Scor­pio News


April–June 1988 – Volume 2. Issue 2.

Page 25 of 35

Date-line March

It had to happen, didn’t it ? The glee with which I used to receive customers at Henry’s when they told me the sad story that their hard disk had gone down, and they hadn’t kept backups because the machine had never given a hint of trouble. You’d think I’d know better wouldn’t you ? Last Sunday night, having just finished this article (Paul says I’m late again), and about 8 hours of work-work over the weekend, I was just about to copy it all off when – do I have to tell you ?. Well it wasn’t actually the disk which went bananas, the controller card died. Perhaps it had got fed up with me tinkering with it or something. The error message said the controller was faulty, not even the floppies worked so a quick leap into the car and drive into work and I swiped the controllers out of one of the Walters and the IBM. Plugged one of them in and sat back praying I’d get my data back. No such luck. Both cards woke up Ok, the floppies were alive, but both reported a ‘General Read Failure’ on the hard disk.

Now “hard disks” is not a thing I’ve looked at, and I know very little of what actually goes on inside. The thought occurred to me that as hard disks are definitely fixed in the computer and allied to the controller card that drives it, they don’t all have to be formatted the same way. Some spurious mention in the only book ’d got about hard disks said something about the ‘length of the ECC burst’ and implied that different controllers set different lengths. Now I deduce the ECC is the Error Correction Code, like the one and two byte CRC’s used on floppies, but does each brand of controller do it’s own thing, and vary the format to suit itself ? Well, it looks that way. The hard disk is originally formatted with the controller on board, so it guarantees the two work as a pair. Certainly both the Western Digital controller out of the Walters and the IBM controller from the IBM weren’t going to talk to my hard disk.

That left the problem of possibly a duff hard disk as well as finding a new controller to replace the dead DTK one. Monday was out, I’d got to make a trip, so I stood no chance of getting in touch with any suppliers that day. Tuesday dawned, and acute computer withdrawal symptoms were setting in. A few phone calls and no DTK controllers in sight, plenty of offers of others, but no help as to whether they’d exactly replace the old one, “Who knows ?”, was the usual reply, “You usually reformat the disk on replacing a controller, that’s what backups are for !”. Another thing was the going price, this is my computer we’re talking about – the Company aren’t going to pay. Apart from anything else, ’ve had an expensive couple of months, and the thought of £150.00 for a new controller didn’t please me. In the end I gave up, I’d have to format the disk, if only to see if it was still alive. In the meantime I’d returned the two controllers I’d swiped as the owners of the machines might have got a bit cross to find someone had been vandalising their working tools, so I couldn’t even do that. Late Tuesday afternoon brought me to Technomatic at Burnley Road, Neasden. I know the lads at the Edgware Road branch, but I’d never been in the

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