalone EXE file, under 100KB... so I can post it here. Please download it and try it on your Win95/98 machines if you have one, in windowed as well MS-DOS only modes, and tell me what you get.... please...
EDIT : apparently EXE files is not an allowed file format on this forum. So I renamed the file to change the extension to "PDF" instead... so just rename it back to .EXE before use...


 

Offline Messtechniker

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Re: Vintage chip Programmer : " Micropross ROM 3000U "
« Reply #84 on: December 29, 2022, 02:32:37 pm »
Fascinating digital electronics archeology. 8) 8)
Agilent 34465A, Siglent SDG 2042X, Hameg HMO1022, R&S HMC 8043, Peaktech 2025A, Voltcraft VC 940, M-Audio Audiophile 192, R&S Psophometer UPGR, 3 Transistor Testers, DL4JAL Transistor Curve Tracer, UT622E LCR meter
 

Offline VinceTopic starter

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Re: Vintage chip Programmer : " Micropross ROM 3000U "
« Reply #85 on: December 29, 2022, 02:40:46 pm »
Hi Vince,

to make the needed floppies you can probably just use the drive from the programmer itself. By the looks of it it uses a 34 pin ribbon cable, which might have the same layout as the drives found in PC's.
Since it uses a western digital controller it should not be to hard to verify the connections.

Yes... good idea  8)

I found a bunch of DD disks in my stash. Have to see if they don't hold any secrets, but if not you can have some if you like.  8)

Thank you very moosh !!!  :-+

I now remember something I forgot to reply to , I think it was Terra : the programmer, from what the guys said, well the 5000 model at least, does offer you options to format disks and copy them.
Not very helpful for me right now, but I thought I would mention it anyway, for the sake of completeness !  ;D

 

Offline pcprogrammer

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Re: Vintage chip Programmer : " Micropross ROM 3000U "
« Reply #86 on: December 29, 2022, 03:35:11 pm »
Hi Vince,

I tried the executable on an actual dos machine (Pentium III with I think MS-DOS V6.22 but did not check) and it fails in the same way  :-DD

Checked the floppies and two read as empty and on two others there is some useless crap. So these you can have. Others fail to read for some reason and some have old project data on them.

Since I'm using a 1.44MB drive I didn't want to try and format them.

Offline VinceTopic starter

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Re: Vintage chip Programmer : " Micropross ROM 3000U "
« Reply #87 on: December 29, 2022, 03:36:40 pm »


Oh you won't believe it, I have managed to fix it,in just a few minutes, look !!!!  :box:

Got lucky on that one !  :)

Above, I posted the crap that the program throw when it crashed under the MSDOS only mode.
First  I thought it does not look like complete garbage... more like "escape codes" that I would type in my autoexec.bat to draw a menu on startup, to launch my programs from.... 25 years ago when I was at high-school and into MSDOS on my mighty 486SX33 with a whooping 4MB of RAM and Windows 3.1...

Then, I noticed that when I run and crash the program in WIDOWEd mode, under Win95 that is... I get a slightly different crap on the scree, see :



I get the same escape codes at the beginning, but then I get a bit more characters after that, which I highlighted in yellow.It looked like the ASCII text that corresponds to the help screen I was getting under DOSBOX, that tells you how to configure the DIP switches at the back of the programmer....  so it's not total garbage then... it's like the program just spew its guts out on the screen...

Then right before that stuff in yellow, I spotted some more intelligible characters, circled in red.... it says " DEVICE=ANSI.SYS in the file CONFIG.SYS ".
Eh ? Hmmmm... maybe it's just a DOS config file problem, maybe it requires you to load ANSI.SYS in CONFIG.SYS at startup ?!

So I googled for ANSI.SYS... hmm that looked interesting / relevant : apparently ANSI.SYS is required to get escape sequences to work, BINGO !
... and also to configure the screen for text mode programs (number of columns and rows)... BINGO  AGAIN !!!

Looking good, worth a shot !

So I edit config.sys to add " DEVICE=ANSI.SYS ", restart the computer in MS-DOS mode and.... get an error, says that ANSI is missing or corrupted !  :blah:

some more Googling... OK, I need to specify the full path to ANSI apparently... and ina windows machine MS moved all the old MSDOS utility files inside C;\WINDOWS\COMMAND.

Checked there, yes ANSI.SYS and many other old familiar names are there, great.

So I update the path in CONFIG.SYS and try again.... the program works now, YES !!!!!  :box:


Next step / problem : the serial cable !!

I ahve a fex, both straight and crossed... don't know which type I am supposed to be using but it's easy enough to try out both and see what happens.
No, my problem is plug type ! My cables DB9, but it's old DB25 on the programmer side... I do have a 9/25 adapter but... it does not feature the approriate gender on either side... I need a gender changer on both side of the adapter... I do have the required DB9 changer, phew.... but the DB25 changer I don't ! I have two of them but tehy are F/F and I need M/M  !  :palm:   Told you, I am cursed...

So I need that changer to complete the "stack".... and/or maybe try to find a 9/25 changer with the appropriate sex on both side, so that I don't have to use any gender changer to begin with...

Of course I can't wait for that to happen, so maybe I will just go cave man style and just stick bits of wires inside the DB25 holes / pins.... and call it a day  >:D
« Last Edit: December 29, 2022, 03:38:23 pm by Vince »
 
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Offline TERRA Operative

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Re: Vintage chip Programmer : " Micropross ROM 3000U "
« Reply #88 on: December 29, 2022, 03:42:32 pm »
I tried your exe on my Dell Precision M410 running native DOS 6.22 and it works fine.

But you beat me to get it working. :D I guess I have the ansi.sys thing already sorted on my PC. :)
Where does all this test equipment keep coming from?!?

https://www.youtube.com/NearFarMedia/
 

Offline VinceTopic starter

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Re: Vintage chip Programmer : " Micropross ROM 3000U "
« Reply #89 on: December 29, 2022, 03:51:58 pm »


Thanks for trying the program chaps !

Terra yes since your machine is a true MSDOS one not some Win95 thing, no doubt it came with all the bells and whistles as standards...

@ PCprogrammer : thanks for the offer ! ... I may not have to steal from you though :  I just searched my old computer junk boxes, and found more 3.5" diskettes than I thought was possible ! 6 boxes of them !
... one of them is brand new, never used... 3M box of double sided DD 1.0 MB floppies, YEAH !!!!  :)

Will any of these floppies actually be working ? I guess I will find out...

« Last Edit: December 29, 2022, 04:08:00 pm by Vince »
 
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Offline Paceguy

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Re: Vintage chip Programmer : " Micropross ROM 3000U "
« Reply #90 on: December 29, 2022, 03:58:41 pm »
I'm glad to see that your persistence has paid off and that you got it up and running. félicitations !
 
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Offline pcprogrammer

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Re: Vintage chip Programmer : " Micropross ROM 3000U "
« Reply #91 on: December 29, 2022, 04:30:17 pm »
@ PCprogrammer : thanks for the offer ! ... I may not have to steal from you though :  I just searched my old computer junk boxes, and found more 3.5" diskettes than I thought was possible ! 6 boxes of them !
... one of them is brand new, never used... 3M box of double sided DD 1.0 MB floppies, YEAH !!!!  :)

Will any of these floppies actually be working ? I guess I will find out...

That is the benefit of saving stuff. My stash is way bigger then your 6 boxes, but only a handful are DD 1.0MB  :palm:

Great find about the ANSI.SYS. Guess it is not installed on my DOS machine.

Offline VinceTopic starter

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Re: Vintage chip Programmer : " Micropross ROM 3000U "
« Reply #92 on: December 29, 2022, 05:48:33 pm »
OK ladies and gentlemen, we have already made some more progress in the last hour... but it's a mixed bad... there is some good news... and some bad news.
Let's start with the good ones.

1) By shear luck I did eventually find the missing M/M DB25 gender changer I needed to complete mt DB9 to DB25 adaptation "stack" so to speak.
Turns out if was right under my nose on the bench... because, I had been using that changer a few months back I now recall, to tap the serial signals, for fun, from the back of my Metrix MX554 bench DMM.

2) So I was able at last to plug my serial cable to the programmer....

3) Sadly the MSDOS S/W still complained that the serial link was not working, giving me the same help screen as before....

4) Then realised I failed to follow that screen's instructions : POWER UP the programmer you fucktard !  :palm:

5) So I power it up and let it boot, then run the MSDOS S/W again and.... it immediately connects successfully to the programmer, first time, not even kidding !!
I just could not believe it... with my luck, I was listing all the things that could go wrong here and prevent me from achieving success.... like the S/W not being able to use the serial port for XYZ reason, or a bad cable, or need to swap RX and TX lines, or god knows what else could go wrong. But no, worked first time, I was amazed !!!  :D


OK, so now the bad news.... How am I so sure that it successfully connected to the programmer ?

Well.... see for yourself... it must have talked to the programmer and the latter told him "Hi, I am ROM 3000U "model, then the MSDOS program in return tellin me, I quote him :

" WTF !!!   I told you I am meant for use with the ROM 3000B ans this is NOT a 3000B !!! "

.... while flashing and beeping at me constantly in a very angry manner.... At that point the program is unresponsive to the K/B. The only way to make the lab quiet again was to reboot the PC...




OK so that's bad... I really hoped that S/W would at least work somewhat, and at worse maybe some features or details would not work 100%, but at least I was hoping for basic functionality... but no.

Still, I am trying to see the bright side of things :

1) Well we found that MSDOS S/W....
2) we got it to run on my vintage PC
3) we got the serial link working
4) The programmer replied to the computer, which means that maybe it did indeed successfully boot from its system disk, and both the drive and disk are good.... or maybe not : maybe it's just the F/W from EPROM that's replied to the computer. We just don't know. PC only complains that it's not a 300B but it doesn't say if the programmer replied " I am 5000B " or if it said ' I am a 3000U ".

So, that's a real bummer, I was so hopeful  :(

But not time for depression.... we need to move forward don't we... so what could we do from there ?

- Well we could hook a monitor again to the programmer, to see if it displays something interesting while the PC is communication with it.
But that requires two monitors on the bench, and opening up the programmer again, bread board again, video board again, lots of mess again.... there is just not enough space on the bench for that kind of experiment.... but needs to be done anyway. So I need to free some space buy completing some long overdue TE project, so I can move them out of the bench. Thinking the two Rochar Niksee DVM, the two QUAD amps, and also my rack mount Tektronix type RM17 waiting for a 3 section can cap to be replaced. I got the new caps, just need to find the motivation (wanted to make my own little adapter PCB on Kicad for something neat and tidy, but never got round to it...).
Then as I said earlier, I need to get rid of that large breadboard and all that mess of wires, need to replace all that with a neat little tiny prototype board I could leave inside the programmer permanently, with just wires sticking out of it, that would go the the GBS-8200 video board. That would considerably lower the mess on the bench.

- Then, something lese we could try : since the programmer thnks its a 5000 model and it's possible that it only turns into a 3000 model once it's booted from the system disk.... then that means maybe if I booted the thing from a 3000B disk rather than my 3000U disk....... I could turn my programmer into a 3000B and the PC S/W would then be happy ?
Worth a shot.... but we need a 3000B disk image then ! No worries... we have that, it was bundled with the MSDOS EXE file  8)

So that means I need to get cracking and start experimenting with creating these special / non standard system disks, using my NOS DD disks and installing that ImageDisk S/W....
That will be my first time doing that kind of stuff, so I expect the road will be long and bumpy, but it needs to be done.... and the knowledge and experienced gained thusly will no doubt be useful in the long term when working on other vintage pieces of kit, since I seem to enjoy these so much....  :-//


OK so... let's do all that then, see you later for the next installment !


EDIT : oh got an idea ! Maybe I could sniff the serial link to see what the programmer replies to the computer ! Maybe it's plain ASCII text and we could be 100% sure of whether it reports being a 5000B or a 3000U !   Oh I love this programmer, so much cool stuff you can do with it !!!   :)

« Last Edit: December 29, 2022, 05:51:53 pm by Vince »
 
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Offline VinceTopic starter

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Re: Vintage chip Programmer : " Micropross ROM 3000U "
« Reply #93 on: December 29, 2022, 07:03:34 pm »
Did a quick test : powered up the programmer but with no boot disk in it, so that I am sure it still thinks it's a 5000 model not a 3000. If I do that, the MSDOS S/W fails to communicate with the programmer.
So the programmer can only communicate once it has booted from the system disk.... so most likely it reported to the MSDOS S/W that it was a 3000U rather than a 3000B.

That's all...  :-//
 
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Offline VinceTopic starter

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Re: Vintage chip Programmer : " Micropross ROM 3000U "
« Reply #94 on: December 29, 2022, 11:32:19 pm »
Oh no.... I did the unthinkable, my curiosity will kill me.... I made my super messy bench even messier... I truly think I have now reached the epitome of the concept of mess....

Yes... I added another monitor / TV, brought back the bread board and video board and somehow made it all fit ?!  :o
I tried to tidy up the breadboard as much as I could : removed two fo the chips : inverter chip and buffer chip, leaving only the XOR gate, and as few wires as possible.




So I can see if the programmer display anything on the screen while the MSDOS program is communicating with it, and complaining that's it's not the correct model....

Well as you can see, I was well rewarded, glad I made the effort of trying to make it all fit no the bench !  8)

When I had a look at the manual for the 5000 model, I saw among many other things, that the 5000 had a cool feature where you could use it a regular serial terminal to spy serial coms for general purpose debugging... neat eh ?

Well looks like my 3000 model is doing just that !  8)

The coms appear to be plain text, great, and the programmer displays it in real time. It's even nice enough to keep the menu bar visible once the screen is full with text.

So what do we see ?

Looks like it's a quick exchange. The MSDOS S/W sends a couple lines of text, and the programmer replies with the same, and then it just repeats endlessly.

They are nice enough to have programmed the font with special symbols to represent non-printable ASCII characters like <CR> <LF> and also this <EX> one which I didn't know but Googled an ASCII table and it most likely stands for the control character 0x03 = ETX = End of Text.

It seems likely, because this EX symbol is used only once by both the PC and the ROM3000, as the very last character they send.



So the format appears to be :

1) first the PC send the keyword "BOOT", then <CR> to start a new line. Then repeats BOOT again, this time followed by numerical value / parameter, which probably meaning " Who am I talking to  please ? "". then ends the string with that ETX control character.

2) Then the ROM3000 replies in the exact same manner, using the keyword " HELLO " .. well more like HELO because French people are so good at English eh...  :palm: especially 40 years ago when this thing was designed. Then new line, repeats the HELLO keyword and send his reply, which contains 3 numerical values followed by a string representing the revision number of the system : " 5.40 AP " whic matches what it displays, flashing, when it boots the on the system disk. So it adds up.

However the label on the floppy says it's version " 5.5 APR "... so either they meant to write 5.4 AP, or they meant to write a 5.5. APR image disk on that floppy.....




Anyway, that's super cool, I am so happy I made such a mess of my bench, sometimes you get rewarded !  8)


VIDEO of the experience !!!   I start with the programmer already booted, with the menu bar at the top, then I start the MSDOS S/W, and you can see the COMS scrolling by on the programmers screen.

« Last Edit: December 29, 2022, 11:41:12 pm by Vince »
 
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Offline pcprogrammer

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Re: Vintage chip Programmer : " Micropross ROM 3000U "
« Reply #95 on: December 30, 2022, 05:57:38 am »
Hi Vince,

interesting results, but I think your interpretation is off. My view on it is that the PC sends BOOT and then the programmer replies with BOOT 00. Then the PC sends HELO to inquire for the model information and the programmer responds with HELO 00 30 00 5.00 5.40 AP.

What you can try is to just use a terminal program like hyperterm and send the BOOT command to see what happens. The baud rate might be low as 1200. You can use a scope on the signal to try to measure it. Based on the bit pattern of the letters it should not be that hard to do so.

Cheers,
Peter

Offline VinceTopic starter

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Re: Vintage chip Programmer : " Micropross ROM 3000U "
« Reply #96 on: December 30, 2022, 10:14:45 am »
interesting results, but I think your interpretation is off. My view on it is that the PC sends BOOT and then the programmer replies with BOOT 00. Then the PC sends HELO to inquire for the model information and the programmer responds with HELO 00 30 00 5.00 5.40 AP.

After a good night of sleep... I think you are perfectly right, makes more sense !  :-DD
Plus it's common practice for a recipient to repeat the keyword of the sender, as an acknowledgment, to increase reliability of the coms.
Also, that " EX " character at the end of the reply from the programmer, is probably again a safety feature, means " I am done, I have sent everything I wanted, I am not going to send anymore data to you, you can send me a new command whenever you want ".

What you can try is to just use a terminal program like hyperterm and send the BOOT command to see what happens. The baud rate might be low as 1200. You can use a scope on the signal to try to measure it. Based on the bit pattern of the letters it should not be that hard to do so.

Yes ! I need to do that.... 1200 yes I think I read somewhere in the manual taht it's a common default value for these programmers, or a suggested value. I think it sais that it can 19,2000 bauds maximum, but that for reliable operation you really would be well advised not exceed 9,600 bauds grand maximum. I guess it all depends on the length and quality of the serial cable is being used.

Problem of course, as you can see... bench is FULL ! How on earth do you expect me to access and use a scope ?!  :-DD

I guess I can make some space by rendering the programmer headless again... get rid of the big TV, the bread board and video board, close the lid of the programmer.... might do it. Maybe I could even get rid of the programmer altogether and just probe the end of the serial cable directly rather try to probe it while both ends of the cable are being used...
The programmer won't b able to reply but the PC should still at least send the first character in " BOOT ".... I should get a 'B'....  UNLESS the PC uses H/W flow control (and the manual says it can, the pins on the programmers DB25 are all wired up.... ) hence I am screwed.

But let's just try zand see what happens !  ;D



STAY TUNED  !!!  >:D
 
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Offline Robert763

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Re: Vintage chip Programmer : " Micropross ROM 3000U "
« Reply #97 on: December 30, 2022, 10:21:09 am »
On DD / HD disks and drives there are two issues. First is the level of magnetisim used. Second is the width of the head and the track it makes. The magnetism is more of a problem when trying to write a HD disk in a DD (or SD) drive. The HD drive can identify a DD disk (hole in corner) and adjustments made. So this does not affect his case.
The head / track width can be an issue. The heads in SD/DD disks are wider than those in a HD. If a DD disk is written in a DD drive (wide tracks) and then written to in a HD drive not all of the existing track is over written. This does not affect the HD drive because it only reads the track it wrote.  If it is then read in a DD drive you can get bad data because the had covers both the remains of the old track and the new narrow one.

To stop this problem if using a HD drive to write a DD disk it is best to use a brand new disk, a freshly erased one or one that has only been written in a HD drive. After writing on it in the DD drive don't write to it again in a HD.

All this depends on a lot of variables so it is not 100% certain what will happen, but it is my experience from using lots of disks in lots of different drives and machines over the years. I still have some used DD 3.5" disks that came from a buliding society (bank) and had been bulk erased. They are the best for use in odd systems.

Robert.
 
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Offline VinceTopic starter

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Re: Vintage chip Programmer : " Micropross ROM 3000U "
« Reply #98 on: December 30, 2022, 10:53:20 am »
Thanks Rob, interesting details !  :-+

So to minimize headaches, it's best as was already suggested before I think... that I just pull the drive out of the programmer, and shove it into my vintage PC.

I think that's what that guy on the French forum might have done... need to scroll back and re-read the thread more carefully and start taking notes....

For the fun of it I will try to see if there is a way, just by looking at it, to tell if a drive is HD or DD. I could look at my stock of old drives and see if I have a DD one maybe. Just for the fun.

 

Offline VinceTopic starter

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Re: Vintage chip Programmer : " Micropross ROM 3000U "
« Reply #99 on: December 30, 2022, 12:17:11 pm »
OK made some mandatory space on the bench... removed the big TV and the programmer itself altogether... that made just enough to fit the HP MSO, perfect for the job... takes little space on the bench, light, and the Megazoom feature makes it an excellent tool for the job at hand, I love it. Too bad its logic analyzer is geared toward // system only, it can't do serial decoding it seems... that was not the hype back then I guess... It's more targeted at 8 CPU systems I guess. Can sniff an 8 bit bus + up to 8 control signals & clocks.

I installed the "SeriatTest" monitoring S/W that Neomys suggested on TEA... I can't get it to work. Looked at the help files and it does say that needs to be used in conjunction with a serial cable that redirects to another COM port... I don't have these cables nor a second COM port. It really doesn't look like spying serial chatter generated by an MS-DOS application is possible without a second COM port and special splicing cable...  >:(

Anyway, I used SerialTest as a simple terminal, to send characters to the scope so I could set things up.
I am rusty so it took me 30 seconds to remember that the RS232 voltage levels use a reversed logic... negative voltage means logic high, so I asked the scope to invert the signal... much better.

Also forgot if the bits were sent LSB or MSB first... sent a few "test" characters to help me with that... looks like it's LSB first.

OK so then I fired up the ROM300U MS-DOS S/W, hoping it would send its keyword "BOOT"..... but no. It does not send anything at all.... which means it probably requires the use of H/W control lines, bummer. So I have no choice but bring back the programmer onto the bench... it's gonna be very messy again  :palm:

Plus I don't have a breakout box to scope the traffic if both ends of the cable are being used, so I need to cobble something together, sure is not going to look pretty  ::)

« Last Edit: December 30, 2022, 12:24:57 pm by Vince »
 


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