Sharp PA-W1400/PA-W1410 Data Recovery
My father bought a Sharp PA-W1400 'word-processor' a long long time ago
and it served him well. Recently he made it into the would of laptops,
with a basic machine running Linux. Alas, he had a lot of documents on
his Sharp PA-W1400 without a print out, and had assumed that having two
copies on different floppy disks would allow him safe storage of his
But when the day came when he needed something off a disk the floppy
drive would no longer detect the presence of a disk, and so nothing
could be read. At that point I got a call to ask and of course the
sorry state of affairs came out, not only was there problems reading
the floppy disks (due to an old and not-quite-complete FAT) but
converting the files into some readable text was not trivial.
So far Sharp have been unable to help. There are companies such as LuxSoft who offer help with
some old word-processors, but alas not the very old PA-W1400 model at
that time. As a
result I ended up doing my own conversion and this page is up to help
anyone else in that position.
It is possible this conversion software will work with other Sharp
models such as the PA3100 series (PA3140 etc), but I don't know as I
have no example documents for them. In fact, they may not even have a
floppy drive to save files to!
Reading the Floppy Disk
The word-processor implements a basic version of the FAT-12
file system for 720kB floppy disks only, but was never updated and
its implementation appears to date from around 1984-88. My experience
'modern' (as in post-1995) computers that still have a floppy disk
drive usually see the disk as unformatted and don't do anything useful.
This is not unusual and Microsoft has a note about one potential cause
Whatever you do, DO
THE FLOPPY DISK! You will destroy your data that way!
There are 2-3 options that I could think of, but due to my own
circumstances I went for the more complicated method of getting the
files off the 720k floppy disks. First I found an older Linux PC that
still had a working 3.5" floppy disk drive and then made an image of
the disk by using the 'dd' program to make a sector by sector copy:
dd if=/dev/fd0 of=disk.img bs=512 count=1440
Take particular care to get 'if' and 'of' the right way round, or you
will also discover why 'dd' is nick-named 'destroy data'!
Then I used a 'virtual machine' that was running MS-DOS 6.22 and told
the VMware player to connect a copy of the resulting
disk.img file as the floppy disk. I then used chkdsk to check/fix the
file system, and then xcopy to copy the files off the A: floppy disk
and eventually on to my PC.
NOTE: The old chkdsk program seems to be fine with the Sharp PA-W1400
file system, but the newer Scandisk program just broke things. Also
using the DOS copy command seemed to cause problems, sometimes severe,
so I would strongly recommend you use the 'xcopy' program to transfer
the files to the DOS computer's C: hard disk.
The 2nd simpler version is you find an old DOS computer with working
disk drive and use it to do the copying.
The 3rd, even simpler, option is you pay a company such as LuxSoft to
do the work for you!
check the floppy disk drive is healthy by testing it out on a blank or
unimportant disk before you use it! I have seen faulty floppy
drives scratch and thus destroy data on a disk before.
Understanding the File Format
The results of copying is typically a set of small files with a .doc
extension. However, they are nothing like Word or similar file formats,
and they appear to be very specific to the PA-W1400 series of
I tried to reverse-engineer the file format and had some success, at
least enough to keep my father happy.
But I know there are aspects that I do not understand,
symbols and accented characters that my father did not use,
and so I have no idea of how they are implemented.
The PA-W1400 has only two types of 'formatting' bold and underlined. I
ignored bold formatting completely, and implemented the 'underlined
format' only for the space, as that has an ASCII equivalent '_' symbol.
It is likely that super-script & sub-script were options, but again
I have no examples of that.
It supported fractions such as ¼, ½, and ¾ which I
think I have implemented correctly. It also supported the addition of
umlaut (such as ü), acute (á) and grave (è) accents,
and probably more such as the circumflex and tilde, but those were the
only ones I had examples of.
Also I think it supported the degree symbol, and the cedilla (as in
Français), but I have no examples to know how to convert them.
Converting the Files
First you need to download the conversion
software source code (MD5 sum is cfba1f06236334aca6d5887a0bc58be2)
and compile that. After unzipping the file, from the Linux command
prompt you compile with:
gcc -Wall convert.c -o conv
The small program 'conv' can then be used to convert your extracted
files. Please note it will simply overwrite the output file, so I
strongly suggest you make all of your extracted .doc files read-only
chmod a-w *.doc
Then do the conversion with a command such as:
./conv example.doc example.txt
The resulting text file uses UTF-8 coding for non-ASCII characters and
should be easy to read using a decent text editor or to import the
files in to a modern word-processor such as the free OpenOffice /
I am sure you know the drill about 'free' software, and I just want to
make it clear once again that it comes with No Warranty At All. As you can see
above, and by looking at the source code before compiling it (you did
not run an unknown bit of software without checking, did you?) I simply
don't have enough information to do a decent job.
If you can help with more information and/or example files, please let
Any comments or feedback please make to
psc_AT_sat_DOT_dundee_DOT_ac_DOT_uk which I trust you can work out,
otherwise I'm afraid to have tell you that your grades are insufficient
to pass the Turing Test...
(c) Paul Crawford, 25th July 2011