µIEC/SD Beginner’s Tutorial – Part 1

Posted: July 13, 2012 in Commodore 64

Searching my favorite BBS for alternatives for the drive 1541, I’ve found a very interesting product. It is called µIEC/SD, and it is available at Retro Innovations (http://store.go4retro.com/products/uIEC_SD.html).

Funny the fact this guy called the store “Retro”, because the device he’s selling is very advanced compared to the other hardware available in our 80’s.

The hardware is a small electronic board with a slot that accept a very tiny floppy disk called SD Card. It is like one square inch, but can hold dozens of diskettes in it. You can read a complete description about the device capabilities following the link above.

The mini-diskette (called SD Card) seems an Alien technology compared to the currently popular 5 1/4″ floppies.

The device has cost me $1,400 dollars. It is very expensive compared to Commodore’s 1541, which they are selling for about $300, but considering its capabilities, it seems to worth it. I believe that in 30 years this thing won’t cost more than $60 dollars (I wish I will be alive in 2012 to see this coming!).

Well, let’s go down to the business. The device was sent wrapped in a anti-static plastic and bubble wrap. It was well protected, but the only two printed material in the package were the invoice and the open source license. There was no instructions on how to connect the device, or how does it work, which is very bad for beginners like me. I’ll try to write down my discoveries in this post to, maybe, help other people.

I’ve bought the Deluxe edition which contains the daughter board. I have also to buy the cable, but if you have already a spare 1541 cable, you don’t need a new one. Another point that can scare some people is the fact that the board doesn’t have any case to enclose it, which doesn’t hurt but gives the impression the whole set is too fragile.

uEIC and daughter board

The two connectors enable you to connect the device to the computer, and also to a 1541 unit.

Physical Installation 
Although there is no instructions, the physical installation is straightforward if you, like me, choose the deluxe model. The daughter board has that blue connector which is intended to be plugged into the cassette port at the back of the C64. The serial cable has to be connected to the disk port on the computer, and to any of the two connectors available in the board. If you have a real 1541 unit, you connect its cable into the remaining connector. The photos below show the device already installed in my Commodore 64.

Side view, showing the connection into the cassete slot.

Top view of the board already hooked up

Operation
If it is correctly hooked up, using the device is very similar to the way you use the 1541 unit. First and foremost, after turning on the computer, uEIC will take the device id #10. Although there are utilities that will make my life easier (like the DOS Wedge), I’ll use nothing more than the standard BASIC commands.
If you want to send a command, you can use the following format:
 

OPEN 15,10,15,"[command goes here]":CLOSE15
Where 10 is the default ID number of the device. If you can, I recommend change it to 8 by default, since there are lots of games/applications that uses it. To do that you have to issue a command setting the new device ID number, and then save it to the persistent memory. This way, when you turn off your computer, the change will be preserved.
OPEN 15,10,15,"U0>"+CHR$(8):CLOSE15
OPEN 15,8,15,"XW":CLOSE15
Note: Notice that the second command already opens the drive new ID (8 instead of 10).
After this is done, you can basically use standard BASIC commands like LOAD and SAVE the same way you do with a 1541 for example.
Next time I’ll cover a little of the specific commands to manage the uIEC.

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Comments
  1. josepzin says:

    Hi from RetroInvaders!

    I have added your posts to RetroInvaders, if you have any problem write me to info@retroinvaders.com

    Your posts: http://retroinvaders.com/en/blog/388

    Best regards!
    Josepzin

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