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What can you do with the "hidden PCMCIA slot" of a Panasonic Toughbook CF-28 Mk3?

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MX-16_fan
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What can you do with the "hidden PCMCIA slot" of a Panasonic Toughbook CF-28 Mk3?

#1 Postby MX-16_fan » Mon Nov 06, 2017 3:04 pm

@all:

I happened to purchase a very nice old Panasonic Toughbook CF-28 Mk3 for a very cheap price. Of course this model is fairly outdated as far as hardware is concerned, but it should be fine for writing and emails using antiX or maybe even MX-17.

Couldn't say "no" because the machine was in such a fine shape. AFAIK it had been used for measuring something at a road quality evaluation department of some highway administration. Apparently it never had much to do, it looks like brand new.

I really love this machine because it is of such a fine quality, and you see that the people who designed it really thought about what they were doing.

Now here's my problem: There is something often discussed in Toughbook forums, but I really don't get what it is. It's called the "hidden PCMCIA slot", or sometimes "hidden Mini PCI slot". Some people talk of a "Mini PCMCIA card" that can be inserted there - I couldn't find out what that is supposed to be .

Some people use this whatever-it-is slot for retrofitting WLAN.

I've read a huge number of postings but I really don't get it:

* Is this slot normally being blocked by an Ethernet adapter card, meaning you would loose Ethernet if you used this slot for something else?

* Or is it empty (usually)?

* What kind of cards exactly can you insert there:

- PC Card (= "PMCIA") CardBus - one like this one in the front of the photo: https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/ ... nd-iii.jpg?

- Or Mini PCI (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Conventional_PCI#Mini_PCI)? If so, which form factor - Type I, Type II or Type III?

* Is there any kind of SSD-based bootable medium that can bei inserted there?

Hope one of you can help me. Unfortunately people seem to be rather chaotic in Toughbook forums - discussion is far from being as well-ordered as here.

Btw. I couldn't even find anything on Bob Johnson's website (https://www.bobjohnson.com/) and blog (Bob Johnson seems to be the number one Panasonic Toughbooks guru.)

In case you don't own a CF-28 yet, I do recommend getting one for yourself. It looks really neat, and its logic design really brightens up your day :happy:.


Greetings, and have a nice week, Joe

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Re: What can you do with the "hidden PCMCIA slot" of a Panasonic Toughbook CF-28 Mk3?

#2 Postby timkb4cq » Mon Nov 06, 2017 9:26 pm

The functional schematic in the CF-28 repair manual shows that all three slots in the CF-28 use Type II PCMCIA circuitry. This is also known as PC-Card. CardBus is backward compatible with PC-Card but CardBus cards cannot be used in PCMCIA (PC-Card) slots.

I haven't seen even a spec on Mini-PCMCIA so I can't be sure, but it is likely one of two things. It could just have size constraints on a standard PCMCIA card slot *or* it could be a CF (CompactFlash) Card slot. CF cards slots share the electrical specifications and circuitry for Type 1 (16 bit) PCMCIA cards (which is essentially an IDE drive interface) but are smaller. CF cards are usually flash memory and for many years were used in POS video displays because the throughput was better than usb flash and the circuitry was cheap. They are readily available and you could likely boot from one. Sandisk made CF wireless cards and SD wireless to CF socket adapters are still made.
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Re: What can you do with the "hidden PCMCIA slot" of a Panasonic Toughbook CF-28 Mk3?

#3 Postby rokytnji.1 » Mon Nov 06, 2017 9:47 pm

On my CF-48 running AntiX. I add 2 usb 2 ports. I firewire port. I mini firewire port. With one Cardbus.

If I want to use wireless N. I insert my wireless N pcmcia card and turn off the internal wifi switch in the bios.

Sorry. I cannot give where to buy these of mmake and model numbers. These were purchased years and years ago. Are cheapo chinese knock offs with minimal info on them. Just luck of the draw in my case.

http://www.usbgear.com/Firewire_PCMCIA_ ... oports.jpg
http://www.dx.com/p/usb-and-firewire-4- ... -card-5558

I can't say the above has compatible internal chips like the ones I bought.
Cuz china uses all kinds of chip sets in their builds.

The wireless N pcmcia card I bought is made sms and are rare as hens teeth. Because wireless G cards are more prevalent where they are for sell. MY SMS cardbus came with a atheros chip. I am not sure what the Dynex card below comes with. I figure it it up to the buyer to research that. By emailing the seller.

https://www.ebay.com/itm/Wireless-N-Not ... 1253852211

Anyways. That is how I roll on my Panasonic CF-48. Which runs AntiX as a test bed machine.

Is there any kind of SSD-based bootable medium that can bei inserted there?


Probably not. Those old award bios usually require a ide connection to boot off the motherboard and for the bios to see a drive.
I can get my Panasonic yo boot usb 1.1 . Using my internal floppy drive with a PLOP floppy disk I made.
I explored pcmcia boot off of plop with pcmcia to cf card. But without the mother board recognizing a ide interface.
PLOP was funny about recognising usb. But pcmcia storage. It would not boot off that.
Which those adapters don't provide. All that card and setup is good for? Extra storage like a usb drive.

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Re: What can you do with the "hidden PCMCIA slot" of a Panasonic Toughbook CF-28 Mk3?

#4 Postby MX-16_fan » Sat Nov 11, 2017 1:08 pm

@timkb4cq:

timkb4cq wrote:The functional schematic in the CF-28 repair manual shows that all three slots in the CF-28 use Type II PCMCIA circuitry. This is also known as PC-Card.


Thanks for looking into that, Tim!

timkb4cq wrote:CardBus is backward compatible with PC-Card but CardBus cards cannot be used in PCMCIA (PC-Card) slots.


Interesting. Didn't know that.

timkb4cq wrote:I haven't seen even a spec on Mini-PCMCIA so I can't be sure, but it is likely one of two things. It could just have size constraints on a standard PCMCIA card slot *or* it could be a CF (CompactFlash) Card slot.


I found a rather chaotic set of instructions here: http://www.prc68.com/I/. From what I see on the photo I'd say that this actually is Mini PCI (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Conventional_PCI#Mini_PCI), right?

timkb4cq wrote:CF cards slots share the electrical specifications and circuitry for Type 1 (16 bit) PCMCIA cards (which is essentially an IDE drive interface) but are smaller.


Interesting: "The interface operates, depending on the state of a mode pin on power-up, as either a 16-bit PC Card (0x7FF address limit) or as an IDE (PATA) interface." (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/CompactFl ... al_details)

timkb4cq wrote:CF cards are usually flash memory and for many years were used in POS video displays because the throughput was better than usb flash and the circuitry was cheap. They are readily available and you could likely boot from one.


In your opinion, what would be the biggest size CF Card this system could work with, if connected via the "hidden PCMCIA slot" (in case it exists) or one of the conventional PCMCIA slots, be it directly or by using an adapter?

timkb4cq wrote:Sandisk made CF wireless cards and SD wireless to CF socket adapters are still made.


"Wireless" meaning what exactly here? I don't get what you mean here.


Greetings, and have a nice weekend, Joe

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Re: What can you do with the "hidden PCMCIA slot" of a Panasonic Toughbook CF-28 Mk3?

#5 Postby MX-16_fan » Sat Nov 11, 2017 1:12 pm

@rokytnji.1:

rokytnji.1 wrote:On my CF-48 running AntiX (...) ."


Cool, that machine is even older than mine. And still works. Remarkable. Thanks for the infos!


Greetings, and have a nice weekend, Joe

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Re: What can you do with the "hidden PCMCIA slot" of a Panasonic Toughbook CF-28 Mk3?

#6 Postby timkb4cq » Sat Nov 11, 2017 7:38 pm

If you check out the functional schematic on pg 10 of this: http://t2k.wdfiles.com/local--files/cf- ... Manual.pdf
you'll see there are 2 mini-pci slots and 3 PCMCIA type 2 slots. Only 2 PCMCIA slots appear on the exterior so there should be one hidden inside was well.

n.b. to PC-Card/Cardbus compatibility - For marketing purposes some PC-Cards were labeled as Cardbus sine they would work in a Cardbus slot and nobody could seem to remember PCMCIA.

The original CF-Card spec only allowed addressing of up to 137GB of memory. Later updates to the spec expanded that to 512GB and then to 2PB, but you would probably be limited to 128GB cards given that those updates happened years after the CF-28 was designed.

By wireless, I mean older 802.11b wifi adapters in CF card format, and currently there are SD cards with 802.11n access points built in and there are SD to CF adapters that work with these cards. These are generally used in cameras so you can instantly share the pictures you take. Don't know if the SD card/Adapter setup would work in your toughbook but it's interesting.
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Re: What can you do with the "hidden PCMCIA slot" of a Panasonic Toughbook CF-28 Mk3?

#7 Postby MX-16_fan » Sun Nov 12, 2017 8:14 am

@timkb4cq:

timkb4cq wrote:By wireless, I mean older 802.11b wifi adapters in CF card format, and currently there are SD cards with 802.11n access points built in and there are SD to CF adapters that work with these cards. These are generally used in cameras so you can instantly share the pictures you take. Don't know if the SD card/Adapter setup would work in your toughbook but it's interesting.


Yeah, interesting idea indeed. Thanks for this information.


Greetings, Joe

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Re: What can you do with the "hidden PCMCIA slot" of a Panasonic Toughbook CF-28 Mk3?

#8 Postby MX-16_fan » Tue Nov 14, 2017 10:35 am

@timkb4cq:

timkb4cq wrote:If you check out the functional schematic on pg 10 of this: http://t2k.wdfiles.com/local--files/cf- ... Manual.pdf
you'll see there are 2 mini-pci slots and 3 PCMCIA type 2 slots. Only 2 PCMCIA slots appear on the exterior so there should be one hidden inside was well.


You are right. Just opened it (not so easy if you don't want to damage the casing). One full-size PCMCIA slot :happy:.

I might get a "PCMCIA" WiFi card for this slot. Would have to find some BIOS that's able to talk to it, however.


Thanks so much, and greetings, Joe

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Re: What can you do with the "hidden PCMCIA slot" of a Panasonic Toughbook CF-28 Mk3?

#9 Postby MX-16_fan » Tue Nov 14, 2017 12:15 pm

@timkb4cq:

timkb4cq wrote:CardBus is backward compatible with PC-Card but CardBus cards cannot be used in PCMCIA (PC-Card) slots.


Just did some research on this once more. Seems like this is only the case with 16-Bit machines compatible only with very old PCMCIA standards:

CardBus are PCMCIA 5.0 or later ... 32-bit PCMCIA devices, ... present in laptops from late 1997 onward. CardBus is effectively a 32-bit, 33 MHz PCI bus in the PC Card design. (...) The notch on the left hand front of the device is slightly shallower on a CardBus device so, by design, a 32-bit device cannot be plugged into earlier equipment supporting only 16-bit devices. Most new slots accept both CardBus and the original 16-bit PC Card devices. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/PC_Card#CardBus)

Sounds like CardBus cards can indeed be used in the CF-28.

The circuit diagram you referred to explicitly states that the PCMCIA slots are connected to a "32bit [sic!] PCI Bus".

What do you think?


Greetings, and thanks in advance for your answer, Joe


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