3.399 3.5 drives and ROM BIOS (58)

Sat, 26 Aug 89 17:31:31 EDT

Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 3, No. 399. Saturday, 26 Aug 1989.

Date: Fri, 25 Aug 89 20:22 O
Subject: ROM BIOS and 3.5" Drives

25 August 1989

Having recently returned from a long trip, I have missed the discussion on
3.5" drives except for John Baima's comment of 24 August that it is "never
necessary to replace the ROM BIOS chip...." This, in my experience, is
wide of the mark.

First, to my knowledge it is only starting with DOS 3.3 (not 2.0) that 3.5"
drives are fully supported. With versions below 3.3, there would be
difficulty accessing a 3.5" drive, bootable or not, simply using DOS.

I have recent experience with this. A year ago I purchased an AST Premium
286 with a 3.5 1.44MB drive as Drive B: (one of four drives). This was
about two months before AST upgraded its ROM BIOS to support 3.5" drives.
The 3.5 drive came with proprietary Bastech software, and the the drive's
own (Toshiba) documentation explicitly recommended using this over the two
primary DOS alternatives. The Bastech software was dealer-installed on the
hard drive. It also proved to be copy-protected.

Several months later, the hard drive expired. It was replaced under
warranty, but my backup of the copy-protected Bastech software was no
longer valid, as it required confirmation from a key disk, which had not
been supplied by the dealer. I was now 5000 miles from the dealer with a
non-functioning drive. I tried both the DOS 3.3 alternatives detailed in
the drive and DOS manuals and other sleights of hand specified by our
university computer people. They partially worked, but would not
consistently access the drive. Eventually I obtained the original Bastech
3.5 driver diskette from the dealer to enable the drive to work. The
dealer also said that he (and/or AST) would upgrade the ROM BIOS chip free
of charge, as was their standard practice, which would have made DOS
initialization possible and the Bastech software no longer necessary. I
would have taken this route, had not the computer and the dealer still been
5000 miles apart.

The point is, the ROM BIOS must support DOS extensions before they will
work, at least consistently and reliably, regardless of whether the drive
is bootable or not. Older BIOSes usually do not support 3.5 drives, and
there is little DOS alone can do to remedy this. Proprietary software yes,
but not DOS. It may be that the discussion on 3.5 drives leading up to
Baima's response was on a different aspect, but it is my opinion, and
experience, that his comments were not wholly accurate.

John D. Hopkins (Hopkins@FINFUN.Bitnet)
Tampere University, Finland