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View Full Version : Suggestions for a good 'tweener' system?



nathan
September 27th, 2013, 12:50 PM
My collection of vintage hardware has grown over the years, but I'm still left with the constant frustration of how to get data to and fro. I've used several solutions, but none really seem as convenient as having a so-called 'tweener' system that can both access a windows share on the network AND write 360KB/720KB/1.2MB/1.44MB floppies.

In terms of finding one of these, what models/specifications do you experienced guys recommend? Is there an 'ideal' machine for this use?

Also, if anyone has an appropriate machine and is interested in making a deal, let me know. It's hard for me to source old hardware locally, and eBay prices are pretty much extortionate. Seriously, $300 for a Pentium Pro with no HDD nor peripherals?

Thanks! :)

Stone
September 27th, 2013, 01:21 PM
My tweener runs DOS 3.3, DOS 6.22, WIN98SE DOS (for FAT32 with a command prompt on a large {>528MB} hard drive), WIN ME, WIN XP and anything else I care to have it run. These all run on a machine with a 233 MHz CPU on a board with four PCI and three ISA slots. I have two mobile hard drive racks in two of the 5" bays so it's simple to switch drives (and OSes) in an instant. It also has both floppy drives, is on my network and hosts my dot matrix printer for the rest of the network with its parallel port.

k2x4b524[
September 27th, 2013, 01:27 PM
My Tweener - when it's running, sports 64mb ram on a pentium 166-mmx chip, and will happily run anything from dos 3.3 - 6.22, win 9x - 2000/xp-sp3 has 1 scsi dvd-ram caddy loader a 29gb scsi hdd and 3 ide 8gb, also sports one drive of each - 360kb, 1.2mb and a 720kb / 1.44mb / 2.88mb drive, i am thinking of moving it to a super 7 k6-2 500 if i can find one in a baby-at style board.

SomeGuy
September 27th, 2013, 01:52 PM
You will want at least a Pentium 1 ~200mhz or more, and a motherboard with a real FDC header and BIOS support for two floppy drives, and a case with room for them. Having a USB port can be handy too. For the OS, either Windows 95 OSR2 or Windows 98SE . The "NT" line or Linux won't let you do all the things you may need with the floppy controller. Win9x DOS 7.1 will let you do all the normal DOS things, and give you access to FAT32.

In general, any later model Windows 98SE desktop PC should do, and people are still throwing those out.

One thing to decide on, do you need 360k or 1.2mb disks? You can't reliably write 360k disks with a 1.2mb drive.
If you need to make disks for a machine with 360k drives then you will need to add a 360k drive. Since most machines only support two drives you have the choice of 1.44mb/360k 1.44mb/1.2mb, or 1.2mb/360k.

Another thing to decide on, is if you may use the machine for other hardware testing. In which case, an ISA slot can be helpful. Machines later than ~2001 or so don't have those.

barythrin
September 27th, 2013, 02:35 PM
Mine broke but was a K6-3 450 full tower. Large system but could have as many expansion cards as I could ever want and had support for about any type of media other than 8" which I never ended up scraping away that floppy adapter to create one.

The important parts to me were network access, and a real dos ability or unix OS (I had it either triple or dual booted with 98se and FreeBSD) depending on what I wanted to image, 5.25" and 3.5" drives, a burner of some sort (cdrw was fine but probably dvdrw these days would be more practical). Large drive(s) for storage, SCSI controller was a later addon for accessing nix (Sun, SGI, DEC) and Amiga drives. But it was my main system also at the time.

I always wanted one of those dual floppy drives but guess it never really mattered. Probably could have been smarter and put a double/low density floppy as well as the 1.2MB 5.25 in there but hadn't previously experienced any data loss from using DD disks on an HD drive but admittedly most of my 5.25" I can't read in my older system anymore which could be that fault or perhaps they're just old or my Zenith could be having issues. Dunno.

Agent Orange
September 27th, 2013, 03:27 PM
My 'tweener' is a FIC FW37T mobo socket 370. You can still buy this board, NIB, for less than $50.00. I use the Intel Tualatin 1.4 MHz CPU with 512 MB of PC100/133 memory. This board has on-board video, audio, USB, serial, parallel, and 3 PCI slots. Also, it has legacy floppy/IDE headers. Eventually I added a Zotac Nvida GeForce GT610 video card. The OS is a dual boot setup with Xp (SP3) and MS-DOS 6.22. I use both, 3.5/1.44 and 5.25/1.2 floppies. I used all new parts where possible, with the exception of the CPU, which was $7.00 off eBay. Sweet machine, does everything I want it to do.

http://www.ebay.com/ctg/First-International-Computer-FW37T-Socket-370-Intel-Motherboard-/74043544#alurl-/ctg/First-International-Computer-FW37T-Socket-370-Intel-Motherboard-/74043544?_pppn=v3&rt=nc&LH_ItemCondition=1000&_dmpt=Motherboards&_fln=1&_pcatid=512&_pdpal=1&_sgz=1&_ssov=1&_trksid=p5360.c0.m1539-state-15_all_qqq_48390

RickNel
September 28th, 2013, 04:12 PM
I'd spec any tweener to have both ISA and PCI slots. That generation all have parallel ports. You can add USB and ethernet with PCI cards.

Rick

Chuckster_in_Jax
September 28th, 2013, 04:54 PM
The last motherboards to have ISA slots were somewhere in the 450Mhz to 500Mhz range. My tweener has an Asus P2B-s 450Mhz with built in SCSI and IDE controllers.
It's one of the fastest boards that still has ISA slots.

Chromedome45
September 28th, 2013, 05:34 PM
Have a socket 478 P4 system which has 2 ISA slots. A real oddball.

My Tweener is a Socket-7 Pentium 233 with a 360k and a 1.44mb disk drives. Has 4 PCI and 4 ISA. One ISA slot is used with a Adaptec AHA-1542 SCSI controller. I don't use the SCSI portion of the board but the floppy controller due to it's being able to handle single density. Mainly this is for my TRS-80 Model 1 system. Which uses single density. OS is DOS 6.22 and Windows 98.

Trixter
September 29th, 2013, 10:40 PM
I don't have much to add other than Windows 7 supports multiple floppy drives if your motherboard does. Proof attached (click to enlarge, I think?):

15422
So, if you want to have a modern Windows on your tweener, it is possible. Stay away from Windows 8 though... that thing is junk.

I like to put a dual-drive-in-one in my tweener. I have a few Epson (?) drives that are 3.5" and 5.25" in the same 5.25" bay.

Chuck(G)
September 30th, 2013, 08:52 AM
I have several tweeners; the one that gets used for a lot of stuff uses dual P3 750 MHz CPUs and 2GB of memory and is rack-mounted. It has 3 ISA slots. But I have several other systems that will get hauled out for special uses as well. All have ISA slots; most have PCI slots.

ISA support can be found on some Socket 478 P4 boards, but said support can be quirky, often not supporting 8-bit DMA. It's probably safe to stick with chipsets no later than the Intel 440 and the contemporaneous VIA 133. But you can get to 1GHz and beyond with that.

SomeGuy
September 30th, 2013, 09:43 AM
ISA support can be found on some Socket 478 P4 boards, but said support can be quirky, often not supporting 8-bit DMA. It's probably safe to stick with chipsets no later than the Intel 440 and the contemporaneous VIA 133. But you can get to 1GHz and beyond with that.
Ah, so that is where the DMA issues started. I'll have to remember that.

My Abit KT7A Rev1.3 (Apollo KT133/VT82C686B chipset) has a single ISA slot, and was among the last commonly available boards that I recall seeing with ISA. The Rev 1.3 supports up to an Athlon XP 2000+ (1666mhz). In theory you could go even a bit higher with a slightly overclocked mobile Athlon and a modded BIOS. And I've run everything from Windows 95 to Windows 7 32-bit on one of these boards.

Chuck(G)
September 30th, 2013, 09:55 AM
The earliest board that I have that has the ISA DMA issues is an FIC KC-19+ that uses the Intel 820 chipset (with RDRAM yet). So the 440 seems to be the last Intel set that can be depended upon to work reliably for ISA DMA.

Soyo made a line of Socket 478 boards with ISA slots, but also said that ISA DMA was not supported. I think Supermicro also had one.

fatwizard
September 30th, 2013, 10:01 AM
This seems like a good post to ask a question about problems I've had building a tweener system. My "tweener" system is a P90 tower with an Intel Plato motherboard. It has both PCI and ISA slots and sports a 1.44 and a 360K floppy drive, and an old Mitsumi burner. It runs Windows 95 and works very well on the network. I use this old system because I have never been able to get a 360K drive to operate properly in Windows 98 or above. The drive shows up in the system, but will not access disks. It will claim the disk needs formatted, then the format fails. This is using disks and drives I know to be operational. Obviously many others have not had that problem, and I would love to know what I am doing wrong.

Stone
September 30th, 2013, 11:17 AM
While I can't address your main question I can suggest a general work-around that tends to make life much simpler in general. If you format your 360K disks in a 360k drive you can then write the data to them in a 1.2MB drive without having the compatibility issues. So, in effect, you can have a 5.25" HD drive in your tweener as long as you use preformatted 360K disks in it. I do this regularly and it saves lots of hassles. As it turns out it's the 1.2MB track that the 360K drives have problems with and not the 1.2MB written data itself.

SomeGuy
September 30th, 2013, 12:08 PM
The drive shows up in the system, but will not access disks. It will claim the disk needs formatted, then the format fails. This is using disks and drives I know to be operational. Obviously many others have not had that problem, and I would love to know what I am doing wrong.
It sounds as if it might be treating it as a 1.2mb drive. Is the bios set to 360k? Does it have the same problem both from real mode Win9x DOS and inside Windows as well? Perhaps try setting the drive type to 720k might do something different? Did you have a 1.2mb drive in that location previously? Is this Win98 FE or SE? A quick Google around for additional issues suggests this Win98 floppy driver update might help: http://www.mdgx.com/files/Q262232.EXE



If you format your 360K disks in a 360k drive you can then write the data to them in a 1.2MB drive without having the compatibility issues. So, in effect, you can have a 5.25" HD drive in your tweener as long as you use preformatted 360K disks in it.
That may work well enough between a specific set of drives, but in practice compatiblity is not 100%. That is important if you want to give the disks to someone else or use them in a drive you have never tested before.

Stone
September 30th, 2013, 01:01 PM
That may work well enough between a specific set of drives, but in practice compatiblity is not 100%.Do you have specific cases to support this. I have done this over and over for years with numerous drives and I have yet to run in to this problem.