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Thread: Backpack Floppy Drives

  1. #1

    Default MicroSolutions Backpack Floppy Drives

    I thought I would start a thread to put together all of the information about Microsolutions backpack floppy drives and also make it part of my external 5 1/4" floppy drive project. There are a bunch of threads filled with useful information strewn everywhere on the forum. Here is my attempt at combining all of the information into one thread.

    First, the auction on eBay that is currently providing these things for $1 each in their original shrinkwrapped box.

    I copied the driver CD that comes with them to ISO for anyone needing it. It has files for the hard drive, cd-rom drive, and floppy drive versions of their products.
    BackpackCD200.iso

    Here is a flyer for their products (also here: backpack flyer):
    Quote Originally Posted by modem7
    A TSR for them:
    Quote Originally Posted by Chuck(G)
    Here you go--this is a real-mode TSR for the backpack that supports all INT 13H BIOS functions. Somewhere I have the Win9x VxD code if you're interested. Sorry, no XP or NT code--the product timing was wrong for it. But there's enough here to write an NT-style driver if you're interested--have at it! [...]. It's all MASM 6.11 code and should be pretty much self-explanatory.
    (attached as NECPACK..ZIP and available here: NECPACK..ZIP)

    Some more great information thanks to Chuck(G):
    Quote Originally Posted by Chuck(G)
    These things are pretty neat in that they have a standard 1.44MB floppy combined with a NSC 8477 controller, a small (8051) microcontroller and some (16K, I think) RAM and a bit of NVRAM for storing configuration data. Commands are sent via the parallel port as if you were talking directly to the controller. There's nothing an ISA floppy controller can do that these babies can't--including single-density support.

    The other tidbit is that the controller in each one of these will support up to two 360K/720K/1.2MB or 1.44MB drives (and probably 2.88M). Just pull the PCB out and set your unit up with whatever.
    Here is a tip on how to take apart the 3 1/2" floppy enclosure:
    1. 4 tabs located on the sides on the top part, push them in to release cover.
    2. Slide floppy forwards to lift out
    3. Gently bend back a tab on one side of the controller, hold with finger, then bend back the next tab back on the same side to release the controller board.

    Power:
    The backpack 3 1/2" floppy power supply puts out 5v 1amp, center positive.

    Circuit board:
    P4 seems to be for a standard molex connector, +5,GND,GND,+12

    The post that started it all, and the person who deserves all the credit for this!
    Quote Originally Posted by Chuck(G)
    If you need a parallel 5.25" backpack (for use, not just to have something pretty on the shelf), you can take a standard 5.25" drive (or better yet, a dual 3.5"/5.25" drive)), supply your own power supply to the drive and connect it to the board from a 3.5" Backpack and use it that way. Every Backpack floppy drive has a NVRAM/EEPROM on it to hold configuration information for up to 4 drives. Simply use the SETID utility that comes with the drive and add the command-line switch "/DRIVETYPE".

    Bingo--you're in business. Supply your own 5.25" enclosure.
    An example of what not to do with these:
    Quote Originally Posted by raven
    I hooked a Trantor MiniSCSI adapter chained to a backpack 1.44MB floppy chained to a ZIP250 up to my Sr. Partner on DOS2.11, and trying to run the backpack driver caused the external HDD I had on the Trantor to fry itself and smoke went everywhere.

    DO NOT DO THIS! :O
    Alternatives:
    MicroSolutions did in fact make an external parallel 5 1/4" enclosure. If you find that you are golden.
    This company is now making 5 1/4" USB controllers: (insert site here if I can find it again)

    Don't forget the Parallel (25 pin) to USB adapter!
    Attached Files Attached Files
    Last edited by mikerm; May 23rd, 2010 at 06:14 PM.
    Mike
    An equal opportunity collector.

  2. #2

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    Good post! Once I receive them I'm going to try getting a 2.88M drive to work in one of these things. I'm not realy savvy with the command thingies but I'll figure it out eventually

  3. #3
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    I'll add a bit more--the earliest 3.5" backpacks were housed in a metal enclosure with a permanently-attached drive cable. They used a 13.5VAC power supply. Later ones had plastic enclosures that look just like the current crop being offered--but used a 9VAC power supply.

  4. #4

    Default

    Ok, so I have had moderate success with this. Pics to come.

    It's in a 5 1/4" enclosure that worked out almost perfectly. It already had a split off the main molex power connector the drive to power the parallel board, so I de-soldered the 2 pin header off of the parallel controller the encluser came with and put it on the backpacks controller in a non-destructive way. Everything fits in great.

    The drive I got was a combo. I don't have a standalone 5 1/4"

    So, on a computer with the backpack driver loaded (with parallel), it only sees the 3 1/2". No matter what it seems I can only see the one. Still playing with it though.
    Mike
    An equal opportunity collector.

  5. #5
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    It's probably only seeing the 3.5" drive because it's driving just one of the drive select lines. IIRC, the combo drives have the built-in equivalent of the twist seen in most floppy cables.

  6. #6
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    Run the SETID utility with the DRIVETYPE argument; i.e. SETID DRIVETYPE After setting (or not) the ID, you'll be prompted for the drives on your controller. You can have 2 of them, although the controller can support 4 (I don't know if the firmware will, however).

  7. #7

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    Doh, I posted in the Microsolutions + link thread asking about a thread like this one...Good morning Tetrium!! Coffee? Yes please!!

  8. #8

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    Quote Originally Posted by Chuck(G) View Post
    Run the SETID utility with the DRIVETYPE argument; i.e. SETID DRIVETYPE After setting (or not) the ID, you'll be prompted for the drives on your controller. You can have 2 of them, although the controller can support 4 (I don't know if the firmware will, however).
    I tried that, but it just only asks me to set the ID and that's it.

    I have the floppy drive on the very end of the cable after the twist, maybe it needs to be before?

    Edit: By golly I think I gots it, drivetype with NO slash in front.
    Mike
    An equal opportunity collector.

  9. #9

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    I finally received my ordered drives yesterday

    I first tried installing the driver in XP...wouldn't work ofcourse.
    Then I tried it on one of my older rigs with windows ME...I can comfirm it will NOT work with ME, atleast not out of the box

    I resorted to using my sole pre-ME system, a 486DX4 with win95, I installed the drive (which was very straight forward, very easy), checked if it worked (it did), did the drivetype command and set it to 2.88M, shut down, replaced with a 2.88M floppy drive, reboot and it works!

    So I can hereby comfirm that these external drives will work with the 2.88MB floppy drives, although it seems to work somewhat slower then having the 2.88M drive build into the system directly.
    But no matter, I've been wanting an external 2.88meg floppydrive ever since I learned of the format


    These backpack drives are really excellent, very flexible!

  10. #10
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    Of course it's slower - parallel port vs internal bus.. You might get better results if your parallel port is set to ECP or EPP mode and all that, so check on that.. Good to hear the 2.88MB mode works - was quite possible it didn't, seeing as we're replacing the drive internals and using undocumented functions, and 2.88MB isn't/wasn't ever that popular compared to the others.
    More commonly known as "Yushatak" - www.yushatak.com
    Focused on 486 and Pentium Machines
    I collect All-In-One PCs and Keyboard PCs, especially Compaq.

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