Author Topic: Odd tape issue on Cpc464  (Read 3181 times)

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Offline Sidney

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Odd tape issue on Cpc464
« on: 02:51, 07 June 17 »
Hi there,
I have owned my Schneider Cpc464 for a few weeks and after years of gaming on everything else I am really enjoying catching up on the Cpc fun that I had thus far denied myself and now I can see what all the fuss is about! My other machines have barely had a look in (apart from my c16- but that goes without saying really!!)  I don't have an Sd card solution yet and to be fair I have not found one that seems as simple as the ones I have seen for the Speccy and C64 but that is another issue entirely.


I have been playing my Cpc games the 80's way and that means from cassette (the ultimate retro experience!) and have been hitting eBay for all sorts of game bundles and Im happy to say that by and large the machine is very reliable loading from tape, overall I find the Acorn Electron the most reliable, then the C16 then the Speccy. I do find that the Amstrad compares favourably with these which is great for a machine that is 33 years old.


I recently decided that I wanted to play Rambo and Kung Fu Master which are games that I enjoyed playing on my friends Amstrad- and as luck would have it I found a loose copy of those two games from Ocean's 'They Sold a Million 3' for a very good price- and so I loaded it up (or at least I tried too) Kung Fu Master loaded first time, I had a quick go then I tried Rambo- the loading screen started to appear- then the tape made a horrid slow down noise and then stopped entirely and I was dumped back on the start up screen, so dutifully I rewound the tape, fast forwarded the tape, tightened up the tape........ still the same, I even wound it through manually.......still the same, I tried to put the tape in another cassette body........same result.


Worse still..... Kung Fu Master stopped working too.....aaarrgghh!!!! I tried copying tape to tape on two spare cassette players but the games failed mid load in each case! In the end I admitted defeat and ordered the full compilation set from eBay- even though I'm no Ghostbusters fan and I'm not interested  at all in Fighter Pilot.


Guess what.....both tapes did exactly the same thing! I am utterly baffled by this- my Cpc has been great with all of my other games but it absolutely will not load theses ones!! My question is why would it not like two totally separate versions of the same game? Was there a faulty batch of this compilation out on the market back in the 80's and I've been unlucky enough to experience it twice? As I say all my other games are fine, from short loaders to games that take ages my Cpc will load them all, maybe old copies of this compilation are prone to deteriorate over time, whatever it is I am stumped and puzzled and have never experienced anything like it in all my gaming years. Is there anyone out there who can throw any light on this before I am driven slowly mad, it has become a crusade for me now to get a working copy of Kung Fu Master and Rambo!!!!

help!!! :o
« Last Edit: 03:16, 07 June 17 by Sidney »

Offline Shaun M. Neary

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Re: Odd tape issue on Cpc464
« Reply #1 on: 03:02, 07 June 17 »
For testing purposes, might be worth playing this CDT file into a tape recorder and recording it and then playing it back in your 464.

http://www.cpc-power.com/index.php?page=detail&onglet=dumps&num=3638

Edit: Click on the tape icon and download each side of the Rambo/Kung Fu Master tape. ;)

Offline 00WReX

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Re: Odd tape issue on Cpc464
« Reply #2 on: 11:50, 07 June 17 »
Just going to throw this out there, even though you have probably already tried it.

I'm assuming you tried loading the game from both sides of the cassette.

I believe in some cases they even used the equivalent of a 'Speed Write 1' (2000 baud) on one side and the normal baud rate on the other (1000 baud).
I'm sure I have a couple like that.
I'm sure the ones written with a 'Speed Write' would be a lot more prone to issues after this many years.

Having said that, the vast majority mostly just have a copy of the game on each side of the cassette, at the normal rate to avoid issues even back then.

Cheers,
Shane
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Offline Shaun M. Neary

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Re: Odd tape issue on Cpc464
« Reply #3 on: 12:01, 07 June 17 »
Just going to throw this out there, even though you have probably already tried it.

I'm assuming you tried loading the game from both sides of the cassette.

I believe in some cases they even used the equivalent of a 'Speed Write 1' (2000 baud) on one side and the normal baud rate on the other (1000 baud).
I'm sure I have a couple like that.
I'm sure the ones written with a 'Speed Write' would be a lot more prone to issues after this many years.

Having said that, the vast majority mostly just have a copy of the game on each side of the cassette, at the normal rate to avoid issues even back then.

Cheers,
Shane

In the cases of the They Sold A Million compilations, I don't think that's going to be the case as They were mostly speedlock protection system (except Jet Set Willy on TSAM 1, and Ghostbusters on TSAM 3 which were basic and spectrum loaders respectively).

Offline 00WReX

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Re: Odd tape issue on Cpc464
« Reply #4 on: 12:27, 07 June 17 »
When I was writing the previous message, I could not think of the name of the loader/copy protection name (Speedlock).
Thanks for clarifying that  ;)

That's why I used 'equivalent of a 'Speed Write 1' (2000 baud)', because I believe the various 'Speedlock' methods had varying baud rates, that were all higher than the standard loader speed of 1000 baud.

Anyway, my main thing was to simply try the other side of the cassette if you have not already  :D .

Cheers,
Shane
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Offline Shaun M. Neary

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Re: Odd tape issue on Cpc464
« Reply #5 on: 12:59, 07 June 17 »
Anyway, my main thing was to simply try the other side of the cassette if you have not already  :D .

He did... Rambo is on one side, and Kung Fu Master is on the other side of that compilation (with Ghostbusters on one side and Fighter Pilot on the other side of the second tape).  ;)

I'm guessing the tapes are just worn or stretched from time. These things were manufactured in 86-87, and depending on how they were duplicated (in terms of quality, and there were some awful quality tapes used by some distributors, I'm looking at you Ablex!), some will hold up better than others.

That's why I sent him the link to the CDT, so he could make one himself. Cassettes are starting to come back into fashion again, a lot of underground bands are starting to record EP's to them, so shouldn't be too hard to source some blanks now.  :)

Offline 00WReX

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Re: Odd tape issue on Cpc464
« Reply #6 on: 13:34, 07 June 17 »
aahh, bugger...
I did not realise that.
I recently got a Superheroes box set, and it actually came with 4 individual cassettes.
I tested them all and one of them did not work on one side, but did the other.

Anyway, scrap that thought then  ::)

Cheers,
Shane




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Offline Sidney

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Re: Odd tape issue on Cpc464
« Reply #7 on: 00:54, 08 June 17 »
Thankyou both for your advice 00wrex- yes unfortunately it's as Shaun says -one game on side one and one on side two. But as you say it was worth a mention.


Shaun- Once again you are fantastic with the advice you provide, as far is I'm concerned you are the number one go to Amstrad Cpc guy in all of Eire and I mean that most sincerely! Regarding ' They Sold a Million 3' that wouldn't  happen to be an Ablex tape by any chance?? Which software house used Ablex mostly? (so I can give their games a wide birth!)
I did think that possibly the tape may have been over stretched and as you rightly say we are dealing with software that is over 30 years old so it will be a hit and miss process. In actuality I'm amazed that most of my games are top notch in the loading department and think that overall and all things considered -cassette media has held up a lot better than 3.5 inch floppies over time.
Being a bit of a techno dunce, how easy is it to copy data from Pc to bog standard tape decks and what lead would I use, also would that lead just go into the earphone socket of a standard laptop or are more gizmo's required? If so I plan on using my super reliable cassette deck that I use with trusty Electron.
Once again many thanks, your help is as always very much appreciated.
« Last Edit: 00:56, 08 June 17 by Sidney »

Offline Shaun M. Neary

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Re: Odd tape issue on Cpc464
« Reply #8 on: 03:49, 08 June 17 »
Many thanks for the compliment but It'll probably take a lot to knock CraigsBar off that throne! He knows waaaaaaay more than me. I just happen to spend most of my Amstrad days as a tape guy and I remember a lot of horror stories.


Pretty much everyone used Ablex to be honest, even Amstrad Action who've had many a covertape flung back at em! 😂😂


You don't need to be too tech savvy. Just need a few tools.


1) a playback program like PlayTZX or WinTZX. Designed with Speccy tape files but I think they can handle CPC too. Try a few different programs as your mileage may vary.


2) a tape recorder! Preferably one with a line in / mic socket.


3) a cable with a 3.5mm jack for your PC to whatever your tape recorder has.


 4) Patience! You may need to play around with the volume a bit but you'll get there!

Offline dlfrsilver

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Re: Odd tape issue on Cpc464
« Reply #9 on: 20:41, 08 June 17 »
All the old tools made for making CDT are just either crap, or buggy.


The only tool to use is csw2cdt tool suite by cngsoft. It supports all the speedlocks (samp2cdt just fucks them all !!)


And the reversion tools are not doing the job correctly either.


Basically, most samp2cdt dumps just do not work back on real hardware, it doesn't inject in the CDT the right timings (it calculates them in the wrongest possible way).


I'm currrently in the process of redumping as many tapes as possible, because most CDT dumps are just shit :(


CSW2CDT is preserving the right timings, and allows to make clean and perfectly working CDT files, that can be also perfectly reverted.


CSW2CDT is supporting also many other new custom protection schemes like Operasoft, Hexagon tape, UNIlode, zydroload, spectrum, spectrum variant 1 & 2, and special speedlocks (like the ones used on world games and Nigel Mansell from Martech).


All the oldish tools should be removed and banned one end for all !!!
« Last Edit: 20:48, 08 June 17 by dlfrsilver »

Offline arnoldemu

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Re: Odd tape issue on Cpc464
« Reply #10 on: 21:08, 08 June 17 »
True.

Now that tape and disc loaders have been analyzed a lot more and understood and the operation of the cpc is more well understood it is true it now makes many emulator file formats inaccurate and not suitable.

At the time, these formats were considered ok, and they did the job of getting software out there and to help fuel the interest in the cpc and in some way to preserve the cpc. Looking back it would have been great to have perfect tools in the beginning but it wasn't so.

Sorry you have to re-dump a lot - but I am pleased the right person is doing it with the right tools :)

cdt/tzx file format is also horribly complicated.

dsk is not suitable for copy protection as we all know.

snapshot is not suitable either because it's just not accurate enough.


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Offline arnoldemu

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Re: Odd tape issue on Cpc464
« Reply #11 on: 21:12, 08 June 17 »
All the oldish tools should be removed and banned one end for all !!!
I am happy to remove them from cpctech. :)

edit: removed link to samp2cdt :)
« Last Edit: 21:21, 08 June 17 by arnoldemu »
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Offline pmeier

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Re: Odd tape issue on Cpc464
« Reply #12 on: 22:29, 08 June 17 »
dsk is not suitable for copy protection as we all know.

I did not know. Up to now I'm very happy with the originals provided by cpc-power. I recently transferred some disks to my real cpc.

Offline dlfrsilver

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Re: Odd tape issue on Cpc464
« Reply #13 on: 09:35, 09 June 17 »
I am happy to remove them from cpctech. :)

edit: removed link to samp2cdt :)


Thanks a lot !!!


Now people will use the right tools to make working CDTs :)

Offline arnoldemu

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Re: Odd tape issue on Cpc464
« Reply #14 on: 11:06, 09 June 17 »
I did not know. Up to now I'm very happy with the originals provided by cpc-power. I recently transferred some disks to my real cpc.
Dsk is a good format for general use, for cracked software and it's fine for new releases that are not copy-protected.

For archiving of copy protected discs it is not suitable. It is missing information and doesn't describe the exact disc structure down to the individual flux transitions. In this case something like ct-raw is the preferred option, with the right hardware ct-raw can go back to disc and you can't tell the difference. With dsk it is not possible sometimes.

Continue to use dsk, but not for accurate preserving of disks.

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Offline pmeier

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Re: Odd tape issue on Cpc464
« Reply #15 on: 16:22, 09 June 17 »
For archiving of copy protected discs it is not suitable.

AFAIK it supports a lot of different protections. Look:
http://www.cpc-power.com/SectorView.php?fiche=148&slot=10&rang=0 -> Map

I transferred this image back to my CPC and well, the disk loading procedure makes the same characteristic noise I had in memory  ;D

The best copy protection I met was Platoon. Couldn't copy it with Discology 5.0. But, as it is a time time consuming task I did not try out to transfer it. I guess it was one of the protections that the CPC could read, but not write, because of the physical restrictions of the drive. But cpc-power preserved it anyway.

I also noticed that emulators don't run Discology etc. They just crash. Obviously deep reading is not a primary feature.

Offline dlfrsilver

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Re: Odd tape issue on Cpc464
« Reply #16 on: 19:25, 09 June 17 »
AFAIK it supports a lot of different protections. Look:
http://www.cpc-power.com/SectorView.php?fiche=148&slot=10&rang=0 -> Map

I transferred this image back to my CPC and well, the disk loading procedure makes the same characteristic noise I had in memory  ;D

The best copy protection I met was Platoon. Couldn't copy it with Discology 5.0. But, as it is a time time consuming task I did not try out to transfer it. I guess it was one of the protections that the CPC could read, but not write, because of the physical restrictions of the drive. But cpc-power preserved it anyway.

I also noticed that emulators don't run Discology etc. They just crash. Obviously deep reading is not a primary feature.


This game doesn't really have a copy protection. It can indeed be written back :)


Platoon use a weak sector protection. that's why discology just can't copy it :)

Offline pmeier

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Re: Odd tape issue on Cpc464
« Reply #17 on: 22:31, 09 June 17 »
This game doesn't really have a copy protection. It can indeed be written back :)

But the conclusion is that DSK supports copy protections. And that was the question.  :P

Offline Cholo

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Re: Odd tape issue on Cpc464
« Reply #18 on: 01:10, 10 June 17 »
Anwering the original post:


The "wobbly" sound you hear usually mean that you tape has a genuine "dent" on the tape usually making the game(s) unplayable. It can be more or less severe.


Motor: If you are getting these sound wobbles randomly on random tapes then its probably your motor giving up. Do note that there is a small number of giant tapes out there that could make a old motor wobbly, but They Sold a Milllion 3 is not big. Infact its incredible small tapes & as far as i know fairly well made as well (never had troubles with my "million" tapes). Was a full price compilation too it would have looked bad if they wasnt working. Other later compilations like the quite common "10 games vol x" was horrible bad quality and clearly made in a rush by someone who either didnt care or had no clue .. quite noticable that the games just been thrown down mindlessly without any concern for timings, speeds or loading schemes. Thus usually at least 1 or 2 of the games are completely unplayable.


Tape belt: if you are getting the wobble continually then its probably the rubber belt inside you cassette player that is going "hard" or even rotting away. Luckily a replacement belt is still being sold on ebay for like a buck or 2.


Azimuth: Could also be that your tape head Azimuth thingymagic is a bit off & needs adjusting. Probably a good idea to get a proper kit at some point and not mindlessly just "wing it" like i lazily do.


Error B: Now the games on Sold in a Milllion is protected and sadly not using the amstrads brilliant "block" loading system thus if a error happen the game crashes. However had it used the native "block" system it would also have reported us an Error message, where the "Error B" is the minor one that can sometimes simply be fixed by rewinding the tape and retrying the block load. Fairly often also fixed by adjusting Azimuth.


Error A: Auch, never recovered from one. Genuine dent on the tape either physically or electronically in some way.


Donno the chance of buying used games with errors on them, but i always have it in mind when i go to like ebay. However cant really say ive had too much troubles with cassette tape, as in general much of the games are usually "new old" stock. But it does happen from time to time and it no way as bad as the 3" floppy games that seem to have a very high chance of having errors on them now (not counting protection stuff of cause).


Always handled my cassette games with care. A bit overprotective perhaps but they was expensive and unlike music or lp you cant continue to play em if there is a dent or error. Some of my friends really acted like monkeys. I dont think ive ever turned on or off my 464 when the play-head was still pressed on the tape. Didnt lend that guy tapes after seeing that happen lol. Heck i even dont start or stop a tape if its over data, aka i always wait untill its "between blocks" or simply wait untill it reaches the end. Never used the pause button and when pressing stop/eject i always pressed it geeeently  ;)
« Last Edit: 01:16, 10 June 17 by Cholo »

Offline dlfrsilver

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Re: Odd tape issue on Cpc464
« Reply #19 on: 14:14, 11 June 17 »
Hi Cholo,


Did you tried csw2cdt on your tapes ? do you have some of them that you could test with it ? :)

Offline dlfrsilver

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Re: Odd tape issue on Cpc464
« Reply #20 on: 14:22, 11 June 17 »
But the conclusion is that DSK supports copy protections. And that was the question.  :P


Some, and in quite a number of case fake the protection, because the dsk format is not able to store them as they are really written on disk.


Bear in mind that most protected CPC disk were written in track mode, while dsk format only deal with sector mode.


The storage of speedlock and hexagon tracks for example are simulated in dsk files. On original disks, those are written as full tracks.


the dsk format stored them as huge sectors, when in reality they are one track with a badly declared 512 bytes sectors, with 5278 bytes of gap data.


that's just an example, there are many others.

Offline Sidney

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Re: Odd tape issue on Cpc464
« Reply #21 on: 19:44, 11 June 17 »
Anwering the original post:


The "wobbly" sound you hear usually mean that you tape has a genuine "dent" on the tape usually making the game(s) unplayable. It can be more or less severe.


Motor: If you are getting these sound wobbles randomly on random tapes then its probably your motor giving up. Do note that there is a small number of giant tapes out there that could make a old motor wobbly, but They Sold a Milllion 3 is not big. Infact its incredible small tapes & as far as i know fairly well made as well (never had troubles with my "million" tapes). Was a full price compilation too it would have looked bad if they wasnt working. Other later compilations like the quite common "10 games vol x" was horrible bad quality and clearly made in a rush by someone who either didnt care or had no clue .. quite noticable that the games just been thrown down mindlessly without any concern for timings, speeds or loading schemes. Thus usually at least 1 or 2 of the games are completely unplayable.


Tape belt: if you are getting the wobble continually then its probably the rubber belt inside you cassette player that is going "hard" or even rotting away. Luckily a replacement belt is still being sold on ebay for like a buck or 2.


Azimuth: Could also be that your tape head Azimuth thingymagic is a bit off & needs adjusting. Probably a good idea to get a proper kit at some point and not mindlessly just "wing it" like i lazily do.


Error B: Now the games on Sold in a Milllion is protected and sadly not using the amstrads brilliant "block" loading system thus if a error happen the game crashes. However had it used the native "block" system it would also have reported us an Error message, where the "Error B" is the minor one that can sometimes simply be fixed by rewinding the tape and retrying the block load. Fairly often also fixed by adjusting Azimuth.


Error A: Auch, never recovered from one. Genuine dent on the tape either physically or electronically in some way.


Donno the chance of buying used games with errors on them, but i always have it in mind when i go to like ebay. However cant really say ive had too much troubles with cassette tape, as in general much of the games are usually "new old" stock. But it does happen from time to time and it no way as bad as the 3" floppy games that seem to have a very high chance of having errors on them now (not counting protection stuff of cause).


Always handled my cassette games with care. A bit overprotective perhaps but they was expensive and unlike music or lp you cant continue to play em if there is a dent or error. Some of my friends really acted like monkeys. I dont think ive ever turned on or off my 464 when the play-head was still pressed on the tape. Didnt lend that guy tapes after seeing that happen lol. Heck i even dont start or stop a tape if its over data, aka i always wait untill its "between blocks" or simply wait untill it reaches the end. Never used the pause button and when pressing stop/eject i always pressed it geeeently  ;)








Thankyou Cholo for your indepth and very interesting post, there is certainly some food for thought there. The thought that possibly the drive belt was hardening/rotting did spring to mind, likewise the azimuth alignment and given my experiences with other 8bit tape systems I certainly wouldn't rule it out but I have to say that I have many more tapes that load perfectly so I am loathe to tinker too much at the moment. They are things to consider though so many thanks.


If the tape deck requires new belts is it as easy to do as it is on the Spectrum +2? If the motor were to die how easy is a repair/replacement on the 464? Is the azimuth tape head easily adjusted on the 464? On the +2 it was simply a matter of putting in an audio cassette and adjusting the head until the audio is as clear as it can be then data loading generally is fine, can that be done with the Cpc.
Thanks for all the help chaps!

Offline Cholo

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Re: Odd tape issue on Cpc464
« Reply #22 on: 20:01, 13 June 17 »

Thankyou Cholo for your indepth and very interesting post, there is certainly some food for thought there. The thought that possibly the drive belt was hardening/rotting did spring to mind, likewise the azimuth alignment and given my experiences with other 8bit tape systems I certainly wouldn't rule it out but I have to say that I have many more tapes that load perfectly so I am loathe to tinker too much at the moment. They are things to consider though so many thanks.


If the tape deck requires new belts is it as easy to do as it is on the Spectrum +2? If the motor were to die how easy is a repair/replacement on the 464? Is the azimuth tape head easily adjusted on the 464? On the +2 it was simply a matter of putting in an audio cassette and adjusting the head until the audio is as clear as it can be then data loading generally is fine, can that be done with the Cpc.
Thanks for all the help chaps!


Ah yes, if other tapes works fully then i wouldnt start tinkering with anything like the motor or azimuth as both are clearly working just fine/correctly then. One of the amazing things about the amstrad 464 is that the tape deck has always been really reliable. Kinda crazy to think ive never really had to hardcore tinker with the couple of 464s i have. That is good because the tape mechanism is quite complex. Must admit i know little about the Spectrum +2 motor either but i assume they are quite the same-ish.


Azimuth: again if all your other tapes work there is no reason tinkering with the setting. Never had a tape myself, but in the few rare times ive "desperately" needed to load some personal data, id just use a small screwdriver in the hole and do a tiny adjustment either left or right (and remember the original setting as good as possible) untill id get a sharper tone. Never had a official allignment tape but i see em often on ebay and the like.


Here is a video of Novabug doing a smart change of the tape ribbon (at about 16 mins in):

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tO9NkxkeFQo


This may help if you need to go deeper (or scare you off):

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BQtfIwlS0aE


Technically there are 3 ribbons, this may help if you need to know more than just the usual big one:
http://www.cpcwiki.eu/index.php/Changing_cassette_deck_belts


I think Dataserve still does repairs on amstrads:
http://www.dataserve-retro.co.uk/

Offline Sidney

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Re: Odd tape issue on Cpc464
« Reply #23 on: 02:03, 18 June 17 »
Many thanks once again to you Cholo, these videos are very helpful indeed and I will be making use of them, I have decided it can't hurt to change out the old belts as I'm sure they have probably been in the Cpc since day one so I have ordered a new set from eBay and I hope I don't make a pigs ear of the job!!
Thank you for your very helpful advice since I joined the forum, much appreciated. :)
I take it you are the very same Cholo who's YouTube channel I subscribed to a while back? If so I am enjoying it, keep up the fine work!
« Last Edit: 02:09, 18 June 17 by Sidney »

Offline Cholo

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Re: Odd tape issue on Cpc464
« Reply #24 on: 19:22, 21 June 17 »
No problemo  ;)  Gotta help out when you can, i think. Espcially as know-how about the old amstrad seem to quickly reach "ancient cryptic" information on the brink of being lost. Its like showing kids a rotary phone or a typewriter .. and they know what it is and what its used for .. but not how to use it.


Oh and im indeed CholoCPC on youtube  ;D