Author Topic: Tape loading  (Read 8824 times)

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Offline chinnyhill10

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Tape loading
« on: 01:22, 10 January 14 »
I've purchased a car cassette adaptor for my new 464. I've put it in the datacorder, and then run the cable out through the back. A nice non destructive solution.


First up I tried to load Zub which succeeded after some fiddling with volume. But after that I had no success.


I'm using Winape to play the CDT files into the adaptor. The problem is that the CPC always seems to crash out just before the speed load begins. I'm aware this could be audio level related but also the Winape player doesn't seem to give the CPC enough time.


In short Winape starts playing the data before the CPC is ready. Data starts playing while the relay is still clicking in the 464. Meanwhile while the CPC is still readying itself data has started to play in.


So in short is there a better CDT player than Winape? One that is tried and tested with real CPC's? Or is it a case that trying to load via the tape heads with one of these devices is always going to be unreliable?


Thanks.
« Last Edit: 01:33, 10 January 14 by chinnyhill10 »
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Offline chinnyhill10

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Re: Tape loading
« Reply #1 on: 01:54, 10 January 14 »
If I pause playback during that gap for a second, stuff loads fine.


So it's not a hardware issue as the tape method I'm using appears to work ok..


I know a 464 will pause the tape itself when it needs to, but I never used to have a rem socket on my 6128 cassette player and no game ever failed to load during the pause between the basic loader and the main speed load.


Very puzzled!
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Offline Bryce

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Re: Tape loading
« Reply #2 on: 10:22, 10 January 14 »
Are you sure the samples are playing at the right speed?

Have you cleaned the 464s tape heads lately?

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Offline ralferoo

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Re: Tape loading
« Reply #3 on: 10:43, 10 January 14 »
Check here World of Spectrum - Utilities

The Amstrad CDT format is the same as the Spectrum TZX format, so you can use any spectrum utilities too.

Personally, I use playtzx under linux.

Offline arnoldemu

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Re: Tape loading
« Reply #4 on: 11:52, 10 January 14 »
I do the same as ralf.
I convert it to an au file. Load it into Audacity, ramp the volume up to 3/4 and play it to the cpc.
Always works great - except for having to start/stop the tape myself ;)
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Offline chinnyhill10

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Re: Tape loading
« Reply #5 on: 12:30, 10 January 14 »
I do the same as ralf.
I convert it to an au file. Load it into Audacity, ramp the volume up to 3/4 and play it to the cpc.
Always works great - except for having to start/stop the tape myself ;)


I tried WinTZX, a rather unstable program under Windows 7. Audio output levels are fine, it's the pause between the Basic loader and the Speed loader that continues to be the problem.


If I pause the playback for a second during the gap, everything loads ok. If I just let the TZX play the CPC simply isn't ready to receive the data.


Play the same file into an emulator and it's fine. It seems my real CPC needs a fraction more time to ready itself.


Interestingly in the log files of WinTZX I see references to 113%. Both Winape and WinTZX couldn't be playing back the TZX faster than realtime could they?


Might be time to try and load WEC Le Mans from a real external tape with no remote and see what happens!
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Offline The Last Bandit

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Re: Tape loading
« Reply #6 on: 13:22, 10 January 14 »
Have you tried TapDancer ? Its an Android app for playback of old tape files.


Has 'experimental' support for Amstrad CDT files, not tired it myself on the Amstrad but it works fine with my Acorn.

Offline chinnyhill10

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Re: Tape loading
« Reply #7 on: 13:57, 10 January 14 »
Sold my only Android device a while back. My only options are an iPhone, an iPad or the PC that sits next to the 464.
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Offline ralferoo

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Re: Tape loading
« Reply #8 on: 14:33, 10 January 14 »
If I pause the playback for a second during the gap, everything loads ok. If I just let the TZX play the CPC simply isn't ready to receive the data.

Play the same file into an emulator and it's fine. It seems my real CPC needs a fraction more time to ready itself.
The emulator will almost certainly be behaving correctly in this regard - the pauses encoded on the CDT will match what's recorded on the tape.

However, as you know, the CPC can control the tape motor and so between loading the loader and that doing the speedload, the tape will be switched off momentarily. Most loaders will turn the motor back on as literally the very first instruction so that it sounds like a click rather than a clunk, but it's not uncommon to have the motor off for a longer period especially if the loader is written in BASIC.

If you're feeling confident with a hex editor, it's a fairly simple matter to edit the CDT file to make the pauses longer...

Offline chinnyhill10

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Re: Tape loading
« Reply #9 on: 15:56, 10 January 14 »
The emulator will almost certainly be behaving correctly in this regard - the pauses encoded on the CDT will match what's recorded on the tape.

However, as you know, the CPC can control the tape motor and so between loading the loader and that doing the speedload, the tape will be switched off momentarily. Most loaders will turn the motor back on as literally the very first instruction so that it sounds like a click rather than a clunk, but it's not uncommon to have the motor off for a longer period especially if the loader is written in BASIC.


But.....


I used to play these games on a 6128 using a tape recorder with no remote socket. So the CPC could not pause the tape.


That's why I am puzzled. In theory the ability to pause the tape should not be a factor.
« Last Edit: 16:46, 10 January 14 by chinnyhill10 »
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Offline arnoldemu

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Re: Tape loading
« Reply #10 on: 19:36, 10 January 14 »
Have you considered that it may be the tape motor or the tape belt that may not be good?

I don't know how these fake tapes work, but if they control the output speed based on the tape motor then this could be the issue.

Amstrad loader is good at handling different speeds and variations that come about from a worn belt.

Fast loaders expect the rate to be constant and at the rate they expect so will fail if the rate is not correct.

It may also explain why it used to work on the 6128 without tape motor control, it may just be the tape is running a little fast and the delay is therefore just a bit too short.


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Offline chinnyhill10

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Re: Tape loading
« Reply #11 on: 21:27, 10 January 14 »
Have you considered that it may be the tape motor or the tape belt that may not be good?

I don't know how these fake tapes work, but if they control the output speed based on the tape motor then this could be the issue.



They don't use the motor at all. Just the heads.


Found a newer version of WinTZX than the one listed on World Of Spectrum. Yie Ar Kung Fu has loaded first time. Last night it wouldn't.


Will try some more games in a bit.
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Offline chinnyhill10

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Re: Tape loading
« Reply #12 on: 21:39, 10 January 14 »
Nope. WEC Le Mans still only loads if you pause the TZX.


You can hear the tape motor has stopped but you can hear the data starting to come in before power is restored to the datacorder.


I expect what is happening is that the CPC is pausing the tape which cuts all power to the datacorder including the heads.

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Offline Devilmarkus

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Re: Tape loading
« Reply #13 on: 22:07, 10 January 14 »
The CPC has a relay, which starts and stops the tape motor, that's all...
Controlled by CPU

In the 664 and 6128 this connection is meant to be used by remote motor control. Many datacorders have it.
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Offline Cholo

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Re: Tape loading
« Reply #14 on: 00:24, 11 January 14 »
Indeed, a lot of things could be wrong. As we dont know what game or CDT file you are trying to load it could be any number of reasons.

Original tape game was badly recorded onto original tape. Quite a few original games was recorded badly. Like:

- Missing files. Quite sure severeal of those 10 game tape compilations .. is missing at least a loader or similar (games load but colours are off, loading screens are skipped etc, or simply not executing).

- Wrong gaps. I recall the very first Amstrad Action tape had this issue. It was the tape with Kung Fu & No.1. The side with No.1 (i think) has a extremely small gap between the initial block loader and the large Record afterwards. So small that it always failed & crashed. The 464 firmware and/or tape mechanism just couldnt cope with it. Didnt get to play the game to much later when i got "experienced" to hear something was wrong a made a manual copy of the block & record to a new tape with a proper gap. Quite sure North & South had a bit of the same issue but to a lesser extend .. it worked as long as you rewind the tape "exactly right" with no "air".

- Errors. Even made on the "factory" or later. Final Fight & Jack and the Beanstalk springs to mind right ways as having factory errors. FF was in the programming i think & Jack had a big "hickup" error A in the middel of the tape. In both cases many people isnt even aware of this .. as in the case of FF its a multi loader & happens later .. in Jack it happens right there on loadup on the middel of the tape (one big record) but as the loader dosnt check for errors it executes anyway. Thankfully a fixed version of FF was released just a few years ago & a fully playable (with a little gfx issues) version of Jack exist too. Funny you can still read review of Jack saying its a "easy 4 levels" where as its actually a really "hard 7 level" long game  ;)

- Technical issues. Not errors but on purpose "weak signals" or similar techy stuff usually part of a tape protection to prevent making copies of a game.


Lost in translation: Quite a lot can go wrong here as well. Im not entirely sure how much the CDT/TZX format can handle. Donno much about the technical .. but from simple attempts .. you know that there has to be more techy stuff when you cant get 40 raw recordings to load. Then there is the whole issue of how its translated & tested before being uploaded. Quite a few CDT only work with 1 or 2 emulators as well. The tools used to convert to CDT or TZX also behaves & translates differently. Most TZX tools dont understand even native amstrad firmware "block"s but may recognize & translate advanced protections (like speedlock) as the protections are similar on the spectrum as on the amstrad. Question is .. has the different parts translated by different tools been merged correctly?

Im not surpriced if you have troubles playing a CDT back as that is yet another thing that can go wrong.

Still a little surpriced that you mention running a 6128 with a recorder without a rem port  :o It isnt impossible of cause especially if you are aware of the situation but i still imagine you'd run into a good 20-30% of tapes failing to load. Protected games is one thing, but even old Amsoft titles usually had that one giant delay between the loader (with the Amsoft logo sloooowly drawing) .. and loading the rest of the game. Quite a few .. multiload games with "press any key to continue" like pauses as well.

On the positive side and seen from a retro gamer point of view we are quite lucky that the native amstrad loading scheme is the slow & safe "block" one.  Aka trying to playback a CDT to a real 464 becomes as lot easier if its in "block" format as you can rewind and pretty much immediately tells you if something is read wrongly. Must be a real nightmare on the other 8 bit machines.

Ive seen one other amstrad user using a cordless SD adapter like this one:
Car Music MP3 Player Tape Cassette Adapter for SD/MMC Reader | eBay

This would solve the pause/gap issues as it will pause/start playback when the 464 motor stopping/starting. On the down side i do hear it has a "mandatory" equalizer and that is usually not good for playing back data (might distort the signal, just like you should never use metal/chrome tapes as they might do the same, aka only "normal position" tapes). Another issue is that youd have to turn CDT into a audio file & im not sure what formats the adapter accepts (aka does it accept "lossless" audio or not? or does it even matter?)

If you run into a particularily nasty protected game that keep failing you could look around to see if there is a cracked version on DSK. Quite often those DSK containing "cracked" files is actually a tape version transfered to disc. It depends on how much you know about copying files but "all" you would have to do is usually just "copy" (playback) the files from pc/emulator (audio out) in correct order & on the 464 then load directly or "load" into a copy program for recording to tape later.
Aka on PC run JL-Copy/amsback to load and record (playback audio) to tape. At the same time run JL-copy/amsback on the 464 to "load" the audio into memory. Once its fully loaded, eject the adapter & insert a blank tape and record the data from memory to real tape. The order of the files is usually easy to guess aka: zorro.bas, zorro1.scr, zorro2.bin, zorro3.bin makes sense, but you can also load up the loader and have a look inside to get the order.
« Last Edit: 00:41, 11 January 14 by Cholo »

Offline chinnyhill10

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Re: Tape loading
« Reply #15 on: 01:31, 11 January 14 »
I had in the region of 200 tape games + covertapes for my 6128. My first tape recorder had no rem socket, after a couple of years I got a Sony which did. Then when the Sony broke I got another Sony that didn't.


I never had problems loading games without a remote socket. However it could be a pain for multi load games as you'd need to sit with the computer when loading and press stop in the right place. Indeed Spectrum owners with external cassette players have to do this as the Speccy has no rem at all!


I've been playing games all evening on the 464. So far WEC Le Mans is the only one that fails to load from the newer version of WinTZX. I can see exactly what happens. The relay cuts the cassette recorder but the gap in the TZX between the basic loader and the speed load isn't long enough so data starts to input before the relay restarts the tape player. When the motor is cut the heads cannot read.


But the newer WinTZX is worth a look. Games that would't load last night work fine with the new version.


Welcome at winTZX


(Mac users: That site is not Safari friendly. Load up Firefox or you won't see the menu on the left)
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Offline chinnyhill10

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Re: Tape loading
« Reply #16 on: 14:17, 15 January 14 »
Just to update, every other game I've tried loads ok via the adaptor. Its the WEC Le Mans TZX at fault. Only problem now is multi-loads.


I've run the adaptor cable through a gap at the side of the tape deck and out the expansion port. That way the cassette lid can be closed properly and there is no budging.


A great, cheap and non destructive way to breathe new life into a 464. The adaptor cost less than £2!
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Offline Bryce

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Re: Tape loading
« Reply #17 on: 14:26, 15 January 14 »
Then edit the Le Mans TZX and add a few seconds to the delay.

Bryce.

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Re: Tape loading
« Reply #18 on: 14:12, 16 January 14 »
Done a further mod.


Took the adaptor apart and took out all of the internals apart from the head itself. I felt the mechanism was putting a strain on the CPC's tape motor (the adaptors have a system of cogs inside designed to imitate a tape running through to fool auto reverse mechanisms).


I also cut a hole in the side of the adaptor that lines up exactly with the gap on the left of the tape recorder where there is an opening through to the main part of the case. So now the cable runs straight through there.


Tested it and it all still works and no more creaking noises from within the tape recorder while it is running.


The amazing thing is when you open up the adaptor the audio wire is just connected straight to a single head. No resistors or anything.


Very pleased.
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Offline Bryce

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Re: Tape loading
« Reply #19 on: 14:37, 16 January 14 »
I was looking at putting the guts of one of these: Stereo Metall Clip Musik Mini Mp3 Player Fm Radio Lcd Display Bis 32Gb Blau |  into one of those tape adapters. As a type of HxC for Tape deck. As usual, I haven't got around it doing that either :(

Bryce.
« Last Edit: 14:42, 16 January 14 by Bryce »

Offline redbox

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Re: Tape loading
« Reply #20 on: 20:38, 16 January 14 »
I was looking at putting the guts of one of these: Stereo Metall Clip Musik Mini Mp3 Player Fm Radio Lcd Display Bis 32Gb Blau |  into one of those tape adapters.

1 EUR each?!

Offline Gryzor

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Re: Tape loading
« Reply #21 on: 20:41, 16 January 14 »
WTF?! Indeed, €1??? Let's get a dozen and start hacking away at them :D

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Re: Tape loading
« Reply #22 on: 10:25, 17 January 14 »
WTF?! Indeed, €1??? Let's get a dozen and start hacking away at them :D

That was my thought too. For €1 you can install an MP3 player in everything including the cat.
I don't know how friendly the menus are, but it's small and cheap enough to install where you like, and if you like loading games from tapes, you can have your whole collection permanently connected to your 464 :)

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Offline The Last Bandit

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Re: Tape loading
« Reply #23 on: 11:08, 17 January 14 »
Gee my German must be really bad but that link has a price of €51 on it ?

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Re: Tape loading
« Reply #24 on: 12:47, 17 January 14 »
The twat went and changed the price. Then buy them here for a little bit more: helle Farbe Mini MP3 Player Spieler mit Clip Musik Player Metall Aluminium Neu |

Bryce.