The lo-tech ISA CompactFlash adapter continues to be the top selling lo-tech project kit, providing a bootable fixed disk option for vintage PCs with the added satisfaction of being something that can made by the hobbyest. But one question just keeps coming… can it be used with a real hard disk?
The answer is yes, but only ATA-2 disks (typically 80 to 250MB and obviously now long past their use-by date) as it depends on ATA-2 8-bit transfer mode, which of course is still supported by all CompactFlash cards. This makes it relatively simple and small enough for the Sinclair PC200 that was the design motivation. The 40-pin IDE header just avoids fiddly surface-mount CompactFlash headers – adapters are available on eBay very cheaply (random product link).
So to answer the continuing demand for an adapter compatible with all normal IDE drives, I’ve taken the ISA CompactFlash adapter design and added the 16- to 8-bit logic (the MUX) to make it work with normal drives – including SATA drives and SD cards via appropriate adapters (random links: sata adapter, SD adapter). This has doubled the PCB size and increased the chip count from 6 to 15, but here it is!
Adapter In Action
The detail of how the adapter works I’ll cover in another post, but for now here is an IBM PC 5155 booting up from it and running some pattern tests:
Testing so far is limited, but all drives tested have worked, including two SATA drives. Performance wise, it runs at about 250KB/s with a 4.77MHz 8088, and I’d expect about 400KB/s with a V20 (thanks to the REP INSW optimisation).
More details, and PCBs, coming soon!
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