The film scanner [xssfox] found, in the center of a table, with other stuff strewn across the table

Answering All Your ISCSI Scanner Questions

iSCSI is a widely used protocol for exposing SCSI devices over a network connection, and some scanners have in the past been equipped with SCSI ports. So, could you have an iSCSI network scanner? [xssfox] details her journey making a Canoscan FS4000US film scanner work over iSCSI, sparked by someone’s overly-confident StackOverflow comment that it couldn’t be done. Nothing in the spec said it couldn’t actually work, however, and after figuring out a tentative architecture, a hardware setup was put together.

No flatbed scanners with SCSI ports could be found on the cheap, so a film scanner had to be procured. After figuring out a few hitches with the loading mechanism and getting a test image locally, it was time to try and build up the software setup, tearing through SCSI compatibility and cabling, driver and PCI pass-through woes, bluescreens, and intermediate software having dropped some of the necessary features by now. Still, [xssfox] eventually exported the scanner as an iSCSI target – and, on the other end of the network, successfully connected to it and completed a scan. The StackOverflow answer was wrong, after all.

It’s fun to see how far old technology can go, and get answers to questions you never knew you had. Whether you’re reminiscing about SCSI days or wondering what the technology about, we’ve talked about it aplenty, from a retrospective to modern-day experiments, repurposing old SCSI hardware for modern SATA ports, a Raspberry Pi implementation, an emulator, and a fair bit more.

We thank [Valentijn Sessink] and [adistuder] for sharing this with us!

Impossible WiFi On An Ancient Mac Portable

The Macintosh Portable was possibly one of the coolest computing devices to be seen with back at the end of the 1980s, providing as it did a Mac in a slightly nicer version of the hefty luggable portables of the day than the PC world could offer. Inside was a mere 68000, but it ran Mac OS system 6 and looked light years ahead of any comparable PC in doing so.

Back in 1989 it wasn’t even the norm for a computer to have built-in Ethernet, and WiFi was still a gleam in the eye of some Dutch engineers, so how has [Joshua Stein] managed to get his Mac Portable on a wireless network here in 2023? The answer contains a few surprises.

When seeing a WiFi upgrade for a classic retrocomputer the usual expectation is that it’s done by emulating a modem connection to the Internet over a serial port. But this wireless network card is a bit different, it’s a real network card capable of being used for much more than just connecting to the Internet.

We have to admit to not knowing that there were SCSI Ethernet interfaces back in the day, and it’s one of these that he’s created. He’s building on a decade’s work in producing disk emulators for the SCSI bus, and he’s taken the code for a Raspberry Pi Pico version and adapted the SCSI driver part to interface with the onboard WiFi on a Pico W. Altogether it’s a beautiful piece of work, and you can color us impressed.

SCSI: The Disk Bus For Everything

Early home PCs usually had a floppy disk and a simple hard drive controller. Later, IDE hard drives became the defacto standard. Of course, these days, you are more likely to find some version of SATA and — lately — NVME connectors. But a standard predating all of this was very common in high-end systems: SCSI. [RetroBytes] recently did a video on the bus which he calls the “USB of the 80s.”

Historically, Shugart — a maker of disks — was tired of producing custom drive electronics for each device they made. Instead, they made disks with a standard interface and then produced a single interface board for each computer they wanted to support. The interface was very generic, and they were able to get it standardized with ANSI — an early example of the benefit of opening up a standard.

Continue reading “SCSI: The Disk Bus For Everything”

Deep Dive Into The HP ScantJet 4C

[Shelby] at Tech Tangents recently wrapped a project / obsession to obtain an old HP ScanJet 4C, get it running on a PC and put it through its paces. After after nearly five years, three scanners, and untold SCSI cards and drivers later, he finally succeeded. The first big problem was getting a working scanner. These don’t stand up well to shipping, and one arrived with broken mirrors. And when he finally got one that worked, sorting out SCSI controller and driver issues was surprisingly complicated, though ultimately successful.

The HP ScanJet 4C was introduced in 1995, and was notable for its scanning quality, its resolution ( 2400 DPI interpolated / 600 DPI optical ), and selling for under $1000. Except for replacement parts concerns, particularly the customized triphosphor fluorescent bulb assembly, it would still be a very competent scanner today. For this reason, [Shelby] will not be using it as his daily use scanner. Continue reading “Deep Dive Into The HP ScantJet 4C”

The Return Of SCSI

There was a time when high-performance disk drives used SCSI — the Small Computer System Interface — and everything else was kid stuff. Now, advanced forms of SCSI are still around but there are other high-performing disk interfaces, too. But some old gear really loves their classic SCSI ports, and [Adrian] decided to try hooking some of them up to some modern computers. You can see how he did in the video below.

The key to the attempt is a USB to SCSI adapter which was unusual but not unheard of, and [Adrian] came across one from 1999. Of course, you have to wonder if a modern computer will support the device or will be able to load the drivers from the old CD.

Continue reading “The Return Of SCSI”

Living At The Close Of The Multiway Era

After over a decade of laptop use, I made the move a couple of months ago back to a desktop computer. An ex-corporate compact PC and a large widescreen monitor on a stand, and alongside them a proper mouse and my trusty IBM Model M that has served me for decades. At a stroke, the ergonomics of my workspace changed for the better, as I no longer have to bend slightly to see the screen.

The previous desktop PC was from an earlier time. I think it had whatever the AMD competitor to a Pentium 4 was, and if I recall correctly, its 512 MB of memory was considered to be quite something. On the back it had an entirely different set of sockets to my new one, a brace of serial ports, a SCSI port, and a parallel printer port. Inside the case, its various drives were served by a set of ribbon cables. It even boasted a floppy drive. By contrast the cabling on its successor is a lot lighter, with much less bulky connectors. A few USB plugs and a network cable, and SATA for its disk drive. The days of bulky multiway interconnects are behind us, and probably most of us are heaving a sigh of relief. Continue reading “Living At The Close Of The Multiway Era”

Recovering Data From A Vintage MFM Drive

Even if you aren’t a vintage computer aficionado, you’re probably aware that older computer hard drives were massive and didn’t hold much data. Imagine a drive that weighs several pounds, and only holds 1/1000th of what today’s cheapest USB flash drives can. But what you might not realize is that if you go back long enough, the drives didn’t just have lower capacity, they utilized fundamentally different technology and relied on protocols which are today little more than historical footnotes.

A case in point is the circa 1984 Modified Frequency Modulation (MFM) drive which [Michał Słomkowski] was tasked with recovering some files from. You can’t just pop this beast into a USB enclosure; copying files from it required an interesting trip down computing’s memory lane, with a sprinkling of modern techniques that are sure to delight hackers who still like to dip their toes into the MS-DOS waters from time to time.

The drive, a MiniScribe 2012, has its own WD1002A-WX1 8-bit ISA controller card. [Michał] is the kind of guy who just so happens to have an ISA-compatible AT motherboard laying around, but he didn’t have the correct cooler for its Pentium processor. He stuck a random heatsink down onto it with a rubber band and set the clock speed as low as possible, which worked well enough to get him through the copying process.

Not wanting to fiddle with floppies, [Michał] then put together a setup which would let him PXE boot MS-DOS 6.22 under Arch Linux. He used PXELINUX, part of the syslinux package, and created an entry for DOS in the configuration file under the pxelinux.cfg directory. He then installed netboot which combines a DHCP and TFTP server into one simple package, and configured it for the MAC address of the AT machine’s 3com 3C905C-TXM network card.

With the hardware and operating system up and running, it was just a matter of getting the files off of the MFM drive and onto something a bit more contemporary. He tried to copy them to a secondary IDE drive, but it seemed there was some kind of conflict as both drives wouldn’t operate at the same time. So he pulled another solution from his bag of tricks: using a USB mass storage device on MS-DOS. By emulating a SCSI drive, he was able to get a standard flash drive plugged into a PCI USB card working, which ultimately dragged these ~35 year old files kicking and screaming into the 21st century.

We love keeping old hardware alive here at Hackaday, and documented methods to not only PXE boot DOS but use USB storage devices when you get it up and running will hopefully inspire some more hackers to blow the dust off that old 386 in the attic.