SBC6120 PDP-8SBC6120 PDP-8
Helpful SBC6120 OS/8 Windows Utilities

Fast copying between Windows and SBC6120 drives.
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The act of installing the vintage classic OS/8 operating system onto the IDE-compatible drive attached to the SBC6120 once required an two megabyte, binary OS/8 system partition image to be converted into octal ASCII text, then transferred using at 9600 baud by a prompting-aware terminal emulation across the SBC6120's serial interface. Having done that once, and watching three hours pass slowly, and since there were other partitions, such as the OS/8 games collection, I decided to create an instantaneous solution.

The result are the three freeware programs enumerated below, which allow an SBC6120's storage drive to be connected to any Windows-based PC, and for Windows files containing SBC6120 partition images to be copied back and forth, in either direction, instantaneously. The “InstallOS8.exe” program incorporates the bootable OS/8 system partition image, built-in, so it will instantly perform the job that previously required a separate partition image file, several additional utilities, and three hours of data transfer time.

SBC6120 OS/8 Windows Utilities & Partition Images:


These utilities operate at the “raw” drive level, allowing them to function with the PDP-8's non-Windows file system. The target drive may be attached by any means available: direct IDE cable, SATA-to-IDE convertor, USB-to-IDE, Firewire-to-IDE, etc. Or if you're using a Compact Flash (CF) or Secure Digital (SD) card, any way you have of connecting that storage to a Windows PC will work.

Where's the source code?
Full source code has been provided for every other aspect of GRC's work with the SBC6120 PDP-8 system. But the SBC6120 Windows utilities were written in GRC's own highly-stylized assembly language which is dependent upon a collection of GRC's non-public proprietary header, include, and code library files. The raw source code is, therefore, not suitable for public disclosure.

Each utility's name explains its purpose, and running the utility from the MS-DOS command prompt will thoroughly explain its operation. For reference, the result of running each utility with the 'help' verb is shown below:

“InstallOS8” — Installs a bootable OS/8 partition image.

InstallOS8 Help Command-Line Output:

InstallOS8 - for Bob Armstrong's SBC6120 PDP-8 Single Board Computer. (ver 1.1) 

 Usage:      InstallOS8 pppp     : Installs a bootable instance of the PDP-8
                                 : OS/8 operating system to the PREFORMATTED
                                 : SBC6120 partition.  For safety, pppp MUST
                                 : be exactly FOUR octal digits 0-7, and the
                                 : target partition (usually 0000) MUST HAVE
                                 : been preformatted with Bob's "DF" command.

             InstallOS8 help     : Outputs detailed instructions.Set console
                                 : to many lines, or redirect output to text
                                 : file for reading and/or printing.

 Operation:  Installs a bootable instance of the PDP-8 OS/8 operating system
             onto any "partition" of any type of physical drive attached, by
             any means - IDE, SATA, USB, Firewire, etc.- to a Windows system
             (NT & later). Partition in this context refers to Bob's meaning
             of the way his BIOS "partitions" large ATA drives into separate
             1 megaword (12-bit words) blocks of 4096, 256-word OS/8 blocks.

             Since SBC6120 and OS/8 compatible ATA drives will not contain a
             Windows-style filesystem, this utility operates at the physical
             level below the file system. This, in turn, means that attached
             drives will not have a "drive letter" assigned by the operating
             system. To facilitate recognizing the special SBC6120 drive and
             to prevent inadvertently installing OS/8 onto a Window's drive,
             YOU MUST FIRST FORMAT the drive's target partition by using the
             SBC6210's "DF" (drive format) command. This will write a highly
             specific recognition pattern to the indicated target partition,
             which will allow this utility to uniquely identify the physical
             drive unit and partition ... to which the built-in copy of OS/8
             will be written.

             Step 1: Attach the ATA drive to the SBC6120 and boot the SBC.
                     The drive should be acknowledged with its make/model
                     as the SBC6120 BIOS completes its boot.

             Step 2: Issue the command:  DF 0000
                     Confirm that you wish to format the device partition.
                     You can also format any other valid partition(s) to
                     prepare them for receipt of copies of OS/8.

             Step 3: Attach the ATA drive - by any means - to Windows and
                     wait a moment for the system to recognize the drive's
                     attachment. (No drive letter will be created, but the
                     "Safely Remove Hardware" icon should appear in the
                     Windows system tray.)  You should also be able to see
                     the attached drive under Windows Drive Management:
                     Right-click "My Computer", choose "Manage" then select
                     "Disk Management".  If a "Initialize and Convert Disk
                     Wizard appears, just cancel Windows helpfulness.

             Step 4: Issue the command:  InstallOS8 0000
                     The physical drive will be located and the indicated
                     "partition" will be verified using the formatting from
                     step 2 above, once this has been confirmed, OS/8 will
                     be decompressed from within this executable and written
                     to the indicated physical "partition" of the ATA drive.

             Step 5: Since Windows may "write cache" the writing, be sure to
                     wait until all drive writing activity has stopped. You
                     should "Eject" the drive by left-clicking on the "Safely
                     Remove Hardware" icon and choosing to eject the drive.

             Step 6: That's all there is to it.  Reattach the drive to Bob's
                     SBC6120 board, fire it up, and use the "boot" command
                     "b" to boot the OS/8 operating system in partition 0.

 Copyright:  This program contains a built-in image of Digital Equipment
             Corporation's PDP-8 OS/8 operating system. Although OS/8 is,
             and remains, the copyrighted property of DEC/Compaq/HP, DEC
             has previously granted permission for its use with Bob Supnik's
             PDP-8 emulator, from which this image was indirectly derived.
             It is my firm and evidence-based belief that the current
             copyright holder would have no objection to this re-purposing
             of this OS/8 operating system image for non-commercial use.

 FREEWARE by Steve Gibson (grc.com) to benefit the PDP-8 / SBC6120 community.

“WinToAta” — Copies a Windows file to an SBC6120 ATA drive partition.

WinToAta Help Command-Line Output:

WinToATA - for Bob Armstrong's SBC6120 PDP-8 Single Board Computer.  (ver 1.0) 

 Usage:     WinToATA pppp : Copies an SBC6120 IDE image from a Windows file
                          : to a pre-formatted SBC6120 partition on any ATA
                          : drive attached to the Windows system.  The pppp
                          : specifying the SBC6120 partition *MUST* be FOUR
                          : octal digits 0-7, and the target partition MUST
                          : HAVE been preformatted using Bob's "DF" command

            WinToATA help : Outputs detailed instructions.  Set the console
                          : to many lines or redirect output to a text file
                          : for reading and/or printing.

 Operation:  Copies a 2,097,152 byte Windows file, containing the image of a
             PDP-8 OS/8 operating system partition - in the SBC6120 format -
             onto any "partition" of any type of physical drive attached, by
             any means - IDE, SATA, USB, Firewire, etc.- to a Windows system
             (NT & later). Partition in this context refers to Bob's meaning
             of the way his BIOS "partitions" large ATA drives into separate
             1 megaword (12-bit words) blocks of 4096, 256-word OS/8 blocks.

             Since SBC6120 and OS/8 compatible ATA drives will not contain a
             Windows-style filesystem, this utility operates at the physical
             level below the file system. This, in turn, means that attached
             drives will not have a "drive letter" assigned by the operating
             system. To facilitate recognizing the special SBC6120 drive and
             to prevent inadvertently installing OS/8 onto a Window's drive,
             YOU MUST FIRST FORMAT the drive's target partition by using the
             SBC6210's "DF" (drive format) command. This will write a highly
             specific recognition pattern to the indicated target partition,
             which will allow this utility to uniquely identify the physical
             drive unit and partition ... to which the built-in copy of OS/8
             will be written.

             Step 1: Attach the ATA drive to the SBC6120 and boot the SBC.
                     The drive should be acknowledged with its make/model
                     as the SBC6120 BIOS completes its boot.

             Step 2: Issue the command:  DF pppp  (where pppp = partition)
                     Confirm that you wish to format the device partition.

             Step 3: Attach the ATA drive - by any means - to Windows and
                     wait a moment for the system to recognize the drive's
                     attachment. (No drive letter will be created, but the
                     "Safely Remove Hardware" icon should appear in the
                     Windows system tray.)  You should also be able to see
                     the attached drive under Windows Drive Management:
                     Right-click "My Computer", choose "Manage" then select
                     "Disk Management".  If a "Initialize and Convert Disk
                     Wizard appears, just cancel Windows helpfulness.

             Step 4: Issue the command:  WinToATA pppp  (pppp = partition)
                     The physical drive will be located and the indicated
                     partition will be verified using the formatting from
                     step 2 above.  Once this has been confirmed, you will
                     be prompted for the file to be copied to this location.

             Step 5: Since Windows may "write cache" the writing, be sure to
                     wait until all drive writing activity has stopped. You
                     should "Eject" the drive by left-clicking on the "Safely
                     Remove Hardware" icon and choosing to eject the drive.

             Step 6: That's all there is to it.  Reattach the drive to Bob's
                     SBC6120 board, fire it up, and you should find the new
                     partition present and accessible by OS/8.

 This program is placed into the Public Domain for the benefit of the PDP-8
 and SBC6120 user/hobbyist community.  FREEWARE by Steve Gibson (grc.com).

“AtaToWin” — Copies an SBC6120 ATA drive partition to a Windows file.

AtaToWin Help Command-Line Help Output:

AtaToWin - for Bob Armstrong's SBC6120 PDP-8 Single Board Computer.  (ver 1.0) 

 Usage:     AtaToWin pppp : Copies any SBC6120 OS/8 style partition "pppp"
                          : located on an ATA drive attached to Windows to
                          : a 2,097,152 byte Windows file. The "pppp" MUST
                          : be FOUR octal digits 0-7. The source partition
                          : MUST be a valid SBC6120 OS/8 volume.

            AtaToWin help : Outputs detailed instructions.  Set the console
                          : to many lines or redirect output to a text file
                          : for reading and/or printing.

 Operation:  Copies the entire 2,097,152 byte contents of any SBC6120 style
             OS/8 operating system partition residing on any physical drive
             attached, by any means - IDE, SATA, USB, Firewire, etc.- to a
             Windows system (NT & later) to a file on that Windows system.
             "Partition" in this context refers to Bob's meaning of the way
             his BIOS "partitions" large ATA drives into separate 1 megaword
             (12-bit words) blocks of 4096, 256-word OS/8 blocks.

             Since SBC6120 and OS/8 compatible ATA drives will not contain a
             Windows-style filesystem, this utility operates at the physical
             level below the file system. This, in turn, means that attached
             drives will not have a "drive letter" assigned by the operating
             system. To facilitate recognizing the special SBC6120 drive and
             to prevent inadvertently installing OS/8 onto a Window's drive,
             the drive's target partition must be a valid SBC6210 OS/8 unit.
             This program will search all attached drives for a valid-looking
             OS/8 unit and, if found, will copy its contents to the Windows
             file specified by the user.

             Step 1: Attach the ATA drive - by any means - to Windows and
                     wait a moment for the system to recognize the drive's
                     attachment. (No drive letter will be created, but the
                     "Safely Remove Hardware" icon should appear in the
                     Windows system tray.)  You should also be able to see
                     the attached drive under Windows Drive Management:
                     Right-click "My Computer", choose "Manage" then select
                     "Disk Management".  If a "Initialize and Convert Disk
                     Wizard appears, just cancel Windows helpfulness.

             Step 2: Issue the command:  AtaToWin pppp (pppp = partition #)
                     The physical drive will be located and the indicated
                     partition will be verified as a valid SBC6120 - OS/8
                     unit. Once this has been confirmed, the partition's
                     entire contents will be copied to the Windows file name
                     prompted for and provided by the user.

 This program is placed into the Public Domain for the benefit of the PDP-8
 and SBC6120 user/hobbyist community.  FREEWARE by Steve Gibson (grc.com).


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Last Edit: May 04, 2013 at 18:12 (1,478.76 days ago)Viewed 3 times per day