EMP-10 programmer
(Last modified 21 Jan 2010)

I have used a Needhams'  EMP-10 programmer for years; the unit shown below was made in 1997.  In the days when an embedded microprocessor (not MCU) needed external EPROM to hold its operating code, you needed a tool like the EMP-10 to burn your code into discrete chips that you then plugged into a socket.  If you were using UV-erasable EPROMs, you also needed a UV eraser.

Despite the modern trend to in-circuit or in-chip flash that is reprogrammed in place in the device, there are still occasions where a programmer like the EMP-10 shines.  Some old motherboards, vintage computers, arcade games, data loggers, and other "outdated" but useful devices can only be modified or updated by burning new code into an EPROM or by pulling the flash chip and programming it externally.

EMP-10 programmer

This is my EMP-10, shown with the M1A/M1B personality module installed on the left edge.  This is the only module I own but it has worked for everything I've needed to burn.  This is a good thing, because I have no clue where I would find any more modules if I needed a different one!

The EMP-10 hooks to a DOS computer using a Centronics to DB-25 parallel cable.  The actual EMP-10 application runs as a DOS program on your PC.  When you run the application ("emp10") you are shown a double-column screen of options.  The option list is very extensive and handles nearly all of the functions you could need when programming devices for embedded computers, some of which could get pretty esoteric.  For example, you can read a binary image into the EMP-10 application, split it into odd and even halves, then burn each half into a separate device.  I needed to do this once when I worked on a 68K system with 16-bit data bus and two 8-bit EPROMs.

The EMP-10 app also has an excellent buffer editor that you can use to examine and modify individual bytes in your chip's image.  For example, I needed to modify the ROM image of a TRS-80 Model 100 to correct for Y2K.  I read the original ROM into the buffer, edited the two necessary bytes, then burned the edited image into an erased 27c256 EPROM.  Y2K problem solved!

This programmer has been around a long time, and Needhams was pretty good at keeping up to date.  As more and more devices appeared, Needhams upgraded the EMP-10 application to include the needed chip programming algorithms and voltages.  To keep your EMP-10 current, you just needed to install the newest version of the application.

However, I was a bit remiss in upgrading.  When Needhams went out of business years ago, my programmer was woefully out of date.  I recently needed to reprogram the flash chips in some thin-client boxes I was playing with, but my version of the app was so old it didn't support the new(er) devices.  I searched the web for hours before I finally located what I think is the latest (last) version of the EMP-10 application.  (I think I found it on an arcade game modding site, but I don't remember for sure.)  Since I had to work so hard to find it, I'll post it here; this will double the odds that someone else will find it when they need it.  :-)

So for all you car modders, arcade game builders, TRS-80 hackers, old-guard MCU hobbyists, and others looking to burn a chip, here is version 4.18, possibly the last upgrade to the EMP-10 application.  Download the ARC file here (emp10arc.exe; 408,824 bytes).

BTW, I have had no luck running emp10 in a DOS window on a Windows 2K SP4 box.  The only way I could run this app is in a true DOS machine, so I have an old Fujitsu Lifebook 420D sitting on my workbench, running DOS 6.22, dedicated to my EMP-10 programmer.