Wow, Computer Programs lurking on Music Cassettes

gtoledo3's picture

I was reading about some semi-obscure stuff in the realm of audio, and happened into this, which I thought might be interesting to some forum members because of the technical novelty.

http://www.worldofspectrum.org/infoseekplay.cgi?title=Thompson+Twins+Adv...

More than it the game itself being interesting, what amazed me is that this was originally available by cassette! It was a program included on a Thompson Twins record, back in the days when there were cassette based computer systems. The fact that this had been done so long ago kind of blew my mind a bit.

Here's some stuff about the Sinclair Spectrum, that used this kind of system and was somewhat popular for this I'm gathering. http://www.kempa.com/2004/03/09/vinyl-data/

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psonice's picture
Re: Wow, Computer Programs lurking on Music Cassettes

Yeah, games on tape were cool back in the olden days. I never had a game on vinyl, but I remember seeing them :) I actually have a sinclair spectrum here, packed away in the loft, and that has something even cooler - microdrive! Yep, super tiny tapes that have a looped tape inside. Bit of info + pics here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ZX_Microdrive

The downside of course was that tapes weren't exactly reliable! A friend of mine had a speccy that was so sensitive, that we'd put the tape in, press play, and then wait outside his room with the door closed for 10 minutes. Then peep in, and see if it had loaded or not. It was 50:50, but if we were in the room it almost never loaded :D

Do you realise people are still making games on tape for these systems now btw? There's an active retro gaming scene. There's also a lot of demosceners working on 8 bit systems still - mainly commodore 64, but also speccy (particularly in russia, where they have their own spectrum clones!), amstrad CPC, and others.

There was an absolutely epic CPC demo released just this month: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dqjZNnjNu3Y

Also, new chip music album from one of my favourite chip groups: http://www.8bitpeoples.com/discography/8BP119 (this was made on atari ST, so technically 16 bit. They even write their own music software, to push that YM chip extra hard :)

psonice's picture
Re: Wow, Computer Programs lurking on Music Cassettes

Just remembered something else that I found cool back in the old days: Dual format floppy disks. There was a magazine back then that covered both commodore amiga and atari ST. It had a cover disk, and the disk worked in both machines.

Why was that cool? The machines used totally different disk formats, and couldn't read eachothers disks. But it turns out the ST supports single-sided disks, the amiga dual-sided. So they put the ST stuff on one side, amiga stuff on the other, and made sure the amiga was only reading from one side :) I found that really cunning somehow.

Also, just remembered another annoying thing from the tape days.. some games would take AGES to load. Like 10+ minutes. But sometimes it would go wrong.. and you'd be sat there watching the loading screen and listening to the cool music, and you'd here that CLICK-HUMM-CLUNK as the tape reached the end and stopped ;(

franz's picture
Re: Wow, Computer Programs lurking on Music Cassettes

I used to play Golden Eagle from a cassette that took 45 min to load....

psonice's picture
Re: Wow, Computer Programs lurking on Music Cassettes

hehe, I remember when my friends and I all moved from 8-bit up to the amiga, and it had a floppy drive. We worked out how long it would take to load a regular game from tape instead of floppy, and it was like 3 hours or something :D

Back then a floppy disk was the dogs bollocks. Can you imagine using them now? Remember disk swapping, with those crazy big adventure games? I had one that was at least 15 disks! And the speed.. I just switched to SSD out of frustration with the slowness of my HDD (well recommended upgrade, but be warned that replacing the HDD in an imac is not an easy job!)

More wonderful 8bit stuff: crest's bleureu demo. It's common to attach a compact flash card to a c64 nowadays for slightly more convenient loading. Well, they used that, and a 16MB memory expansion. Plus custom firmware for the modified floppy drive. This has to be the best rickroll ever:

gtoledo3's picture
Re: Wow, Computer Programs lurking on Music Cassettes

Well, I was growing up in the 80's, so I was single digits at the time! I remember the cassette based computer systems; I had a few friends that had them... I want to say they were probably tandy, commodore, and/or amiga stuff. I seem to remember playing "pitfall" and "asteroids", and that kind of stuff. I remember some pretty dry typing games too, that were to help with typing speed.

The tapes did suck! I remember seeing one spool out. I also seem to remember stuff freezing when they would try to load occasionally.

I totally remember the microdrive too!

I do know that people are still making games for those. As a matter of fact, I guess if I really reflect on it, I'm not sure if I would be using QC if it hadn't been for the fact that I had some kind of bootleg level editing system for my Win system some years ago.

There's this guy that was teaching an informative university class on it, and used to publish his class lecture materials. Boy, I wish I could remember the name now... I'm sure it's floating out there on the internet somewhere.

gtoledo3's picture
Re: Wow, Computer Programs lurking on Music Cassettes

Yeah, I remember when my computer science teacher was getting rid of the OLD floppy discs after a mac update (the big ones that were actually floppy), and I thought he was totally insane. I may even have a few unopened pacs of the real old floppies around here somewhere, if I didn't throw them away in a house clean.

franz's picture
Re: Wow, Computer Programs lurking on Music Cassettes

Amiga didn't have a cassette reader. It was floppy. Cassettes didn't suck IMO, by the time it was ... the future ! arf.

gtoledo3's picture
Re: Wow, Computer Programs lurking on Music Cassettes

My wording on that was a bit off... I don't think cassette's suck, in an absolute type of way. (I have one of those tascam cassette 8-tracks that still sees some use for the varispeed and backwards audio!).

I just distinctly remember going over to my neighbors house and the feeling of waiting forever for stuff to load, and then it not always loading, and starting the process all over again. Looking more, I think he had a Tandy or a Commodore with a string floppy.

... and of course, all of this was super awesome at the time!

moof!

psonice's picture
Re: Wow, Computer Programs lurking on Music Cassettes

Yeah, I mean we were working out "if games still came on tape, how long would it take to load 880kb".

It's funny, looking back. Tapes definitely suck. So did floppy disks. I can now say HDDs suck too, the long time it takes to load stuff off my external HDD is quite annoying! If only 2TB SDDs were even close to affordable :D

But at the time? Cassette was indeed THE FUTURE! Mostly because vinyl sucked :D

psonice's picture
Re: Wow, Computer Programs lurking on Music Cassettes

I'm maybe a few years older then.. I think my first computer was around '80 (a dragon 32! Followed by a vic20, a c64, an amiga 500, amiga 1200, and finally a PC (think it was an AMD k6). Then many years later, a powerbook g4 for my first mac.

I actually remember (this REALLY makes me feel old) playing an original pong arcade machine with my dad in a cafe somewhere. And playing an atari 2600 at a neighbours house.. when I first saw that, I didn't even know what it was. It was just some strange wooden box connected to a TV.. how were we supposed to play with that?!

It's great thinking back about such stuff. Reminisce a little, then watch a video of crysis or something.. it's incredible how far we've come. It's only 30 years. Consider what things will be like in another 30.. QC will be the equivalent of that wooden box with a paddle connected to a black + white tv!

gtoledo3's picture
Re: Wow, Computer Programs lurking on Music Cassettes

I will always have a weakness for tape, though not necessarily cassette (though I think the tech was able to be better than it was put out there for the consumer market... it could have ran at higher speeds, factories could have duped at higher speeds, etc.) I learned how to record on 2" tape, and as fast and awesome as editing is in a Digital Audio Workstation, I swear it was faster to sit there and make hash marks on the tape with a grease pencil as the song was playing, and then razorblade it.

Whenever I do the equivalent in a DAW, I'm either irritated at the small dif between where I put my marks and where they land (latency, or auto-latency compensation not being accurate all the time), or doing some kind of tab to transient to make my chops. I really do think it's slightly less efficient in digital (though I'm questioning myself as I'm writing this when I think about the whole splice process). It felt faster at the time anyway... I think analog tape was seemingly less susceptible to that crappy "tack" sound when an edit happens on a zero crossing. I don't ever remember that happening, just getting bad sounding edits. Anyway... drifted kind OT there! (but still on tape!)

I still haven't used the SDD with a Mac (whoops, take that back, that Air, but that almost doesn't count)... I'm excited about both that and thunderbolt in the future.

gtoledo3's picture
Re: Wow, Computer Programs lurking on Music Cassettes

The first computer I really remember using was the Lisa and then the Mac II. I know we had "original" Macs in my school computer lab at first, but I can't say if they were Plus or 128k's or what. Then, my uncle was/is a programmer, and he was super big on Microsoft stuff and making his own systems.

I was having a discussion with a friend awhile back, and he said something like "remember when interactive media meant CD-ROM?"

Here's one for you... the first time I ever saw a "side scroller" game, I played in the first scene/"page" the first dozen or so times I played it! I had no idea that if you jumped over all the way to one side, that the game had more of a level! I can't remember the game, but I remember how shocking it was.

SteveElbows's picture
Re: Wow, Computer Programs lurking on Music Cassettes

I had one of those 3rd party add-on 3.5" floppy drives for the spectrum! (as it was some years before I could afford to join the 16 bit revolution that was unfolding). To transfer programs from tape to disk, you loaded the program as normal from tape, then at any point during the running of the program you pressed a special button on the interface which dumped the entire contents of RAM & registers to a file on the floppy disk. This was very good for saving games at any point you wanted.he company that made these went on to make a 'souped up' zx spectrum clone that may have been called the Sam Cooper, but I never owned one of those. I then moved on to Atari STE, and enjoyed the demoscene & downloading from bbs systems. Moving to a PC a few years later sucked in many ways, it took years for PCs to catch up with the graphics & audio that the Atari & Amiga could deliver.

psonice's picture
Re: Wow, Computer Programs lurking on Music Cassettes

Sounds like the old 'action replay'. They were brilliant, I had one on c64 and another on amiga. Like you say, you pressed a button, and it froze the system and took over. You could dump the active program to disk (handy for game saves, and also piracy cough).

I remember using that for cheating lots too though. You could use it to search for something in memory (say 3, like the number of lives you start with). Then, when you die, you tell it to find anything that's just changed from 3 to 2. It was easy on most games to find the memory for lives, money, weapons and so on, and then you'd just give yourself whatever you wanted. Genius :D (Also a good way to learn how a computer works, I guess "the kids nowadays" miss this and have to actually learn it the hard way ;)

Oh yeah, and you could scan memory for graphics and music too, and rip the music from your favourite games + demos :) Good times!

dust's picture
Re: Wow, Computer Programs lurking on Music Cassettes

I honestly can not say I was programming in the days of tapes or floppies. I was just a mere software user at the time. Sure I have programmed a few synths on floppy etc.. Even today I still have a few keyboards with floppies. It's kind of like what do you do with these old things now. I ran across an interesting problem the other day with old zip drives. Like an iomega 100 or 250 drive. The problem is how to read them now. I was astonished how expensive an obsolete iomega drive cost on eBay is we are talking they are the same price if not more used now than when new. Does that make any sense ? so my question is does anybody still have an old iomega drive or more importantly an old system that can read one. If so I have a mate that has a few disks even has a few drives that he would like to extract just some graphics files from that I can send your way. I dont think cost is an issue either. My wife took my g4 in the divorce so I no longer have a machine old enough to read the zip disks. Just thought I would throw that out there seeing it is sort of related to this thread.