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Import Word Processor Document

Posted on 2002-04-02
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Last Modified: 2010-05-18
I have an interesting request, and it will take an older fogie than myself to solve it.
Our church treasurer has a twelve year old word processor that saves to what appears to be 720k floppy disks (only one hole).  These are not standard computer-readable disks, though.
The church has voted to get him a computer and he has about 56 documents that he wants to convert.  I told him that it would hopefully be as easy as opening it in Word on the new computer.  No go on that one.
Has anybody out there had any experience with reading non-standard disks on a PC?  Do I need a special program to read this disk?  Do I need a special conversion program to read the files and write out Word docs?
I don't know the exact model of Word Processor but I can get that if it is necessary.
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Question by:slink9
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by:slink9
ID: 6914323
The maker on this is Swintec.  The model number is currently unknown.  I have emailed Swintec.  The race is on for the first to provide an answer to this.
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by:magarity
ID: 6914394
Due to the age of the word processor, it may need to 'bounce' through an intermediate age program.  Find the exact WP program and its version.  This project is certainly do-able.  A 5 year old program will be able to read and convert the 12 year old program's format and then a current program can read the 5 year old program's format.

My kingdom for an rft world.

What package are you planning to use for the new computer?  OpenOffice is finalizing their 1.0 release and the beta I've been using is quite stable and nice.  And it's a free doanload from SUn if you just want the basic package.
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by:magarity
ID: 6914396
Wait a minute, is this a typewriter widget that save to sloppy disk?  Ugh, we might find some emulator, but still need the exact brand and model.
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by:jhance
ID: 6914401
These 720K disks, are they 3.5" and of the same physical type as today's 3.5" 1.4MB ones?  The 720K format was standard but not all that long lived.  The 1.4MB DS/DD format quickly replaced it.  Most, if not all, 1.4MB drives should be able to read them.  

The problem I see is that the data format is not likely to be FAT or anything remotely resembling that.  I've worked on converting old data files from dedicated machines like this and you often need to figure out 2 things:

1) The physical format of the disk so that the data itself can be read.

2) The logical format of the data (i.e. the filesystem) so the data can be interpreted.

#1 can be simple to impossible depending on how the disks are formatted.  Luckily, most systems using floppies made in the last 20 years use some variation of the NEC uPD765 disk controller chip.  This device can be programmed directly and disks that are unreadable by DOS or Windows can be extracted.  I've read in entire tracks at a time into a memory buffer and then sotred them on a hard drive.

Once you have the data, #2 usually takes a bit of detective work.  Since this is a word processor it's a good bet the data is plain ASCII (especially since it's not an IBM unit, where EBCDIC would be more likely) and most such devices use a very simple, usually sequential sector data format.
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by:Jaichim24
ID: 6914410
This might not be the answer you are looking for, but it is one way to resolve your problem.  If the church had the money to purchase a new computer, perhaps it could find the $100 extra it would take to get a new scanner.  You can purchase a really good scanner for that price today.  I bought mine for that price from Staples and they gave me an $80 rebate which I got in the mail last week.
    The reason why I suggest a scanner is that there is a type of software that comes with the scanner called OCR.  This stands for Optical Character Recognition.  This allows you to scanner a text document and put it into a word document.  This would eliminate the need for him to retype those 56 documents.  It would also add a new dimension to the church newspaper being able to scan photos into it.
    I'm not certain about this, but perhaps a Kinko's would have a scanner with OCR software on it.  Might be worth asking.
    Hope this helped!
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by:jhance
ID: 6914419
HOW IS THIS AN ANSWER?  TOO BAD YOU CAN'T READ:

http://www.experts-exchange.com/jsp/cmtyQuestAnswer.jsp
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by:Jaichim24
ID: 6914436
Sometimes a solution isn't always a straight line.  If there is no way to open these files from a word processor (I'm assuming it looks like a big typewriter) then an alternate way to save these documents without retyping and reformatting them would be to scan them using OCR which would turn it into a word doc with the exact same format and layout.  I also assumed the word processor still works and probably can still print out the files.  If they can get access to a scanner without purchasing one that might be the cheapest way to do it.  If not having a scanner wouldn't kill them, and may add some to their church functions.  So this is an answer to the question of saving the 56 files into word.  This will work.
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by:jhance
ID: 6914445
The problem is that YOU are out of line.

Don't lock a question with what you think is an answer if there is already an ongoing discussion (like here!) or if there is considerable ambiguity in the solution (also like HERE!).

In other words, you are disregarding the protocol entirely and you're comment is stupid anyway.  OCR sucks and everyone knows it.  If you had ever tried it you'd know that as well.
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by:Jaichim24
ID: 6914461
My apologies of inadvertently "locking" this question.  That wasn't my intent. Just realized that.  In the future I will comment instead of answer.
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by:Jaichim24
ID: 6914465
Also, and I'll stop spamming after this.  There had been no discussion posted when I started my response.  It wasn't until after I hit the Submit button that I noticed there was one.  Just as I sent my last post before I saw your latest.  In regards to being out of line, your posts more resemble that.  I'm sure there are help files out there in regards to being rude, abbrasive, and confrontational.  
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by:jhance
ID: 6914475
That's me, Mr. Rude/Abrasive (60 grit)/Confrontational.

But YOU are the one who locked this question, not me!

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by:magarity
ID: 6914653
Wow, you could have noticed poor jaichim is just a clueless newbie whose account was created today before going and biting his head off quite so hard.

jaich, in the future, any comment that begins 'this may not be what you're looking for' hardly qualifies as the definitive answer.  Look on the main list of questions in this topic area.  See how this question has been removed from the main list and is now down in the 'pending answers' section?  Less people will look at it there and slink9 will get less suggestions now.

It IS particularly irritating when new users do this, since you have to go out of your way to change the default 'comment' to 'answer'.  Doesn't anyone wonder what that means?
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by:slink9
ID: 6914707
This is not an acceptable answer, although it is a last resort.  I can use my scanner and OCR his documents.  I already suggested that to him as a last resort.

The model number is Swintec 2000.
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by:slink9
ID: 6914719
Actually OCR should work quite well since this is a typewriter (with a 12" monitor attached) and it only prints out everything in large courier letters.  I am hoping to get a way around this since OCRing this stuff would put quite a bit of work on me.  I will gladly do it if I can't find any way around it, but (of course) had rather not.
Jaichim, welcome aboard.  I have also "bitten off someone's head" before checking to see their newness to the site.  Don't worry about it.  You made a mistake that (most likely) all have made here in the beginning.
I rejected the answer and will not accept it even if I have to OCR everything since that was mentioned to him before I even left his house.  I am interested, though, if you have any more suggestions.  Just be sure to make them comments.  Thanks.
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by:magarity
ID: 6914740
OK, I have discovered Swintecs might use an old WordPerfect (think 1.0 or 2.0) format.   Hmmm, can you find an old copy of that and try to read the floppies with it?
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by:slink9
ID: 6914759
I can't even access the disk.  It is unreadable to MSDOS.  I have to find a conversion utility of some sort.  I am downloading a freebie right now called SOFTMAC to see if it happens to read it.  It claims to read Mac and Atari disks.  I will keep everyone posted.
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by:slink9
ID: 6914794
SoftMac didn't help.  I am now downloading a hex editor.  It claims to export to RTF.  Maybe I can find the beginning and end of each file and export it that way.  Even if that doesn't work, I will be able to give more info on the format of the disk.
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by:slink9
ID: 6914842
I have downloaded a couple of disk editors and they can't access the disk either.  What ever happened to a hex editor which will open any disk and read directly from the sectors?
By the way, I wanted to make sure my floppy drive is working properly.  Yes, it will read a normal floppy with ease.
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by:magarity
ID: 6915298
Can you use something like Winimage http://ourworld.compuserve.com/homepages/gvollant/download.htm to send me a copy of one of the floppies?
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by:slink9
ID: 6915431
I had thought that an old XT I have around may read it.  I was mistaken there.  It didn't help.  I was thinking that I may be able to use a DOS disk editor on there to view the disk information.  That didn't work either.  I will check WinImage and see if it will work.  How is it going to make an image of the disk that Windows doesn't even recognize?  Do I send it to the email address that I already have?
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by:magarity
ID: 6915471
Winimage should do a head/sector read regardless of the disk's format.  Then I can recreate it and see if any of the tools we have here can make sense of it.  Yes, send it to that address.
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by:slink9
ID: 6915556
No such luck.  WinImage says there is no floppy in the drive.  I did have one of these disk editor programs tell me this was a 1.41M floppy but it could not read the sectors on it.
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by:magarity
ID: 6915776
There must be SOMETHING that can read it.  Maybe the unix/linux dd utility.

Did you email Swintec?  They'll probably offer to sell you a newer WP machine, but they might sell a conversion program also.
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by:slink9
ID: 6915786
I emailed them and haven't received a response yet.  I probably won't if they don't have something to offer that would generate money for them.  I will call the office products place where it was originally purchased and see if they have any suggestions.
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by:magarity
ID: 6915842
"the office products place where it was originally purchased"

You mean you'll ask the barely above minimum wage commision salesperson for technical advice?  LOL
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by:slink9
ID: 6915863
Actually he is their barely above minimum wage tech support person.  Who knows, maybe they have come across this and tackled it before.
Do I need to have Linux installed to use their DD utility?  How would I use that?  I didn't have a good trip into Linux-Land on my one attempt.
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by:magarity
ID: 6915883
OK, nevermind Linux dd.  Here is rawrite for Windows:  http://uranus.it.swin.edu.au/~jn/linux/rawwrite.htm

This is supposed to read anything, thus 'raw' write.
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by:slink9
ID: 6915938
It won't read anything other than 1.44M disks.  I have tried to create an image to my hard drive and have gotten nowhere.  I am not sure if this is because I am not using it properly or because this disk is not 1.44M.  Can you give an example of how to use RAWRITE?  Will it work with only one floppy?
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by:slink9
ID: 6916093
The latest.  I talked to the barely above minimum wage tech support guy at the office supply store.  He was in left field as far as understanding what I am trying to accomplish.
I have called Swintec and the initial answer was NO.  He is going to do some checking to see if there is a way to get this done.
I have found a place to download PCTools and have done so.  It has a program called DE which works pretty well as I recall.  It is not working on my system since I have FAT32 on my drive.  I need to go back out and fire up that old XT286 and install it on there and run it.  After I get a chance to do this I will report the results back.
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by:slink9
ID: 6916149
I just got a call from Swintec.  I am told that the format of this disk is unique and there is no way to import it.  I would like to prove them wrong.
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by:cquinn
ID: 6916377
I have used Xenocopy in the past for strange disk formats - have a look at http://www.xenosoft.com/xcflyer.html for details.
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by:Kyle Schroeder
ID: 6916520
Have an old copy of Norton  Utils around somewhere slink?  Did you try the diskedit.exe on there?  I seem to recall that it was able to do sector-level operations on a diskette.  If you don't have it, let me know and I'll email you. The problem may be something jhance mentioned (I think, long thread) regarding the mechanism that the WP used to write the disk, it may be so physically different that diskedit.exe can't do it.  Probably best to run it from DOS mode (not a DOS box in Win).  ALso it doesn't work right in Win2K, you get corrupted text, etc.

-dog*
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by:slink9
ID: 6916644
I have had to run the utilities on an ox XT286 that I have sitting around in my computer museum (which incluides the XT286 with original monitor, XT, and DMP printer, even).  PCTools Disk Editor is what I thought would do the trick.  No go there either.  I am going to try Xenocopy next.
The biggest problem is that this is a proprietary disk format which is used only for the word processor.  Swintec says it can't be done but I would like to prove them wrong.  Maybe I can get enough people involved that it will be a possibility.
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by:slink9
ID: 6916646
By the way I don't have Norton Utils.  Email it to address@hotmail.com if you would.  I would like to exhaust all possibilities here before resorting to OCRing this stuff.
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by:slink9
ID: 6916652
I guess I won't be trying XenoCopy.  The church will spend $80 to get this done if it is a sure method, but not for a mere possibility.
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by:Kyle Schroeder
ID: 6916669
slink,

I emailed it to you.  Of course you understand that this is a copyrighted program, and you must immediately delete it if it doesn't suit your purpose....;)

-dog*
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by:slink9
ID: 6916892
I got it but do not have enough memory on this 640k machine with DOS6.22 to run it.  I will either zap the OS or swap things around so I can boot DOS3.3.  I always wondered why anyone would put 6.22 on a computer with no extended memory.
Is there a way to free more memory on a 6.22 system other than dropping the files and buffers out?  I will play with it tomorrow and see where DiskEdit will lead.
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by:Kyle Schroeder
ID: 6918627
I believe you need to load himem.sys and set DOS=HIGH, UMB also in config.sys...
Other conventional memory saving methods:
run memmaker to load more items into high memory and "automatically" optimize some of the settings
http://techsupport.ea.com/troubleshooting/dos/memory.html
http://www.google.com/search?sourceid=navclient&q=free+up+conventional+memory+640k

-dog*
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by:kannabis
ID: 6918905
slink9,

Can the manufacturer provide you with any more info than "It's a proprietary format"?

I find it hard to believe that they would develop some completely new formatting method just for their own purposes.  They might use some obscure format method, but I doubt it's 100% proprietary.

Then again, I could be WAY off here too (:

I would think that linux would be the best bet since it supports over 60 different formats/filesystems

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by:slink9
ID: 6919142
I was thinking about loading stuff in high memory, but it is only a 640k machine.  I probably won't get a chance to play with that today since my son has baseball practice pretty soon.
I couldn't get the guy on the phone to divulge any info about the format.  I am about ready to try OCRing this stuff just to prove that it won't be lost completely.
By the way, magarity, the puter came today.
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by:Kyle Schroeder
ID: 6920928
Can you run the diskedit.exe on a "normal" modern PC from a Win98 boot disk or something?  Then you'll have himem.sys, etc loaded automatically.

-dog*
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by:slink9
ID: 6922092
I ran diskedit on a new PC that I had refurbed to give away (thanks Magarity) with still no fix.  It took forever to read the disk and finally came back as possibly unformatted after I selected drive A.  Anything else?
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by:slink9
ID: 6925050
I have tried everything suggested.  I have even tried stuff that I found in my own web searching.  Nothing has worked.  Any more suggestions?
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by:Kyle Schroeder
ID: 6925632
I guess it didn't give you any option to process the disk as unformatted did it?  I thought that diskedit.exe could read a disk regardless of formatting, i.e. you could pull the data off of a disk formatted by a Mac...

-dog*
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by:slink9
ID: 6925778
Nope.  No option like that.
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by:magarity
ID: 6925841
Well I'm out of ideas to try long distance.  If you could somehow get me an image, I think some of the tools we have where I work can at least read the disks, even though they might not discern a proprietary document layout.

One last thing you can try: in BIOS, set the disk type to 720k instead of relying on the autodetect.  I tried taping over the hole and formatting a disk with it set as a 1.44, but the drive didn't autodetect and so the OS went and formatted it as 1.44 anyway.  This was corrected when forcing the drive as a 720 in BIOS setup.  I think that might be part of your problem in even reading the disk.
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by:slink9
ID: 6925969
Magarity,
That is why I was reading it on the older XT system.  I believe it has a 720k disk in it.  I will give that a shot, though.  I will also mail you the disk if you will email your address to me.  I have long since burned the box.
This is a secondary disk with only test files on it so if it is already trashed or gets trashed it is no big deal.  If we can figure out something that may work I will have him print out everything so I can OCR it if we zap the disk.  I would prefer for you to give me exact steps if you come up with it through Red Hat Linux.  I have ver 6 along with a book on it.  I guess I will have to set up a puter with it and learn about Linux whether I want to or not.  I have decided to give my own business a shot.  After over four months of unemployment I need to do something.  Check out http://www.bbnp.com/userpages/slink/leu/index.html and let me know what you think about the web design.  I am also interested in thoughts about my design and possible improvements.
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by:magarity
ID: 6926000
Ack!  Is there supposed to be a sound effect or something on that page?!?  Loading it triggered about a 3x volume increase in Winamp...  just about game me a heart attack.  You might want to check that.  Oh, and I know better from meeting you here, but if I were some random user who found your page, a hotmail address for someone who is a consultant is an instant danger warning.
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by:slink9
ID: 6926105
I wanted a custom address.  Maybe I should just use my regular address.  I haven't actually viewed the page with the sound on, because I didn't intentionally put sound on it.  I will check that.  Thanks.
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by:slink9
ID: 6926146
I changed the email address.  I didn't get a volume change on my system after viewing the page.  I don't use WinAmp, though.
I developed the page using Cool Page web development software.  It is quite nice in that you can place anything anywhere and it just puts it there (versus having to create a table for exact placement).  It is quite cheap to register, too.  I believe the cost is about $40.
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by:magarity
ID: 6926218
Must have been a one time occurance.  I can't get the volume to jump again.  I've also decided to take up building a web page.  OK, so I haven't gotten any farther than installing Apache and php, but it throws up a test page...  know any good books on php and/or mysql?  I checked the online documentation, but the mysql manual is 1800 pages of technical reference.  I'm looking for a good tutorial type book.  Maybe I'll just open my own question thread if I can find a proper topic area...  I never venture out of ye olde 'hardware, general'.
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by:slink9
ID: 6926260
I am all over the place here.  I am learning from quite a few questions in quite a few areas.
I haven't gotten deep enough in web development to do serious database development.  I did do some pretty slick ASP database design in my previous position.  I can't remember the exact link, but if you know enough to go into the web site you can find the proper URL.  It is interesting to find out that www.translog.org has been taken down.  That was the first web site that I developed for the company using FrontPage.  The next site was at www.transnetsource.com and was deep in there.  It used ASP to access a database of shipments and display a date range.
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by:public
ID: 6933636
If you can print a document to a parallel printer, get a parallel to serial converter, and capture the print job in a terminal program on a pc. Than save it to a file.
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by:slink9
ID: 6933690
Good suggestion, but I don't think this is a possibility.  The device itself is a typewriter with a screen and a floppy drive.  It would have no reason for a parallel port.
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by:gonzal13
ID: 6939102
If I understand correctly, you can print out the documents using your hardware. Now, there is not a single ORC program that works as mentioned above. Therefore, print out the documents, purchase your PC with a 50 dollar scanner and scan the images to gif or jpeg. Now the image can be imported to MSWORD, but since it is a picture it cannot be modified! Now if you want to modify the scanned image open it up in say Photoshoplt and then you can erase test and then print new text. then you save it as a bmp image, and to make life simple import it to a MSWord document.

Now the least expensive program to erase text and add txt cost 25 dollars and can be found at www.hyperionics.com
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by:slink9
ID: 6939162
I know how to OCR it in.  I have a scanner myself along with OCR software.  I already rejected that proposed as an answer because this was mentioned to him before I left his house.
I have mailed the sample disk to Magarity.  Maybe he or some engineer coworkers can "pull some strings" and extract it to a text file.  Otherwise I will request that this question be deleted.
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by:slink9
ID: 6959429
Strings pulled by Magarity and clan.  No solution found.  I am requesting a points refund but want to leave this question around for reference.
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Moondancer earned 0 total points
ID: 6959603
200 points have been refunded to you for this question.  I have moved this to our PAQ at zero points to close.
Moondancer - EE Moderator
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by:public
ID: 6976876
you never really tried a disk track editor.
disk edit on a generic dos system will try to read sectors.
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by:slink9
ID: 6976882
I mailed the disk to Magarity and he and his engineer coworkers tried what they thought might work.  I am sure they tried track editors, sector editors, and anything else at their disposal.
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