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The question "What are the differences in system support between the various HxC Floppy Emulator hardware options?" has three votes to close as "off-topic." (There's also one "too-broad" vote, which is arguably correct; this question is not about that.)

(There's also one "too-broad" vote, which is arguably correct; this question is not about that. I'm looking specifically for information on why this should/should not be voted "off-topic" specifically, not discussion about whether it could also be voted "too broad," as asking for a list answer (also "too broad") or any other reason to close it.)

Is this question off-topic, and if so, why? If it is off-topic, what kind of edits would need to be made to make it on-topic? (I.e., how drastically would the question have to be changed?)

Also, if it is off-topic, does that mean conceptually similar devices such as the SD2IEC are also off-topic?

Discussion

The floppy emulator device itself is clearly modern and using modern components.

However, the question is about using it to replace historic peripherals on no-longer-manufactured computers built in the 70s and 80s. Further, the device itself uses an interface that the majority of modern computers no longer support. (The exception might be motherboards larger than Mini ITX, but even there most systems do not actually have a floppy attached, nor would one be likely to use a floppy or floppy emulator over a USB memory device.)

There's really no reason for this device (or any floppy emulator) to exist at all except to support pre-USB systems.

Looking at the on-topic page, I see the following things that might be applicable:

Supporting on-topic:

  • "Questions are most welcomed on... how to use or preserve computing equipment that is no longer manufactured or supported by the manufacturer." I would think that there's no question here that my primary purpose is to use various old computers.

Supporting off-topic:

  • "Questions regarding configuration of emulators on a modern computer may be better asked on Super User." Well, it's an emulator on modern hardware, though most people would consider the "computer" to be the device it's connected to.
  • "Questions regarding emulation on specific machines may be better asked on other Stack Exchange sites. For example: Raspberry Pi, Ask Different, etc." Since the emulation is being done on a modern microcontroller or FPGA, that would support asking on EE.
  • "Questions about electronics are off-topic unless they are confined to dedicated examples of existing circuitry of an existing and on-topic computer with the intention to understand its workings. For everything else, Electrical Engineering might be a good site."
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Is this question off-topic, and if so, why?

IMHO several issues could be cited, like

  • Being to broad, as it asks about a whole family of devices
  • It asks for a list answer.
  • It asks for features of a modern device
  • It lacks any concrete relation to classic computers.

While the first two would already allow a simple exclusion as off-topic, I think the real issue with this question lay withing the later ones. At the core it's about semantics. In general purpose is the pivoting point here. RC.SE supports, as cited, the preservation of classic systems. Thus a question must have a classic system as origin for being on topic. While

  1. a question asking about details for a modern device in relation to a (=>specific) classic computer would be perfectly on topic,

  2. asking about a modern device on itself will clearly be off topic.

An example for #1 using the HxC could be: "Which version of the HxC line is best for my Vector system using a Godbout Disk1A controller?". Perfect on-topic question - it would (my opinion) still be on-topic if it asks in addition for guidelines and reasoning to select getween the drives. While both are in itself about detail comparison of the HxC system, they are clearly originated in the need to run the old system.

The question about HxC features in general misses any genuine tie to specific knowledge about old computers, but asks for generic knowledge about interfaces and specific knowledge about that new device. Basically a support question for HcX devices. This leads directly to another criteria for being off topic:

  • The support area/community for HxC is more profund target to have such questions answered in the first place.

Much like doing a Google search or any other trivial first attempt to gather information that is assumed to be standard before resorting to RC.SE.

The purpose test can as well be applied on what topic the gained (inquired) information will be . Here again, the question will result in data about HxC (nonetheless interesting), but no direct gain for anything originated in a classic machine.

If it is off-topic, what kind of edits would need to be made to make it on-topic?

It needs a tie in to a concrete use case wit classic hardware. Like mentioned above by asking for these criteria as replacement in a specific machine.

(I.e., how drastically would the question have to be changed?)

Due the quite broad nature I have a hard time to come up with any twist to make it on topic at all. Turning it upside down and citing a range of classic systems to base it on would again result in a question to broad.

What might work is a new question about HxC usage for a specific usage on a concrete real world issue.

As usually, clearly showing that previous but fruitless attempts targeting more appropriate sources have been done is always a bonus to tilt ruling toward on-topicness. After all, RC.SE is about helping others solving real world issues.


Also, if it is off-topic, does that mean conceptually similar devices such as the SD2IEC are also off-topic?

While a generic "But he did" argumentation is never really helpful, citing specific examples and pointing out why one thinks it's the same issue may support a point of view.

To see what possibly could be meant I searched for SD2IEC. Only 4 questions (two of them by Curt) and three answers came up. Of the questions two were based on specific need to run an old computer. While the other two are more generic, but both can be read as searching for historic relevant information to be (optional) used with an SD2IEC device.

Similar two of the three answers are direct replays suggesting SD2IEC as solution to a need in direct use of an old computers. So they are as well as on-topic as it can be.


P.S.: It may be clarifying, if that Semantic/PoV issue is put explicit into the FAQ. It would make this generic consideration more applicable to new readers than assuming him to deduct it on his own.

  • Perhaps I'm misunderstanding your comment, but you seem to imply that asking about using the HxC with one system is "clearly originated in the need to run the old system" whereas asking about it in relation to two or more systems is not. My question was certainly originated with the need to run my old systems (I have no interest in the HxC, or any other disk emulator, otherwise), so is it just a matter of, "for modern replacements for old peripherals" one may not ask about more than one old computer system at a time?... – cjs Nov 17 '19 at 1:37
  • Or is there some way to express "I'm asking this because I have several old computer sytems and I want to avoid buying lots of different replacements if I can get just one that will work for all or most of them?" that would bring the question on topic? – cjs Nov 17 '19 at 1:37
  • @CurtJ.Sampson Yes and no. Looking at the question I fail to see it originated in a specific system with specific issues to be handled. Adding more than one computer would IMHO make it 'too broad' again. For sure, one could argue that it may be valuable for collectors to make the right strategic decisions (a good thing to do) - which in turn makes it again more about that emulation product than any old system. After all, taking all old systems into account means talking about all computer technology at whole. – Raffzahn Nov 17 '19 at 9:48
  • @CurtJ.Sampson I do understand where you come from and the intention. But even by accepting this as a (very focused) exception, which I'm somewhat inclined to do (I as well pile way too many different old systems in storage), it would end up in the 'too broad' corner again. Something you already noted, didn't you? – Raffzahn Nov 17 '19 at 9:52
  • You keep bringing in the "too broad" issue; I would very much like to separate that from the "off topic" issue because they are separate things. Are you ok with leaving that for another meta question? I am fine with you saying "the question should be closed because it's too broad, even though it's on topic," but this idea that the Apple II is on topic and the NEC PC-8001mkII is on topic, but a question that mentions both is off-topic (rather than "too broad") just doesn't make sense to me. – cjs Nov 17 '19 at 16:24
  • As for "I fail to see it originated in a specific system with specific issues to be handled," I'll accept that. But it did originate with me wanting to get working retrocomputers that I own or foresee potentially buying in the next little while, so the issue there is not in the "didn't originate in specific systems" but in the "I fail to see" part. I would be very glad to accept your advice on modifying the question to make it more clear that the primary purpose is to get these systems working. (And yes, "buy a separate FDD emulator for each machine" would be a reasonable answer.) – cjs Nov 17 '19 at 16:27
  • @CurtJ.Sampson Fine that you had a system in mind - and the new question is a perfect good one - just we can't guess that. It needs to be told. I guess this is one of the questions, where 'writing a good question (text)' is really hard - and worth the increased poits if done well. – Raffzahn Nov 17 '19 at 20:58
  • Ok, looking back on my answer I see I did not explain that most of the systems are ones I own, will buy if one comes up at an appropriate price, or would consider buying if if one came up. I don't find this information particularly relevant (should someone who owns an Apple IIc + FM-7 + MX-700 ask a separate question about those three because the answers to the Apple IIc + FM-7 + NEC PC-8001 don't apply?), but I could add it. So I'd like your advice onhow best to add this information. – cjs Nov 18 '19 at 3:14
  • The computers divide up into basically four categories: 1. I own it now. 2. I am trying to buy it, and waiting for it to come up at auction at a price I can afford. 3. I don't have one, but friends do and may want help from me requiring this device. 4. I don't have particular plans to buy it, but if a really good deal comes along on it I would pick it up. 5. No real plans to buy one. I guess I need to list 1-4, right? – cjs Nov 18 '19 at 3:16
  • So should I a) just say I do own some of these and this is a real need I'm trying to fill, not a theoretical question, b) add a third section after the list dividing up all the computers I listed by those categories, c) Divide up the second section by which category they fall into in my personal world, or d) something else? – cjs Nov 18 '19 at 3:17
  • @CurtJ.Sampson Erm... that sounds like venturing into common place question. Like asking 'what computers can a 5.25" 96 TPI floppy disk be used. Answer: A lot. Isn't it? Owning a machine doesn't make anything a valid topic per se. I own some machines (drawing up a list may overrun a questions length), but can't think of a good reason to make any question across several. I get the feeling you are looking for ways to make an unfit question fit by adding some icing. This sounds like making it worse. A good cake ... err question doesn't need icing. – Raffzahn Nov 18 '19 at 10:01
  • @CurtJ.Sampson At the core SE is a Q&A site, not a wiki or blog. So while answers may gain from adding background information to understand the issue/solution, Questions need to be focused. Instead of trying to tweak (a shiny road to abuse) a question to fit, we may have a look how a case would work out: Lets take a question about using HxC TRS-80, it will get a fitting answer. If another question arises about an Atari ST, the usual mechanics of SE as Q&A site kick in: a) it's the exact same issue, then the second will be linked and closed. ... – Raffzahn Nov 18 '19 at 10:04
  • @CurtJ.Sampson b) if it's different but related, a good answer will link to the first question and point out the relevant differences. c) if it's a complete different issue, it will be answered on it's own - while mentioning the original one as related. Bottom line: someone searching to solve the same issue will have a chance to find prior solutions These mechanics are added by purpose. duplicate and related questions do serve as additional (search) entry points, as different people will ask for the same issue using different wording. It's part of the huge success of SO/SE. – Raffzahn Nov 18 '19 at 10:08
  • I will address just one point, for the moment: "I own some machines...but can't think of a good reason to make any question across several." I do not dispute this. But because you can't think of any good reason, does that mean that there are no good reasons? – cjs Nov 18 '19 at 14:11

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