More Hardware Shenanigans

This weekend I was rather busy catching up on housework and replacing some parts on my motorbike after going on a short holiday. So I was unable to really find any time to play a game for writing about. I did however find some time to do a little bit of hardware tinkering with some new bit and pieces I’ve recently acquired.

Compensating the probes

Compensating the probes

Firstly I recently bought myself a decent oscilloscope for the purposes of fixing old computer hardware and to help with hardware projects. I bought a Rigol 2000 series 70Mhz scope which was about 900 Australian Dollars (inc GST). So far I’ve found it pretty easy to use and have been able to probe points all over my poor ZX Spectrum which seems to have destroyed another video chip. Using it I have located a capacitor that looks like there is no voltage reaching it so the board may have power issues or that cap may be bad. In any case the scope I got seems quite good, and even though I only ever used an old school analog scope back at Uni I’ve found this one easy to do what I want with it.

The second thing I brought back from a holiday to see my parents recently. It is the original 5 inch floppy drive from our old Twinhead 386sx computer we got when I was a kid. It is a Canon MD 5501 drive that unfortunately has seen better days, it originally had a problem when my well meaning Dad tried cleaning it. After he cleaned it reading disks became basically impossible, and the eject mechanism eventually began to stick. We thought the drive was dead, but it probably just needed proper lubrication and alignment after Dad messed with it. Not knowing this I removed the power connecter from it some years later for connecting up some fans I was wiring up for my then computer chassis.

Floppy drive minus shield

Floppy drive minus shield

So the drive requires heaps of attention to try to restore it. But so far I’ve been quite successful in freeing up and lubricating the eject and head mechanism with some simple silicon spray. It now looks pretty good mechanically! I’ve soldered on a power connecter cannibalizing a Molex to dual SATA power converter. It’s not as tidy as the original connector but it seems to work. I have yet to work out how to go about re-aligning the heads but that is the next challenge!

Because the original main board for our 386sx is still functional I am entertaining the thought of re-building our old machine. The main problem being I don’t have the original chassis as it got rusted when the external CMOS battery leaked. Fortunately the main board survived this, but being what it is, it doesn’t fit any chassis I have laying around. I guess that’s not an issue until I get to putting it in a pretty case!

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