Adventures converting Prototrak MX2 from Floppy Drive to USB
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    Question Adventures converting Prototrak MX2 from Floppy Drive to USB

    I have been attempting to replace the 3.5" floppy drive on my Bridgeport with a USB emulator.

    I started with the following:
    • A cheapo floppy->USB emulator from ebay (720kb version)
    • A .exe file downloaded from Southwest which is supposed to "format a floppy, make it bootable, and copy the necessary software all in one step"
    • A USB thumb drive



    Well, on first attempt to run the .exe, the USB thumb drive was not recognized, which makes sense as it's not a floppy...

    Next I downloaded a free program which formats USB drives to look like Floppy drives. It offers the following options:
    format options.PNG - Google Drive

    No matter which options are chosen, the .exe file from Southwest does not recognize the thumb drive as a floppy. The same goes even after changing the drive letter from E (default of this free program) to A.
    no floppy.PNG - Google Drive

    A few questions: What is "formatting" a floppy? Is this different than deleting all data on the disk? What happens when you "make bootable"? Is this different than copying and pasting data onto a disk? I notice that when I check the "make bootable" box, I see these files on the disk after formatting:
    made bootable.PNG - Google Drive
    Not sure if these are helpful to my situation or not.

    I ask because I'd like to try skipping the .exe file all together, since I have no way to figure out what it's doing, and Southwest doesn't support USB conversions. Could I manually "format, make bootable, and copy necessary files" to my thumb drive?

    I also bought a USB floppy drive, and used it to read all the files off of the working MX2 floppy. I then pasted them onto the thumb drive, which had been "formatted" as a 720kb floppy. The data seems to write ok and look just like the floppy drive it's replacing,
    whats on E.PNG - Google Drive
    but the MX2 computer still won't boot off of this thumb drive when installed w the emulator. The monitor says something along the lines of "bootable disk not found".

    Any advice is appreciated, as I've not had any luck searching for a working USB conversion and would like to do a write up of what works if I can get it running.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Mark Winsor View Post
    I have been attempting to replace the 3.5" floppy drive on my Bridgeport with a USB emulator.

    I started with the following:
    • A cheapo floppy->USB emulator from ebay (720kb version)
    • A .exe file downloaded from Southwest which is supposed to "format a floppy, make it bootable, and copy the necessary software all in one step"
    • A USB thumb drive



    Well, on first attempt to run the .exe, the USB thumb drive was not recognized, which makes sense as it's not a floppy...

    Next I downloaded a free program which formats USB drives to look like Floppy drives. It offers the following options:
    format options.PNG - Google Drive

    No matter which options are chosen, the .exe file from Southwest does not recognize the thumb drive as a floppy. The same goes even after changing the drive letter from E (default of this free program) to A.
    no floppy.PNG - Google Drive

    A few questions: What is "formatting" a floppy? Is this different than deleting all data on the disk? What happens when you "make bootable"? Is this different than copying and pasting data onto a disk? I notice that when I check the "make bootable" box, I see these files on the disk after formatting:
    made bootable.PNG - Google Drive
    Not sure if these are helpful to my situation or not.

    I ask because I'd like to try skipping the .exe file all together, since I have no way to figure out what it's doing, and Southwest doesn't support USB conversions. Could I manually "format, make bootable, and copy necessary files" to my thumb drive?

    I also bought a USB floppy drive, and used it to read all the files off of the working MX2 floppy. I then pasted them onto the thumb drive, which had been "formatted" as a 720kb floppy. The data seems to write ok and look just like the floppy drive it's replacing,
    whats on E.PNG - Google Drive
    but the MX2 computer still won't boot off of this thumb drive when installed w the emulator. The monitor says something along the lines of "bootable disk not found".

    Any advice is appreciated, as I've not had any luck searching for a working USB conversion and would like to do a write up of what works if I can get it running.
    Ah, yes, the DOS age. How sweet it was. Part of formating a disk and making it bootable is copying the DOS kernal to the boot sector. Formating refers to the action of generating the tracks and sectors so that DOS knows where stuff is located. This includes the directory and boot sectors. When data is erased from a disk, the data is not erased, only the directory entry marked as empty.

    To your statement about pasting. That won't work. The data has to be written to floppy by the OS. The data stream has to be broken up into small chunks that can be written to a sector. The address of the sector along with where in the data stream that chunk fits in also written to the directory.

    When a computer starts, after running the POST (Power On Self Test program), the address register is loaded with the address of the BIOS (Basic Input Output System). This provides the information as to where the DOS operating system is located along with instruction to begin loading the OS from that source. This is called bootstraping as in picking yourself up by grabbing your boots. The size, type and location of data source is specified in the BIOS. You can access the BIOS to check what's needed by pressing F8 or other special keys during the boot process. F1, F2, F8 and F11 have at various times been used. You will see during the boot process a message like "Press F8 to access the BIOS" or similar. You have to be quick as the message only stays for a second or so.

    The next problem is that DOS is only 16 bit and will not recognize a thumb drive as such. In looking for an emulator, it must specify that it is for 16 bit DOS systems. You may have trouble finding what you need, as DOS for all purposes has been gone for 15 years. That's about three life times in computers.

    Tom

    Edit: Based on when I think MX2 came out that it is a DOS 6.22 system. It may be a Windows 95 OS. SWI does not state what the OS version is but you can tell on bootup. The basic description of how the computer works is unchanged. The only difference is the Windows 95 is 32 bit.

    T:-

    Edit 2: There are utilities to make a thumb drive DOS bootable but you probably will have to replace the floppy drive in the control console with something like this,
    Floppy Drive to USB Converter Charmilles Roboform Robofil Wire Cut EDM 72 DD | eBay
    Note that there are adapters for specific machines listed. Why I don't know.
    This may also work,
    https://www.amazon.com/Sony-MSAC-FD2.../dp/B0001Y7PNU

    DOS bootable thumb drive:
    https://www.google.com/search?q=dos+...utf-8&oe=utf-8

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    Tom,
    Thanks a lot for the detailed reply. Here is a link to the ebay auction where I purchased the emulator
    72KB 3.5" USB SSD Floppy Drive Simulation Emulator for Industrial Equipment
    It looks like a cheaper version of the Charmilles Roboform one you found? I am also not sure why emulators are machine specific. This site describes the shortcomings of the "cheaper" emulators including the one I have.
    EMUFDD - Universal USB & Network Floppy Hardware Emulator - !! Be aware of junk emulators !!
    It doesn't sound that bad to me, other than lack of support getting things running.
    If this company advertised prices/had an easier way to order, I'd be tempted, because they specifically mention that theirs works with Prototrak MX2 EMUFDD - Universal USB & Network Floppy Hardware Emulator - Emco Prototrak CNC

    For determining if MX2 uses DOS or Windows 95- is there another way to do it? These machines don't have keyboards, so can't hit F8 etc.

    Another site I just found with lots of technical info I have yet to read through:
    http://www.plrelectronics.com/services.php
    They offer a Prototrak compatible product for $275. That's the backup plan

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    i spent some time working with a MX3 machine, it was running dos 6.1 (not 6.22) there were a few strange little differences! i did manage to get a ZIP drive working with mine, but dont ask me how, it was a long time ago and took ages!

    dose the MX2 have 2 disks like the MX3? one for the os and one for the programs? if so i would only change the one for the programs, the os disk on the MX3 had to be almost exactly as the computer expected or you would get problems!

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    One disk only

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    I asked this question a while back about an AGE3 and was advised to use a SFR1M44-U100 drive emulator - I believe this is one - SFR1M44 U1 USB Floppy Drive Emulator for Industrial Control Equipment w 1 44MB | eBay
    I was also told to put it in a PC to format the USB as a 720K bootable floppy and install the control software before putting it in the Prototrak. I haven't followed through and done it yet, so I'm watching intently.

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    I just got off the phone with Marco Muralles who services SWI machines. He is telling me that a keyboard cannot be connected the MX2 box, I thought I could do through the COM1 serial port, but he says no. He also said that there is a specific conversion kit that can change the MX2 to use USB thumb drives. He will send me the information tonight when he gets home.

    What we need is a hacker.

    Tom

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    Quote Originally Posted by Mark Winsor View Post
    I have been attempting to replace the 3.5" floppy drive on my Bridgeport with a USB emulator.

    I started with the following:
    • A cheapo floppy->USB emulator from ebay (720kb version)
    • A .exe file downloaded from Southwest which is supposed to "format a floppy, make it bootable, and copy the necessary software all in one step"
    • A USB thumb drive



    Well, on first attempt to run the .exe, the USB thumb drive was not recognized, which makes sense as it's not a floppy...

    Next I downloaded a free program which formats USB drives to look like Floppy drives. It offers the following options:
    format options.PNG - Google Drive

    No matter which options are chosen, the .exe file from Southwest does not recognize the thumb drive as a floppy. The same goes even after changing the drive letter from E (default of this free program) to A.
    no floppy.PNG - Google Drive

    A few questions: What is "formatting" a floppy? Is this different than deleting all data on the disk? What happens when you "make bootable"? Is this different than copying and pasting data onto a disk? I notice that when I check the "make bootable" box, I see these files on the disk after formatting:
    made bootable.PNG - Google Drive
    Not sure if these are helpful to my situation or not.

    I ask because I'd like to try skipping the .exe file all together, since I have no way to figure out what it's doing, and Southwest doesn't support USB conversions. Could I manually "format, make bootable, and copy necessary files" to my thumb drive?

    I also bought a USB floppy drive, and used it to read all the files off of the working MX2 floppy. I then pasted them onto the thumb drive, which had been "formatted" as a 720kb floppy. The data seems to write ok and look just like the floppy drive it's replacing,
    whats on E.PNG - Google Drive
    but the MX2 computer still won't boot off of this thumb drive when installed w the emulator. The monitor says something along the lines of "bootable disk not found".

    Any advice is appreciated, as I've not had any luck searching for a working USB conversion and would like to do a write up of what works if I can get it running.
    .
    .
    i have just used a laptop computer with usb drive and floppy drive and winxp and have transferred files by serial cable or to the floppy drive.
    .
    getting a used laptop is often the easiest and cheapest "adapter" to connect to prototrak. on craigslist there are people who want to get rid of old laptops and others looking for a laptop with floppy and usb which is like striking gold to the right person
    .
    one mans junk is anothers mans treasure

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    I know there are simpler ways, but at this point I've bought 2 emulators and a floppy drive, and am too stubborn not to realize my goal of using a thumb drive. That's the way I'm used to working (previously ran a modern Haas w/ USB port).
    On that note, if anyone has a use for this emulator which I bought when I had less idea what I was getting into:
    3 5" 144MB Upgrade Floppy Drive to USB Flash Disk Drive Emulator CD Screws AP | eBay
    Post here first and I'll send it your way for free. I'm 99% sure that it won't work for my Prototrak which needs a 720kb version.

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    Small update- thanks to the help of an expert in old computers (found on Craigslist), this machine is now running with an emulator. I will be posting the method he used in the next 2 weeks, once we check a few final things.

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    Mark, I'm curious, why not just upgrade to an EMX control? Trying to keep 20 year old hardware up and running is a bit of a loosing battle. Some of the key parts of the MX controls are no longer available, remaining supplies are disappearing fast, and SWI raised the price of rebuilt units significantly a couple years back. For a while they had a deal to upgrade MX controls to EMX for a pretty reasonable price, not sure if they are still doing that but it may be worth checking out. MX2 programs will drop right in and run, and they are soooo much nicer to edit on than the old DOS controls.

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    I spoke to Southwest a few weeks back, and I think I remember the price for the EMX control being on the order of $8,000. This might be justified for a newer Bridgeport, but mine has some Y axis way wear, more backlash than I'd like, etc. Even with the upgrade, it would still be a 2 axis CNC machine (I think), so I thought it better save that money towards a newer VMC. Do you remember the price of the "trade-in" upgrade?

    As for editing, I do 99% in Mastercam and just re-post the programs a lot, because I'm better at this vs. editing directly on the Prototrak. This "emulator system" will allow programs to be sent from laptop, to USB splitter switch, to USB emulator, to prototrak with the push of a few buttons. The original goal was to eliminate floppy disks, but we ended up also getting rid of any physical plugging/unplugging of cables or thumb drives. Since I'm back and forth between Mastercam and machine so often, this will be a significant time savings each day.

    I agree about the long term battle. This setup won't last forever- the monitor takes longer each day to warm up, and I constantly have fingers crossed!

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    Default Emulator setup

    Quote Originally Posted by Mark Winsor View Post
    Small update- thanks to the help of an expert in old computers (found on Craigslist), this machine is now running with an emulator. I will be posting the method he used in the next 2 weeks, once we check a few final things.
    I'd love to see the method used to get it running with the emulator. Can you post? Thanks!

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    Fascinated by this thread. I used an MX2 heavily some years back and the ancient technology makes them a real challenge compared to more modern machines.

    When these machines were made there was no such thing as USB so it will never recognize the thumb drive without some kind of hardware translator that looks like a floppy to the control. The only real way is another computer connected through a null modem serial cable. The other problem I had was trying to get the machine to recognize files created on a desktop PC. Although the files I created looked the same as ones I downloaded that were created on the machine there was some subtle difference that couldn't be seem in the text editor. Back in the DOS days I used some editors that could read and write the binary files and one of those would probably show the difference.

    EDIT: read your post about the emulator working and I am eagerly waiting to hear the details.

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    Ended up using 2 different cheapo emulators at once, but my friend has not completed the writeup yet. Soon I hope

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    Interested to find how this works out. I briefly considered trying emulators when I first got my machine but did not have confidence in the quality or longevity of the conversion hardware. Ended up getting the RS232 interface working which has been fine. I'm curious if using an emulator and USB for the program storage side of things will allow for more more program storage space than the floppy?

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    I have an MX2 A.G.E. bed mill. I inherited from my uncle last year. I use it as a hobby in my garage. I'm familiar with the machine and the capabilities of it. I have Mastercam and Millwrite available to me to use at anytime. Basically, what I'm getting at is I can't get the laptop to connect to the rs232 to have the program transferred properly. I'm using a usb to rs232 db25 connector with a null modem adadpter from Cable 2 Go. Also, I bought a 3.5 external floppy writer so I could transfer that way... I can't read ".cam" files through the mx2 floppy port. After discussing with SWI, it's an upgradable feature for $425 to get a 3.5 floppy with the "MX2e" boot up floppy. I will not pay that much for 24 year old technology I don't make money with. If you have any tips or tricks please let me know. Thank you in advanced.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Mark Winsor View Post
    Ended up using 2 different cheapo emulators at once, but my friend has not completed the writeup yet. Soon I hope
    Ok. The two emulators + DOS ...

    Just a guess ( ain't got Prototrak here ) that the issue is simply this.
    The prototrak can't have a keyboard attached ( perhaps BS but I digress ), so you need to use a PC to make the floppy (USB) bootable.
    Hence the need for 2 emulators.
    One is to boot your PC with, the other is to transfer the system files to.
    Now, DOS cannot be transferred from one device to another just by simply using COPY, as it will not copy from or to the bootsector
    on the target device, nor will it copy the system files.
    DOS had the SYS command to do that.
    Basically, when you've booted the PC from one of the emulators ( say drive A ), then on that drive you type:
    sys A: B:
    where B is the other emulator ( drive )
    This will now copy COMMAND.COM, MSDOS.SYS and IO.SYS to the proper sector on device B, and makes it bootable.
    After this, one can use xcopy to copy all other files on the source drive.
    In your case:
    xcopy *.* B: /s

    So, if your emulator is in fact capable of properly emulating a bootable floppy drive, then the above should work just fine.

    Or I might be just full of sh!t.

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    What ever happened to the write up? My floppy drive just died this morning I was running parts last night shut off the machine for the night and this morning I can't access any of my files on any of the floppy discs I have. I would like to upgrade to a thumb drive but it seems to be a crap shoot as far as getting it to work. I talked to Joseph @ SWI and he said they have tried doing the thumb drive conversion and they had mixed results some worked and some did not so they won't do them or support the conversion. My dealer says they have a new replacement controller coming out in the next 6 months to replace theses AGE 3 controls for about half the cost of the SMX conversion.

    I need to make parts now so Joseph suggests I drip feed it with a windows XP computer through the RS-232 port and I do have a DNC key on this machine. I guess I can load the floppy discs into a computer and run them through the RS 232 cable?

    I am guessing I can still write programs at the control and save them to the connected computer?

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    Does the machine boot OK? I thought you needed the floppy drive just to boot it up?

    Would just bolting in a floppy drive from Staples be simpler?


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