Converting an Audio Tape Into a Digital Data Pack

If you are using an Adam computer with just a digital data drive you will eventually come to a point where you will need more data packs. There are a few possibilities available, you can purchase used ones and hope they are still good, you can buy NOS (New / Old Stock) (ANN sells them here) or you can make your own!

Getting started:

To get started making your own you will need a few things:

  1. A dual cassette tape deck, the simpler the better. Those with complicated levels and equalizers will make it hard for you to get it right. I use a $5 all-in-one system (Record, Radio, Dual Cassette) I got at a yard sale and it works flawlessly
  2. A good digital data pack to use as a master that has a holes in it for the capstan
  3. 60 minute blank cassettes. I have used Scotch, JVC and Maxwell but others will work too
  4. A simple soldering iron (or a drill with 1/4″ bit) and a utility knife or exacto-knife

Step 1: Preparing the audio and testing

We need to prepare the audio tape as follows:

  1. Turn tape over so side B is showing
  2. Plug in soldering iron
  3. When iron is hot we will melt two holes in the top of the case right below the record enable tabs, refer to the pictures and an original data pack. Do not go through the other side, just the B side
  4. Once plastic is cool use the utility knife to clean off any excess

Now we want to test if the tape will work in an Adam. Some tapes are made cheaply and they bounce around at high speed. To test it:

  1. Turn on your Adam
  2. Press Escape / WP to get into word processor mode
  3. Put in the new tape into drive A, it should go in easy, if it is hard to get in make sure the holes are big enough and that you cleaned away all the debris
  4. Press Store / Get
  5. Press VI (Get)
  6. Press III (Drive A)

The tape should fast forward to the beginning and back a few times before Smart Write gives up. You want to listen to be sure that the tape is not bouncing around. If it is do not use that tape, if it isn’t then we can proceed.

Step 2: Testing the Master Data Pack

We need to make sure the data pack will work in your tape recorder. Original Coleco data packs will not without doing a little “surgery” to the case. Before we do this check all of the data packs you have and look for ones that have 4 holes in the tape read area. The Coleco packs had 2 next to the place where the read head goes and the markings for the other 2. If you do a side by side comparison of the data packs and the audio tape you will immediately see the holes I am talking about. If you do not have a data pack with the necessary holes you can create them with a drill but you have to be very careful and pull the tape away from the hole.

Once you have located or created a Master Data Pack, put it in the tape record and make sure that it will go in correctly like an audio tape will.

Step 3: Setting up the Tapes for Copying

Before copying we need to get the tapes into position. To do this:

  1. Rewind both tapes on Side A – (on a data pack, Side A is the side without the two holes on top – the side you see when it is in the Adam)
  2. Use a pen or pencil to slowly advance the tape until the leader is just about ready to go around the roller

Step 4: Copying

I am going to use my tape deck setup as the example.

  1. Put the audio tape in the record deck. Press Pause and then the Record / Play button
  2. Put the Master tape into the play back deck
  3. Press Play on the master, the record deck starts automatically
  4. Once the master is playing stop the record deck
  5. Rewind the master a bit and listen for the high pitched sound of the data. Keep doing this till you find it and then let it play till it stops and go about 5 seconds further. Press stop and flip the tape over
  6. Rewind the audio tape the same as you did with the master, listening for the end of the data and then go about 5 seconds further. Press stop and flip over
  7. Press Pause and then the Record / Play button on the audio tape
  8. Press Play on the master

Step 5: Did It Work

If all has gone well you should now have a copy of the master on the audio tape. You can try to use it in the Adam now but I have learned that the copies are not faithful. But this is ok, we really only wanted the index marks that the Adam reads on the data pack from the master data pack, not the data. So my next step involves using CP/M to format and then verify the tape. The reason I use CP/M is that the verify actually verifies every block where as the INIT (initialize) in Smart Basic only initializes the directory. You can use Smart Basic if that is all you have, or even TDOS or File Manager.

Over the past 2 days I have made 12 Audio Data Packs, seven from older audio tapes I had and 5 from brand new ones. Of the older tapes, 2 failed. Of the new tapes all 5 worked.

Good Luck 🙂

P.S. The beautiful woman in the pictures is my wife Heather <3

P.S.S. Let me know if in the comments if you try this and the results you get.

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