Wednesday, November 4, 2020

Commodore Cassette Drives

Commodore made a number of different cassette tape data recorders or datasettes.

Below are all known models and variants with photos from my personal collection.
Special Thanks to Giacomo Vernoni for his book Commodore Tape Recorders
A video version of this is on my YouTube channel here.
My commodore tape drive collection

The first cassette tape drive Commodore made was actually made by Sanyo. It was a Sanyo M1540A audio tape recorder that Commodore used in the original PET prototype and in later pre-production PET computers. Commodore purchased these tape recorders retail and continued to use them in the first 100 PETs shipped in the fall of 1977. 
The Sanyo logo was covered by a Commodore sticker. The speaker and audio panel were removed, and the corner was cut off to prevent interference with the PET power supply.

When the PET computer started full scale production, Commodore used a custom branded audio recorder made by an OEM in Taiwan. When removed from the computer, you can see the speaker grille, battery compartment and missing audio jack panel in front. This same tape drive was sold as an audio recorder under several different brands.
OEM "White Keys" Tape Drive"White Keys" Drive (bottom)

"White Keys" Drive (front)

Since it was never sold separately, it doesn't have a Commodore model number. It's usually referred to as the "White Keys" drive.
This drive was made with a black label and a silver label. 
Black or Silver metallic labels
Commodore PET 2001 (Dec 1977) with OEM drive

The C2N drive was essentially the same OEM audio cassette drive that was built in to the original PET 2001, just with a different plastic housing and the addition of an eject feature. 
This was also the first cassette drive that Commodore sold separately as an external unit.
Commodore C2N Cassette tape unit
Commodore C2N (bottom)Commodore C2N (front)

The C2N was changed to white to match the color of the VIC-20 and a tape counter was added, but otherwise the white version is the same as the earlier black model.
Commodore C2N Cassette tape unit (white)
White C2N (bottom)White C2N (front)

The white version of the C2N drive can have a black or white tape counter and later versions have a different cable and connector shell.
White C2N Variants

White C2N Manuals
White C2N manuals
White Keys and C2N transports compared
"White Keys", Black C2N and White C2N transport mechanisms

The 1530 drive replaced the C2N drive. Also called a C2N, or a VIC-1530 or C2N model 1530 or 1530 model C2N.
The 1530 has two main variants. The one made in Taiwan is distinguished by a black tape counter and the record light on the right, below the tape counter.
Taiwan made 1530 tape driveTaiwan made 1530 (bottom)
The one made in Japan is distinguished by a smaller white tape counter, an orange label behind the cassette window and the record light is on the left, above the record key.
Japan made 1530 tape driveJapan made 1530 (bottom)
Commodore later changed the top label style on both versions with a larger logo and vertical stripes.
Taiwanese and Japanese 1530 tape drives (Early and Late versions)

1530 Manuals1530 Boxes
1530 Manuals and Boxes
Taiwanese and Japanese transports compared
Taiwanese and Japanese 1530 transport mechanisms

The 1531 drive was made to match the Commodore 264 series of computers, like the plus/4, the C16 and C116. 
The Taiwan made version and Japan made versions are the same as the 1530, only the color and the connector changed.
Taiwanese and Japanese 1531 tape drives
The 1531 shipped with an adapter for backwards compatibility with other Commodore computers.

It seems that the 1531 was also made in white, at least by the Taiwan OEM. This Taiwanese 1531 is marked as a 1531, with the 1531 cable and connector. This variant is somewhat rare and it's not known why some were made in this color. 
A white 1531 tape driveWhite 1531 tape drive (bottom)

I also made a video which shows the entire collection and details about each version.

Saturday, March 21, 2020

Commodore PET Integrated Cassette Drive

Commodore made many different models of cassette drives, or datasettes as they are often called. The first one was never sold individually, it was built in to the PET 2001, so it never had it's own model number.  It is often called the "white keys" cassette drive or the CT-1020 after the audio recorder it's based on. I simply refer to it as the OEM drive, even though all of them were produced by OEMs.

Commodore OEM internal cassette tape drive
Commodore OEM internal cassette tape driveCommodore OEM internal cassette tape drive (front)Commodore OEM internal cassette tape drive (bottom)

This drive first appeared in the PET 2001 in early December 1977. The labels on the door and above the keys are aluminum and were originally black with white lettering but quickly changed to black text on silver.
Black Label (photo by Giacomo M. Vernoni)Silver Label

Like the retail Sanyo cassette drive used in the prototype and pre-production units, this one also appears to be a modified audio recorder.  There is a speaker grille, a battery compartment and an opening in the front where the audio connectors and carry handle used to be.

It seems that the OEM used an audio recorder they were already producing and custom branded it for Commodore. It's unclear whether the OEM shipped these to Commodore as audio recorders which Commodore then modified, or if the OEM shipped them modified including the Commodore PCB and cable.

The audio cassette recorder version is identical except for the plastic coloring and the commodore PCB. The transport assembly was made by Musashino, the motor is from Canon.
The audio version was sold under many different brands. Below is a Precor model C-1800 R.

Commdore OEM cassette drive and OEM Audio recorderOEM Audio cassette recorder (front)Commdore OEM cassette drive and OEM Audio recorder (bottom)

Commodore OEM cassette drive (internal)OEM Audio tape recorder (internal)
Commodore OEM cassette drive (internal)OEM Audio tape recorder (internal)

This integrated cassette drive was later replaced by the model C2N, which is internally identical and most likely made by the same Taiwanese OEM. Only the plastic housing was changed and an eject feature was added.
C2N external drive
OEM drive, Black C2N and White C2NOEM drive, Black C2N and White C2N

Saturday, March 7, 2020

The Commodore PET 2001 wooden prototype

Recently John Feagans and Leonard Tramiel opened the wooden PET prototype for the first time in 40 years.

Photos taken Dec 2019 and Jan 2020 at the Computer History Museum, Mountain View, CA.
Photos courtesy of John Feagans, Leonard Tramiel and the Commodore International Historical Society, used with permission.

Photo © Leonard Tramiel, All rights reserved
Photo © Leonard Tramiel, All rights reservedPhoto © Leonard Tramiel, All rights reserved
Photo © Leonard Tramiel, All rights reservedPhoto © Leonard Tramiel, All rights reserved
Photos © Leonard Tramiel, All rights reserved.

This one of a kind prototype hasn’t been seen in many years. These are (AFAIK) the first digital high quality photos of the prototype and the only photos of the interior ever. These photos show details that have never been seen before.
The prototype was built in 1976 and shown for the first time at the Jan 1977 CES in Chicago.  The case and monitor shell are made of wood. Originally painted “harvest yellow” it was re-painted and re-decorated several times in 1977 before finally settling on this color scheme.
The prototype had no IEEE-488 port and reduced ROM space so the kernel is different from the production version. The BASIC was Microsoft basic, not yet modified to become Commodore BASIC.

Photo © John Feagans, All rights reserved.
John Feagans, Leonard Tramiel and the PET Prototype
Photo © John Feagans, All rights reserved.Photo © John Feagans, All rights reserved.
Photo © John Feagans, All rights reserved.Photo © John Feagans, All rights reserved.Photo © John Feagans, All rights reserved.
Photo © John Feagans, All rights reserved.Photo © John Feagans, All rights reserved.
Photo © John Feagans, All rights reserved.
Photo © John Feagans, All rights reserved.Photo © John Feagans, All rights reserved.Photo © John Feagans, All rights reserved.
Photos © John Feagans, All rights reserved.

The prototype was at The Computer Museum in Boston until that museum closed in 2000 and The Computer History Museum in Mountain View, CA acquired much of the Boston museum's collection. It was on display at Stanford university for many years until it was recently returned to the CHM archives. This is catalog number X1279.98 at the Computer History Museum. It is not currently on public display.

Below are older photos of the prototype over the years, courtesy of the Commodore International Historical Society and These are all the same machine.

At Gametronics, Jan 1977. Note the different case badge.

Photo from a Commodore press release, date unk.

At West Coast Computer Faire 1977

The badge changed and there are subtle differences in the keyboard.

On the cover of the October 1977 Popular Science
The wood grain was contact paper.

At Commodore’s 25th anniversary event, Dec 1983.

Unless otherwise noted, all photos and other content are my own, all copyrights reserved.