Lifetime of firmware in EPROMs

Covering the SY22 to SY55 and TG Modules.

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Lifetime of firmware in EPROMs

Unread post by SiriusHardware » Tue Sep 15, 2015 11:28 pm

While I was working on a separate fault on my SY22 recently I noticed that the unit's firmware is programmed into a pair of windowed / erasable 27C080 EPROMS.

It is unfortunately a fact that the data programmed in EPROMs has a finite life because of the way EPROMS work - essentially, for each bit of memory programmed an electrical charge is (or is not) pushed into a memory element to make it a '1' or a '0'. Although this charge stays in place for a very long time, it is not permanent and will eventually fade away over time - when that happens the device whose firmware is held in the EPROMS will basically cease to work.

Estimates on how long EPROMS wil hold their data seems to vary wildly, but people generally seem to talk in the order of decades.

I hang around in various tech forums and I've already seen people hunting for eproms or eprom code for late seventies / early eighties microprocessor based equipment in which the original firmware has just died from old age, leaving the hardware useless.

There is, however, a remedy for this, for anyone who has a suitable EPROM programmer. Just read the code from each EPROM and reprogramme it with the code you read from it. You don't even need to erase the EPROM(s) first - if your programmer software advises you that the 'device is not empty - do you want to patch?' say Yes. By refreshing the EPROMS in this way, you reset the 'data fade' clock to zero and they are good for another 40 years or so. You should, of course, also save a file copy of the EPROM code as well, so if you are ever unfortunate enough to suffer an EPROM chip failure you can just programme a replacement chip with the code you read from the original chip while it was still working.

Note this caution only applies to devices which use EPROM memories, with or without a quartz window on top - some EPROMs were sold in windowless 'one-time-programmable' (OTP) form because they were cheaper made that way, but they are still EPROMs and subject to the same time-related data fade problem as windowed EPROMs.

A lot of old microprocessor equipment used 'Mask Programmed' firmware chips in which the firmware is incorporated as part of the internal hardware of the chip when it is made - the code in these types of chips is, to all intents and purposes, permanent. The FLASH firmware memory used in more recent equipment may also be subject to data fade eventually but we won't have to worry about that for a while.

Bottom line: If you have microprocessor based equipment with firmware code in EPROMs, be it old synth equipment or a retro computer which is approaching 30 years old, it wouldn't be a bad idea to back up and refresh the EPROMs some time soon.

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Re: Lifetime of firmware in EPROMs

Unread post by Miks » Thu Sep 17, 2015 12:02 am

SiriusHardware wrote:
...save a file copy of the EPROM code as well, so if you are ever unfortunate enough to suffer an EPROM chip failure you can just programme a replacement chip with the code you read from the original chip while it was still working.
That's what I do whenever I'll get my hands on a piece of gear which has its own fw running - and the memory chips can be easily taken out of the machine for a read-out - you never know... :wink: 8)

I'm keeping those 'back-up' files stored on my computer - if ever an eprom should fail I'm able to replace it (Y)
My (key related) gear (in alphabetical order):
Kawai: K1 II
Korg: M1 (up'd to EX, w/ 'Cool Blue'), M1REX (w/ 'Cool Blue'), Poly-800
Roland: D-50, D-110, D-550, PG-1000
Yamaha: AW1600, DX7IID (w/ 'Cool Blue'), EX5R, RM50, RX5, SY99 (w/ 'Cool Blue'), TG500, TX-802, YMM2
Sector101: SYEMB05 (5x), SYEMB06 (3x), EXFLM2 (1kit), MCD Sweet16 (1x), WaveBlade 8MB Card (1x) & 1x Programmer Unit for WaveBlade


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Re: Lifetime of firmware in EPROMs

Unread post by tux » Thu Sep 17, 2015 12:05 am

Miks wrote:I'm keeping those 'back-up' files stored on my computer - if ever an eprom should fail I'm able to replace it (Y)
Do you also make back-ups of your computer? :wink:

It would be a shame to lose such a valuable fw collection due to a hard disk failure! :(
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Re: Lifetime of firmware in EPROMs

Unread post by Ego_Shredder » Thu Sep 17, 2015 3:04 pm

Would also be a good idea to upload them online, so others can burn their own EPROMs from them.
Yamaha SY55, TG55 + ALL WAVE & DATA card sets. Yamaha MU100R x4 + PLG100-VH, VL, DX, PLG150-AN, DR, AP. Yamaha RY30 x2 + ALL card sets. Yamaha RM50. Kawai K1r + 32MB RAM card + ALL sound data cards. Kawai MM-16 16ch MIDI Mixer. AKAI MPD-16. Casio CSM-1. Various studio rackmount gear, mixers, microphones, MIDI problem solvers & Quested S7 active monitors. Edirol UA-101. IBM Thinkpad Z61p. Steinberg Cubase 5.1 + various software and plugins + Yamaha Studio Manager for the PLG expansion boards.

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Re: Lifetime of firmware in EPROMs

Unread post by SiriusHardware » Thu Sep 17, 2015 7:18 pm

Ego_Shredder wrote:Would also be a good idea to upload them online, so others can burn their own EPROMs from them.
An online public repository of firmware for all kinds of retro things would be a brilliant idea, but of dubious legality.

Reading them and backing them up to local copies is one thing as you can argue that you own the originals and the copies are personal back-ups, but distributing copyrighted firmware on a general / global basis would probably bring the righteous wrath of Yamaha, etc, down upon your head. Unless, of course, they themselves could be persuaded to place all their 'old' firmware in the public domain.

Certainly they'd be more likely to do it if people asked them nicely first. A lot of companies (manufacturers of PC motherboards, manufacturers of cameras) actually put the firmware for their current and legacy products on their websites.

Yamaha do have a good reputation for being able to offer parts and service for instruments going back 20-30 years. Try getting unique parts for your two year old chinese-made supermarket flatscreen TV. My guess is that if you phoned Yamaha service and said you needed a programmed EPROM to revive your old SY synth, something would get sorted out for you. But, if you already have a working copy of the firmware in your posession then it makes sense to back it up while you can.

When Yamaha no longer have the ability to supply firmware eproms, I'm sure a 'wanted' post would bring you a file copy of the relevant firmware via PM from a helpful forum member.

On the subject of backing up the backup of the backup, well, thinking that way could drive you mad. Certainly, best practice is to always have two backup copies and not keep them in the same physical place.

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Re: Lifetime of firmware in EPROMs

Unread post by Miks » Thu Sep 17, 2015 10:17 pm

tux wrote:
Do you also make back-ups of your computer?

Not necessarily of the whole computer - but those files are stored on an external hard-disk as well as on a magneto-optical medium called Magneto Optical Disk...

MO Drive1.jpg
MO Media1.jpg
8) 0-)
My (key related) gear (in alphabetical order):
Kawai: K1 II
Korg: M1 (up'd to EX, w/ 'Cool Blue'), M1REX (w/ 'Cool Blue'), Poly-800
Roland: D-50, D-110, D-550, PG-1000
Yamaha: AW1600, DX7IID (w/ 'Cool Blue'), EX5R, RM50, RX5, SY99 (w/ 'Cool Blue'), TG500, TX-802, YMM2
Sector101: SYEMB05 (5x), SYEMB06 (3x), EXFLM2 (1kit), MCD Sweet16 (1x), WaveBlade 8MB Card (1x) & 1x Programmer Unit for WaveBlade


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Re: Lifetime of firmware in EPROMs

Unread post by tux » Fri Sep 18, 2015 12:06 am

Miks wrote: on a magneto-optical medium called Magneto Optical Disk...

8) 0-)
Ah, wow, never heard of that! 8O

Wait a moment (tux bends under the desk and takes a photo of his PC)...
Do you mean something like this: :wink: :mrgreen:
fujitsu_mo.jpg
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My Yamaha synths: RM50, TG77, TG500, EX5R, CS6R (with PLG150-AN and PLG150-DX)

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Re: Lifetime of firmware in EPROMs

Unread post by tux » Fri Sep 18, 2015 12:15 am

SiriusHardware wrote:but distributing copyrighted firmware on a general / global basis would probably bring the righteous wrath of Yamaha, etc, down upon your head.
I guess you haven't discovered the download section of this forum yet? :wink:

Companies like Yamaha don't go prosecuting people who make firmware images of vintage synths available online for free, they don't care about it as those products are ancient history for them with no economic value.
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Re: Lifetime of firmware in EPROMs

Unread post by parametric » Fri Sep 18, 2015 3:12 am

I've always considered that we should be ALLOWED to maintain our Synths in working condition for as long as we choose - by whatever means are at our disposal.

As you say, Yamaha in particular have a good reputation in stocking parts/chips/firmware for their older boards for LONG TIMES . . . .

I think most makers DO tend to carry spares in this manner, but often have different views on HOW LONG - after a board is declared "Legacy".

When this happens, then users have to fend for themselves, and it is at THIS point, I defend my statement "by whatever means are at our disposal".

When stocks of spares are GONE - I take it as a sign that the company is no longer interested in the product and do not consider that further profit can be made from it. I.E. it's not financially viable to continue support.

Yamaha has been "Yamaha" for a LONG time and so their reputation has grown and been maintained at the level we know and respect.

In my own case, my Alesis Fusion, now legacy since 2006, is a different situation. The Alesis name still persists, now owned by Akai, with SOME spares common to the MPC5000 (just gone legacy, I understand).

Akai seem to be taking Alesis in a different direction, mostly in the DJ direction. The Fusion was (IMO) their greatest Synth Product and appears to be their last in that field . . . .

Boardroom changes generally result in the goalposts being moved as regards support and spares of older kit, so I see no harm in someone copying an eprom and making it available to another, on a cost+beer basis.

Its really only "maintenace", keeps it out of landfill, and makes the recipient "happy".

What's not to like? ((i))

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Alesis Fusion 8SSD AND 6SSD - BOTH are 384Mb/120Gb SSD/Akai ADVANCE61/Yamaha MOXF6/1024Mb Flash Ram/Yamaha SY85/8.5mb vol/1024k non-vol/DX21/Roland MT32/Bachmann double overstrung Baby Grand Piano/Win10 Pro/Ubuntu MATE 15.0.4/iBook G4/Mac OS 10.4.6/ProTools 7.4/MBox2/M-Audio 24/96/

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Re: Lifetime of firmware in EPROMs

Unread post by parametric » Fri Sep 18, 2015 3:23 am

tux wrote:
Miks wrote: on a magneto-optical medium called Magneto Optical Disk...

8) 0-)
Ah, wow, never heard of that! 8O
I think that is what MiniDisks (MD) were, actually . . . . .

I DID hear that there WAS a DATA variant of the MD, fitted in a 3.5" bay in your PC, but it never really left Japan?

Back in the day, I thought it would make quite a good backup device for smaller amounts of data?

The MD drives are very delicate though.

I know, 'cos I actually repaired one once . . .

FRIGHTENINGLY small parts . . .

parametric
Alesis Fusion 8SSD AND 6SSD - BOTH are 384Mb/120Gb SSD/Akai ADVANCE61/Yamaha MOXF6/1024Mb Flash Ram/Yamaha SY85/8.5mb vol/1024k non-vol/DX21/Roland MT32/Bachmann double overstrung Baby Grand Piano/Win10 Pro/Ubuntu MATE 15.0.4/iBook G4/Mac OS 10.4.6/ProTools 7.4/MBox2/M-Audio 24/96/

NI Komplete11 Ultimate

Sector101 2x SYEMB06 / 4 x EXM-E3 128MB DRAM Module

BRAND NEW DSDD (720k) FLOPPY DISKS FOR SALE - http://www.yamahaforums.co.uk/forum/vie ... =22&t=9217

Watch out now! take care, BEWARE of the greedy leaders! They'll take you where you should not go - (George Harrison)

IT'S TRUE - "MONEY TALKS" - TO ME, IT MOSTLY SAYS "GOODBYE" ;-)
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Re: Lifetime of firmware in EPROMs

Unread post by Miks » Fri Sep 18, 2015 10:47 am

tux wrote:
Ah, wow, never heard of that! 8O

Wait a moment (tux bends under the desk and takes a photo of his PC)...
Do you mean something like this: :wink: :mrgreen:
You little tease... :D Yeah, that's exactly what I'm talking about! My MO drive (Fujitsu MCE 3064SS - SCSI) can take media up to 640 MB of capacity - and somewhere an external Fujitsu MO drive taking media up to 1,3 GB of capacity still lounges around... as well as many of those media disks of various capacity.
My (key related) gear (in alphabetical order):
Kawai: K1 II
Korg: M1 (up'd to EX, w/ 'Cool Blue'), M1REX (w/ 'Cool Blue'), Poly-800
Roland: D-50, D-110, D-550, PG-1000
Yamaha: AW1600, DX7IID (w/ 'Cool Blue'), EX5R, RM50, RX5, SY99 (w/ 'Cool Blue'), TG500, TX-802, YMM2
Sector101: SYEMB05 (5x), SYEMB06 (3x), EXFLM2 (1kit), MCD Sweet16 (1x), WaveBlade 8MB Card (1x) & 1x Programmer Unit for WaveBlade


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Re: Lifetime of firmware in EPROMs

Unread post by tux » Fri Sep 18, 2015 11:43 am

Miks wrote:My MO drive (Fujitsu MCE 3064SS - SCSI) can take media up to 640 MB of capacity
Mine (Fujitsu DynaMO 640 Ai) is actually IDE, not SCSI, but it takes the same media as the SCSI version.
http://www.manualslib.com/manual/479648 ... 640ai.html
My Yamaha RM50 page
My Yamaha synths: RM50, TG77, TG500, EX5R, CS6R (with PLG150-AN and PLG150-DX)

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Re: Lifetime of firmware in EPROMs

Unread post by Miks » Fri Sep 18, 2015 11:58 am

WOW - didn't know they were available as IDE drives... 8O
My (key related) gear (in alphabetical order):
Kawai: K1 II
Korg: M1 (up'd to EX, w/ 'Cool Blue'), M1REX (w/ 'Cool Blue'), Poly-800
Roland: D-50, D-110, D-550, PG-1000
Yamaha: AW1600, DX7IID (w/ 'Cool Blue'), EX5R, RM50, RX5, SY99 (w/ 'Cool Blue'), TG500, TX-802, YMM2
Sector101: SYEMB05 (5x), SYEMB06 (3x), EXFLM2 (1kit), MCD Sweet16 (1x), WaveBlade 8MB Card (1x) & 1x Programmer Unit for WaveBlade


http://rescuer-uslar.de/
https://www.facebook.com/Rescuer.Uslar/

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Re: Lifetime of firmware in EPROMs

Unread post by SiriusHardware » Sun Sep 20, 2015 12:39 pm

The question of what to back precious EPROM firmware up onto is a thorny problem in itself.

Optical media (CD, DVD is sensitive to sunlight and, left exposed to light, will not last very long. Kept in the dark, they fare a little better but I personally would not keep anything important backed up on optical media alone.

Flash memory may suffer from long term data fade just like eproms.

HDDs are probably the most long-term stable storage, but they are also very electromechanically complex and there's more in a HDD which might fail. Worse still, the interfaces keep changing, so if you backed stuff up onto IDE drives a few years back you could find it increasingly difficult to find a computer motherboard which can talk to it (for the time being, USB to IDE adaptor / interfaces are available, but for how long)?

I maintain a DOS/Windows 3.1 computer in running order partly because it has the necessary parallel port and support software to talk to my very high end EPROM/Microprocessor device programmer, bought at enormous personal cost about 20 years ago. I can't afford to replace it with something modern and if I did, the new unit probably wouldn't support some of the antique Bipolar PROM devices which I still need to be able to programme from time to time. For transferring files to and from the DOS machine I use one of the few types of 'large' media supported both in DOS and in relatively modern versions of Windows: Parallel port ZIP drives.

We aren't the only ones who face this dilemmna - museums which work to preserve media (such as old films or audio recordings) are constantly having to transfer or convert their archives to new formats both (software and hardware)

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Re: Lifetime of firmware in EPROMs

Unread post by parametric » Sun Sep 20, 2015 3:22 pm

SiriusHardware wrote:The question of what to back precious EPROM firmware up onto is a thorny problem in itself.
Indeed it is. The "March of progress" hopes we haven't noticed this problem :D
SiriusHardware wrote:Optical media (CD, DVD is sensitive to sunlight and, left exposed to light, will not last very long. Kept in the dark, they fare a little better but I personally would not keep anything important backed up on optical media alone.
Further to this, I wonder what your views are on this:
During my time with a Philips DVD Recorder, I got to use DVD+RW media. Apparently, these use a METALLIC eutectic to form the image.

My brief time in a metallurgical testing laboratory suggested to me that a metallic image would be more "robust" that one based on azo dyes - which, as you say, are susceptible to erasure in sunlight.

I think the CDRW disks use the same arrangement.

Perhaps THIS might be a safer solution?

(ALL of the above being dependent on the continued availability of the LASERS used to read the disks - AND the Drives they live inside :? )
SiriusHardware wrote:Flash memory may suffer from long term data fade just like eproms.
I'll accept your word on that as its out of my area of experience 8)
SiriusHardware wrote:HDDs are probably the most long-term stable storage, but they are also very electromechanically complex and there's more in a HDD which might fail. Worse still, the interfaces keep changing, so if you backed stuff up onto IDE drives a few years back you could find it increasingly difficult to find a computer motherboard which can talk to it (for the time being, USB to IDE adaptor / interfaces are available, but for how long)?
Quite so. I think the HD manufacturers are struggling ATM and will continue to do so as SSDs fall in price.
Whilst they will not disappear any time soon, I do think the writing is on the wall. The precision and complexity of HDDs required to make them reliable IS a problem for sure.
My cousin bought a 1TB Toshiba drive the other day that didn't work "out of the box" . . . . Sure it'll be replaced no problem - but it's still alarming?
SiriusHardware wrote:I maintain a DOS/Windows 3.1 computer in running order partly because it has the necessary parallel port and support software to talk to my very high end EPROM/Microprocessor device programmer, bought at enormous personal cost about 20 years ago. I can't afford to replace it with something modern and if I did, the new unit probably wouldn't support some of the antique Bipolar PROM devices which I still need to be able to programme from time to time. For transferring files to and from the DOS machine I use one of the few types of 'large' media supported both in DOS and in relatively modern versions of Windows: Parallel port ZIP drives.
THAT is a labour of love - probably involving a sharp intake of breath every time you boot it up?

I remember that combo well from my final employment in the Music Dept of a UK University.

Have you explored the possibility of running 3.1 as a virtual machine under Windows?

I have XP Pro and Ubuntu MATE virtual machines running on my Win7 Pro machine.

Supposedly you can run DOS similarly . . . . .
SiriusHardware wrote:We aren't the only ones who face this dilemmna - museums which work to preserve media (such as old films or audio recordings) are constantly having to transfer or convert their archives to new formats both (software and hardware)
Tell me about it . . . . . :(

At the Uni, we had composers amongst the Academics, whose entire body of work (and hence, reputation) was stored on magnetic media (DAT Audio, back then).

DATs need to be "refreshed" every couple of years, and (probably best) copied to new media as a routine.

DAT is really history with writable CDs now, though I still have a Panasonic SV3700 which I keep in case of needing to access a DAT . . . .

Archiving is a REAL problem. Which way to jump? SD cards? USB Sticks?

When the drives disappear, a CD reverts to a beer mat :cry:

Vinyl (Lo-tech) could be "heard" constructing something in your shed, with a motor, a piece of wood for a pickup arm - and a PIN :lol: :lol:

Not so, I think, could you build a LASER in that shed to play back your CD/DVD Disk :lol:

I've thought about this problem much over the years, and MY solution, clunky though it is, SHOULD guarantee recovery without too much pain . . . . Though you're probably NOT going to like it :lol:

Given that the data be it audio, video or just "data", is no more that 1s and zeros . . . .

I propose - punched tape. Possibly punched MYLAR tape (rather than paper) for better PHYSICAL robustness. Short of Fire, it should be fairly long lasting, and it should be possible to recover onto whatever media exists at the time without TOO MUCH difficulty.

Only problem might be the AMOUNT of tape needed :lol:

What do you think?

BTW, where you from? UK, or ?

Best Regards

parametric
Alesis Fusion 8SSD AND 6SSD - BOTH are 384Mb/120Gb SSD/Akai ADVANCE61/Yamaha MOXF6/1024Mb Flash Ram/Yamaha SY85/8.5mb vol/1024k non-vol/DX21/Roland MT32/Bachmann double overstrung Baby Grand Piano/Win10 Pro/Ubuntu MATE 15.0.4/iBook G4/Mac OS 10.4.6/ProTools 7.4/MBox2/M-Audio 24/96/

NI Komplete11 Ultimate

Sector101 2x SYEMB06 / 4 x EXM-E3 128MB DRAM Module

BRAND NEW DSDD (720k) FLOPPY DISKS FOR SALE - http://www.yamahaforums.co.uk/forum/vie ... =22&t=9217

Watch out now! take care, BEWARE of the greedy leaders! They'll take you where you should not go - (George Harrison)

IT'S TRUE - "MONEY TALKS" - TO ME, IT MOSTLY SAYS "GOODBYE" ;-)
http://www.chrisnmiller.co.uk/Chris

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