Breathe Life into Legacy Perifs

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Date: Tuesday, February 12th, 2002, 00:59
Category: Archive

If you have ever wondered at the difficulties and grief that seem to be created as a matter of fact by the ever changing standards landscape of the computer industry, maybe the following story can give hope that newer doesn’t mean automatically trashing your perfectly good, but slightly out-of-date hardware. I thought that I would write about a recent experience connecting legacy hardware to a recent iMac, in the hopes it might help out some of your loyal readers.


If you have ever wondered at the difficulties and grief that seem to be created as a matter of fact by the ever changing standards landscape of the computer industry, maybe the following story can give hope that newer doesn’t mean automatically trashing your perfectly good, but slightly out-of-date hardware. I thought that I would write about a recent experience connecting legacy hardware to a recent iMac, in the hopes it might help out some of your loyal readers.

During my visit to Macworld Expo 2002 in San Francisco, I stayed with a friend of mine, photographer Gerry Gropp. He had purchased a Minolta Dimage Multi medium format film scanner a couple of years ago to work with his Power Computing tower, but never hooked it up, since almost as soon as he bought it, he was advised that his system would need significant upgrades before becoming truly useable with the scanner. So, the scanner sat unopened in its box for the past couple of years.

Recently though, he purchased his son an iMac DV for his school work, and kind of wondered if it would work with the scanner, and was told “no” by folks at Apple, Minolta, friends, and even local Mac vendors. Since the scanner required SCSI, and the iMac obviously didn’t support it, he was advised to consider the purchase of a new G4 tower instead as the only solution.

But, I thought it might work with the iMac, since last year I reviewed the Ratoc FR1SX (FireREX1) FireWire to Ultra SCSI adapter, and remembered reading that they had recently updated the firmware to support selected scanners. And after a very long night of tinkering, (interrupted by the Apple Developer Party!) I can report success. The scanner now works wonderfully with Gerry’s iMac.

Here is what we did. First we purchased the Ratoc adapter (US$130), a SCSI 2 to DB50 Adapter (US$30), purchased some additional RAM at the show, and hooked it all up. We also updated the iMac to OS 9.2.2.

It’s important that the Ratoc has the latest firmware version, available from their Web site. The read me file is almost indecipherable, but you must follow their instructions exactly, which entails duplicating the Extensions Manager set for all the Apple Extensions, then enabling only the extensions for the Ratoc in addition to the Apple extensions, then restarting with the device unplugged from the FireWire bus, then after the restart the adapter must be plugged into the FireWire bus, and the SCSI device. In that order!

Only then you can launch the Firmware Application to load new firmware, and also to set parameters on the adapter. We installed their “B’sCrew SIM Driver” to allow the use of Film Scanners with the device. I changed the SCSI delay to 2 seconds, and since our firmware was up to date, I didn’t need to update it. Whew!

Then we downloaded the newest driver for the Scanner from the Minolta Web site, which as a nice surprise had drivers that were compatible all the way up to OS 9.2.1, a notable customer service effort from Minolta to keep their software current for their legacy devices. We downloaded the software, and checked Apple System Profiler, which dutifully reported a SCSI bus. Everything seemed to work OK, until the scan started, and then the system froze. We narrowed it down to a crash from the Minolta driver, and no matter how many different tricks I tried it just didn’t work.

I noticed that Minolta makes a point of listing a separate driver for the scanner if you have a PowerBook, and I wondered if that might work, on the supposition that the iMac logic board was derived from the Powerbook. And voila! It worked! Using the PowerBook plug-in, and the Ratoc adapter, Gerry’s iMac and scanner hummed along, making high quality scans from 35mm and 2 1/4-inch film, using either Photoshop 6, or the stand alone scanning application from Minolta. There is a nice FireWire to SCSI adapter made by Iomega for their Jaz drives that might also work, but I haven’t tried it out yet.

The moral of the story is that those legacy devices (two years plus) can live on. Thanks to Minolta for keeping their software up to date and current, and to Ratoc for a surprisingly able adapter, since film scanners have always been a bit fickle to start with.

Harris Fogel
Chairman-Media Arts Department
Associate Professor of Photography
The University of the Arts
Philadelphia, PA

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