Forum etiquette

Our mission ...

This forum is part of our mission to promote the preservation of vintage computers through education and outreach. (In real life we also run events and have a museum.) We encourage you to join us, participate, share your knowledge, and enjoy.

This forum has been around in this format for over 15 years. These rules and guidelines help us maintain a healthy and active community, and we moderate the forum to keep things on track. Please familiarize yourself with these rules and guidelines.

Remain civil and respectful

There are several hundred people who actively participate here. People come from all different backgrounds and will have different ways of seeing things. You will not agree with everything you read here. Back-and-forth discussions are fine but do not cross the line into rude or disrespectful behavior.

Conduct yourself as you would at any other place where people come together in person to discuss their hobby. If you wouldn't say something to somebody in person, then you probably should not be writing it here.

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Contribute something meaningful

To put things in engineering terms, we value a high signal to noise ratio. Coming here should not be a waste of time.
  • This is not a chat room. If you are taking less than 30 seconds to make a post then you are probably doing something wrong. A post should be on topic, clear, and contribute something meaningful to the discussion. If people read your posts and feel that their time as been wasted, they will stop reading your posts. Worse yet, they will stop visiting and we'll lose their experience and contributions.
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"PM Sent!" messages (or, how to use the Private Message system)

This forum has a private message feature that we want people to use for messages that are not of general interest to other members.

In short, if you are going to reply to a thread and that reply is targeted to a specific individual and not of interest to anybody else (either now or in the future) then send a private message instead.

Here are some obvious examples of when you should not reply to a thread and use the PM system instead:
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Why do we have this policy? Sending a "PM Sent!" type message basically wastes everybody else's time by making them having to scroll past a post in a thread that looks to be updated, when the update is not meaningful. And the person you are sending the PM to will be notified by the forum software that they have a message waiting for them. Look up at the top near the right edge where it says 'Notifications' ... if you have a PM waiting, it will tell you there.

Copyright and other legal issues

We are here to discuss vintage computing, so discussing software, books, and other intellectual property that is on-topic is fine. We don't want people using these forums to discuss or enable copyright violations or other things that are against the law; whether you agree with the law or not is irrelevant. Do not use our resources for something that is legally or morally questionable.

Our discussions here generally fall under "fair use." Telling people how to pirate a software title is an example of something that is not allowable here.

Reporting problematic posts

If you see spam, a wildly off-topic post, or something abusive or illegal please report the thread by clicking on the "Report Post" icon. (It looks like an exclamation point in a triangle and it is available under every post.) This send a notification to all of the moderators, so somebody will see it and deal with it.

If you are unsure you may consider sending a private message to a moderator instead.

New user moderation

New users are directly moderated so that we can weed spammers out early. This means that for your first 10 posts you will have some delay before they are seen. We understand this can be disruptive to the flow of conversation and we try to keep up with our new user moderation duties to avoid undue inconvenience. Please do not make duplicate posts, extra posts to bump your post count, or ask the moderators to expedite this process; 10 moderated posts will go by quickly.

New users also have a smaller personal message inbox limit and are rate limited when sending PMs to other users.

Other suggestions
  • Use Google, books, or other definitive sources. There is a lot of information out there.
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Resuscitating Old Storage/Hard Drives

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    Resuscitating Old Storage/Hard Drives

    I think this topic has been beat to death; not just a dead horse but a greasy stain in the pavement, but I'd like to start fresh if I can.

    There are a lot of modern day solutions to permanent storage for vintage systems; XT-IDE/CF is the big one, but in the spirit of keeping systems wholistic, what do you do for old MFM/DLL hard disk drives? I have an IBM 5161 with two full height 20 meg hard disk drives in them, they're loud but not screeching and both successfully low (unconditional) and high level format. On the other hand, I have two PS/2 8525's each with hard disks that while will successfully low level (unconditional) format, don't want to low level (conditional) or high level format at all. They're not loud, they don't screech, but just don't want to fully function. Any hope at all for those or chalk it up to just bad luck?
    Daniel P. Cayea - The Lyon Mountain Company - Plattsburgh, New York 12901
    Vintage Equipment: IBM 5150 * IBM 5161 * ThinkPad 770ED
    Modern Equipment: MacBook Pro 13 * Alienware M15R3

    [QUOTE=lyonadmiral;n1206763 not just a dead horse but a greasy stain in the pavement,
    Can't help with your problem, but you could quit your job and go to NYC and be a comic. Haha Hoho Hehe.

    Surely not everyone was Kung-Fu fighting
    SE Michigan


      Spinning media forever!

      The problem with most low-level programs, especially those in ROM BIOSes, is that they usually do no verification whatsoever. Heads can be crashed, or a data cable can be disconnected, and they will still report success. It is up to the high-level format programs (such as DOS Format) to detect errors, but those will unhelpfully just bomb out at the first serious error.

      So before giving up on the drives, I would at least try to get a better idea of what is really going on. SpeedStor: can do a read verification scan. If there are NO readable tracks, then I might suspect a cabling or electronics failure. If tracks on one head are bad, then it might be a crashed head. If track zero is bad, but others are readable then it might be a damaged track zero.


        Another thing to keep in mind to is that the tolerances on electronic devices (chips, capacitors, resistors, etc.) change as they age. On older devices it is more likely that somebody can debug a problem, or even an intermittent problem, but it's going to require skills and equipment - software alone isn't going to do it.

        Here is a simple example - one of my Xircom Ethernet adapters went bad. It turned out to be the on-board FLASH that holds the MAC address and device specific data. It can be recovered, but I don't have the programmer or soldering equipment I need to it myself. And the Xircom is nowhere near as complex as a hard drive.

        Spin your drives up and exercise them once in a while. That's the best solution for preserving them. Or at least detecting when things start to go bad.


          Old MFM/RLL ST506 interface hard drives go bad for several reasons in my experience:
          1. The medium (coating) itself degrades. Gradually, bad spots grow and erupt. Nothing to be done here.
          2. Head crashes--if the failure damages the head, the drive is beyond repair. If it damages the medium, you may get away with just a bad spot.
          3. Mechanical failure--bearings go dry; plastic parts degrade go gummy or crumble. Motor winding short or go open.
          4. Drive electronics fail--capacitors die, ICs fail, etc.
          Of these, perhaps 3 has some measure of recovery and 4 is possible only if the problem can be diagnosed and repaired by a skilled person. The others likely relegate the device to paperweight status.

          I have no doubt that in 30 years, people will be wondering how to recover/repair flash-based devices.


            I finally cracked one open and you wouldn't (or maybe you would) believe the amount of specks inside from where either the head scraped surface material off the platters or it began flaking off. If you can check out this video (once it finally uploads).
            Daniel P. Cayea - The Lyon Mountain Company - Plattsburgh, New York 12901
            Vintage Equipment: IBM 5150 * IBM 5161 * ThinkPad 770ED
            Modern Equipment: MacBook Pro 13 * Alienware M15R3


              I'd say that drives with plated media are probably worth a try at salvaging. The ones with brown coatings, perhaps not so much.