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What is the Cassiopei?

To make a long story short, the Cassiopei (which stands for CASSette IO Peripheral Interface) is a device that connects to the cassetteport of your CBM computer. But that doesn't mean it works the same as tap, no, it sure doesn't. Tape is considered to be slow, tha Cassiopei is more then 50x faster then standard tape. The big advantage of a device using the cassetteport instead of any other port is simple, the cassetteport is available on all 8-bit CBM computers (with some exceptions like the SX-64 and the C64 Game System, but these are actually crippled C64's). This means that it can connect as easy to your C128 as to your PET. Yes, you read it correctly, only device to serve them all. One modern storage medium for all your 8-bit CBM computers, how cool is that?

Cassiopei-II, why?

That is a very good question... the original Cassiopei ( Cassiopei ) was a very usefull device but over the years I've learned it just wasn't perfect. Unfortunately, the new version will not be perfect either, sorry. But it solves some issues that make the new version a lot more practical then the first. What are those issues, I hear you think, well the new version uses a full sized (not those unpractically small micro or mini variations) SD-card instead of a onboard memory chip. By using an SD-card the storage increases by a factor 1000. Meaning that instead of 8MByte, you can store 8GByte (if you are using an 8GByte SD-card). With so much storage you can store ALL your games and programs of ALL your CBM computers onto one single device, but be sure to make backups, just in case you lose your Cassiopei or leave it at a friends house, etc.
Because of the SD-card, the Cassiopei manager software (that runs only on PC) is no longer required. You can change you settings by changing a configuration file stored on the SD-card, you can upload your files by dragging them to the SD-card inserted in your computer. Also changing settings can also been done using your CBM computer or the menu on the device itself. And if that's not enough, you can also change your settings and stored files through the convenience of a webbrowser. So no it is no longer a problem if you own a PC, Linux or Apple computer. The new version will also be featuring a pass through connector, so now you can create original tapes by playing back TAP files and recording them on your datasette, functionality to capture a real tape and store the data into a TAP file is under development.

Sadly though, the new version of the Cassiopei no longer has the 10-pole expansion connector (to connect to your own electronics projects). The functionality was rarely used and due to the lack of available IO on the new processor used inside the Cassiopei-II it was decided no longer to support this feature. People wanting to connect something to their CBM computer must therefore refer to the CBM computers userport, just like in the good old days.

How to use it?

Basically the Cassiopei can operate in four different modes:

The operational mode is selected using the menu function of the Cassiopei. This menu allows you to choose a file and automatically load it. These settings are saved, so if you want to use the same game and mode over and over again, you do not need to go into the menu, saving you precious gaming time ;-)

- standard kernal loader (this is the cassetteport's standard slow loading speed), allows you to load .PRG files from the SD-card.
- fast loader (loads more then 50 times faster times then the standard loader), allows you to load .PRG files from the SD-card.
- virtual file mode (loads more then 50 times faster times then the standard loader), allows you to load .PRG files directly into the memory of your CBM, this mode makes cross development much easier.
- TAP file mode (loads as fast as the original tape image requires it to do), allows you to load .TAP files  from the SD-card.
Tap file control using the display and buttons on the device
For the playback of TAP files the Cassiopei can now display the progress on a small display. Using the buttons you can also navigate through the TAP file.
The menu program
The files/games you want to load may be chosen using the menu program (which will be loaded when the user types LOAD and presses the menu button when the computer request the user to "press play on tape").

Compatibillity with other hardware:

Just like the original Cassiopei, the Cassiopei-II cannot be used in combination with the Chameleon cartridge because the Chameleon cartridge completely bypasses the C64's 6510 processor and uses the processor in the Chameleon. Because the tape signals are directly connected to the C64's 6510 the Chameleon isn't able to use the cassetteport IO-lines at all !!! Therefore a C64 with Chameleon cannot load from tape and cannot use the Cassiopei.

Compatibillity with other hardware connected to the cassette port:

The Cassiopei should not be used in combination with other hardware (other then a datasette) connected to the cassetteport. For instance, the 1541-ultimate tape adapter or a cassetteport splitter allowing to connect more then 1 datasette to the cassetteport. This because the Cassiopei uses the IO-lines of the cassetteport in a more advanced way then then all other existing hardware. When combining other cassetteport hardware with the Cassiopei damage might occur. However it is possible to use the Cassiopei with such devices but only if the Cassiopei is in .TAP file mode, because during .TAP file mode the Casiopei acts like a real Commodore datasette.

Project development status:

Lot's of things need to be done before the Cassiopei-II is finished. Although lot's of software can be re-used many many changes need to be made for one simple reason... the Cassiopei-II uses a completely different processor and storage medium then the original Cassiopei. The processor for instance has changed form a PIC microcontroller to the famous ESP8266. Software for the various commodore computers needs also to be re-written, fastloaders need to be tested. Because of the many possible interfaces on which the menu can be used required the settings menus need to be completely re-designed, the 50x50mm case no longer could fit the larger SD-card module and ESP8266 and display and therefor also needed to be redesigned. The wireless bootloader need to be properly tested and the list goes on and on. But the goal is simple, a better Cassiopei that is easier to use and configure.
 

Availabillity, costs and ordering information:

The Cassiopei-II is expected to be released in september 2017, it is not possible to pre-order.