Thursday, 23 September 2010
My Digital C2N experience!
25th September 2010
Although we are very close (or probably already are) in the digital revolution, where technology expands their horizons. There are still Commodore 64 hobbyists and techbuffs, creating new pieces of hardware for this beloved machine. You would probably ask to yourself "Why are people are still making hardware, software and games for this obsolete machine?". You should never judge a book by its cover. We don't that's for sure.
Anyway in early parts of 2010, I was recommended to try getting myself a DC2N for my C64 tapes. I sent a PM to a member of Lemon 64, to ask about what they thought of DC2N, and the person responded that he had the prototype of the DC2N and that it was remarkably great. So I read a lot of information about the DC2N site and decided to pre-order one. Within 6 months, the device was ready and shipped over to me (after I paid £90.00 for it of course).
Okay, so who remembers the old days where you are loading in programs from tape on your Commodore 64, left the room to eat something, make a cup of tea (or go to the toi..... okay, I better not mention that one)? Then you come back to your room to find either a program has loaded, or a blue screen or load error has occurred? Well most of us TAPE users had to suffer this problem. The datasette can be a problem at times, as it required a steady hand and good head alignment and major cleaning around the capstans, etc. Thankfully for the Commodore 64 fanatics, you can clearly watch your C64 tape deck face the digital revolution. As the DC2N is born.
So then, can you insert tapes into a DC2N to remove those bad loading woes? No, not really. The DC2N does not have abilities to insert a real tape into. Besides that would have been plain silly. You can't exactly read a tape without mechanics, and DC2N is digital. However, you don't really need this. All you would have required was a 5 volt PSU with a correct plug size (No higher voltage as it could cause serious damage to your device), a Commodore C2N datasette, or clone (Fully aligned and cleaned) and a 2gb SD Card for dumping. Oh and the most important of them all (Boo, hiss) a fully functional PC, and a SD card reader (Most PCs have internal SD card drives, like mine does) - and a Dumping utility which converts dump files into TAP files. You will also need - A COMMODORE 64. If you don't find one, I'm sure you can find cheap working ones on EBAY. :o)
So then, how did the dumping of my tapes work on a DC2N? Well, first of all, I plugged in the 5V adapter, and plugged it into the back of the device, I also plugged in an SD Card to the SD card slot of the device (as my SD card was formatted to FAT16) and then I plugged the datasette into the back of the device. After switching everything on, I got the welcome message "F. syst. mounted". This represented that the DC2N was ready for beginning either the dumping process or load .tap files through to your Commodore 64 computer.
The device has six buttons, which are set up the same way as the Commodore C2N tape deck. Because I wanted to make a dump of one of my tapes. (I started with my Sub Hunter tape, to try it out) I rewound the tape to the start (plugged into the DC2N) and then pushed the record button on the DC2N. After pressing record, I pushed the Play button on the DC2N, then the tape deck. Dumping of the tape was then in session. During the dumping process, I could see that the DC2N's light was flashing merrily, showing that the data pulses from the datasette was being read to the DC2N. Once the tape reached the end on the C2N tape deck, the DC2N read the STOP. However, to ensure that I had to keep the correct dump stored on to the SD card I had to press the STOP and EJECT buttons on the DC2N - otherwise I would have a blank .tap image with nothing readable on it (after conversion).
After the Dumping process was finished, I booted up the PC, logged into my user profile on my desktop and then downloaded a program called DC2Nconv. This was a Windows based utility (once installed on to the PC) which can convert a DC2N tape dump file (DMP) into a executable .TAP file that can be stored to the DC2N or loaded from WinVice, CCS64, or Hoxs64 C64 emulators.
Now for the fun bit ... Loading a program from the DC2N to the Commodore 64. I had to switch off the DC2N device from the mains and unplug everything, then plug the device on to my Commodore 64. I stored the .tap file from the SD card into the DC2N and then put it on to the Yes, that's right - it goes into the C64's tape port :). I also selected from the SD card, "SUBHNTR.TAP" (As the DC2N reads files in MSDOS form, so I made it 8 chars so that the filename was easy to find. Then I loaded the device the same way as a Commodore 64 did and everything loaded wonderfully great.
I do remember dumping some other classic C64 tapes, including the Off the Hook compilation, into digital TAP form. One of the games which I always had problems with loading was Black Thunder, due to the unsteady or unstable loader which was used for the game. After dumping and splitting the tapes, in digital form I found out that although this game loaded fine in WinVice, CCS64 with the loader, but when stored on to the DC2N it didn't work. I scanned the loader using FinaTAP and discovered it was PAVLODA pulses - and that to me general opinion was one of the most annoying loaders in C64's history. Well I did have loads of problems loading Tony Crowther's classic fun game on most C2N tape decks. Perhaps either the tape was faulty or the awful loader system was bugged completely. Thankfully to replace this version, I used a version from my old Zzap 64 cover tape - using a more stable loader. :)
Dumping TAPs is indeed hard work. As I have said earlier on, using a C2N with full alignment makes dumping a dream. But if you failed to do this, or tried dumping faulty tapes. Then unfortunately this will not work very well. As there were too many tapes to dump (which would have took too much time). I chosen an alternative option, but I will not go any further than this. I dumped tapes to .tap form, according to the ones that required dumping.