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GoTek 1.44M 3.5" Floppy Emulator Tear-down

Rating: 7 votes, 5.00 average.
On a whim, I picked up a GoTek 3.5" 1.44M floppy emulator from eBay for just under USD$29 shipped.

It arrived in a padded mailing envelope with a "China Post" shipping label. Inside, inside of a plastic bag was a "mini" CD and the GoTek unit with a couple of mounting screws.

Here's a top view of the GoTek next to a traditional (NEC) 3.5" 1.44M drive:

Attachment 11542

Here's what the front looks like:

Attachment 11543

There is a two-digit LED 7-segment display that shows which disk image that you're working with. There's a USB "A" female connector for the USB flash pen drive and then two buttons and LEDs. One button increments the tens' digit of the image number; the other, the units' digit. There is no carryover--each button cycles 0 through 9.

Here's the odd thing--there's a green LED that shows when the drive is selected; there's another hole in the panel for a red LED that shows when the USB stick is being written to, but the LED leads were not bent into place, as a subsequent photo of the innards shows. I bent it into position and it works fine.

Chinese craftsmanship.

Note the 3 recessed holes on the top in the first photo--inside of each is a Phillips-head screw. Unscrew all three and the plastic case comes apart. The cable attachments match those of a standard 3.5" drive:

Attachment 11544

Note that there's also two headers in addition to the usual power connector and cable interface. The larger header appears to handle things such as drive select number. The smaller 10-pin header that I thought at first was a JTAG programming header turns out to be a connection for an external 7 segment display and selection butttons that parallels the internal one.

Okay, so what's in this thing?

Attachment 11545

Not much, is there? The 64 pin TQFP in the middle of the PCB is an ST Micro ST32F105RBT6 ARM MCU, complete with 32KB SRAM and USB OTG. The small crystal can is an 8MHz job and the SOIC is a plain-Jane 74HC04 hex inverter. The voltage regulator is a AMS1117 3.3V 1A LDO unit and there are various discretes.

One interesting aspect was the 4-wire interface to the 7-segment displays consisted of power and 2 I/O lines from the MCU. On the display board itself, there are a bunch of current-limiting resistors for each LED display segment and two 74HC164 8-bit shift registers. So the MCU just shifts in the conents of the display. No decoders or anything fancy.

This could have been done with three wires (one MCU I/O by placing a 100K resistor in series with the shift register data input. A short pulse then strobes in a "0"; a long one, a "1". But apparently that's too clever by half.

Let's take a look at how the thing operates (as intended next)...

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  1. gerrydoire's Avatar
    I have a 1.44Meg Capable floppy card inside my IBM PC, so I figured what the hell:

    Purchased one of these gotek things today, works like a charm, if you have a XT IDE, you really don't need one of these things, but hey it's all useless when you really look at, just another tinker toy for the pile.

    It booted IBM Dos 7.

    Scouting the internet, I seen another emulator that could do 1000 floppies, but for the price they wanted, not worth it.

    If you have a 1.44 meg floppy card inside your 8-bit computer and do not have an XT IDE, go for it.
    Updated March 18th, 2013 at 04:08 PM by gerrydoire
  2. otacon14112's Avatar
    Interesting! But if I may ask, what is a floppy emulator used for? I mean, it obviously emulates floppy disks, but how would you use it?
  3. Chuck(G)'s Avatar
    Suppose you have a library of floppy images; put them on a USB stick and use the Gotek gizmo in place of a floppy drive and never have to deal with the spinning rust again.

    Not every computer has a hard drive or network capability.
  4. otacon14112's Avatar
    Ok, nice. I have just always used floppy disks instead. This would be really handy.