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With that track order, the two data tracks will overwrite eachother when flipped. Oh well, it's not like we had a shortage of basic storage space. And I'm pretty sure basic can't make use of analog voice.

 

I have 4 blank tapes. Part of me wants to see RW data and audio and recorded on some of them. Then again, I am worried that any audio will just be little Timmy recording himself farting. :ponder:

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With that track order, the two data tracks will overwrite eachother when flipped. Oh well, it's not like we had a shortage of basic storage space. And I'm pretty sure basic can't make use of analog voice.

 

Yeah, that's what I thought originally -- then I saw Joe's list of tracks and assumed that was the correct order. I guess we don't know?

 

-dZ.

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Hey all,

 

It's been a while, so here is a bit of an update. Back in September when we did the development kit video Ron and I also made some further progress with his K/C tape drive. We got it to the point that we could intermittently load and save BASIC programs, but it is far from reliable. Here is a quick video showing a save, followed by a failed attempt to load the program back:

 

 

Small programs would load maybe one time in five, so it did not seem worth posting the video at the time.

 

Since then we have been a bit distracted doing cool things with Ron The Cat's PlayCable, however, we anticipate getting back to the K/C in the coming weeks. We are hoping that the problem is just a motor speed thing and a bit of lubrication and adjustment will fix it. We have bought an tape with a 3KHz signal on it to help with setting up the mechanism. However, as this is a regular tape, not one with IR clear leaders, the K/C will not play it. So we also wrote a little bit of software to directly control the tape drive from the K/C keyboard:

 

post-46336-0-88911100-1547804072.png

 

This completely bypasses the EXEC and all the clever Mattel stuff and just bit bangs the memory addresses that contain the tape status and control registers, as described on page 27 of this Papa Intellivision document:

 

post-46336-0-74258000-1547804478.jpg

 

The result is that (sometimes) Mimi speaks :D

 

 

(I'm not sure if the response you can hear to "Oui, j'ai faim", is Ron getting in a sneeky bit of French practice or a recording of the original owner from 1980, I'll let Ron clarify that ;)). Unfortunately, other times the lesson does degenerate into "The Chipmonks Teach French" because the pinch roller is not pressing against the capstan hard enough and the tape is pulled through too quickly:

 

 

"Houston, nous avons un problème...", but lets cling to the positive. Sometimes Mimi does actually speak!

 

 

Cheers

 

decle

 

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Interesting stuff! To me, the Keyboard Component represented the "futuristic world of jetpacks and flying cars" back in the very early 1980s, and it is fascinating to see it slowly come to life and realize its potential.

 

By the way, how do you intend to use the 3KHz tape to diagnose the tape transport? Is it a matter of running the mechanism and then analysing the wobble on the output?

 

Keep up the good work! Let us know of any progress.

 

-dZ.

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If I recall correctly, the tape drive brake pads had to be replaced. Is that correct.

 

Tape seek works, so the read head must be working. Strange plod reading doesn't work reliably. Maybe it's because the pinch roller isn't controlling the speed correctly.

 

Why did you have to pre-rewind the tape before psav; because it looks like automatic rewind does work. Great to see these progress updates.

Edited by mr_me
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Mimi is now on playback sounding her normal sexy self when I use the play command Decle provided for me to play the tape deck manually .

I took the cover off the tape deck to make sure the pinch roller is connecting and it plays back fine I think. Sometimes it doesn't connect.

We still need to test it with diagnostic equipment but sounds like what we got off my other tape cassette when recording the voices and data to a wav file earlier last year.

 

Tried to load the Conversational French tape (Tape 2 which is all i have) and it correctly rewinds to the beginning , then goes a little bit forward to find the load instructions, plays for just a bit to get them but then I just get "loading" on the screen forever with no errors or anything. We are using a modified USA MC with the KC but modified to go to HDMI - cannot imagine this is having anything to do with it.

 

Would be nice if we could just cheat and inject the code it expects bypassing the tape drive and see if a screen loads.

 

The brake pads were replaced , seem to work fine but maybe not stopping the tape at the exact place it needs to be by a very small amount ?

 

 

 

Sounds like we have nearly a working tape drive but as yet no cigar ……..just imagined my avatar with a cigar out of the mouth ….

Edited by Ron The Cat
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Not sure what's suppose to happen with only tape two. The main index is on tape one and you can select the lessons on tape two from that index which I assume prompts you for tape two. Maybe both tapes have the same index program. Try typing R for resume rather than T. What happens when you put in a basic tape and type T?

Edited by mr_me
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Ah ... classic RTFM .... seems French is reliant on having tape 1 (we only have tape 2) loaded first as you choose your name from that and its stored. Also the master index..duh

 

Will have to wait 5 years now to see if can get a complete conversation French on ebay. Having the tape with a voice on it has been helpful just to see if the deck is reading stuff correctly and in the ballpark for speed and understanding how data and audio is organised.

 

Think for now we will have to concentrate on getting the basic tapes saving and loading consistently for the purposes of getting the tape drive back into action.

 

Can't really grumble , Decle has done an stellar job in 2018 recreating the development kit for Ron's KC and getting my Playcable to come alive again.

Edited by Ron The Cat

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So wait ... is it because it didn't load the master index that it just stalls when loading, waiting for something that will never happen? I can see how that could happen, but I would imagine that if there is a specific dependency on the order of the tapes, that measures would have been put in place for this. Like when an old C=64 game asks for "disk 3 of 4" and you insert disk 1 instead: it should detect this, no?

 

-dZ.

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So wait ... is it because it didn't load the master index that it just stalls when loading, waiting for something that will never happen? I can see how that could happen, but I would imagine that if there is a specific dependency on the order of the tapes, that measures would have been put in place for this. Like when an old C=64 game asks for "disk 3 of 4" and you insert disk 1 instead: it should detect this, no?

 

-dZ.

 

The index showing lessons III, IV and V are on cassette 2. You need to have cassette 1 to have loaded the full index for both tapes 1 & 2 but also have entered the name you are doing the lesson for or chose a previously entered one.

There seems to be no erroring checking for this if cassette 2 is inserted and you hit "tape", it tries to load code that just is not there for the menu. You need to load tape 1 for the menu and then if prompts you to insert the other tape when you have lessons on the index that are on tape 2. The tapes are not self contained as we thought and we only have cassette 2 :(

 

In some ways this is good news , it explains why our French was stuck on loading forever when we hit tape. Chances are it might well load French or Jack succesfully now.

 

We have Jack but it is in shrink wrap

Edited by Ron The Cat

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The index showing lessons III, IV and V are on cassette 2. You need to have cassette 1 to have loaded the full index for both tapes 1 & 2 but also have entered the name you are doing the lesson for or chose a previously entered one.

There seems to be no erroring checking for this if cassette 2 is inserted and you hit "tape", it tries to load code that just is not there for the menu. You need to load tape 1 for the menu and then if prompts you to insert the other tape when you have lessons on the index that are on tape 2. The tapes are not self contained as we thought and we only have cassette 2 :(

 

In some ways this is good news , it explains why our French was stuck on loading forever when we hit tape. Chances are it might well load French or Jack succesfully now.

 

We have Jack but it is in shrink wrap

 

Wow, this seems like such a strange oversight to not include error checking for the order of the tapes -- especially when you consider the complexity of the entire computer-controlled system, where it seems they thought of most other cases. :o

 

Oh well, good to know. Good luck!

 

-dZ.

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From decle's post, the drive is not reading reliably. I'm not sure we know what's suppose to happen with tape 2 only. Maybe the same thing as putting a basic tape and executing T, i.e. it has no loadable "tape" program. Or maybe it has one but it's failing to read it. There should be a way to make your own tapes from the copies Frank made, one day.

 

Edit:

Can you not hear the speech by playing the tape in a standard audio tape player?

Edited by mr_me

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Hi everyone,

 

Another small update on the K/C tape drive (apologies for the sound at the start):

 

 

As you can see following a bit of lubrication we have BASIC programs loading and saving correctly and pre-recorded audio also works as expected (if a little noisily). Although we recorded Mimi talking last year using a regular tape machine, it is still nice to hear her talking through the K/C. Small steps. :thumbsup:

 

The next thing is to investigate Conversational French tape B to try to understand whether what we see is expected. I find it a little surprising that there is no error message or suggestion to load tape A. Not very Mattel. :ponder:

 

Things not mentioned in the video that probably should have been...

 

@Lathe26 - unfortunately BASIC does not permit recording of audio, so I don't think you will hear Timmy farting, at least not on a tape that can still be used by K/C BASIC. However, it is worth playing tapes like Conversational French to catch 35 year old language practice.

 

@mr_me - We had to rewind the tape in the previous video because it seemed to be the only way to get BASIC programs to load. As you can see it didn't really work and with a bit of lubrication it is no longer necessary :)

 

@DZ-Jay - We checked the speed of the motor using a 3KHz tone recorded on a regular tape. We can use the tape diagnostic program seen in the video to play any regular tape. The K/C just can't detect the start or end of the tape. We found the tape speed to be very close (the 3KHz tone was measured to be 2.992KHz on R17 of the tape analogue board) using a digital oscilloscope. Ron's Pico scope will provide min / max / average and standard deviation frequency measurements. Perhaps not as good as a proper wow and flutter meter, but good enough. We did not bother trying to tinker, given the mean error was less than 0.3%.

 

The ping-pong heard after the BASIC program loads comes from Ron's laptop, not the K/C. The squeal you can hear whilst fast forwarding to Mimi talking is a constant tone on the audio track, not program data. We can't directly hear the program on data track (although it may well be contributing to the noise heard on the audio).

 

We removed the plastic tape door to give easier access to the mechanism and a better view.

 

And for the two people who are interested, BASIC performance is confirmed at 98 seconds for David Ahl's test program using # to evaluate powers.

 

 

 

Cheers

 

decle

Edited by decle
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Great work! One step at a time.

 

 

The next thing is to investigate Conversational French tape B to try to understand whether what we see is expected. I find it a little surprising that there is no error message or suggestion to load tape A. Not very Mattel.

 

This is the same thing that I thought. Such a complicated electro-mechanical device, with so many features and fail-safe guards, but it won't alert you of something dead-stupid like putting the wrong tape in first. It doesn't sound like David Chandler's work.

 

Anyway, great job. I have one question. On your "debug program" screen, the first line on the left column ("4000 - Data"), the "F" in "F3" seems to flicker when the camera is facing it. Is this perhaps a video recording artefact or something related to the device's video processing? It seems very localized to the single background card where the "F" is, even as the camera moves around.

 

It reminds me of similar video corruption I would get on old Commodore 64s when the VIC-II was going bad.

 

-dZ.

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BIG news, we have gotten a commercial tape working on Ron's K/C!  We can now have hours of fun with Crosswords 3.

 

 

It's still flakey, and won't play any of the cool tapes like Jack LaLanne, so I'm still getting fatter in lockdown 2.0.  But this is significant progress!

 

For the record, my wife continued to battle the recalcitrant spacebar and did finish puzzle 2:

 

image.thumb.png.3516eccc210e73b1382869ccd0d0b93a.png

 

Edited by decle
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Most of them worked back in the early 1980s.  Many of the returns were likely due to user error.  The recall was due to Mattel cancelling the product in order to absolve themselves of having to support the computer with more software.  It was cancelled because they couldn't get manufacturing costs down and the product could never be competitive.  Since then then the rubber belts and brakes in the tape drives have deteriorated, so working units are rare. The original cassette tapes, now close to forty years old, are also deteriorating.

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