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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 v2.0, why?

That is a very good question... the original Cassiopei ( Cassiopei ) was (and still is) a very usefull device. But over the years I've learned it is'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 SD-card (not those unpractically small micro or mini variations that you can hardly hold but easily loose). The original Cassiopei uses an onboard 8MByte memory chip for storage. The new Cassiopei, can hold much more depending on the size of the installed SD-card, if you install an 8GByte card, then storage has increased by a factor 1000. But using such a big card does not really make a lot of sense because you will have a hard time filling that considering that in practice it isn't fun browsing through hundreds or thousands of games in order to select you favorite pacman. But for those who do like to do that, the new Cassiopei also supports the use of subdirectories, this way you can archive your games in convenient groups for quicker acces. Anyway, with the abillity to store so much, you could decide to store ALL your games and programs for 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 your 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/restore original tapes by playing back TAP files and recording them on your datasette. You can also backup/capture a real tape and make your own TAP files.

Sadly though, the new version of the Cassiopei no longer has the 10-pole expansion connector (to connect to your own electronics projects). Research has shown that this functionality was never used by owners of the Cassiopei and (due to the lack of available IO on the new processor inside the Cassiopei v2.0) 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.
However the Cassiopei does have a programming connector at the bottom of the case (not accesable in the first released models, but a sharp knife could solve that as the case has marking on the inside where to cut), experiments are done to use this port for add-ons and the first results are very promissing.

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 v2.0 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.

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:

Although the Cassiopei v2.0 is functional, it doesn't mean it is finished.
Thanks to the beauty of firmware updates bugs can be fixed and new feautres can be added and everybody who owns a Cassiopei can profit from these by simply uploading the new firmware into their device. Do not expect new firmware releases every month, these things go slowly, simply because I need to make absolutely sure that the new version is better then the older, I don't want to introduce any bugs by hastly adding new features.


I have plenty of ideas that need my attention, the whishlist of the Cassiopie v2.0 design is shown below:


CASSIOPEI v2.0 "TO DO-list" (July 2018)
Item Status Remarks
Supported machines
PET 20XX: Finished
PET 30XX: Finished
PET 40XX: Finished
PET 80XX: Finished
VIC20: Finished
C64: Finished
C16/+4: Finished
C128: Finished
The Cassiopei connect to all Commodore computers that have a cassetteport. It is my goal to make the Cassiopei work with as many models as possible.
This requires lot's of testing AND access to those machines, the latter is sometimes difficult as it do not own all machines the Cassiopei can support.
Thankfully some nice people have assisted me in testing while others were kind enough to lend me their machines.

Additional hardware
Under development Currently it is being researched to connect add-ons to the programming port. This way the programming port (located inside the Cassiopei) could be used to do some very neat stuff.
Experiments show that using a small add-on between this port and the user-port of a VIC-20 that large amounts of (specially formatted) data could be send. This add-on datalink is not intended for loading your files faster.
It is intended to transfer video files and audio. Allowing full motion video on a VIC-20 and hopefully other models. I hope to present a proper demo of this functionality within a few months.
Bootloader
(using SD-card)
Under development The bootloader allows to the user to upload new firmware into the Cassiopei. in other words to fix bugs and add new features.
This bootloader requires NO special cables and works through wifi, using a normal webbrowser, this works best using a
computer in order to download and transfer the required hex file.

It is still possible to program the Cassiopei with new firmware by using a special programming cable, however this if only useful
for developers, like me. This programming header is inside the Cassiopei and not acceable to users. This programming header
is not compatible with the expansion header of the original Cassiopei.

Currently there is already a bootloader present in the Cassiopei, but it requires the use of a webbrowser. Although this works fine, I would like to have a second method of bootloading new firmware into the Cassiopei, and considering that the device has an SD-card, it would be nice if the user could store the firmware hex-file onto the SD-card and that the Cassiopei would recognize it when it is turned on. First tests seems promissing, but thorough testing is required.
PETSCII video PET 20XX: requires testing
PET 30XX: Finished
PET 40XX: Finished
PET 80XX: Finished
VIC20: Finished
C64: Finished
C16/+4: Under development
C128: Finished
One fun experiment on the original Cassiopei was the playback of highly compressed PETSCII video. But this project was
never really finished. In order to test the Cassiopei I used this project to finetune some communication routines, it allowed me
to properly test the Cassiopei design , simply by using it, if bugs were present, I WOULD encounter them. And so I did, with
this part being fixed we now have a compressed PETSCII video player. But also a PC-software tool to create compressed
PETSCII videos.
Unfortunately, the bandwith of the Cassiopei isn't sufficient (and constant) to use it to stream audio data during video playback,
therefore the videos have no sound... just like 100 years ago when movies starred mr. Keaton and Chaplin.
Disk wizard Making progress
The disk wizard allows the user to create a real disk from a D64 file.
The disk wizard allows the user to a D64 file from a real disk.

The disk wizard holds every piece of code, related to filedata transfer, youmight ever need in a CBM program. Therefor in
order to test these important pieces of code, the disk wizard is a perfect platform for testing these new commands and routines.
With the iomportant benefit that, when finished, is a nice tool for creating D64 files and/or disks.

However, regarding reliabillity there are some problems when using fast formatting routines and high speed data transfer.
Therefore there is chosen not to implement these in this tool. Considering that most user will not be using this tool heavily
(only occasionally for making a real disk to play a certain game that must run from disk) speed is not a big issue.

Availability, costs and ordering information:

Technically the Cassiopei v2.0 is released since February 2018, but availablity is difficult as it requires a lot of work for me to actually build a Cassiopei.
Therefore I'm not actively promoting the Cassiopei in order to prevent disappointment due to the low stock.

The costs for the Cassiopei are


Cassiopei 60,00 Euro
Shipment   8,40 Euro
---------------------
Total     68,40 Euro


The above mentioned shipment costs are world wide.
To keep the shipment costs as low as possible the Cassiopei is shipped in a box that fits a mailbox.

Just send me an email if you whish to purchase one.
I always respond to my emails, if for some reason you do not receive an email within 3 days, please double check your spam folder.

Downloads

Currently there are no files available for download, everything you need is already present on the SD-card as supplied with the device.
However when firmware updates (acompanied with the corresponding user manual) you will find them here.

Technical info

You want to develop your own GEOS auto-exec file but don't know where to start...
Here I wrote a small webpage describing what tools I used in order to assemble the code I wrote for my GEOS auto-exec driver.