AVL Road Runner and Eagle Projector Dissolve Systems

HxC Floppy emulator support for all others computers...
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PMK145
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Joined: Tue Feb 23, 2016 1:44 pm

AVL Road Runner and Eagle Projector Dissolve Systems

Post by PMK145 » Tue Feb 23, 2016 4:29 pm

For the last couple of years I've been trying to get to the bottom of how AVL slide projector dissolve systems function. The control computer is either an AVL Road Runner or an Eagle (Eagles were later adopted and produced as standalone CP/M computers). I've just tracked down an AVL Road Runner and it's in transit to me from the USA but the seller tells me it has a faulty 5 1/4" diskette drive, so can't read the floppy diskettes. However, it's possible the system diskette is faulty.

To get to the bottom of this problem I've ordered an HxC Emulator and that hopefully is making its way to me, also I've bought a 5 1/4" floppy drive for a PC. Hopefully I'll be able to plug the diskette drive into my PC and that together with the HxC utility I'll be able to read an image of the diskettes....(is that correct?)

However, I would appreciate any information that's available for AVL and Eagle CP/M machines. If the system diskette is damaged (they date back to the mid 1980s) I'd appreciate any tips on the likely layout of such diskettes, so that if necessary I can try to port CP/M or the AVL operating system (Procall) from a donor machine.

techrat
Posts: 2
Joined: Thu Jun 22, 2017 9:15 pm

Re: AVL Road Runner and Eagle Projector Dissolve Systems

Post by techrat » Thu Jun 22, 2017 10:09 pm

Well, it only took plus a year for me to see this. I found another AVL page and was wondering about the Procall used by the Roadrunner.

That 'author' needed an RR disc. I've Ver5 and Procall-X, so I went Googling and hit this request!
I thought the RR used Ver5

OK ... what may I try to help you with?
Procall is a -=Program=- not an OS. You first boot with CP/M, swap disks then load Procall.
You can make a bootable Procall disk, just do not do it on the originals!
The command sequences are stored in Files.
The disks are 360K in size - but that's computer dependent !
I upped the memory and replaced one drive with a DSDD 5.25 drive.

Had to leave the 0 drive alone to enable transfer out of customer's files in 'standard' 360K. New programming or modified at shows.

I started programming with the AVL S-100 systems, Coyote, Roadrunner, Eagle and Genesis.

I still have my Genesis, 2 Board sets, 3 Doves and software. So ... what do you need help with ?

It might take some time to transfer a file from 5.25 over to my current systems and ZIP, but ??? :shock:

Steve_in_DE
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Joined: Mon Jul 30, 2018 7:23 am

Re: AVL Road Runner and Eagle Projector Dissolve Systems

Post by Steve_in_DE » Mon Jul 30, 2018 7:30 am

Techrat,

I have a road runner and never learned how to boot it to the OS, rather than straight to Procall. Can you walk me through that? I have a few working Procall boot discs for the RR and would love to duplicate them before something unfortunate happens.

BTW you may have seen my AVL webpage: www.stevenmichelsen.com/AVL

You may want to write me directly at stevenmichelsen@gmail.com as my questions are a bit off-topic here.

Peter,
Hope all's well. Long time no email.

Steve

PMK145
Posts: 2
Joined: Tue Feb 23, 2016 1:44 pm

Re: AVL Road Runner and Eagle Projector Dissolve Systems

Post by PMK145 » Wed Sep 26, 2018 3:11 am

Techrat,

Many thanks for the reply. This is my first time on this forum for more than 2.5 years and first time I saw your message.

I'm not sure where I was back in February 2016 so here's a summary that might cover old ground....

I had a Roadrunner with original expansion unit and diskette drive but nothing would boot. I had several Procall diskettes of 1980s vintage.

I purchased a Kryoflux device and a 5.25" floppy drive of the kind fitted to PCs, and connected that to the Kryoflux which was hooked up to my PC. With a lot of exploring and much hit-and-miss I managed to capture a copy of Procall in its raw form, and write that back to a new floppy diskette with all the magnetic data boosted to make up for loss of flux over >30 years. I then confirmed using the Kryoflux that I could read that new floppy. But the Roadrunner still wouldn't read Procall.

I dipped into the hardware of the Roadrunner, the Expansion unit and Floppy Drive and managed to determine that the fault lay somewhere in the Expansion unit. I suspected the Floppy Disc Controller (FDC) chip so replaced that with a 'New Old Stock' device, but that didn't clear the fault. I then dug a bit more and found the crystal clock signal wasn't reaching the FDC. This fault was traced to a TTL chip which I replaced and hey presto, the Roadrunner booted from the new floppy disk!

In the mean time I had also purchased an HxC floppy emulator and converted the Procall floppy 'image' to a form that could be written to an SD card for the HxC. Again, after trial and error I managed to get the Roadrunner booted from the HxC as well as floppy drive.

My original intention in buying the Roadrunner was to crack the code between the RoadRunner and Doves and to find a way of reproducing that system, so I ploughed in with a copy of the Roadrunner EPROM code which I'd disassembled using a program I'd written in Visual BASIC - also disassembled code from a Dove X2 (Roadrunner and Dove X2 are Zilog Z80 based - earlier Doves have Fairchild F8 CPUs).

Determining the control codes for the Doves was relatively easy, but each code is protected by a checksum or CRC, and I used the disassembled Z80 code to hack VB code that would create that CRC/checksum bit pattern.

So that really was my 'quest' completed. I was able to create FSK files of Procall commands with which the PC could control a Dove using its audio output jack.

As well as the Roadrunner and several Doves, I'd bought several Kodak projectors via ebay (from those I assembled four working projectors with Carousels). So using some random slides - also ebay fodder - I put together a Procall slide show which I then played and videoed for posterity.

By this time I'd eaten way too far into my time and the list of DIY jobs to do around the house had grown to an embarrassing number, so I tried to sell the AVL equipment and projectors etc. But there was zero interest - zip - null - 'sweet FA'. I persisted for a couple of months but there was just nobody even viewing the several listings I'd placed. Therefore, reluctantly, I scrapped everything except the floppy copies and a multitude of files (plus my several notebooks with notes).

For a few years I've been in contact with 'Steve_in_DE' and a couple of weeks ago he was over here in Oxford,UK so I hopped on a train and we met up for a couple of hours' of AVL and general chat.

I agree with your views on Procall not being an operating system. It simply loads from floppy (or HxC) using the Roadrunner's bootstrap loader and runs. I found no way of escaping to a prompt and I believe its size is too small for that. My disassembly of the Roadrunner EPROM code and Procall disk code found no list of CP/M type commands and no lookup table for such. I found no way of even formatting a diskette - I believe diskettes were AVL's little cash cow after their hardware sales. I'm pretty sure the Roadrunner doesn't have the hardware to run CP/M but there may be a special AVL version that would run. A professional AV guy I knew in 1981-2 hinted that an Eagle could run CP/M but not a Roadrunner, but at that time I knew too little about computers to ask any more. There are many CP/M resources archived in the internet but I didn't try to port any to the Roadrunner.

My AVL and Procall experience was limited in the 80s, just a 6-month 'side project' in 1981-2 from my primary job in railway research, when I toured with a lecture tour promoting railway electrical engineering and the Institution of Electrical Engineers (IEE now called 'IET'). I learned Procall commands to edit and expand a show produced by a professional guy - and that was just a fluke because he wasn't able to attend a couple of meetings after a run-through of the presentation in Glasgow. After the tour ended and we'd shot a video of it, I went back to the 'day job' in electrified railway research, development, monitoring and consulting - but the fact I didn't understand the Roadrunner and Dove nagged at me until 2012.

techrat
Posts: 2
Joined: Thu Jun 22, 2017 9:15 pm

Re: AVL Road Runner and Eagle Projector Dissolve Systems

Post by techrat » Wed Sep 26, 2018 5:18 pm

A very interesting reply and history ... thanks! It was another poster that was trying to get a Roadrunner to work - perhaps he'll see this and keep trying.
Eagle II's definitely ran CP/M as I used them to also keep timesheets via dBase II. You used a CP/M only boot disk. [Genesis was DOS based.]
I can't recall how we transferred any RR programs over to either Eagle or Genesis, but I did write a complied converter for Ver5 to Procall X, "5TOX".
I think the greatest fun was integrating the AVL system into machine control, curtain opens/closes, VTR start/stop for inserts [even switching clock inputs to track with the VTR, then release back to manual or ATR]. One show even controlled the podium lights. It just seemed there was no limit to what we could integrate. 20 some wonderful years of fun and challenges. :P ... JA

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