"We will overcome this system, I said this is why we're here." -Life of Agony, "Underground"

1541 Parallel Port Install

(Sorry kids; another technical post. I finished this project late Wednesday night and scheduled the post to go live at noon on Thursday. I’m warning you now — it’s late, and there could be tpoys … er, typos.)

ZoomFloppy (which I wrote about earlier today supports parallel file transfers. This would be great news, except for the fact that the 1541 disk drive doesn’t come with a parallel port. If you want one, you’ve got to add one.

On his website, Peter Schepers sells pre-wired piggyback kits for installing parallel ports into 1541 disk drives. Peter was super easy to deal with and super helpful. On his website, Peter also provides all the pinouts for people wanting to make their own cables. It’s a win/win situation. I went with the piggyback (read: solderless) solution. The custom cable, a 15-pin parallel cable, and shipping (from Canada) set me back a little over $30. Absolutely worth it, in my book.

Before ordering one of Peter’s kits, you’ll need to determine which model of 1541 you actually have. The easiest models to modify are the old white VIC-1541 drives, and the common beige C64 1541 drives (both pop-tab drives and the turning-handles models). 1541C, 1541-II and 1571 drives can also be modified, but each of those require additional and extensive disassembly of the drive. Fortunately for me, my garage looks like this:

Most of the drives work. Most of the C64s do not.

After choosing a victim, “Project Parallel Punch” began! As you can see below, the one I picked still had a price written on it in “thrift store grease pencil” — $3.98. One summer several few years ago I managed to snag half a dozen or so 1541 drives at thrift stores and garage sales. Hey, you never know when, five years from now, you might need one to install a parallel port into!

Once the patient was moved to the operating table, the first order of business was to remove the case and the metal shielding. The case is held in place by four metal screws — the shielding, another two.

With the shielding off, you can see the middle (6522) chip that needs to be pulled. With the 6522 removed, the socket is inserted, and the 6522 is reinserted. This was by far the hardest part of the installation. The socket pressed in with no problem. When I reinserted the 6522 chip I managed to smash half of the chip’s legs. ARGH. I really suck at this! It took me half an hour and four or five attempts to get all the legs straight enough to reinsert into the socket. Why am I so bad at this?

Eventually, this is what it looked like.

The next part of the install was making a hole in the back of the 1541 for the parallel connection. Using a Dremmel, in about two minutes I shaped out a workable solution. It ain’t pretty, but it works. Going against Peter’s suggestion I mounted the port from the inside of the drive, rather than from the outside. This is a terrible idea because the plastic is so thick that I had to Dremmel an extra 1/4 inch all the way around the socket to make room for the metal housing around the cable.

Here the drive is, reassembled and ready for action.

Unfortunately, mounting the port on the inside made it to where I couldn’t push the parallel port in far enough. After a quick trial run, I mounted the plate on the outside of the drive with a couple of computer screws. Not only does the cable work better with this mounting, but it hides my shoddy Dremmel work to boot!

With the parallel port in place I fired up D64Copy and ran a quick test:

— Serial only: About 90 Seconds.
— Serial w/Parallel: About 25 Seconds.

As I mentioned earlier, the parallel port not only transfers data more quickly, but it also allows for the capturing of the entire disk’s contents, not just the programs. This is invaluable for people wanting to not only capture programs, but preserve disk formats and study copy protection. I’m having trouble with some of the advanced tools in Windows 7/64-bit at the moment, but since the ZoomFloppy is USB, trying it on other machines won’t be a problem in the near future/

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