Saturday, December 3, 2016

Making progress on emulator role of disk tool


I worked my way through debugging the hangup of the state machines that should be continually 'reading' the contents of the current cylinder and head, making bits available to emit whenever ReadGate is on. I went through several rounds instrumenting the fpga until I found where it was hanging.

Looking at the code, my mistake glared out at me. In one step of the state machine, I wait for the SectorMark to go on, indicating we are at the beginning of a sector to be emitted. It was here I was stalling.

Since this logic supports two roles, a driver of a real disk drive and an emulator that substitutes for a disk drive, it has an incoming and an outgoing version of SectorMark. The emulator version is SectorMarkOut, while the inbound driver version is simply SectorMark. As you may suspect by now, I was waiting on the inbound SectorMark that will never arrive while in emulator mode.

After the usual lengthy run to create a new bitstream, I ran with the state machines hung in a different place, trying to generate the preamble. I needed to reload the serializer for each word, even though the contents didn't change, but I wasn't doing that during the countdowns.

My linkages to the serializer weren't working properly, which held up the state machine that emits ReadClockOut and ReadDataOut signals. Another round of synthesis and I was back to watching the behavior of the emulator. 

I am now seeing clock and data pulses emitted, but they don't seem to be in the proper relationship to the SectorMark pulse. Time to work out how to hook up the logic analyzer in order to debug this further. 

However, I want to go back to the driver mode, test out the new version of that board I built and make sure the tool is fully ready to read and archive all the cartridges we have on hand, including the personal cartridge of David Boggs which he has loaned us for this purpose. 

Getting all the data read and uploaded is a priority of the project, after which we can play around with some packs to install different software images such as Smalltalk. 

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