My SDCard HxC 2001 Floppy Emulator Adventure

One of the problems (and hassles) of playing with certain vintage computers today is their dependence on floppy disk media.

While floppies manufactured way back when keep their bits together far longer than you might think — around 95% of my Apple II 5.25-inch floppies from the late ’80s are fully readable — time does take its toll. “New” double density 5.25- and 3.5-inch floppies are basically impossible to source, though random sacks of used floppies are pretty easy to find on eBay. But, even so and despite the charm of occasionally sliding a floppy into a drive, we’ve all long ago gotten used to launching apps from a fixed disk, making the floppy shuffle a bit of a hassle.

Happily, some nice solutions to the retro computing fan’s floppy disk problems have started emerging in the last few years, thanks to the numerous, easy to work with microcontroller kits that have become available. I’ve seen microcontroller-based floppy emulators that serve up disk images from flash storage arrive for many of the beloved platforms of old.

The most flexible of these I’ve seen is the SDCard HxC Floppy Emulator. This device works with any system utilizing a Shugart / IBM PC floppy interface and, as such, sports an impressive list of compatible systems, including:

Computers: Amiga, Atari ST and Falcon, Amstrad CPC464 and CPC6128, MSX2, IBM PC compatible, TI-99/4A, NEC PC88, Sharp X68000, Sam Coupe, ZX Spectrum, TRS-80, Dragon 32 and 64, ACT/Apricot, Perkin-Elmer Model 3030, Kaypro 4-84

Keyboards / Samplers: Ensoniq EPS and Mirage, Emax and Emax II, E-mu Emulator and Emulator II, Oberheim DPX1, Korg DSS-1, Yamaha Clavinova CVP-83S, Prophet 2000, Roland S-50

I ordered one from Lotharek in Poland (for around $110) and a few days later it arrived here in the states.

The SDCard HxC Floppy Emulator comes with an attached 2-line, backlit LCD display which is used, in conjunction with three control buttons, to browse the disk images on the inserted SD card and select titles for mounting. Disk selection on the system I bought the unit for, my Amiga 2000, is made even easier thanks to a downloadable Amiga disk image that loads a disk selection program on the Amiga, giving a much clearer view of the available images.

Despite the Amiga loader program, I still wanted to keep the unit’s LCD and control buttons in easy reach, so I used drill and Dremel to install the (detachable) LCD and a set of external buttons in my Amiga’s unused 5.25″ drive bay faceplate.

The results are pretty nice, I think.

I’ve had great fun with the newly enhanced system so far, but I’ve still got to site down and fully populate the SD card with hundreds of games and demos. I do wish the Amiga disk image loader program featured a PAL / NTSC softswitch, as my Fat Agnes can’t take a physical switch at J102. And next I definitely need a floppy emulator for my Apple IIs, several of which are happily in the works right now. (More on that when there’s more to tell.)

A tip of the hat goes to Andy Taylor and his Retro Computers blog. It was a post of his in late March that put the HxC 2001 on my radar.

This entry was posted in Amiga, Just Rambling and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

7 Responses to My SDCard HxC 2001 Floppy Emulator Adventure

  1. Brett says:

    Wow, that’s a really cool idea if you want to retain the feel of sticking a “floppy” disc into a classic computer system. I ‘d never go through that much work myself (I’d just get an emulator), but it’s still a great concept. Nice job.

  2. Blake Patterson says:

    @Brett: Well, I am definitely a fan of the feel of the real metal, but am pretty satisfied with emulation for most platforms — but not the Amiga. It’s such a comparatively complex architecture that I can often feel a difference.

    • Scott says:

      Hi there,

      I messaged you on Flickr last night. I was just wondering. Do you have any clear pics of how you wired up your external buttons? I purchased buttons the same as yours. I followed the traces and I can figure out where to connect the buttons but not where to connect their grounds. I’m a bit of a n00b when it comes to hands on electronics work so, any help you can offer is greatly appreciated. I have the wiring harness made for the LCD screen so I am all set there.

      Thanks,

      -s*

  3. Pingback: Another satisfied HxC floppy emulator user! | Retro Computers

  4. manh hoang says:

    Buy product HxC
    We want to buy your product HxC, to replace the old computer that still boot from a floppy, in Vietnam, we contacted you in any way for the most convenient. Please let us I quotation of the product HxC. Thanks!

  5. Roben says:

    Quite truly cool! Well done. Unfortunately I have no require for one now, but I can’t sit tight for the Amiga form

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