I present here some personal material for the HP-IL:
- The PIL-Box, a HP-IL / USB interface. The free ILPer software emulates a basic display/printer and a mass storage unit on PC using the PIL-Box. Main usage is to load/save programs from/to PC.
- The PIL-IO board is a real, self-contained HP-IL device combining a mini HP-IL/GPIO interface and a simple HP-IL/serial link, to experiment with HP-IL at low risk and minimum cost. Main usage is to interface the HP-IL loop with electronic circuitry, such as an Arduino board.
The PIL-Box is a HP-IL/USB translator. It uses NO OBSOLETE HP PARTS such as the HP-IL chip or the custom HP-IL pulse transformer. It aims to be an alternative to the old ISA HP-IL board (HP82973A) and to be compatible with most computers/OS that support USB.
July 2009: First units delivered to users!
September 2009: New batch of PIL-Box, using a mini-USB
connector and a slimmer housing.
The PIL-Box firmware has been improved with new functionalities:
- 115 kbps serial speed support (useful only with the HP-71B, no noticeable speed improvement with the HP-41C),
- the PIL-Box can now be the loop controller,
- several bug fixes, mainly when used with the HP-71B, which is a powerful HP-IL controller but quite strict regarding HP-IL protocol compliance.
October 2009: Firmware update 1.4
This firmware update corrects a timing problem when using the PIL-Box with a HP71B and HP-IL module version 1A. If you are in this case, contact me for an upgrade. The fix is not need if you are using a HP41 or HP75 as loop controller, or if you have a HP71B with HP-IL module 1B.
February 2010: New ILPer
The new ILPer version no more requires the installation of the MS NET Framework and is more robust, thanks to Christoph Giesselink.
December 2013: The PIL-Box is still available!
I’m still able to provide the PIL-Box or the PIL-IO board, either fully assembled/tested or as a component kit.
May 2014: Firmware update 1.5 – NEW
This firmware update provides improved transfer speed. The gain vs version 1.4 depends on the host system, an average value is about +25%. Furthermore, there is no need to tune the FTDI driver parameters anymore.
Contact me if you have a PIL-Box with serial number less than P159 and are interested to update the firmware.
Note: This update is interesting for people using the HP-71B to load large files (for instance ROM image with ROMCOPY). There is no gain with the HP-41C since this machine is really very slow…
The USB PIL-Box board
PIL-Box parts The board installed inside the housing,
with HP-IL cables attached
Important: the HP-IL cable shown on the pictures above is NOT provided with the PIL-Box and must be added by the user.
I can provide either the fully assembled/tested PIL-Box, or a kit to be assembled (basic soldering skill needed).
For more information, contact me.
The PIL-IO board provides 4 digital input/output lines and a serial link (UART type, logic level) to the HP-IL loop. It can be driven by any HP-IL controller such as the HP-41C or the HP-71B.
The PIL-IO board is intended to be used by electronic hobbyists, main usage is to interface the HP-IL loop with electronic circuitry.
Note that there is no USB port nor housing, and that a 5V power supply is needed (3 x AAA batteries work as well).
I propose the PIL-IO as a component kit, upon request I can provide it fully assembled/tested. Contact me for more information.
General presentation and demonstration at the Allschwil
meeting (Nov. 2014),
including an example of connection with an Arduino board. The Arduino sketch used during the demo is here.
PIL-IO board documentation Description of the PIL-IO board and instructions for use (pdf file – Nov. 2010)
> What will be the
The price is around 100 Euros, depending if you want the board only, or the fully assembled/tested PIL-Box with the housing. Contact me for more details.
> Is a component
I propose a component kit with the PCB, the programmed PIC uC and all the passive components, and with a bare housing (raw panels to be punched), see documentation below. Contact me if interested.
> Will the PIC
source program be released?
I’m providing the source program of the PIL-Box version 1.1, which is the core of the HP-IL/serial converter for personal (not commercial) use. This version was used for the first prototypes and works well with the HP-41C, but doesn’t have the features of later versions such as fast 115 kbps speed, loop controller capability, and may not work properly with the HP-71B.
I’m still working to improve or include additional features in the PIL-box.
> What software
will support the PIL-Box?
Emu41 includes an experimental support of the PIL-Box, but it has been found quite unreliable. I suggest to use IL-Per (see below), it will work together with Emu41/Emu71 by sharing the same virtual mass storage drive for program/data exchange.
The IL-Per software (including the source files) is freely available, my wish is that IL-Per will be the basis for people to develop applications to support the HP-IL.
> Is a special
The USB PIL-Box uses a FTDI chip. The drivers are available at FTDI Web site, they are free, well supported and available for most Operating Systems.
> Is an external
power supply needed?
No, there is no need of external supply for the USB version. The PIL-Box is powered from the USB cable.
> How is the
PIL-Box connected to the HP-41C/HP-71B/HP-75C?
The HP82160 HP-IL module is needed for the HP-41C. For the HP-71B, the HP82401 HP-IL module is needed as well. For the HP-75C/D, the HP-IL is built in the machine. One single HP-IL cable (not provided with the PIL-Box) is also needed to make the connection to the PIL-Box; this is done by cutting the HP-IL cable into two halves and attaching it to the PIL-Box screw connectors as indicated on the pictures above. No soldering is needed.
> Can the PIL-Box
be connected to the HP-41C (or to the HP-71B) without the HP-IL module?
The answer is no.
> Can the PIL-Box
be used to access a USB key or other USB devices from a HP-41C or HP-71B?
No, the PIL-Box has no host capability. It can only be used as a USB device communicating with a host (usually a PC).
> Can the PIL-Box
be used to access HP-IL from a HP50G for instance?
The PIL-Box has no host capability. It can only be used as a USB device communicating with a host (usually a PC).
> What is the difference between the PIL-Box and the PIL-IO?
The PIL-Box and PIL-IO share almost the same hardware with different firmware and usage:
The PIL-Box is a HP-IL / USB interface that is used to connect the HP-IL loop to a PC. Main usage is to load/save programs from/to PC.
The PIL-IO board is a real HP-IL device providing digital I/Os and serial link to the HP-IL. Main usage is to interface the HP-IL loop with electronic circuitry.
> Can the PIL-Box be used to control a HP-IL instrument (such as the HP3468 or HP3421) from a PC?
Yes, an example of software code is provided below: ILCtrl is a simple example in Visual Basic controlling HP-IL devices.
I don’t provide a complete solution, but you can use this code freely to build your own application depending on your needs.
> Is a special
software needed on the HP41 (or HP71, or HP75) side to load/save programs on PC
with the PIL-Box?
No, you just need to use regular HP-IL commands (HP-41C: from the HP82160 HP-IL module, HP-71B: from the HP82401 HP-IL module).
> Is there any
support of the PIL-Box for Linux or OSX?
The PIL-Box itself is fully supported using the FTDI drivers.
For the ILPer software, there are solutions available for Linux or OSX, see below.
> The PIL-Box
doesn’t seem to answer to the FINDID/ID/AID (HP-41C) or
DEVADDR/DEVID$/DEVAID (HP-71B) commands. Is there an error?
The PIL-Box itself is only an interface or translator and doesn’t respond to this commands. The ILPer software on PC side must be running to get answers to these commands.
The PIL-IO is a real HP-IL device that answers to these commands.
> Can the PIL-Box
work with the Portable or Portable Plus computers?
YES! See my Portable Plus page.
HP-IL / Serial translator – technical description (pdf file – Oct 2008). This file documents the basis of the PIL-Box principle.
PIL-Box firmware source file (version 1.1, for documentation only – Dec 2008)
PIL-Box Kit Description of a component kit to be assembled (pdf file)
PIL-Box Setup Notes Connection of the HP-IL cables to the PIL-Box (pdf file – Sept 2009)
How to solder the HP-IL cables, on Etienne Victoria’s site (alternative to the screw connector)
ILPer is a HP-IL peripheral emulator using the PIL-Box. It provides an emulation of a mass storage unit and a dumb alphanumeric non-graphic printer. It also provides a HP-IL scope that was very useful to test the PIL-Box and identify some tricky problems.
I originally wrote ILPer in
Visual Basic to support the first PIL-Box users.
Later on, Christoph Gießelink ported my sources with several improvements to Visual C.
The latest version of ILPer is available on Christoph’s site:
This version doesn’t require the installation of
the quite big MS NET Framework that was needed for my Visual Basic version and
provides several fixes and improvements:
the ILPer window can be minimized and restored without problems,
the COM port can be selected from a list of available ports,
there is a “open file” button to select the disc image file,
and finally the settings (COM port and speed, image file name) are saved.
Here is my original documentation:
ILPer – Installation and Documentation (pdf file)
My Visual Basic version is still here for documentation:
ILPer – Version 1.35 - VB version (zip file)
I’m a quite unexperienced Windows programmer (I prefer to program calculators or microcontrollers), so I chose Visual Basic Express Edition (a free language) to quickly build a Windows application to support my PIL-Box. I used the HP-IL code taken from my Emu41/Emu71 emulators, but ported from C to VB.
Source files are included. You are welcome to improve
the ILPer software, or write completely new software
to support the PIL-Box.
I didn’t document yet the details of the protocol between ILPer and the PIL-Box, but it is very simple and can be understood by looking at the source file MainForm.vb.
Historical note: this ILPer version is a reincarnation of my ILPER software I wrote initially on 1986-1988 on a 6502 system to emulate mass storage and display units for my HP-41C and HP-71B... See the ILPer VB source files for more details...
Support of Linux and OS X users:
ILPer has been ported to Linux by Christophe Gottheimer:
ilper-linux-1.35.2 available in the hp41.org Utility Library.
(You may need to register – it’s free – to download ilper-Linux from hp41.org)
Running ILPer on OS X:
The procedure to run ILPer on OS X system has been described by Juergen Keller here:
Make PIL-Box ILPer program run on OS X in the HP Articles Forum of the Museum of HP Calculators.
ILCtrl is a demonstrator of a simple HP-IL controller using the PIL-Box:
The example just above illustrates the use of the PIL-Box with a HP3468A multimeter, a HP9114A disc drive and a HP-71B:
The trace window shows the results of the following
Read the device IDs of the 3 devices,
then put the HP-IL devices in remote mode,
then take 3 measurements from the HP3468A,
then send a "HELLO PILBOX" message to the HP3468A display,
then read the status byte of the HP9114A (no disc was inserted),
then send a "beep" command to the HP-71B (the HP-71B wakes up and beeps!),
then send a "off" command to the HP-71B (the HP-71B turns itself off!),
then clear all HP-IL devices (HP3468A display returns to default mode).
ILCtrl – Version 1.02 (zip file) – UPDATED June 2014
Source files (Visual Basic) are included. It illustrates how easy it is to implement basic HP-IL controller capabilities on a computer using the PIL-Box, it’s actually easier than to implement device capabilities.
ILvlif is another demonstrator of using the PIL-Box to control a HP-IL mass storage unit.
ILvlif allows to access LIF-formatted media using the PIL-Box and a HP9114 or HP82161(*) drive. It displays the information from sector 0 of the tape or disc and the content of the catalog. Most LIF file types used by the HP41, HP71, HP75, HP series 80 (HP85/87), and HP9000 (series 200/300) Basic and Pascal workstations are recognized.
(*) the HP82161 cassette unit has not been tested.
ILvlif – Version 1.02 (zip file) – UPDATED June 2014
Source files (Visual Basic) are included.
General description of HP-IL
http://www.fortitudine.com/~coryc/html/hpil.html An overview of HP-IL
http://www.hpmuseum.org/software/swcd.htm#op Documents related to HP-IL on MoHPC's DVD, including HP-IL specifications
http://www.hp41.org/HPIL.cfm Extensive HP-IL documentation, including detailed HP-IL specifications
http://www.hp-collection.org/hpil.html Collection of HP-IL devices and interfaces
HHC 2009 HPIL.pdf Egan Ford “HP-IL 2009” presentation at the HHC 2009 Meeting (pdf)
http://www.mh-aerotools.de/hp/hp-il/index.htm How to Make Your Own HP-IL Cables, by Martin Hepperle.
http://hp.giesselink.com/hpil.htm HP-IL Page of Christoph Giesselink
http://www.hpl.hp.com/hpjournal/pdfs/IssuePDFs/hpjindex.html#1983 HP Journal issue on HP-IL (Jan. 1983)
http://www.hpmuseum.net/exhibit.php?catdoc=9 "The HP-IL System, an Introductory Guide" (1982)
If you want to have more information on my HP-IL activities, please contact me :
J-F Garnier, 2015