A games library for a Spectravideo 728
Haircuts and computers don't have a natural association but that's how I acquired my working Spectravideo 728. Now that I owned this example of an MSX computer the next step was to gather a software library so I could show it off.
The first thing to determine was the hardware required for software storage and loading. The computer had not come with a tape deck. However I did have a datacassette for my Spectravideo 318. This had a two-part cable. The first part of the cable was a flat card socket which plugged into the 318. This cable terminated in a DIN socket. This DIN socket then held a DIN plug from another cable which attached itself to the datasette. This DIN plug was physically compatible with the DIN socketed on the 728. Could I just plug it in and use it?
Figure 1. Rear of the SVI-728 showing the cassette DIN socket
Figure 2. This DIN plug from the 318 datasette cable seemed to fit the 728. But was it compatible?
I knew from experience that just because a plug fitted a socket didn't necessarily mean it would work. Also, voltages sometimes flowed in cassette cables and I didn't want to blow anything up. Time to seek information.
After a bit of Google searching I discovered that even though the cable was physically compatible, the 728 was actually designed to use a standard tape recorder rather than a special datacassette. What's more, the DIN pinouts were compatible with the TRS-80 M1/System 80 cassette cord! Whoo ho! I had such a cable. Also, this meant I could probably use my PC's hard disk as the storage medium and play files directly through the soundcard. This is how some of my other computers (e.g. System 80/TRS-80 M1, Spectrum) are fed.
The next step was to find a source of downloadable MSX cassette images. I had plenty of 381 software but I figured these files would be incompatible as the 728 seemed to use a different baud rate. I would also need a converter to change any MSX cassette images (CAS files) I found to sound (WAV) files for output through the sound card.
Again, Google proved it's worth. An MSX cas2wav converter (castools-1.3) was picked up from Vincent van Dam's site, and a library of games in cassette image format were discovered on this MSX archive site in the Netherlands . The latter files were zips and often contained not only instructions on how to play the games but also the commands needed to load them. Great!
After unzipping and setting up a special software archive folder for the 728 on my PC hard drive it was time to see if software transfer actually worked. As with my other systems, I used the highly useful Audacity as my WAV player.
Success! The games loaded without any problems. My Spectravideo 728 now had software with which to strut its stuff!
Figure 2. A loaded and working SVI-728
I really like this computer. It's got a nice feel, with good graphics and sound. The Microsoft BASIC has an extensive but recognisable command set and most importantly, things are (as you would expect), standard. There is no need for a special tape recorder, the plugs and ports are all standard DINS, RCAs and atari-type joystick connectors. There is nothing weird or very proprietary about it. It's too bad the 8-bit home market was starting to fade when this model was released.
3rd January, 2011