Commodore 1530 Datasette gets a Digital Counter


Ah, the humble Commodore 1530 Datasette drive. It never enjoyed much popularity in the USA, but it was the standard for quite some time in Europe. [DerSchatten13] still uses and loves his 1530. When a co-worker showed him some 7-segment bubble LEDs, he knew what he had to do. Thus the 1530 digital counter (translated) was born.

[DerSchatten13] started out by building his design on a breadboard. He used every I/O pin on an ATtiny2313 to implement his circuit. Tape motion is detected by a home-made rotary encoder connected to the original mechanical counter’s belt drive. To keep the pin count down, [DerSchatten13] multiplexed the LEDs on the display.

Now came the hard part, tearing into the 1530 and removing the mechanical counter. [DerSchatten13] glued in some standoffs to hold the new PCB. After rebuilding the circuit on a piece of perfboard, he installed the new parts. The final result looks great on the inside. From the outside, one would be hard pressed to tell the digital counter wasn’t original equipment.

Operation of the digital counter is identical to the analog unit – with one exception. The clear button now serves double duty. Pressing and holding it saves the current count. Save mode is indicated by turning on the decimal point. If the user rewinds the tape, the counter will stop the motor when the saved count is reached. Cueing up that saved program just got a heck of a lot easier!

Thanks [Frank]!


  1. reboots says:

    Outstanding concept, craft, and attention to detail, coupled with obvious love and respect for the original equipment. The bubble display is a perfect retro-futuristic upgrade. I’m confident this is the best Commodore 1530 Datasette counter modification anybody will ever care to undertake.

  2. genki says:

    It would be cool if the bubble display originally came out of a Commodore calculator.

  3. xwhatsit says:

    Very tidy!

    I’m sure it’s been asked (and answered before), but are these bubble displays being remanufactured, or has a whole pile of NOS come onto the market all of a sudden? I’d love to use them in a project or two, but I’d hate to have supply dry up all of a sudden.

  4. echodelta says:

    In the mid 80’s I bought a Yamaha cassette deck on impulse that I have been very happy with.
    It has a realtime counter, not a stopwatch connected to the pause-stop button. It would show time as the tape was being wound fast either direction! Not meaningless numbers as all things linear then did. It was good to the second across a C120. It could not handle tapes less than C20. All counters simply count revs of the left or right spindle which is always changing relative to time on the linear tape. This has rotation sensors on both spindles and does calculations to fix linear time. It has a standard flat LED display not those dinky lensed LED’s they are now calling “bubble” displays.
    Who remembers bubble memory? That popped before it ever got off.

    • SavannahLion says:

      I’m sorry…. what was your point? It got lost in the useless monologue.

      • janostman says:

        He meant that if you have pulse sensors on the left and right spindle of the cassette, the pulse difference tells you exactly where you are timewise on the tape.

    • Greenaum says:

      I remember bubble memory. The GriD or GRiD or griD or whatever computer used it as storage, and at least one of them went up on the Space Shuttle.

      It’s great that I grew up in the 80s. Stuff like bubble memory was for us to look forward to in the future. That, and the miracle of direct broadcasting by satellite! And centralised 1200-baud infobanks! With electronic mail!

      Oh and robot butlers with angular heads.

  5. vonskippy says:

    Our neighbor has an old wagon wheel in his front year, maybe he’ll make a odometer for it and it will get posted on HaD.

  6. You could set the reflector wheel to have a factor of 10. This way, the more significant three digits of the counter are in sync to the original counter and you have one digit for extra precision. You just need to turn on the decimal point there. Btw, did you replace the SAVE LED with a blue one? I would have replaced it with a transparent (non-matte) red one to match the bubble display.

    • Greenaum says:

      Blue LEDs are way past passe now. Every cheap bit of Chinese crap has them. I’ve been thinking, and I’ve decided yellow LEDs are the way of tomorrow. We’ve had enough of every other colour LED, so yellow it is. Consider this your memo.

  7. AG57 says:

    Why was the 1530 not popular in the USA? Was there a different model there or did you all have disc drives?

    • Hitek146 says:

      Although I had one of these cassette drives, it was painfully slow. The only reason I was able to upgrade, considering the fact that the 1541 or 1571 drives I could have used on my Commodore 128 were prohibitively expensive, was an aftermarket drive called the “Enhancer 2000″ that was much more affordable. I don’t know if this aftermarket drive was available outside the US, but if it was not, that could be one of the reasons…

  8. s800 says:

    Very clean construction method on the perf board. Nicely done!

  9. Sancho says:

    I think that a blue version is better for Commodore. :)

  10. Wouldn’t it be more useful to have a complete replacement of the datasette to play TAP files from an SD card? :-) You could even write your own fast loader to take advantage of the fact that you’re in the digital domain and therefore can crank up the transfer rate.

  11. bubba gump says:

    CLOAD anyone? Had one on my Atari 800! LOL.

  12. pauly says:

    No popularity in the USA? I had two and used them with my VIC-20 and 2 64s. I had several friends who also had them before any of us could get our hands on 1541s. I think it was somewhat popular at least.

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