Earlier this year I was given some MDFS kit. Manufactured by SJ Research, this was a modular Econet fileserver system which didn’t require a host computer (the MDFS controller did all that) and you could just attach drives and printers to it – very advanced for its time and the hardware even matched. All told I had three MDFS controller units, a few drive units, a tape drive and a dual 5.25″ drive unit. Add to that the three (!) printed manuals and 5.25″ floppy software and I’ve got what can probably be said to be a complete system with spares!
So having a little spare time I got mine working. The first thing was getting the MDFS controller running: these have CMOS battery backup that charges over time, but given they’d been switched off for some years it was all corrupted. Simple fix, hold down the ‘RELEASE’ button for 5s and it’ll clear.
Next thing – talk to it. SJ Research were pretty forward-thinking so you can do rudimentary utility control through the serial port allowing disk format, copy, initialise, resetting password file, set Econet station number, all that sort of thing. It takes a 5-pin domino RS423 connector which is coincidentally the same as in a BBC Micro so I had one available, and it only took 5 minutes to reset it all.
The SCSI drives were a bit more complex. One of the slices worked straight off giving me two Fujitsu SCSI drives (40MB and 100MB), but the other disk slice with the Rodime RO752 drive was defective. I did however have a Morley external hard disk unit from an Acorn A3000 which had a SCSI drive in – further investigation yielded a Seagate ST277N-1, which with a few jumper changes and when that didn’t work a quick hunt for the jumper settings on the ‘Net, made a third drive of 60MB.
All formatted, passwords set, and… ‘*I AM SYST’ worked fine across on the workbench BBC Master!
So, it’s all racked up now. The A4000 is the older fileserver, the A5000 is there for assistance in copying 5.25″ floppies. Hooray!