foone Profile picture
4 May, 86 tweets, 15 min read
look I'm not saying it's Bad Ideas O'Clock but hey you know that period when Intel was making Pentium II/III CPUs that fit into slots? and how there were adapters to let you fit socket 370 chips into them instead?

Sure is a lot of space on that board.
what if you didn't put a socket 370 chip on there? you have plenty of room for other chips and any interfacing circuitry you need
I wonder how well you could build a "Slotket adapter" that didn't adapt from a socket 370 pentium to a slot 1 pentium, but instead just had a modern ARM chip or two?
you could have a windows 95 box but now it's powered by a octo-core Snapdragon 888
although the fun thing about using chips like that is that they're not just CPUs. they're full on system-on-a-chips in a way that doesn't really slot (NO PUN INTENDED) into the CPU model used by these old motherboards
like you don't expect your pentium II replacement to have an LTE modem and bluetooth and accelerated video capture
very few PC CPUs have had onboard cameras because it's fucking pointless
although I guess if you wanted to be able to show off your RGB lighting FROM THE INSIDE that'd be an option
oh god please tell me no one has seriously mounted a webcam inside their PC case to better see their RGB lighting
I, for one, have already mounted at least one (sometimes two!) devices inside my PC which are supposed to be external, thanks to some slightly dodgy USB adapters, but that's too far even for me
the most difficult part in building this (and there are a lot of difficulties and no one would do it, let's be real) would be that you're sticking a 64bit processor with completely different memory semantics into a 32bit motherboard
you would basically have to build it to treat the whole motherboard as an external device, with RAM local to the CPU card.
Which, to be fair, you would want to do anyway.
there aren't a lot of Slot-1 motherboards which support DDR5 ram
it's more like... SDRAM, up to nearly a gigabyte.
I wonder if android has support for the ISA bus
because I mean it's one of the most common if not the most common ARM-based operating systems and it also runs on x86 so maybe it runs on old x86? and it's linux-based, mostly, so probably it inherits a lot of support
but at the same time I can easily imagine a lot of "well we'll never need that!" noises coming out of google or android before them (yeah, google didn't make android: they bought it)
I do actually have an ISA2USB (or USB2ISA?) adapter but
A: it's shit
2: there is definitely no android support for it. I can't even get it working on Windows, let alone android.
but it's something to think about when I build my own usb-to-ISA adapter. Someday.
I've actually been thinking about that a lot recently but for an indirect reason: PCMCIA!
in the pre-USB age, PCMCIA was the expansion method for 90s laptops, and one type of PCMCIA card was the "PC CARD ATA", which is a flash card that acts like an ATA(/IDE) drive.
it's a great way to expand the limited internal storage of a 90s laptop, but a really shitty data transfer medium, for a very simple reason:
There aren't readers for it.
because that's the thing, it's ALWAYS just an ATA drive that connects over PCMCIA. So if you want to read or write to it? you put it in a 90s laptop.
ok technically you could cheat a little and use one of these:
This is a device that adds PCMCIA slots to a desktop computer. It hooks into an ISA slot, and it has to.
and that's because PCMCIA is basically just ISA.
ISA was the bus PCs were using! So all the CPUs and supporting chips and everything already talked ISA.
Even if they don't have any ISA slots, most 90s laptops were, internally, ISA.
so obviously if they're gonna make an add-on card standard for it, it's going to be ISA-based.
PCMICA is basically just ISA with a different connector and a little bit of extra work to make it hotpluggable.
which poses a minor problem if you're trying to use a PCMCIA card in 2021, you know?
I don't know about your computer but mine doesn't have any ISA slots
I checked.
so I have a modern windows 10 computer here and a PC Card ATA... card in front of me and I want to get data onto it. How?
and it turns out the easiest answer is "go get a 90s laptop and copy files onto that using a network or a CF card or something, then mount the PCMCIA card in that, and copy files over"
which works, yes, but it's not the smoothest workflow. and it takes up a lot of room.
so it'd be really cool to just be able to plug a PCMCIA card into something that plugs into my main PC and just copy files over. It's just an ATA drive, my PC can talk to those just fine.
there actually is one company making devices that do this.
They are nearly 500$…
so I've been thinking about figuring out how these PCMCIA cards work, and seeing if there's any shortcuts I can take. Maybe it's possible to talk to them with a very limited number of pins needed, and build a relatively simple PCB which communicates with it and USB
anyway the reason I care about PC Card ATA cards is because it turns out that's the only PCMCIA storage that will work on my Police Terminal.
The other two main types of PCMCIA storage, SRAM cards and Linear Flash, don't work in it.
And there were adapters which take all kinds of memory cards like CF and SD/MemoryStick/SmartMedia and convert them to PCMCIA... yeah it doesn't work with those, either.
CF in particular really should work. CF to PCMCIA cards are simple, they're basically just a pass-thru. PCMCIA support is included in the CF card spec, it just needs adapting to fit the different socket.
anyway time for some light morning reading
BTW a fun thing about PCMCIA ATA is that it's not just for flash cards pretending to be IDE hard drives.
There are actually IDE hard drives that fit into PCMCIA slots!
amusingly I googled "PCMCIA hard drive" to find a picture and that one came up.

it's my picture. I'm sitting at that desk right now.
that hard drive in the picture is in a box behind me.
anyway I've been thinking about taking apart one of these cards, but that tends to be destructive (they're glued together!) and where am I going to find a useless PC Card ATA?

oh right.
I don't know why Sony thought anyone needed a TWO MEGABYTE hard drive.
The fun thing about it being ATA is that it means this is probably one of the smallest ATA drives ever made.
PC Hard Drives back in the 5150 era started at 5mb and went up, and they weren't even ATA/IDE yet.
They used the ST506/ST412 interfaces from our good friends at Seagate.
sadly I don't think anyone ever built a ST506-over-PCMCIA adapter.
Removed the metal panel, which was both glued and clipped in.
Weirdly it's got a plastic cover inside that? it doesn't look like there's anything that could have shorted out, so I don't know why.
that flash chip isn't blank.
That flash chip has been SANDED.
Come on Sony, were you scared people were going to steal your flash chip?
This chip has Sun... Something? on it but that "SC414281PU4" is a motorola part with no info.
This fucker is probably custom silicon for this specific purpose.
so yeah. that wasn't a useful teardown.
although @ohgodwhatdoiput pointed out the logo is "SunDisk", which was SanDisk's original name.
also I didn't realize Western Digital has owned them for 5 years.

Clearly some spinning-rust companies realize that their days are numbered if they don't refocus on flash.
The labeling on top of the chip makes me think it has an eeprom in it that has been programmed to tell it it's 2mb. if I knew how that worked I could possibly upgrade this card by adding more flash chips
but given that it has 4 spots for mounting flash chips and 1 chip is 2mb, that sounds like it'd max out at 8mb
and I've already got a couple 10mb PC Card ATAs.
also what dingus named them that way?
yes, I know "PC Card" is the newer name for PCMCIA but what, do you expect people to call them "PC Card ATA Cards"?
Anyway the next thing to test with my police terminal is some Microdrives in a CF-to-PCMCIA adapter.
These aren't flash, they're actually just VERY TINY HARD DRIVES. Regular CF didn't work, but @lasombra_br mentioned these and I remembered I hadn't tested them.
Maybe, being actual hard drives internally, they'll be more ATA-ish and will therefore work? Who knows!
(They're probably too big to work anyway)
Floppy for scale.
I like how I was like "oh, people might not know how big CF cards are. I know, I'll compare them to something everyone knows the size of... A FLOPPY DISK!"
NOPE! they don't work. same "Buh-dup" PCMCIA-insertion-failed noise I get with flash CF cards in adapters. (and SD cards, smartmedia cards, memory sticks, XD Photo... I did a lot of testing)
this computer is so fucking picky about PCMCIA cards.
I think it's because it's a police car terminal.
All Cop-puters Are Bastards.
The 2mb card still works, even naked.
Still 2mb and still empty.
So there are USB to IDE devices like this, right?
(Which are badly named: They're not IDE, they're ATA, and a specific version of ATA, because that's easier to implement. This is why I don't trust them with old drives),
in theory they already do most of what I need.
Maybe one of them could be modified to talk to an PC Card ATA?
but if PC Card ATA to regular-ATA was possible, wouldn't there already be adapters to do that?
like, IDE port on one end, PCMCIA on the other?
fuck me
yeah, here's another one.
it specifically says "ATA" next to the slot, to indicate this is for PC Card ATA.
now the only question is where to find one.
also, I found this on ebay.
They're clearly trying to work around... something by mirroring their images. but I can tell by reading it backwards that it supports PC Card ATA
I love old flash memory.
yeah, flash memory always comes in nice powers of 2, like... 48mb?
ooh, 128mb pc card ATA.
I wonder if that'd work in my police terminal?
so far the most I've managed to get it to support is 20mb
ahh, another good power of two, 220mb
12mb? really?
it's only a matter of time before I get so deep into ebay that I find one that's like "6.75mb" or "13⅓"
there seems to be a real problem with PCMCIA card readers and being mirrored
the worst thing is when you find these old pre-decimalization drives, and they're all "6 megabytes, 4 shillings and sixpence"
btw it turns out SanDisk made an EIGHT GIGABYTE PC Card ATA. I'd be tempted to get that but that seems like the height of arrogance to even imagine it'd work on my police card terminal.
also it costs the same as a modern 8tb drive.

so there's that.
but my police car terminal definitely doesn't have SATA so it's never going to be able to use a 6gb/s Seagate BarraCuda, no matter how cool and green it is.
also it wouldn't fit. even if it had a sata port, there's no where you could fit a 3.5" hard drive into the terminal
seagate's really out here selling some 5400RPM spinning rust as "fast", eh?
ahh, another nice power of two, 520mb
that one actually makes sense: they're building almost the largest pre-LBA hard drive you could do.
Because the IDE limitations and BIOS limitations didn't exactly match, a 137gb limitation and a 8.5gb limitation combined to make a 528mb limitation.
so presumably someone somewhere was dealing with some laptops or other portable computers that were still dealing with the BIOS+IDE limit and they wanted maximum non-LBA sized disks.
PCMCIA on PCIe? I wonder how well this works.
it has two reviews on amazon and they both say it doesn't work and there's no drivers

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