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MSX – Arduino as Tape Drive (CASDuino)

As usual, no vintage equipment is complete until you've maxxed it out with all possible peripherals! I had previously made an old 'Datasette' drive work for a Commodore 64 and so started searching for an appropriate tape player for my MSX. It turns out that you either pay big dollars for a specific data recorder, or you use an off-the-shelf tape player and hope-it-works.

I then stumbled across Arduitape (aka TZXDuino). The slogan says it all: 'ARDUITAPE MARK II - THE TAPE PLAYER REPLACEMENT SD CARD SYTEM FOR 8-BIT COMPUTERS'. After a lot of digging on the blog, the instructions presented themselves. As you can see, the instructions aren't as clear as they could be and so I henceforth present the complete construction and usage of an Arduino as a fake Tape Recorder for an MSX.

Ingredients

I ended up testing out multiple components during this build. I initially started with a 128x128 LCD but found that the libraries required to run it used too much memory and therefore the whole project was useless on a UNO/Leonardo. Instead I switched back to a 16x2 LCD.

Component Substitute Comments
Arduino Nano Arduino Leonardo r3 This Leonardo r3 from Jaycar worked fine, or a UNO.
16x2 Character LCD Find any 16x2 I2C LCD from eBay.
SD Card Shield SD Card Module Jaycar also has a full shield for SD Card reading, but we don't need that much infrastructure.
AMP Shield Arduino Compatible 2 X 3W Amplifier Module Different, but with two channels, we can use one for input.
4 x 4.7k resistors Filter Board
3 x 4.7nF Capacitors Filter Board
1 x 100nF Capacitor Filter Board
2 x 3.5 mm Female Jack PS0122 (One is for recording... can we get it to work?)
1 x 2.5 mm Female Jack PS0105
5 pushbuttons SP0711
Some kind of box to put it all in.

From here, I'll describe how to hook up and test each component to make sure that you build up a stable base for troubleshooting!

The Circuit

Here's an overview of what we're building. It's really just a rigging of off-the-shelf components, apart from the filter board.

CASDUINO

Note that the buttons aren't in the exact order. You can customise which button does what below.

Arduino

I used both a Uno and a Leonardo whilst constructing this. I bought the Leonardo as I thought it had more RAM than the Uno. Turns out it doesn't and so I switched from the 128x128 memory-expensive LCD to a simple 16x2 LCD. Either way, grab an Arduino and a nice case to house it in.

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Punch holes where required and mount it all in place with hot glue.

LCD

This was a quick solder and plug-in. VCC and GND to the Arduino. SDA and SDL to analog pins A4 and A5. Make sure you have the daughterboard on the correct way around. It's on backwards in the first picture below. In the second and third pictures you'll see that you can't see the daughterboard as it's aligned behind the LCD.

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If you get a single bar of black blocks, then chances are you have the I2C daughterboard on backwards. There's something that looks like a 'pin 1' designation on the board, but this only worked once I plugged it onto pin 16! I have it on BACKWARDS on the first shot above!.

SD Card

This is another I2C device which means it just needs to be wired into the bus. Again, hook VCC and GND to the Arduino. Then hook up CS to D10, SCK to D13, MOSI to D11 and finally MISO to D12.

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You now should get a new message showing the first file/folder in the root directory. Go test out your google-fu to find CAS files for the MSX. You'll need one to test with.

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You'll want to start showing-all-files-and-folders in Windows to get rid of the hidden items that'll now show up on this device. There's no filter in the card to disregard the kludge that OS' keep hidden on disks.

Buttons

These are easy enough... they just need a common ground and then 5 wires to the specified digital inputs. You can customise the order of your buttons, but in the end make sure you have then connected to the associated inputs of btnPlay, btnStop, btnUp, btnDown and btnMselect.

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Not a TZXTape? Come again? Oh right, we're meant to be using CASDuino, not TZXDuino!

Filter and Amp

This little board is pretty straight-forward. I built it up as per the instructions.

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You then need to provide GND and Audio In (Digital Pin 9) from the Arduino. Audio Out is fed into your Amplifier, which happens to be R-In on my tiny board from Jaycar. Yes, I'm using a RED wire for GND on the filter board, running to GND on the button row. It's a really good idea to tie ALL GNDs together wherever possible.

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Disregard my colour-coding... that blue is actually GND and is using the GND rail from the LCD panel. Black is audio-out from the filter board to Audio-in on the amp. The amp then also needed VCC and all GND pins joined. From there, add on the 3.5mm headphone socket.

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At this point I actually plugged the output into my stereo. An awful noise, to the tune of the data loading of the Commodore 64 (or even a modem dialing up), played loudly! Data!

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Finally hook up the little 2.5mm socket to GND and D6. This will allow the MSX to tell the player when to play/pause.

Loading a game

With everything hooked up, I turned the device on. I then powered up the MSX, with no cartridges installed. At the BASIC prompt, my CASDuino started flickering between play/pause. It looked like the remote-control signal was floating instead of being pulled high or low. Regardless, I typed in the magic command: RUN"CAS:" (yes, double-quotes and all)

The CASDuino settled on PLAYING and I heard interference through the TV Audio!

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Found:TURTLE appeared... but then it crashed?

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Turns out you can set the BAUD rate of the tape playback. Default is 3600, but this was too high for my construction skills, or maybe even my MSX.

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Setting this to 1200 or 2400 saw the game (slowly) load!

Teenage Mutant Hero Turtles

Did you know that UK/Ireland prefered Heros over Ninjas? Supposedly Ninjas were too thought-provokingly violent. Either way, the game loaded. If you want to play with the keyboard, keys Q and A are UP/DOWN and keys O and P are LEFT/RIGHT.

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Final Notes

Grab your glue gun and secure everything. This will hold it in place and also insulate any floating components.

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Then mount the headphone plugs and close the box... it'll look much neater :) I ended up mounting a socket for the recording plug also... although it's not currently connected to anything. Might try and play with that in the future!

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..and don't forget to clean up..

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About stevenh

Trains... trains... trains... + Electronics + Japan.
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