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Blog posts and video from Steven as he “COMBS” through the minutia to discover tech, retro-computing, physical computing, gadgets and sci-fi.

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Commodore Plus/4 Series

6 October 2020

retroCombs: TEDuino: A Modern TED (264) Series Commodore Datasette

by Steven B. Combs, Ph.D.
tags: commodore - datasette - tapuino - retro-computing - arduino - plus4/4 - c16 - c116 - ted - tap

As part of my Commodore Plus/4 series, chapter three of the user’s manual includes a section on using a Commodore Datasette. In a previous post, I assembled the modern replacement for the Datasette, the Tapuino. “What’s a Tapuino,” you ask? It’s an Arduino-based replacement for the Commodore Datasette.

For this project I use another Arduino, in this case the inexpensive Arduino Nano version, some easy to source electronic components, and a 3D printer to create a Commodore 264 series inspired Datasette replacement I call, the TEDuino.

The TEDuino

The TEDuino is powered by the Tapuino project. You can learn all about the Tapuino on the Sweetlilmre’s 1337 beef: Building the Tapuino R2 blog post.

After building the Tapuino and using it with my Commodore Plus/4, I felt it should have a proper case that was inline with the Plus/4 design aesthetics. I grabbed my sketch pad and began brainstorming (see video).

NOTE: While this post focuses on the Tapuino for a Commodore Plus/4, this build will also work with a C16 or other 264 series Commodore computers. If you want to use the Tapuino with a VIC-20, C64, or C128, you only need to replace the 7 pin DIN connector with this C2N Power Adapter that will also allow you to tap power from those computers for other projects.

This post and the companion video includes the build materials, layout, imagery, parts sourcing, and processes used to create the case and build the Tapuino system for the TEDuino. Before you read this blog post, watch the video below where I share a reveal of my TEDuino case design.

YouTube Video: retroCombs: TEDuino: A Modern TED (264) Series Commodore Datasette

In the video below, I breadboard and operate a Tapuino connected to a Commodore Plus/4:

Let’s start the project by listing all the materials necessary.

Bill of Materials

The list below includes everything you need and the most inexpensive/convenient way I’ve found to source them. The problem is that you can’t purchase some items individually. Not a problem for someone like me who has several projects on the bench at a time.

Below is my list of materials (using Amazon Affiliate links):

Makers or electronic hobbyist probably have many of these items (I did!). When I made similar purchases for my original Tapuino project, I had duplicate items. I think I even have enough parts to build one more of these.

Tools

Designing the TEDuino

The most iconic design of the Commodore Plus/4 (and the C116) are the fins on the back of the computer as shown in the image below.

Commodore Plus/4 Fins

It was important for me to include those and some faux vents that add interest to the design as shown in the image below.

TEDuino Fins and Vents

Originally, the TEDuino sat flat on the table; however, during design, it became apparent that the unit should sit at an angle to meet the profile of the Plus/4 and to allow a better view of the LCD screen as shown in the image below.

Base Angle

I’d like to think I added some nice touches to the design such as the cable management system, the electronics holder, and the button design which is based, in part, on the keys from the original Commodore Datasette and uses arrows similar to the cursor keys on the Plus/4 as shown in the images below:

Cable Management

Electronics Holder

Plus/4 Cursor Keys and TEDuino Buttons

I was especially pleased how all the components fit together or in fact, snapped together. I learned much about 3D printing when creating parts such as leaving a gap of .125mm between parts. That seems to be the sweet spot on my Creality Ender 3 on normal resolution using the Cura slicer software. Now that distance will change based on use case, but for standard parts, such as the case fitting over the electronics holder, it is a good rule of thumb.

STL Files

STL files are posted to my Thingaverse account page. Click here for a direct link to the project.

Fritzing Time

Below is my original Fritzing for the Tapuino. The first goal of the TEDuino project was to transfer these components to a solderable breadboard and then design a case that would contain these components:

My Fritzing Layout

Download my Fritzing File

I’m glad I created a Fritzing diagram with the earlier project. It improved my familiarity with the project and informed me during the layout of the components for the TEDduino.

Bare Board Soldered Tapuino

Preparing and Uploading Software

Once the Tapuino electronic system is soldered, it’s a simple matter to download and install the software. In my video, you will note that I installed the software before assembling. That’s okay too.

  1. Download the zip archive - you can download directly to a microSD if you want to save a step later; however, I always download to my computer first, make any changes, and then keep a local copy in case I run into problems.
  2. Extract the file - the archive includes several files. You need them all!
  3. Rename the extracted folder; Tapuino - This is required or the tapuino.ino file won’t be able to find and upload the support files.
  4. Rename, or copy, the config-user.h.example configuration file to config-user.h.
  5. Modify the configuration file to match the hardware and language. Below is my file:

     //*****************************************/
     // User selectable configuration settings
     //
     /******************************************/
    
     /******************************************/
     // LCD Definitions
     /******************************************/
    
     // uncomment one of these sets for your specific LCD
     #define LCD_USE_1602_LCD_MODULE
     #define LCD_I2C_ADDR 0x27 // I2C address for the LCD
     // #define LCD_USE_SSD1306_OLED_MODULE
     // #define LCD_I2C_ADDR 0x3C // I2C address for the OLED
     // #define LCD_SSD1306_BIG_FONTS // define this for ... bigger fonts...
    
     // choose one of these depending on your display
     // #define LCD_SSD1306_128x64
     // #define LCD_SSD1306_128x32
     // #define LCD_USE_SSD131X_OLED_MODULE
     // #define LCD_I2C_ADDR 0x3C // I2C address for the OLED
    
     /********************************************/
     // Language Definitions
     /********************************************/
     // uncomment one of these for your language
     #define TAPUINO_LANGUAGE_EN
     // #define TAPUINO_LANGUAGE_IT
     // #define TAPUINO_LANGUAGE_TR
     // #define TAPUINO_LANGUAGE_ES
     // #define TAPUINO_LANGUAGE_DE
    
  6. Start the Arduino IDE - I use Linux but this process should be similar on other platforms.
  7. Navigate into the tapuino folder and load the tapuino.ino file - the Arduino IDE will load all associated project files.
  8. In the Tools menu, select Arduino Nano and the correct serial port - this is done in the Board and Ports menu items.

Once you’ve done all of that, it should be a simple matter of connecting the Arduino to your PC and clicking on the Upload (→) button in the toolbar.

Prepare the microSD Card

You will need the smallest microSD card you can find. I only had a 32Gb card and this is overkill! If I could find a 1, 2, 4, or 8Gb that would be fine, but you can no longer purchase them in these capacities.

Format the card as FAT32. You can place directories on the microSD but keep them 16 characters or less. In my demonstration, I have a games folder with three .tap files with long names. The Tapuino will scroll longer file and folder names.

UPDATE 2020-07-22: The animated .gif below is a short “copying .tap files to the microSD card” demonstration:

Copying files to the microSD card

When you save a file from a Commodore computer using the SAVE command, the Tapuino will create its own recordings folder. As far as I know, there is no way to delete these files using a Commodore computer. You will need to remove the microSD and perform that function on a modern computer.

Finding .tap Files

I recommend you check out Plus4world’s tape index. I imagine any program released on cassette is archived but be careful; select the right video version (PAL or NTSC). PAL specific programs will not work on an NTSC computer and vice versa and that’s a real problem. If you own an NTSC Plus/4, like I do, you find that you can’t enjoy most Plus/4 games. Most titles were PAL only since the computer was more popular in Europe.

Once you prepare the microSD, ensure the Tapuino power is off and place the microSD into the card reader. You can now turn on power to the Plus/4. The Plus/4 will provide power for the Tapuino.

TEDuino Menu Usage

The TEDuino includes four white front buttons used to navigate the Tapuino interface. The button functions are as shown in the table below:

Button Usage
Select
Abort/Back
Down
Up

To display the contents of a directory, navigate to the directory name on the Tapuino display and push button 1 (Select). If you need to stop a program from saving or loading, push button 2 (Abort). The navigation is intuitive after a few uses.

NOTE: There is one menu item on the Tapuino you must select in order to use with a TED series Commodore computer. Select Options / Machine / C16. This configures the Tapuino to act as a 1531 Datasette. I do not understand what this option does to make the Tapuino operate differently. If anyone knows, please drop a comment below.

Final Thoughts and What’s Next

This project was a blast! I’m not sure how often I will use the TEDuino since the Pi1541 is faster, but if there is a random .tap file out there, at least I can load it. For pure nostalgia though, this is as close as you can get to a Datasette and much more reliable than cassette tapes. The only thing that would make it better was if the Tapuino software allowed connection of a small speaker and the hum from an original Datasette.

As I mention in the video, I’m not quite done with this project. There are a few more things I plan to add:

  1. A custom, and colorful, logo plate
  2. A 1980s style magazine advertisement
  3. Non-slip feet on base
  4. Explore a professionally printed 3D case (let me know if you know an inexpensive way to source one)

I will continue to document this projects on this website and on the YouTube channel as part of my new series, retroCombs Fast Load (see bumper video below for preview).

MORE PHOTOS!

Need more pics? Check out my TEDuino Google Photos album.

Conclusion

I hope you enjoyed this reveal of the TEDuino. If you have questions, please post them below or on the video’s YouTube page. While you are on the YouTube page, I sure would appreciate it if you hit LIKE and SUBSCRIBE!


References

Huge thanks to Sweetlilmre for the original Tapuino instructions and software. This would not have been possible with this amazing original work. I hope my case adds to the original project and encourages more individuals to give this build a try; especially those with 264 series Commodore computers.

Below is the list of references:

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