Multi-platform distribution format (Was: Backups [was

Rod Smallwood rodsmallwood52 at
Mon Sep 21 12:51:17 CDT 2015

On 21/09/2015 17:43, Johnny Billquist wrote:
> On 2015-09-21 18:29, Jerome H. Fine wrote:
>>  >Rod Smallwood wrote:
>>> >On 21/09/2015 10:30, Johnny Billquist wrote:
>>>> >On 2015-09-21 02:11, Jerome H. Fine wrote:
>>>>> You bring up a VERY notable lack of support by DEC of that
>>>>> situation!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
>>>>> For both the DEC  RX01 and the DEC  RX02 8" floppy drives,
>>>>> while it might have been possible that DEC engineers were unable
>>>>> to initially figure out how to allow users to perform an LLF (Low
>>>>> Level Format) on the 8" floppy drives, it seems certain that after
>>>>> 3rd party manufactures figured out, DEC could also have supported
>>>>> that function as well.
>>>>> Instead, DEC pretended that all 8" floppy media HAD to be
>>>>> purchased PRE-FORMATTED from DEC.  Well, if you
>>>>> ever discussed that option with a DEC person, it certainly
>>>>> did not seem like the individual was pretending.
>>>>> After I managed to locate a DSD (Data Systems Design)
>>>>> drive which supported the DEC  RX02 floppy drive function,
>>>>> it was game over for that particular DEC monopoly.  The
>>>>> DSD drive was able to perform an LLF for either single
>>>>> density or double density in addition to being both single
>>>>> sided and double sided.
>>>> Not that tricky. All you needed was a way to format into RX01 format,
>>>> which is plain simple IBM single side, single density format.
>>>> RX02 floppies have the same low level formatting. To use them in RX02
>>>> mode just requires flipping a bit in the sector header, and the RX02
>>>> drive is able to do that.
>> I am not sure that I understand your suggestion.  While I agree
>> that the RX02 was able to switch a single-density floppy to a
>> double-density floppy (and visa versa), the difficulty, as you
>> pointed out, was performing the initial LLF (Low Level
>> Formatting) in the first place on Un-Formatted 8" floppies.
>> That may have been easy with IBM hardware, but DEC
>> made that impossible if all the user had was a DEC system.
> Agreed. The DEC RX01 and RX02 drives could not do a low level format. 
> But your comment above suggested you needed to find some special drive 
> and controller combo which supported RX02 floppies, which would just 
> be irrelevant. If you could format the floppy anywhere, to just IBM 
> SSSD format, then you were good.
> The RX02 special stuff is something you then did on an RX02.
>>>>> Note that the RX50 was the same. DEC finally changed
>>>>> their marketing policy with the RX33 drive which used the
>>>>> same 3.5" HD floppy media as the PC.  It was actually
>>>>> possible to FORMAT those floppies under RT-11.
>>>> No, DEC actually did support users formatting RX50 floppies on their
>>>> own, but only on the Rainbow.
>>>>     Johnny
>> If it was possible to perform a LLF using the same RX50 drive on
>> the Rainbow, what was the reason why an LLF could not also be
>> performed on a PDP-11?  There seems to be a number of possibilities:
>> (a)  There was some hardware that the Rainbow had which was missing
>>        on the PDP-11 systems
> No.
>> (b)  The firmware in the controller on the Rainbow supported an LLF,
>>        but the firmware in the controller on the RQDX1, RQDX2 or RQDX3
>>        on the PDP-11 did not support an LLF
> Quite possible.
>> (c)  The Rainbow used a program which DEC supplied that could
>>        perform an LLF, but DEC did not supply such a program for
>>        the PDP-11 systems
> Also quite possible. And would be what Jay Jager claims. I don't know 
> myself. I know that RSX refuses to even try formatting an RX50. If it 
> in fact could, I don't know. But the floppy drive itself obviously 
> could. (One reason why some places bought Rainbows in fact...)
>>>> Take me back to my desk in DECPark thirty years ago and I could have
>>>> pulled out the internal documents on this.
>>>      I cant do that so we will have to make do with my dodgy memory.
>>> When floppy disks first appeared end users just wanted to take the
>>> disk out of the box and use it.
>>> They could not see why they should waste time preparing every new one.
>>> They did not need matching to a particular drive as DEC's
>>> manufacturing tolerances made sure any disk would work on any drive.
>>> In fact it was more difficult and expensive to provide pre-formatted
>>> disks.
>>> It was more about customer service and making sure the equipment kept
>>> running.
>>> I heard the following story
>>> One customer went out and got a huge pile of unformatted (and
>>> untested) floppys and a third party format program.
>>> He expected DEC to make it work.
>>> The account manager asked to see his DEC maintainance contract and had
>>> to be restrained  from  tearing it up.
>>> Through the window of the office was building site and the inevitable
>>> 50 gallon oil drum burning rubbish.
>>> He was offered a choice; he could put the disks or the contract in the
>>> burning drum.
>>> Rod Smallwood
>>> DEC supplied pre formatted disks
>> I don't know how to respond since different individuals will
>> interpret your story in the opposite manner,  So I will add
>> my own experience when I used the RX02 drive from DEC
>> along with the DSD RX03 floppy drive.
>> Around 1990 after I had acquired the DSD RX03 floppy
>> drive in a DSD 880/30 system, I also managed to acquire
>> many brands of 8" floppy media.  At that point, I had not
>> yet managed to acquire any tape hardware such as the TK25
>> which supported a 32 MB disk image, so the floppies were
>> my primary backup.  I probably had about a dozen different
>> brands of 8" floppies that required an LLF before they could
>> be used.  And since a double-density, double-sided 8" floppy
>> media held about 1 MB (1976 blocks) as opposed to about
>> 1/2 MB (988 blocks) for double-density, single-sided media,
>> I set set about the task of enhancing the DEC  DY.MAC  RX02
>> device driver after I found the code in V04.00 of RT-11 which
>> included support for double-sided media.
>> What may be called "interesting" was that DEC had removed
>> all of that optional code in DY.MAC by the time V05.00 of
>> RT-11 was released.  That might have had something to do
>> with the fact that DEC never sold (that I heard of) an RX03
>> drive.
>> In any case, adding and correcting the extra code was quite
>> easy.  The challenge was to also add support for a user buffer
>> being above the 1/4 MB boundary in a PDP-11 with all 4 MB
>> of memory when a Mapped RT-11 Monitor was used since
>> the controller supported only 18-bit addresses.
> This would be the Qbus controller. And that is an annoying detail, 
> yes. You need a bounce buffer in the low part of memory. One of a few 
> Qbus controllers with 18-bit addressing for DMA.
>> Another problem was that the index hole for single-sided floppies
>> was offset about 1/2" from the index hole for double-sided
>> floppies.  That challenge was solved by using a DPDT switch
>> to flip the sensors that were used on the DSD 880/30 and
>> that supported using, as double-sided, floppies with the single-
>> sided index hole.  While a number of 8" floppies had been
>> purchased that had the double-sided index hole, that was less
>> than 10% of the total and after punching the extra pair of holes
>> in single-sided floppies just a few times, it was very quickly
>> apparent that the DPDT switch was a much better one-time
>> solution.  What was initially a surprise was that EITHER the
>> single-sided OR double-sided index hole could be used with
>> the same floppy to access the sectors even though the holes
>> were in different positions.  The timing did not seem to matter.
>> Only the device driver software cared if the bit was set one
>> way or the other, so flipping the sensors which were activated
>> was an excellent one-time solution when the user (me!!)
>> wanted to use a floppy with a single-sided index hole as a
>> double-sided floppy.
>> In any case, the code was enhanced, my version of DYX.SYS
>> supported the RX03 double-density, double-sided floppy drive
>> under a 22-bit RT-11 monitor.  So I set about the job of the
>> LLFs for double-sided 8" floppy media.  As mentioned above,
>> in addition to a couple of dozen 8" DEC floppies, I had about
>> a dozen other brands.  To make a long story short at this point,
>> the results were "interesting".  Every non-DEC branded 8" floppy
>> could hold an LLF for double-sided, double-density.  On the other
>> hand, I seem to remember that only about 2/3 of the DEC 8"
>> floppies managed to complete the LLF.  The other 1/3 of the
>> DEC 8" floppies could hold an LLF on the normal first side,
>> but not on the second side.
>> Obviously this story was somewhat different since it was not
>> necessary to ask DEC maintenance to make the LLF capability
>> with the DSD 880/30 to work - it already worked.  In addition,
>> there was no DEC maintenance contract in the first place and
>> there was no 50 gallon oil drum.  There was also no refusal
>> by DEC to enhance the DY.MAC device driver to support
>> the RX03 floppy drive since DEC was not asked.
>> Over the decades since, I have always wondered how it was
>> even possible for ONLY the DEC 8" floppies to be unable to
>> take an LLF double-sided when every other brand managed
>> to do so.  There was probably one floppy that was so severely
>> damaged that it would not take an LLF on either side, but that
>> was a specific exception.  Any 8" floppy which could take a
>> double-sided, double-density LLF held the data successfully
>> when used in practice.
> Probably qualification differences. DEC only cared if one side was 
> good. So floppies with one bad side were still acceptable for DEC, 
> since they only used one side anyway.
> Floppies sold as double sided needed to pass testing on both sides.
>     Johnny
How true it was I don't  know It came from the Product Line (marketing).
The person who I got it from passed away a few years back.

You need to know how DEC worked to understand how things like sell only 
preformatted  came about.

Sales policy was  a product line decision.

The Product Lines would decide what they needed for their particular 
market and put a business plan together.
  This included what sort of products and services they required.
If the board agreed the plan then the product line would have funds 
available to
go to the various provider groups (R&D, Manufacturing, Sales, Field 
Service etc.) to get what they needed .

If you consider DEC corporate like a venture capitalist and the 
marketing groups as companies needing to fund a product.
Then thats not far off.

Dec was strong on engineering but  the marketing groups defined what got 
sold and how.

As a DEC Salesman you usually worked for one product line.
When asked who was your biggest competitor the answer was usually DEC!
What was ment was another product line offering the same product at a 
different price.


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