The World’s Supply Of DB-19 Connectors

[Steve] over at Big Mess O’ Wires has a very, very niche product. It’s the Floppy Emu, a hard disk emulator for the Apple II, Lisa, and very old Macs. The Floppy Emu takes data stored on an SD card and presents it to these classic computers through a contemporary connector, the venerable DB-19. This connector is in the same family as the familiar DB-25 parallel port, DE-9 serial port and the old DA-15 joystick port, but there’s something very special about the DB-19 connector – nobody makes it anymore, and no surplus electronics store has any in stock. They’re unobtanium, and when you’re making a product built around this connector, you’re going to have a few problems.

Those problems have come to a head over the past year, but getting a few thousand DB-19 connectors manufactured has always seemed just out of reach. It would be a five-figure investment for a very niche product, and [Steve] would have to find someone to make the connectors.

The world’s shortage of DB-19 connectors is no more. After chatting up a few people in the NeXT and Atari communities, [Steve] set up a group buy and manufactured the first batch of DB-19 connectors in recent memory. The world’s supply of DB-19 connectors, all 10,000 of them, is now in [Steve]’s living room.

The process of manufacturing ten thousand DB-19 connectors actually wasn’t that hard for [Steve]. Over the past year, he’s reached out to manufacturers to get a quote, and he still had those numbers in his rolodex. The only problem was finding an engineering drawing of a DB-19 connector and transferring a large amount of money to Hong Kong. The drawing was easy enough, as datasheets sometimes last longer than the parts they describe. Transferring the money over to the manufacturer meant convincing a bank manager there is not a Nigerian prince in Hong Kong and thirty minutes of paperwork.

After a few months, a round of prototyping, and a trip through customs, the world’s supply of DB-19 connectors finally landed on [Steve]’s porch. He still needs to ship them out to the NeXT and Atari folk who participated in the group buy, but the great shortage of DB-19 connectors is over for now.

45 thoughts on “The World’s Supply Of DB-19 Connectors

  1. It makes sense if the demand was there, otherwise couldn’t you fabricate a functional equivalent on a 3D printer? Assuming the individual inner metal sockets are a standard part or not that hard to make.

    1. I once bought a DB-9 (or DE-9 or whatever) where the metal sockets were supplied uninstalled, you had to put them into the plastic shell yourself, after snapping them off the strip they were stamped from. Classy! So yes you could buy some of those, and just plop them into a 3D printed whatever-size plug you liked.

    1. Steve tried to make a PCB with pins in but found the pin profile to be different enough to cause reliability issues. See http://www.bigmessowires.com/2016/02/23/db-19-substitute-take-two/

      Making a 3D printed version would have exactly the same issues and also require significant time + effort to make in large quantities. If you just need a handful for a personal project and you’re willing to spend some time tweaking then sure, just 3D print it.

    1. “‘But wait!’ says the well-intentioned blog reader, ‘this web site over here has DB-19P connectors for sale right now!’ They may claim to have them, but trust me, they don’t. Electronics parts suppliers seem to make a habit of listing available items that aren’t actually available, whether out of laziness or as an intentional bait-and-switch, I’m not sure. But if you call them or try to actually order the parts, you’ll find they don’t exist.”

      Did you even read the article?

    2. THey have them by the same supply theory as has been used in the chemical industry for 75 years. List it and, if a big enough order comes in, try to find a source. Max Gergel, Excuse Me Sir, Would You Like To Buy A Kilo of Isopropyl Bromide? for an entertaining history of such in that industry.

      1. Dunno about you but I personally wouldn’t place a large order for a rare component (much less a chemical, in spite or perhaps because of the zeal of Gergel and his ilk) with an unknown supplier without first having some discussion about how and when the order will be fulfilled.

  2. if you are just building an emulator for your own system you could do one or more of the following

    1. if you dont care about the metal trapezoidal shaped shield you could remove the shield and use a 25 pin connector and use dremel to cut it down to 19 if it is the male connector you need.

    today’s pcs still have the 25 pin parallel connector as if you want to use an old printer so there is still a market for db25 connectors

    2. unsolder the 19 pin female connector from the board and change it to a 25 pin and cut the remaining unused pins or solder a different connector or even the wires directly to the board.

  3. Lol I had 4 male-female db19 with plastic shell I bought in the ’90 for a project then abandoned, if I had an idea of this scarcity last week I could have sold them for gold

      1. I’ve been through all of the major HQB markets within the last year, and have never seen a DB19. However a lot of those booths are fronts for factories and I’m 100% sure one of them could have made a small batch of them, possibly in less time (and for less money) than what [Steve] got them for in Hong Kong.

  4. Wow… really….? And here I thought saving those DB-19 cables/connectors from all those ol’ floppy drives could somehow be useful for future-endeavors in new circuit designs/prototypes! Little did I know I was apparently sitting on a goldmine!
    (And, note to self, do not design circuits with this connector in mind!)

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