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April 20, 2017

The Quest for Floppy, Part III

Filed under: Main — admin @ 12:01 am

In our last episode, I had ordered an $8 adapter, a male-to-male PATA adapter, so that I could use a $30 USB gizmo to read a 5¼-inch floppy diskette on a modern PC.

The gizmo has finally arrived. From China. Via their version of snail mail. But it’s here!

The gizmo is shown in Figure 1. It’s pitifully simple, but not the most common piece of PC hardware in the world.

Figure 1. The male-to-male PATA adapter.

To read the 6¼-inch floppy drive, the USB drive adapter connects to the PC, then to the PATA adapter, then to a floppy drive ribbon cable, then to the drive itself.

The first problem I encountered was the the drive’s ribbon cable — the female part that plugs into the male PATA adapter — is too fat, as illustrated in Figure 2.

Figure 2. Oops.

Not one to give up, I modified the adapter, shaving off the top and bottom parts so that the cable would fit. After a few minutes with an X-Acto knife, my efforts are shown in Figure 3.

Figure 3. Hacking the PATA adapter.

Yet, even after shaving off the connector, the pins are too narrow to make the parts fit. I considered bending the pins, but at this point that would require a lot of labor and might just break off the pins.

My only option left is to cut the ribbon cable and manually insert each wire into the proper hole on the USB adapter. That’s a true hack, but potentially dangerous as one of the wires carries the current that powers the floppy drive’s motor. On the upside, however, only a few of the wires are required to make the connection happen.

At this point, however, it seems like a futile effort just to get a 5¼-inch drive up and running. I’m not even certain if Windows has the proper drivers available to make that happen. Further, I lack media to read, so in the end I might get the drive to work but have nothing to do with it.

In the future, I may pursue the project further, but I’m a bit frustrated now. So I’ll let it rest.

By the way, if you’re curious, the USB adapter is available at Amazon. It can read just about any loose drive, providing you have the proper adapter, of course. Here’s the link:

2 Comments

  1. Good point about drivers, my 3 1/2 USB drive appears as a USB Mass Storage device, though it will still read and write(?) to floppies though.

    Comment by glennp — April 20, 2017 @ 7:28 am

  2. I suppose I’ll never find out about 5¼-inch floppies. 🙁

    Comment by admin — April 20, 2017 @ 8:48 am

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