Articles

Pete Shelley | Software on Vinyl Records Pt.1/2 | ft. Techmoan [Tech Nibble]

May 21, 2019



this episode is supported by monster joysticks calm level up your Raspberry Pi with our all-in-one arcade kit using genuine San where arcade parts hello cave dwellers cassette tapes really were the stalwart in the UK bit micro seeing weren't they but they were often looked down upon by viewers in the US for example who adopted the floppy disk in the home perhaps a little quicker than we did over here in the UK and who can blame them they may have been cheap but boy were cassette tapes low having reading material on hand while you loaded up gauntlet here for example was an absolute must as was the ability to be able to turn down the volume on the machine and not have to listen to these screeching homes we listen to those while it was loading if indeed it did load without running into problems but the humble cassette did offer one advantage they held data in an audio format the audio fed into the machine in today's example it will be a ZX Spectrum ear where it D modulates the audio into the ones and zeros that it understands and this made duplication and redistribution really easy a tape to tape HiFi was all you needed to copy a tape as far as the hi-fi was concerned it's all just audio and of course it was purely legal backups you were making your own software yeah of course it was data as audio would go on to become something we were all familiar with when dial-up modems became commonplace and exactly the same thing was happening with the modem as with our cassette tapes the word modem is a portmanteau of the words modulator and demodulator is the same principle converting audio to data and data back to audio depending on if you're sending or receiving with the modem the flexibility of audio as a distribution method saw programs appear not just on tape but on the radio via television programs and also the subject of today's video vinyl records here's one here data on vinyl isn't exclusive to this example but it's a great example this is Excel one by Pete Shelley and we can see on the cover there's an angsty figure in an a t-shirt and it reads includes a computer program for the ZX Spectrum on the reverse that same figure perhaps something of a peeping tom stands next to the track listings with titles such as telephone operator Twilight and I just wanna touch but is at the end of side to that we see the track named ZX spectrum code below that some instructions on its use the computer program on side to suits the Desertec spectrum home computer it reads transfer the program to your computer cassette player and start the program in sync with the first track of the LP so just for fun let's hear what that track sounds like now yeah that's a computer program alright try as I might I just couldn't dance to it the idea then is that once you've copied it onto a cassette you can load it up and run the program in time with the LP for that music demo experience the first such example of distributing software on a rural record that I could find was Chris series camouflage released in 1981 peach Shelley's examples from 1983 you may know of another example this earlier if you've never heard of Chris you may know him by the name he later used which was Frank Sidebottom and that record holds three programs for the zx81 computer and that wouldn't be the last time that Chris released a computer program anyway let's demonstrate the peach Shelley record today I really do like the idea that an artist's put in that little bit of extra effort into an album before releasing it to give you what in the early 80s would have been a relatively new experience you'll computer rendering a music video on the fly so to enjoy this we first need to transfer the program from the vinyl record to a tape and there are a number of ways that we could achieve this but to make it more entertaining and informative for you i package this up and i posted it off to a friend who has intimate knowledge of audio recordings and audio equipment and here's what you had to say great news it's arrived hold on a minute did they go this through the letterbox well it's just some questions you don't want to know the answers to moving on so of course we discussed this over email but I don't know what the album is they sending me Pete Shelley no not familiar with that one at all so yeah I'll copy this across No at all won't be an issue but there are a couple of things you can do to make it perhaps load more successfully into a spectrum the first one is you'd think because I've got this big deck here that this would be a good one to use after all it looks sort of quite imposing like it knows what it's doing all these buttons and things that would be the wrong deck to record a spectrum game on because it's too good sound quality is if anything a little bit too rich of course you've got to switch off all the dolby at all those kind of things so you're not muffling any of the sound out but still you better off with something like this this is one of the reasons everyone had something like this next to their computer because these were better off at loading games than one of these the main reason isn't just because of the sound quality but although the fact this sounds really tinny and harsh and nasty the kind of thing you really don't want to listen to but the exact thing that the spectrum likes to listen to it likes tinny harsh and thin and nasty it doesn't like rich and basic but the main thing is it's got a mono head in here now this deck has got a stereo head and even things like this with just one speaker on it's still a stereo recorder and you can put the outputs into a stereo device but this it's got a motto head I'll explain the difference between a mono head and a stereo wall and how it lines up with a cassette tape I'll just stick the computer and we'll just have a look a standard stereo music cassette tape splits the width of the tape which is just an eighth of an inch across into four individual tracks you've got the left and right stereo pair headed in either direction now as you can appreciate that tolerances there are very fine to avoid any crosstalk between the channels or the audio going in the other direction you have to have the tape perfectly aligned now when cassettes first appeared on the scenes in the early 1960s it was a mono system you just had one track going in either direction and it's this track layer that was used for the data on a spectrum cassette it doesn't need to be in stereo so they can just use half the tape width now you can of course reproduce this using a stereo device however if your head misalliance you can get weird echoes and things between the different tracks much better to reproduce it using a motto tape head and even if it is misaligned you've still got quite a bit of tape with to play around with so you can still get out data read by the spectrum so that is why you'd often experience more loading errors if you were trying to load a game off say a decent quality Walker than you would if you loaded it off a nasty piece of rubbish like this now this looks ancient history but you might have spotted it's got a USB port on there this dates from sometime after 2008 because it was a bush branded Argos device Argost took over the bush brand in 2008 I've got this on eBay about a year ago and it said it was refurbished the reason I got this is because I've ordered a spectrum next a couple of years back and I thought this would be the ideal thing to load my collection of games into it with unfortunately though it doesn't have an input on the side this is what I was going to use to copy the record across so because I can't use this to record with I all go to have to record in stereo I'm not going to do it on this I don't think I'm going to do odd that I'll be tested the Wow and flutter it's a little bit off on that it's not as good as my Walkman wmd 6c so I'm going to record one version onto that and then I've got to take the record downstairs and record the other version using the proper hi-fi [Applause] right so now I'm going to record on the other side of the tape using this hi-5 setup here so the turntable is a DP 47 F from Denon recording onto a Sony TCK triple 3 es G a cassette recorder found the tape that I'm using is the same wada didn't mention before I'm using a chrome tape because chrome tape is better at capturing high frequencies type one tape tends to cut those off a little bit but it's better at capturing the lower frequencies so much better to use a chrome tape or type 2 for something like a spectrum game because as you could hear from that loading sound it's all more towards the higher end of the spectrum there on this one again I'm not using any kind of noise reduction however I am using Dolby HX Pro which is a Headroom extension that's the HX it means it captures how your frequencies better you don't need to have it on the playback device it's something that only happens at the recording stage so might as well switch that one on but that's it let's get this one off and running as well and I'll show you on the oscilloscope what a spectrum game looks like as it's loading you right that's my bit done all I need to do is post the record back and stick this cassette into one of these nice red boxes I've got and I'll put that into a cassette mailer and figure out to put that together it's all with the rest of the video and here is our tape as well as the LP over here which came back from Matt all ready to go and I was very excited to tear it open and fire up the specky Matt even labeled it with a suitably retro label printer which looks great and notice just what a short tape it is the tape is super short it's probably under five minutes long and that's good for computer programs because of course the more tape there is the more chance there is of it stretching out and that would distort the audio and make the data unreadable we'll try the side labeled Walkman first to see if that works and we do get the familiar loading bars which is a positive sign after a couple of minutes the program does indeed load or at least side one does because we listen to side one of the LP with the first part of the program and then it's a multi loader we hit two to load the second part owned eight loads a little bit more from tape so all I need to do now is drop the needle on the record and hit one on the keyboard to play side one or two if we were on site two now I can tell you that while the walk one copy worked for st. one when I tried to load side two we did hit a program error the HiFi copy of the tape on the other hand worked perfectly for both parts so the HiFi is tech man's winner for today's transfer competition and i'm glad he took the time to try both methods as well as any enable those extra features he had on his high five maybe it was that that managed to get it through get us a working copy now instead of just capturing a little bit of the program what I'm gonna do is capture the entire thing for you along with the music from the record player so you can dip in and have a listen to a little bit of it or you can watch and enjoy the entire thing maybe that kind of music is your thing and you can enjoy the view into our 45 minute program coupled with the music to see that there's a link at the top of the screen now I hope or if you can't find that then have a look in the description to the video and now a link that you can click on and you can see some about on the screen now but before you do let's consider why this idea didn't catch on there really are very few examples of data on vinyl you have to admit it's not the most convenient process more of a novelty vinyls were dying out in favor of cassettes and CDs at this time which were just as capable at distributing programs but most bands understandably would have wanted to put music on their precious tape space or save money by using shorter tapes rather than cater to us geeks and nerds why would they I mean video games were increasing in popularity as was computer ownership but the market wasn't what it is now it wouldn't even have been on the radar of many music execs as a way to leave reach their market and make more money however if you're looking for more examples you will find the band the Thompson Twins released their own adventure game this was also for the ZX Spectrum and the Commodore 64 I think as well and it was released on a flexi disc which was mounted on the cover of computer and video games magazine in 1984 I think the Commodore 64 one was a bit later maybe 85 but it's around about them shaking Stevens released the shaky game on the b-side of it's the BOP won't stop album and if you want more recent examples Radiohead hid a ZX spectrum program on their 2017 release of the Ok Computer album that was her 20th or 25th I think it was the 20th anniversary of that album so they released it and they hit that they'd expect from program on Ok Computer but you'd be hard-pressed to call any of these programs worth the cost of the disc or the tape alone again it was a novelty a bit of fun and just a bit extra but in a way the programs that were released by bands at least were an acknowledgment from those bands those bands that we loved that they too were techies like us and that perhaps made their music feel a little bit more special to people like you and I to us nerds and us geeks who thought perhaps we were isolated in our love of these machines to have that affirmation from the bands that we loved I think that was a special thing so until next time please take a moment to go and watch the shellie program life captured for you maybe put yourself back into 1983 home computers were relatively new to you you dropped the needle on your record player and then this happens you may not blow your socks off today I think it would have felt pretty special back then so I hope you enjoyed the demo especially thank you to Matt at Tech man for transferring those tracks from the vinyl to the cassette tape for us and for his insights thank you very much Matt and of course to you for watching enjoy the demo take care and good bye thanks to everyone who watched this episode and especially to the names on the screen these are the official cave dwellers the patrons of the channel who signed up over at patreon comm you can find a link to that in the description of the video if you fancy lending your support and if you haven't already done so take a moment to subscribe and come back soon for more videos thank you again and take care

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45 Comments

  • Reply RetroManCave May 21, 2019 at 1:38 pm

    Part 2 of this video is here:
    https://youtu.be/aX1Lc6nqHxU

    Thank you for watching! Special thanks to Mat over at youtube.com/techmoan for taking part. Do you have more examples of data on vinyl or other novel methods of distribution? Leave a comment I'd love to hear about them. Neil – RMC

  • Reply tone167 May 21, 2019 at 1:38 pm

    You had me at Pete Shelley.

  • Reply Sarreq Teryx May 21, 2019 at 1:38 pm

    I find it odd that no one ever tried using stereo audio to store data. use the left and right channel as a differential signal.

  • Reply Hunter's Moon May 21, 2019 at 1:38 pm

    I have a flexidisc called "make music on the 64 featuring heaven 17" – it cost me 50p

  • Reply Hunter's Moon May 21, 2019 at 1:38 pm

    I backed the Spectrum Next too – wish the bloody thing would arrive A.S.A.P.

  • Reply Seymor Onion May 21, 2019 at 1:38 pm

    L P + G ?

  • Reply nonp May 21, 2019 at 1:38 pm

    Really enjoyed this episode as i had a few spectrums in my past and have been subbed to techmoan for ages,a brilliant and very informative channel.Cheers Retrocaveman..p.s That name always reminds me of the cartoon captain caveman.

  • Reply tsalikaki May 21, 2019 at 1:38 pm

    Techmoan ❤️❤️❤️❤️

  • Reply Jeffrey400 May 21, 2019 at 1:38 pm

    I hit the thumbs up as soon as I saw your amazing robot dance. Priceless!

  • Reply Michael Martin May 21, 2019 at 1:38 pm

    You can still get those ugly "slab" tape recorders new in Japan. I think they're useful for recording meeting minutes and such-like things that don't need to be "high quality", just loud and clear.

  • Reply Marius Loubeeka May 21, 2019 at 1:38 pm

    The German minimal electro / bitpop band Welle: Erdball relesed several programs for Commodore 64, including programs to let their songs play by a C64. On the data track on their maxi CD VW-Käfer (released in 2001) among some programs were also instructions to build an RS232 to floppy drive cable to transfer the included floppy disk images to a Commodore 1541 drive. Their album Horizonterweiterungen (released in 2004) was only available on vinyl and contained a track for C64 datassette.

  • Reply pippo spano May 21, 2019 at 1:38 pm

    I wondered if someone ever thought of putting sw on audio disks… of course they did

  • Reply D Dragon May 21, 2019 at 1:38 pm

    A few mates and I used to share software/data via telephone calls and cassette recorders in the late 80s. It was great for sharing long bits of text (Homework 😉 whilst keeping phone time down to levels our parents would accept/be happy to pay the bill for. 🙂

    Not only did this predate consumer Internet by a good few years, but could also be thought of as a primative precursor to Facebook! :-p

  • Reply Blue Roots Denver TV May 21, 2019 at 1:38 pm

    It sounds BETTER than POP MUSIC!

  • Reply Tomoko Abe May 21, 2019 at 1:38 pm

    pretty amazing!

  • Reply Charles Bunnell May 21, 2019 at 1:38 pm

    The hay day of computer programs on Vinyl was the late 1970’s and early 80’s.You see, as the home computer gained in popularity, computer magazines came to markets to support their owners/users. Being that the 1970’s/early 80’s was before the home modems and BBS’s where commonplace and long before the internet was publically accessible, the only source of software/programs was either came via computer stores and computer magazines. Getting software via computer mag at the time meant either a list of code printed in the mag you had to carefully type in the in your computer by hand to run or providing software on some medium with each magazine. While the 5 1/2” floppy disc existed at that time, few home users owned floppy drives them because of their high cost (until the mid-80’s in the U.S.. & longer in the UK due to high UK. import taxes on floppy drives in throughout the 80’s). So for early home computer computer mags, they wanted a cheap way to distribute free programs/software with an issue that most if not all their readers could make use of. The data cassette was just to bulky to include with an mag. issue, so for programs that where too long to include printed in the mag (for the user to manually type in before running (a slow laborious process though educational), another medium was thought. Someone had the bright idea of realizing that data cassette stored the data on them just as standard audio sound and thus any audio format could be used theoretically. In the 1962, the Flexi Disc was born, a a phonograph record made of a thin, flexible vinyl sheet with a molded-in spiral stylus groove, and is designed to be playable on a normal phonograph turntable. The Flexi disc allowed magazines to distribute free music/spoken word singles inside a mag issue real cheap that could be played a standard record players. This proved just the solution to distrusting software for home computers via magazines in the data cassette dominance era, though not without that added difficulty of having to copy the sound from the Flexi disc to a data cassette as demonstrated in this video. This ultimately meant that such distribution of data Flexi discs in comp. mags was somewhat limited, even at it’s height, and quickly faded when floppies discs (5 ½ and later 3 ¼) become the norm, with CD-ROM’s later becoming the favorite, followed by download links to software (from the internet). The example of novelty software included on or with music albums (in flexi disc form) shown in this video was probably the most rare form software on phono record.

  • Reply DerAlfredman May 21, 2019 at 1:38 pm

    OMG Techmoan

  • Reply Ben Verdel May 21, 2019 at 1:38 pm

    Back in the Spectrum days we had a radio broadcast show in the Netherlands (radioscoop or something like that) of about half an hour per week. They transmitted a program in the last minutes. So everybody sat straight up before the radio. Recorder set. Finger on the button to release the pause. Waiting for the promising biiiiiiiip. Those were the days!

  • Reply Terence Edwards May 21, 2019 at 1:38 pm

    i bet that is why commodore games could not b copied that dATTeCasset THING

  • Reply Grzegorz Glowacki May 21, 2019 at 1:38 pm

    RetroManCave shouldn't use this type of turntable. It has poor soud quality, but – what's more important – it damages the vinyl records. I owned once one similar and measured the pressure on stylus about 5g. And they all have exactly this same tonearm. And 5g – what's signifficantly to much – with the cheapest stylus means extremly high weart of vinyl recods. If you've buyed it to listen this one record, than O.K., but if you can afford 2nd one, you can also afford used, but a real one, turntable.

  • Reply wolvenar May 21, 2019 at 1:38 pm

    Thanks for the intriguing video

  • Reply TheSoundrookie May 21, 2019 at 1:38 pm

    It puzzles me that people think the sound of data are so awful , when they seem to enjoy listening to stuff like boy bands, Britney Spears, country, and german schlager.

  • Reply Tom F May 21, 2019 at 1:38 pm

    I used to copy amstrad cpc464 on a stereo recorder and it worked fine.

  • Reply Kron May 21, 2019 at 1:38 pm

    I seem to recall having one of these when I was a child, but I didn't have a stylus for our record player, so I never got to try it out.
    I would be interested to see how the wow+flutter of a low quality speccy tape compares to the warping of a record.

  • Reply SuperNova64 May 21, 2019 at 1:38 pm

    A computer program played on a Crosley I think lmao bye bye program and vinyl lol

  • Reply pop2uno May 21, 2019 at 1:38 pm

    If the term DILF was in the dictionary, this guy's picture would be use as an example 😘

  • Reply BertyFromDK May 21, 2019 at 1:38 pm

    YAY! Two of my favourite Retro Youtubers for the price of one! 😀
    Also, the December '82 issue of the (now defunct) magazine 'YOUR COMPUTER' had a flexidisc containing three programs: one for the VIC20, one for the ZX81, and finally one for the ZX Spectrum:
    http://www.worldofspectrum.org/infoseek.cgi?regexp=^Your+Computer+issue+8212$&pub=^Your+Computer$&loadpics=3

  • Reply Radio Żelaza May 21, 2019 at 1:38 pm

    in Poland behind the Iron Curtain, public radio stations broadcast whole games via the radio waves for all the radio listeners to record onto tapes and run into their computers.

  • Reply yogibear2k10 May 21, 2019 at 1:38 pm

    Why did you turn down the sound of loading? That was the best part of the loading process! Even today on my Spectrum Emulator, I ALWAYS use the .tap image which re-creates the loading of a tape. Turning down the sound was sacrilege. I even got to a point where I could listen to the music of the loading sound and know what the game was. The only example I had of software on flexi disk was from a band called Mainframe with the song Talk To Me and the game was load runner. It was for the BBC Micro. ZX Spectrum and CPC 464 I think.

  • Reply wardrich May 21, 2019 at 1:38 pm

    Buzzcocks!

  • Reply ookiiani May 21, 2019 at 1:38 pm

    i was so happy when techmoan came on, absolute legend

  • Reply Professor Steve May 21, 2019 at 1:38 pm

    Wasn't Pete Shelley the singer for the Buzzcocks ?

  • Reply Zephyrus411 May 21, 2019 at 1:38 pm

    Why does ever British person pronounce modem as “meow-dum”?

  • Reply MsJinkerson May 21, 2019 at 1:38 pm

    Canada and the U.S. were always ahead of you

  • Reply Red Vynil May 21, 2019 at 1:38 pm

    I have a McClelland amplifier that I can hook up between any audio device (turntable, tape deck or CD deck) via RCA jacks and a computer via a USB cable, and record from one to the other in either direction.  Couldn't you just use one of those and record the program on the record directly onto the computer?

  • Reply Red Vynil May 21, 2019 at 1:38 pm

    In March of `85, Kissing The Pink put a computer program on side two of their 12" single for their song, "The Other side Of Heaven".

  • Reply Djordje Stojanović May 21, 2019 at 1:38 pm

    You sound like 2kliksphilip

  • Reply uriituw May 21, 2019 at 1:38 pm

    Why couldn’t it be connected (more-or-less) directly?

  • Reply Alfonso Florio May 21, 2019 at 1:38 pm

    it's amazing he had so ask somebody else to transfer vinyl to tape. In my mind they are still super-common formats….

  • Reply BRC May 21, 2019 at 1:38 pm

    8-bit JB 👏

  • Reply tom kent May 21, 2019 at 1:38 pm

    I would have thought that vinyl would introduce noise into the data stream.

  • Reply luverizimo May 21, 2019 at 1:38 pm

    He sexy 😝

  • Reply xMXUx May 21, 2019 at 1:38 pm

    8:07 new Merzbow sounds 🔥

  • Reply surfinbirdzx May 21, 2019 at 1:38 pm

    One question: why not loading directly from vinyl to spectrum?

  • Reply Russian-bot 01101010 May 21, 2019 at 1:38 pm

    My sister had that shakin stevens tape with the game on it. Digging up the old memories on this video for sure.

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