Friday, 13 June 2014

The Universe conspires...

After mucking about with 80 column text mode, the one last thing I wanted to do was grant myself the small honour of being the first to see Lode Runner running on a real Coco3 in glorious colour.

Given there are several ways to transfer a coco program to a real Coco - cassette, floppy or DriveWire to name a few - I figured it shouldn't be that difficult. So I gave myself a few hours off this afternoon and set up my Coco 3, which has been sitting on the shelf for a few years now.

The first hurdle was video display and, with no suitable monitors at hand, I hooked up my custom analogue RGB to DVI box that worked a few years ago. Except all I got out of it was a solid blue screen. With limited time, I abandoned that idea and instead hooked up the TV's composite input, a process that involved going out and buying some batteries for the remote since there was no other way to switch to AV mode. Finally, at least I had some manner of display.

Next step was the floppy disk drive. The drive I used last time - several years ago - clunked when selected but wouldn't spin up. Fortunately I had a stack of them on hand, but I was fast running out when the 4th one I tried finally sprung to life. Popped-in my (Sockmaster) Donkey Kong floppy that I wrote all those years ago, and it loaded! I had also acquired a pair of joysticks since then, and couldn't resist a quick play since I'd never been able to actually play it before - wow!

Last time I wrote Coco disks with a 5-1/4" floppy in my PC; that machine is now long-gone and the floppy drive whereabouts unknown at this point. I found a few PC floppy drives, but unknown capacities. A moot point though, because I soon discovered my office PC BIOS doesn't support floppy drives. Next option was to power-up a few of the old PC motherboards sitting out the back, but I was running short on monitors and the state of the few power supplies I'd found was dubious at best. It just wasn't looking like it was going to happen that way.

Next option, DriveWire,but I needed to boot-strap the driver. CLOADM (cassette) seemed to easiest option so I grabbed my cable and attempted to download via the WAV file from the PC. All I could manage was "BOOT FAILED", and gave up after 10 attempts. Then I remembered my custom cartridge PCB's; after powering-up the positively ancient laptop connected to the EPROM programmer and waiting 35 minutes for an erase, I managed to burn a copy into ROM (and subsequently found another with HDBDW (HDBDOS-DriveWire) written on it!). That resulted in "BOOT FAILED" again, though I suspected this time what I needed was a DriveWire server on the other end.

Unable now to find my DriveWire cable, I was scratching my head because I knew I'd used it before. In the end I gave up, and on the drive home I realised that I'd used it on Coco3FPGA running on the TerASIC DE1 board, so the cable was different anyway - Doh!

Last resort was converting the Lode Runner files to WAV files and then loading the via CLOADM. When I finally found a utility to convert Coco BIN files to cassette WAV, I was disappointed to discover that it wouldn't work with multi-segment BIN files, and Lode Runner is definitely multi-segment. As an experiment I tried one of my small files and it wouldn't work anyway. I was defeated.

So at this point I am unable to get Lode Runner across to my Coco3, without either setting up a PC with a floppy drive (my preferred option) or making up a DriveWire cable. So I'm afraid I'm going to take my bat and ball and go home (not release the Beta) until I've done so. Sorry!

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