TZXduino vs ZXuiTape vs DigiWavuino

The beginning

I’m writing this post to dispel comments coming in waves from the main owner of the TZXduino/ArduiTape project. But let me provide some background first. About 2 years I had an idea to build a small device to replace the tape deck inside an old 80s Sharp MZ700 with a micro-controller and an SD card. I’d actually owned a few devices like this for other retro computer I have. I actually built the code based on ARM based Arduino devices. ARM because I could get high-quality audio running at 44khz from the on-board DAC. However I struggled to make the Sharp MZ700 accept the audio. At this point I stumbled across the opensource firmware TZXduino and ArduiTape projects. I got in contact with a chap called DE (shortened for legal reasons). Now at first DE was quite cooperative in helping me out and in return I added a some value back into this project by developing 2 tools: One tool which makes it easy to update TZXduino devices with knowledge of Arduino’s called TZXduino-Uploader. The 2nd was developed out of a manual task DE had told me about in that if you want to you use UEF files in his firmware the UEF files had to be decompressed manually first. So I made a tool to automate that process so you can do UEF files in bulk called UEF Extractor. In addition I’d spotted and fixed a small bug in the TZXduino/AruiTape firmware when using OLED screens.

What happened!

Over time I started producing my own devices for the TZXduino/AruiTape firmware . I felt that since the devices was of my design and I had separate design for each type of retro computer I would give each a separate name:

CPCuiTape, MSXuiTape, Beebuitape, ZXuiTape and so on.

This move has upset DE because every time I communicate something about my devices DE is compelled to remind everyone in a very childish uncouth manner that my devices are a fake of his devices. Now there lies the quandary. DE also sells the devices under the name of the opensource projects. Every time I try to justify that they are not fakes DE is compelled to attack me a bit more, usually by changing his story somewhat to fit around my view. My core argument is that the firmware is opensource and contains other opensource firmware, the layout of the hardware is of my design. DE believes the layout of the design is his intellectual property and skirts round the notion that the circuitry is decades old and even the idea of building such a device was ripped off the Tapuino project.

The Facts

I’ve noticed community members on different Facebook groups are getting fed up of DE’s rants. So in an effort to not be goaded into a tit for tat exchange I drew out this table of facts so you understand my view. Its funny when I tell people about this the 2 responses are: I’m confused, I thought it was opensource. Or isn’t the generic name for them Tapuino.

The current state of play

I will not be bullied in to submission but at the same time I don’t want to upset the rest of the community guys. There are 2 other players in the TZXduino project who told me they don’t really mind what I’m doing and give me their blessing. I’m putting my energy in redeveloping my firmware DigiWavuino which I believe is now better than ArduiTape. And as a replacement for TZXduino I’m using MaxDuino which is a little further ahead IMO. I’m looking at extending to developing MaxDuino-Uploader shortly too. The sad part about all this is had DE not gone on the attack I’d still be helping out where I can with my little tools and bug fixes and as such I have started to remove all back links to DE’s website from my tools, and content which would have been driving some traffic DE’s way. I was happy with that as I’m a believer in Karma. What DE failed to recognize is a little competition is healthy for business and drives further revenue. If you still have doubts contact me direct. Thanks

ZX Spectrum Digital Tape Replacement

A project come true. After making the MZuitape for the Sharp MZ700 I set my eyes on the ZX spectrum and owning 2 x 48k+ units I designed a device that fits to the side of a 48k+ with the same design. I call it the ZXuitape

Similar to the MZuiTape the idea is to load up games on the ZX spectrum. The firmware is based on the TZXduino firmware . So the idea is you put Spectrum games in TZX file format on a micro SD card into this unit and load games that way.

After sellingthe first 3 units I realised that I could make the case slimmer.

It will work standalone with any spectrum but this version only screws to the 48k+. The next version which I’m working on fits the 128K+ toastrack.

If you want to buy one email me by clicking >HERE<

Sharp MZ700 Tape alternative

Here it is at last. For several months I’ve been working on a project to replace the tape deck in a Sharp MZ700 with something digital that can play MZ700 games and app from wav file format located on an SD card versus loading it up using a 35+-year-old cassette tape. I call it MZuiTape. Initially, I started developing my own solution based on an Arduino Zero called DigiWavuino (search for it on YouTube or Github) but then I started working with the ArduiTape project developed by Duncan Edwards. I’d purchased a few of these devices from Duncan and noticed if wav files formatted at 22khz would load on the MZ700 using the external audio jacks. Traditionally the MZ700 games and apps are stored in MZF file format. I stumbled across a MZF2WAV converter (dos command) . I worked with the developer of MZF2WAV to modernise it a bit with a GUI and he added a feature to allow for wav files to be created at 22khz. We call this MZF2WAVGUI and you’ll find a nice video showing that tool >HERE< > To use the MZuiTape device you will need to use MZF2WAVGUI to convert MZF files to 22Khz wav files.


So back to my journey. After cracking what needed to be done with the files I had to tasks left: Develop my own ArduiTape PCB that would be compatible with the MZ700 and design a 3D printed case that would replace the tape deck and home my device. After a lot of wasted plastic, I got the case right and a bit of trial and error on the PCB and managed to get a working solution.

The Prototype
3D printed and painted case.

I’m going to sell this device as a kit with 2 options:

  1. Just the PCB and components but no case . I have opened sourced the case on Thingiverse (click HERE) so you can print one yourself.
  2. The complete kit.

Fitting will be easy. You just plug the ribbon cable into the socket for the tape deck. Note: be very careful as I couldn’t find exactly the same plug so I’m using a standard 9pin JST plug. Still works perfectly but always be careful you don’t bend any pins.


You still have to use the external audio jack for the audio. Audio doesn’t travel through the ribbon cable. This has a very nice advantage. If you still need to record anything from you MZ700 you will need a conventional tape deck. The way I have plumbed in the audio means you can just unplug the MZuiTape and plugin a normal tape unit to do the record.


So you want one? There are buy options CLICK HERE

Also instructions for the kit and the 3D part CLICK HERE

Atari 2600 Video Mod

This week I was given an old Atari 2600 but of course there is no composite video or any way of attaching it to a modern TV. So after a digging about I found a few good blogs to help with the modification to change remove the RF module and replace it with a composite video option.

The first blog is good as it shows you how to make the mod board which consists of a transistor and 2 resistors > https://www.instructables.com/id/ATARI-2600-Video-Composite-mod/

However if you want to get all the steps from this site you have to register.. Then I found an instruction manual showing how to fit the modification >

http://www.coolretroprojects.com/Atari_2600_AV_Mod_Installation_Guide.pdf

But these instructions do not show how to create the modification board. So you see you need both blogs.

So Now I have a working 2600!

Play MZF files from MZuiTape into Sharp MZ700/MZ800

Myself, and Jeroen Laros (MZF2WAV) have collaborated to make it easy to Load MZ700 games stored on an MZuiTape into you Retro Sharp MZ700 computer. The MZuiTape expects audio WAV files to be encoded at a maximum of 22Khz as this is a limitation of the Arduino boards used by MZuiTape. Jeroen added a feature in MZF2WAV to allow for MZF files to be converted to WAV files at this bitrate, and I reflected that in the GUI (MZF2WAVGUI). In the below video it talks about a different device but its the MZuiTape that you want if you have a MZ700 or MZ800.

DigiWavuino the ultimate Retro Computer Cassette alternative Part2

So in Part 2 I show off the Nano-ARM version of DigiWavuino.

DigiWavuino is an Arduino wav player designed for playing back Retro Computers games and app files that come in wav file format. It differs from other similar projects like ArduiTape or CASDuino in that it was developed with Arduino boards that have a DAC port like Arduino DUE or Arduino Zero. This is a must for those Retro Computers that are sensitive about audio quality. The previous projects played audio through a PWM port instead of a DAC. Retro Computers like the Sharp MZ700 will not load games that have been played through a PWM port.. So enter DigiWavuino.


I got all parts from https://www.youmakerobots.com

Here is the parts list for the DUE version:
https://tinyurl.com/y9jv5b7h
https://tinyurl.com/ybw7ovo2
https://tinyurl.com/y7gllja5 this one doesn’t have the IC2 jacket but best get one with

Here is the parts list for the Nano-ARM version:
https://tinyurl.com/yb9q87w6
https://tinyurl.com/ybw7ovo2
https://tinyurl.com/yc6sa5x6
Code can be found here https://github.com/rickyelqasem/DigiWavuino

DigiWavuino the ultimate Retro Computer Cassette alternative Part1

I’ve been a busy bee. I developed an alternative solution for those wanting to keep Retro Computers alive by playing games and apps digitally through the audio ports originally designed for a tape deck.

DigiWavuino is an Arduino wav player designed for playing back Retro Computers games and app files that come in wav file format. It differs from other similar projects like ArduiTape or CASDuino in that it was developed with Arduino boards that have a DAC port like Arduino DUE or Arduino Zero. This is a must for those Retro Computers that are sensitive about audio quality. The previous projects played audio through a PWM port instead of a DAC. Retro Computers like the Sharp MZ700 will not load games that have been played through a PWM port.. So enter DigiWavuino.

Here is the parts list for the DUE version:
https://tinyurl.com/y9jv5b7h
https://tinyurl.com/ybw7ovo2
https://tinyurl.com/y7gllja5 this one doesn’t have the IC2 jacket but best get one with

Here is the parts list for the Nano-ARM version:
https://tinyurl.com/yb9q87w6
https://tinyurl.com/ybw7ovo2
https://tinyurl.com/yc6sa5x6
Code can be found here https://github.com/rickyelqasem/DigiWavuino

Retr0brite gone wrong

So after some success in poor sunlight and UV lamps, today went very wrong. We had some unusually warm weather in the UK yesterday and today and I thought I would take advantage of the Suns UV and Retr0Brite one of my ST cases…. I got carried away with work and forgot to check on it at Lunchtime and reapply Hydrogen Peroxide. And unfortunately, my top half of the case is badly scarred.  I’m now resorting to spraying the case to fix the problem…  I never wanted to do this as reading on the interest I hear Retr0Brite is the best option and paint eventually wears off and might flake… I think I found a good match in colour though…

Here is the mess and I will post a picture of the spray later..

Actually, the spray result doesn’t look so bad.  Need to tidy up that badge a little but hey hoy..

 

My experience with Retr0Brighting

I have several Atari 8 bit and Atari ST models all with some level of yellowing plastic cases.. So I decided to give the retr0Brite process a whirl… The idea is to use Salon Strength Hydrogen Peroxide to beach the plastic to a earlier color.. The problem I have where I live is a lack of sun… so I went for the UV light option… where people on youtube had reported improvement of colour in hours… it took me weeks.. But I did get the results I wanted…

When there was a glimpse of sunshine I did turn off the UV but we got hardly any..

But the results are worth it as seen next >

The only problem I had with my Atari 130xe is that the process also stripped the red colour from the logo badge.. still looks nice though…

Its always worth recapping!

A few months back I purchased a ZX81 .. I could never get it working through the RF Modulator except once when I hooked it up to an old video… I noticed that it would only work when the 16K ram pack was not plugged in..

First thing First…. that video… I found a nice article showing to create a simple mod to bypass RF for composite video found >HERE< … the difference for me was I ripped out the inside of the RF module and inserted the composite mod which consisted of 2 components and a couple of wires… that’s it.. job done, I now can hook this ZX81 to a modern TV…

Now that pesky 16K ram pack… I ended up buying another one which was no better, even though the add said fully working…  I noticed that the expansion port on the ZX81 was corroded… I tinned the connectors and did some continuity checks but still no joy..

On the off chance I decided to change the capacitors and bingo that worked with the original unit… but not with the second one that was advertised as “working” … I know now my ZX81 + ram pack works.. so those naughty people selling on eBay were telling porkies…