Commodore Tape Drive Emulator On A Raspberry Pi

We imagine most of the people reading Hackaday have an old Raspberry Pi or two laying around. It’s somewhat less likely you’ve still got an 8-bit Commodore in working condition, but we’d wager there’s more than a few in the audience that can count themselves among both groups. So why not introduce them?

[RhinoDevel] writes in to tell us about CBM Tape Pi , an open source Commodore tape drive emulator for Raspberry Pi that needs only a handful of passive components to get wired up. Even better, the project targets the older Pis that are more likely to be languishing around in the parts bin. In the video after the break, a Commodore PET can be seen happily loading content from the original Raspberry Pi with its quaint little composite video connector.

Without any special software on the Commodore itself, the project allows the user to load and save PRGs on the Pi’s SD card, as well as traverse directories. Don’t expect stellar I/O, as [RhinoDevel] notes that no fast loader is currently implemented. Of course if you’re enough of a devotee to still be poking around a VIC-20 or C64 this far into 21st century, then we imagine you’ve got enough patience to get by.

22 thoughts on “Commodore Tape Drive Emulator On A Raspberry Pi

      1. I remember when, in 1984 (or so), Jumpman took 30 minutes or more to load from tape. We don’t know for sure, because nobody stuck around to watch it finish. Then we bought the disc drive: 20 seconds!
        It’s all relative, I suppose…

    1. It is meant to be an alternative solution to store and load your data directly with even older Commodore machines (e.g. PET). For compatibility between “all” 8-bit Commodores, the tape port is used. With the fastloader implemented, the speed will no longer be a problem. :-)

    2. Actually, I’ve toyed with doing a more generic pocket-sized .wav-based tape drive emulator (complete with remote control interface). With a lot of early machines, that and maybe a paper tape were the only native interface present. And magnetic media being what it is, it’s a good compromise to use modern media with vintage hardware. Sort of the same philosophy as the Gotek.

  1. Well, considering that Commodore Datasette communicates with the computer digitally and the transfer speed is around 50bps (few times faster with fastloaders), emulation of such a drive should be quite simple using a decent 8-bit MCU and SD card. Of course, only if one is a decent enough programmer.

    8-Bit Guy has a quite interesting video on cassette drives for old computers:

      1. Supported Commodore machines: CBM/PET computers (tested with 3032), VIC 20 / VC20, C64.
        [ Other Commodore computer with tape interface (not tested, yet). ]
        Supported Raspberry Pis: Raspberry Pi 1, Raspberry Pi 2 (v1.2 excluded), Raspberry Pi Zero.
        [ Other Raspberry Pis (not tested, yet). ]
        copied/pasted here as FYI/’Minimum System Requirements’ in case of doubt/wonder.
        (thanks for the work and for sharing, btw.)

    1. It won’t surprise you that this has been done already… many times before… (and many will follow) tapuino is perhaps the most easy one for the casual hacker (since it uses an arduino).

      Though an interesting one might be the cassiopei v2.0.
      This isn’t an open source project though and it isn’t DIY either. But it’s small and powerfull and has lot’s of bells and whistles. Because being able to connect to the tape port is not to be take lightly, tape may be slow, but you don’t have to use the tape prototcol for everything. The cassiopei is a nice example of the things you can do with the tape port. First it loads a small fastloader and after that it loads very fast, it has a nice menu system it has a wifi interface it allows even for playback of full screen petscii animations… over the cassetteport (no sound).
      For more info about the cassiopei v2.0:
      https://home.kpn.nl/bderogee1980/projects/Cassiopei/Cassiopei_v2.htm

  2. I find this humorous. First of all it is bringing back the one very non functional piece from the C64, but with a parts cost that is more than the tape drive cost new and with a brain bigger than the 64 itself.

    1. I cannot really agree to the costs comparance, but sure you are right about the processing power. On the other hand, you get more features out of it (it is not just a tape emulator). This is true for a lot of recent projects related to old 8-bit machines, by the way.

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