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DB-19 Madness

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I have the DB-19 connectors. They’re mine, all mine! MINE!! MWAAAHAHAHAHA!!!!!

*Cough* Sorry about that, I don’t know came over me. So the great DB-19 panic of 2015 has ended, and I’ve got 581 of these metal and plastic beauties. Of course there will probably be another DB-19 panic in 2016 when these ones run out, but hopefully I’ll have worked out another solution before then.

If you’re new to this discussion and wondering what a DB-19 is, it’s a D-SUB connector like the more familiar DB-9 serial or DB-25 parallel connectors used on many older computers. My main product is a disk emulator for 1980’s Macintosh computers, and those computers were built with a DB-19 floppy port, so my emulator board must have a DB-19 connector. The trouble is that nobody has manufactured DB-19 connectors since about 1990, as far as I can tell. Since then the small remaining demand has been slowly draining the surplus warehouses that still have DB-19’s. Last month, the supply at the few big warehouses that still had them all went to zero, and it became virtually impossible to buy them anywhere.

This touched off a crazed panic on my part, and I went digging under every rock from San Jose to Skopje to Kuala Lumpur to find these things. And when I found some, I bought them ALL. I even got a friend of a friend to hand carry some connectors from Malaysia to California for me! After two weeks of furious hunting, the hoard above is my result. I can say with pretty good confidence that this is the largest remaining stockpile of DB-19s in the world. If anybody has more, they’ve certainly made them so difficult to find and buy that they may as well not exist.

So what happens in 2016 when the supply runs out? Plan A is to find a D-SUB manufacturer with some old DB-19 molds who is willing to make more, or who can adapt their existing DB-25 process to make DB-19s too. I’ve received several quotes from D-SUB manufacturers, but unfortunately I probably can’t afford the setup costs to do this. I’ve contacted a few people in the Atari and Apple II worlds who also use DB-19 connectors, and if we pool our efforts and share the cost, it might work. I’m continuing to talk with D-SUB manufacturers in the hopes that we can find a solution that works for them and for me.

Plan B is to make a DB-19 substitute from a custom PCB and header pins. It wouldn’t really be a DB-19, but it would fit a DB-19 female socket, and could be manufactured fairly easily.

Plan C is the brute force solution: get a huge pile of DB-25 connectors, and cut each one with a band saw. 🙂

 
Footnote: Many people have written to me about DB-19 connectors they saw advertised for sale on the web. Thank you! Unfortunately, it’s very likely that the store does not actually have any DB-19 parts, and never will. It seems to be common practice for parts warehouses to list parts they don’t actually have available, and even for the web page to claim they’re in stock. Unless you hear directly from somebody at the store who can confirm they really do have DB-19 connectors, and how many they have, it’s probably just a phantom.

I’ve also found that many of the web-based parts warehouses are just alternate electronic storefronts for other warehouses, or aggregators for several other warehouses, but don’t actually have any inventory of their own. This makes it look like there are more people selling DB-19 connectors than there really are. Instead, it’s just different salesmen all selling the same stock.

Read 16 comments and join the conversation 

16 Comments so far

  1. tjjq44 February 13th, 2015 3:33 am

    Yesterday I had a reply form the guy in france, The remaining stock is exactely 87 but the price is… huge!! 10,33€ each!! So I told him that we’ll find another solution 😉

  2. Steve Chamberlin February 13th, 2015 7:14 am

    Ouch! Thanks for checking on that. I also heard a report of a similarly-priced stock of 60 in the UK. I hope to eventually get new stock made at a reasonable price, or design a DB-19 substitute, so I don’t think it makes sense to buy up the remaining old stock at 10€ prices unless it’s cheaper than those alternatives.

  3. Adam Renie February 13th, 2015 1:07 pm

    I enjoy your blog and I’m glad you could find your connectors! As you may or may not know, the second letter in the D-subminiature part naming scheme actually refers to the overall shell size. Serial and VGA ports use the smallest E shell and have 9 and 15 positions respectively (DE-9, DE-15), parallel and some old video cables w/ coax (SGI, Sun, NeXT) use the B shell (DB-25, DB-13W3), and then you have this floppy connector with a non-standard shell… At first glance it looks more like it is a DA-15, but nope! Does this size have a unique shell designation, or did the industry gave up with this convention and labeled everything DB-?

  4. Steve Chamberlin February 13th, 2015 1:15 pm

    From what I’ve seen, the DB- prefix has come to be used for any D-SUB connector with that pin pitch, and the other prefixes like DE- have mostly fallen out of use. For example, see the introduction about “DB-9” at http://www.nullmodem.com/DB-9.htm

  5. Dave Pyatt February 13th, 2015 9:24 pm

    What about Connections USA in Georgia? These seem to be legit…

    http://www.connectworld.net/cgi-bin/ccc/05MPartDB19.html

  6. Yuhong Bao February 13th, 2015 11:32 pm

    “The trouble is that nobody has manufactured DB-19 connectors since about 1990, as far as I can tell.”
    I think the Mac Classic II shipped with one, and it was made until 1993.

  7. Steve Chamberlin February 14th, 2015 7:35 am

    Connectworld ultimately just sells DB-19 stock from IEC-USA, and they’re sold out (despite what it says on their web page).

    Yes, it seems I was a few years off with my 1990 guess for DB-19 end of life. Both the Mac IIsi and the Classic II used it, and were made until 1993. There might be others we’ve overlooked too. It’s still been about 20 years since it was a current connector, though. None of the D-SUB factories or salespeople I’ve spoken to seem to have even heard of it!

  8. Steve Chamberlin February 14th, 2015 8:03 am

    I received a quote from one D-SUB manufacturer that *might* be workable. I can get 4000 new male DB-19 solder cup connectors for about $6000 total including tool setup cost. I don’t really need 4000 pieces, though. So to make it work for me, I would need to team up with a few other people or companies that need DB-19 connectors, and share the costs. Or I could buy the whole thing, and hope to resell the extra connectors on eBay or something… somebody must want these things?! 🙂

  9. Cargo Cult February 14th, 2015 12:49 pm

    These are the contents of the briefcase in Pulp Fiction.

    (Nice one!)

  10. Josh February 14th, 2015 12:50 pm

    Have you ever considered making a standalone HD20 product? Something cheaper than floppy emu that has no screen or buttons. Just A DB-19 connector,a series of diagnostic LEDS, an sd slot, and maybe a header to connect a floppy emu…

  11. Merlin February 19th, 2015 2:37 pm

    Yes sir, I believe you’ve cornered the DB19 market.
    Congratulations!

  12. Matt January 20th, 2016 8:59 pm

    I’ve also found that many of the web-based parts warehouses are just alternate electronic storefronts for other warehouses, or aggregators for several other warehouses, but don’t actually have any inventory of their own. This makes it look like there are more people selling DB-19 connectors than there really are. Instead, it’s just different salesmen all selling the same stock.

    It’s actually worse than that: if you enquire to more than one of these potential but likely phantom suppliers, there looks to be a run on those parts and the asking price goes up, because there’s more than one buyer seen.

  13. Jack January 21st, 2016 4:43 am

    Where did you source them from in the end? If it’s this much trouble to find them, wouldn’t it be easier to manufacture them yourself?

  14. Steve Chamberlin January 21st, 2016 1:54 pm

    Search for the later posts where I talked more about DB-19s, and discussed this more in depth. The last supply I found was new, old stock from a warehouse in Eastern Europe. Manufacturing is probably possible, but it’s difficult for a person like me without connections or a real business to get taken seriously by a factory. I exchanged emails with a few potential factories in Asia, and the minimum order quantity would be like 10,000 units.

  15. Terion January 21st, 2016 4:46 pm

    Those look like DE connectors to me. DBs should be more than twice as wide.

  16. Steve Chamberlin February 8th, 2016 2:17 pm

    You may be right. Apple’s documentation always referred to this port as DB-19, so that’s the name I’ve used.

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