Thursday March 23, 2017

Needham's SA-20 EPROM Programmer

Needham's SA-20The Needham's SA-20 EPROM Programmer was introduced in May 1990.  Yes, I said 1990!!  It's ancient in computer years, but I picked one up off eBay cheap along with an eprom eraser and figured worst case I can steal the 40-pin ZIF (zero insertion force) sockets off of it.  I really wanted to get it working though, since all I need an eprom programmer for right now is to program some old arcade chips.  I'm sure in the near future I'll be looking to acquire a newer USB programmer, but since support of older chips like the 2532 are spotty on a lot of the newer programmers, I feel that these old programmers are still the best at what they do.

Unfortunately Needham's must have gone out of business several years ago and their site is no longer available.  You can use to get some information & *thankfully* download the old DOS program that worked with this programmer.  But the link to the SA-20's manual is broken.  I spent probably 10+ hours looking for the manual and hounding people that might have one to scan.  Finally a very generous individual on sent me a scanned manual.  I'll save anyone else the trouble, if you need the manual or DOS software they're available below:

DOS Software (v1.4.3 - 06/18/91) -
SA-10 / SA-20 User Manual -  sa20-manual.pdf

Technical specs on the SA-10 / SA-20 (copied from the old Needhams site):

The SA-20 is an 8-position gang programmer that can be used as a stand-alone or connected to a host PC through a serial port. The SA-10 is a single socket version of the SA-20, featuring all the same functions.

The SA-20 and SA-10 come standard with 1 megabit (128k bytes) of memory and can be upgraded to 8 megabit (1024k bytes) using 1 megabit DRAMs. The internal FLASH memory provides storage for your macros, configurations, and file names. Firmware upgrades to the SA are as easy as downloading a file. The SA-20 and SA-10 feature a 4 x 20 character LCD, 20 key tactile keypad, RS-232 and parallel in and out. The PC software allows communication via serial port to 115k baud or parallel I/O 8 bit downloading, 4 bits uploading.

  • Reads, verifies and programs 2716 to 8 megabit memories, 2804 to 28C256 EEPROMS and 28F256A-28F020 FLASH memories.
  • Hex editor with Hex or ASCII display
  • Load and saves in Intel Hex, Motorola S, ASCII and Binary
  • Macros: user-definable operations of up to 58 keystrokes per macro to automatically execute operations with one keystroke.

Supported Devices:
Generic - 2716, 2732, 2732A, 2764, 2764A, 27128, 27128A, 27256, 27512
AMD - 2716, 2716H, 2732, 2732A, 2732B, 2764, 27C64, 2764A, 27128, 27128A, 27C128, 27256, 27C256, 27512, 27C512, 27C010, 27C020, 27C040
ATMEL - 270HC64, 27C256, 27HC256, 27C256R, 27C512, 27C512R, 27C513, 27C513R, 27C010, 27C020, 27C040, 2804A, 2816A, 2817A, 28C64
EXEL - 2804, 2816A
FUJITSU - 2732, 2764, 27C64, 27128, ,27C128, 27256, 27C256, 27C256A, 27C512, 27C1000, 27C1001
HITACHI - 2716, 2732, 2732A, 2764, 27C64, 27128, 27128A, 27256, 27C256, 27512, 27C101, 27C301, 27C4001
INTEL - 2716, 2732, 2732A, 2764, 2764A, P2764A, 27C64, P27C64, 27128, 27128A, 27128B, P27128A, 27256, 27C256, 27C256-V, 27512, 27C512, 27513, 27010, 27C010, 27011, 27C011, 27C020, 27C040, 28F256, 2SFS12, 28F010, 28F020
MACRONIX - 27C1000
MOTOROLA - 68766
NATIONAL - 2716, 27C16, 27C16B, 27C32, 27C32B, 27C64, 27C64B, 27CP128, 27C128B, 27C256, 27C512, 27C010, 27C020, 27C040
NEC - 2716, 2732, 2732A, 2764, 27C64, 27128, 27C256, 27C256A, 27C512, 27C1000, 27C1001, 27C2001, 27C4001, 27C8001
SEEQ - 2764, 27128, 27C256, 2804A, 2816A, 2817A, 2864, 28C64, 28C256
SGS-THOMPSON - 2716, 2732, 2764A, 27C64A, 27128A, 27256, 27C256, 27512, 27C1001
SIGNETICS - 27C64A, 27C256, 27HC641
TEXAS INSTRUMENTS - 2532, 2532A, 2732A, 27C32, 2764, 27C64, 27C128, 27C256, 27CS12, 27C010, 27C01OA, 27C020, 27C040
TOSHIBA - 2764, 2764A, 27128, 27128A, 27256, 27256D, 57256D, 57256AD, 27512, 57512AD, 571000, 571001, 574000
WAFERSCALE - 57C49, 57C256F

That's it!  That's all the devices this programmer supports.  Nowadays most USB programmers support 3000+ devices (counting same chip for different manufacturers just like listed above).  But, as I mentioned a lot of newer programmers are spotty with getting these older chips to program so it will do exactly what I need it to do.

Trying the DOS Software Under Windows
I tried the DOS software and it didn't crash when running under Windows XP, immediately I was greeted with an old-school DOS interface.  Pretty basic and was just hoping it wouldn't be so clunky that it made it a chore to work with. 

Here's the initial screen you'll see when running SA.exe:
SA-20 Initial Screen

Lovely isn't it?  Well at least it didn't crash under Windows XP.

Now to try to get it connected to the PC..

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Thanks so much!
Posted 05/11/13 9:19AM by Anonymous Techdoser
I have been looking for this, now I can use my programmer again.

Please be in contact if you have one of these....
Posted 04/27/13 2:51AM by Anonymous Techdoser
I am "IBM Portable PC" in the Vintage computer forums. I'd love to swap notes on what devices work etc eg Xicor 28C256 is a non starter.
Posted 01/24/13 12:19PM by captnbob
I was looking for the 2532, but ran across this. I have one sitting in the floor just waiting for the manual. I had given up. Now, works great. Thanks.
Tried it via VMWare and installed DOS inside the VM
Posted 01/21/13 3:32PM by Anonymous Techdoser
... but I wasn't really successful. Yes, after adding a serial port in VMWare Player setup (mode: host device), I was even able to see something, but it was very slow and it seemed the program struggled itself or whatever.
I guess VMWare did something wrong when emulating the serial interface.
Using a real Intel 486 PC, it worked like a charm, it was fast and control via PC was reliable.
See also my blog at
Posted 01/07/13 2:00PM by Anonymous Techdoser
Very helpful. Thanks for making my life easier.
Re: Excellent Article!
Posted 08/20/12 6:09PM by AceBHound
Glad I could help. This seemed like a very obscure thing to post about, but nice to help even 1 other person from going crazy trying to get this thing working :)
Excellent Article!
Posted 08/18/12 10:40AM by Anonymous Techdoser
I'm eyeing one of these on Craigslist and after a quick google search I found your article! Thanks for taking the time to gather the drivers/manual and detail your adventures!