Volume 1, Number 3 – November 1981

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by Mike Fox

There is a great deal of software available for micro-computers, but it is generally not possible to exchange programs between systems because the data is stored on tape in different formats. This article describes a method for reading and converting TRS-80 tapes for the Nascom. The project needs both hardware and software, and is for TRS-80 Level 2 Basic (also Video Genie in the U.K., P.M.C-80 in U.S.A, and System 80 in Australia and N.Z.), but it could be modified for other machines.

The TRS-80 writes tapes at 500 Baud. An 80 microsecond clock pulse is sent to the tape every 2 milliseconds. The data bits to be stored are represented by inserting an extra 80 microsecond pulse between two clock pulses for a 1, and leaving the gap empty for a 0. This of course is incompatible with the CUTS standard used in the Nascom II. Therefore a small circuit consisting of one LM3900 (an IC containing four operational amplifiers) and a couple of dozen discrete components is used to input the signal from the cassette via the Nascom PIO. Figure 1 shows the circuit diagram of the interface, while a suggested Vero layout is shown in figure 2. Make sure that pin 11 of the Nascom 2 PIO plug is connected to 0 volts on pin 16.



R11 kohm
R2150 kohm
R3330 kohm
R4560 kohm
R5330 kohm
R61.8 megohm
R7470 kohm
R8680 kohm
R9470 kohm
R10470 kohm
R111 megohm
R121 megohm
R1310 kohm
R1410 ohms
R15470 kohm
R16470 kohm


C1220 pf
C2220 pf
C350 µF
C4100 µF
C50.1 µF


LM3900Quad. Op-Amp.
D1-D4Small-signal silicon diode


The first part of the program reads the tape and loads it into the correct memory location for Nascom 2 Basic. As the reading is done by software timing, the delay values in the program will vary for machines running at 2 Mhz and 4Mhz. At the start of the tape there is about 4 seconds of nulls (00), followed by a sync character of A5 hex. When this character is detected the program starts to load the data from the tape starting at address £10F6; as it is stored, the data is also displayed on line one of the screen. The first four characters are SSSn, where n is the program identification. These are not used, and the actual Basic program starts at £10FA. The end of the program is indicated by three nulls, which cause a jump to part two of the tape reading routine.

In this second section, the token values used in TRS-80 Basic are converted to

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