This is one of about 600 Amiga floppies I needed to image.
This one really shouldn't have survived — it's on HD media, which isn't appropriate for the Amiga's DD floppy drives, and it clearly had a hard life even before becoming my Elite commanders disk. But it read fine first time...
So I had my A1200 set up with a couple of external floppy drives and a nice big CF card to write images to. I prefer to have disks in ADF format, which is just a dump of the sectors of the disk with an optional header, but I was aware that some of the games and coverdisks I had were in non-AmigaDOS formats; for those, you need something more flexible such as IPF.
ADF images can be used with an emulator such as FS-UAE, but I was pleased to discover that unar understands Amiga filesystems as an archive type as well. It also supports lots of the Amiga archivers — handy given that I've got LhA, LZX, and various other kinds of files around.
I tried out a few different open-source tools for creating disk images.
transadf is the right tool for the job for most floppies. It's a command-line tool that reads an ADF image from any
trackdisk-style device — you just say something like
transadf df0: mydisk.adf. This means that it'll work for standard OFS and FFS disks through
DF0:, but it can also read PC disks using
PC0:, DiskSpare disks through
DS0:, and so on.
rawread is a much simpler bit of software, and can dump the raw contents of a disk for later processing. However, it's also pretty buggy; it crashes if you gave it a long filename owing to botched command-line parsing, for example. I installed Matthew Dillon's excellent DICE C compiler (now open source), and set about fixing it — but I think on the whole you're better off with one of the other tools.
Disk-Utilities is a suite of tools for working with raw disk images from Catweasel/DiscFerret-style devices. However, it includes a
diskreadtool that reads a raw image from an Amiga floppy drive.
diskreadis a bit scary — it disables interrupts and blanks the screen while it's reading each track — but it works perfectly, spitting out about 20MB of data per disk.
disk-analysethen works out what format the disk's in, and can write an image out in various different formats. I used this approach for disks that weren't in a standard format, or ones that I was having difficulty reading; since it can't tell if it's actually read data successfully, you probably want to read each disk a couple of times.
Once I'd got my tools in place, it was largely just an exercise in disk-swapping, occasionally shifting the CF card from my A1200 to my Linux machine to copy off the images I'd read. I did this in my spare time over a couple of weeks.
The most interesting disks were data, so I did those first, including all the backup disks I could find. I found most of the things I'd been looking for: some OctaMED modules that I didn't have on hard disk, most of the data from my FidoNet point, various files I'd downloaded from BBSs. Some of the most interesting disks to me were those that I'd made up to give to friends...
Next up were original disks for applications and games. It's easy to find images of pirate versions of Amiga games through TOSEC or similar, but originals for the versions of software that I actually own are worth grabbing — especially drivers for bits of hardware.
I also had rather a lot of system disks. After some sorting, I think I've at some point been given the software for:
- an A500 Batman bundle (Workbench 1.3.2)
- two non-bundle A500s (Workbench 1.3.2), probably at least one from Silica
- a non-bundle A500+ (Workbench 2.04)
- an A1500 Design-Leisure-Business-Education bundle (Workbench 2.05)
- an A600 Lemmings bundle (Workbench 2.05 and a copy of 2.1)
- two A1200 Desktop Dynamite bundles (Workbench 3.0)
- a non-bundle A1200, which I gave away a few years ago to another A1200 owner (Workbench 3.0)
- a CD32 Diggers/Oscar bundle (no Workbench, but it's got 3.1 ROMs)
(Incidentally, I find it interesting that FS-UAE's frontend assumes rather different Workbench versions for the most common Amigas from those my friends and I had in the UK — for example, I never saw an A500 with Workbench 1.2, or an A1200 with 3.1.)
Many of these were PC-formatted disks, either because I was using them
at school or because I wanted to give them to friends with other
machines (e.g. Acorn users).
DD ones I read with
transadf; HD ones I saved for later.
I also found a handful — literally — of Acorn Archimedes and
Atari ST disks.
The former are ADFS, which
disk-analyser understands and can produce
images of; the latter are very similar to PC floppies, and the Amiga's
PC0: handles them fine.
Out of this batch, most floppies read perfectly — even those that had been stored (in sealed boxes) at ambient temperature in my parents' garage for the last few years. Some wouldn't read with an external drives, but were fine with the A1200's internal drive (or vice versa); I didn't do anything particular to clean the drives, so it's quite possible that the internal drive was just cleaner owing to having had much less use in the past.
Only half a dozen disks of the 600 really couldn't be read — most of these I concluded weren't worth the effort, but a couple got special attention; more on this later.
AmigaDOS produces some interesting disk errors:
The heap of software looked much less impressive once it was all sorted and packed into a couple of crates:
In total, that's a bit under four gigabytes of disk images.