The Easy Roll and Slow Burn of Cassette-Based Software

This article seems to have slipped past without much comment on various forums:


Whispers Stringy Floppy is missing.

An interesting article. I remember needing to buy a cassette recorder for my first computer - it was a radio cassette, and I think it cost £30. A fair bit for me, although I think the computer was something over £200. I think I did find myself soldering flying leads too - nothing as sophisticated as plugs and sockets.

The text in the article is just a little over 21k bytes. At 1200 baud, that’s three minutes. But at 300 it’s twelve minutes - I think my first machine was 300, whereas my Beeb did both 300 and 1200.

But then, Acorn’s cassette system for the Beeb had quite some overhead, for each block of 256 bytes. I’ve just run a test on the Master next to me:

1 block  12.8s
2 blocks 16.1s
4 blocks 22.4s
8 blocks 35.3s

So the first 1k costs 22 seconds, subsequent 1k costs 13s, more or less. At that rate, 21k would take nearly 5 mins.

But then, on a Beeb, 21k would be quite a big game. Planetoid (Defender) was about 9k, as was Snapper (Pacman).

I do like the idea of loading screens, and especially loading gamelets - the Beeb didn’t have those.

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Later games used shorter inter-block tones to speed up loading. Any custom loaders that could eliminate those tones would also improve loading times.

Real improvements can be made by using compressed code and data, though I don’t know how much software used that approach.

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I haven’t seen those either. The examples provided suggest that this was the latest rage of 1987, at which time I was mostly out of computing and hadn’t seen any of the latest games.

No, the article is specifically about audio cassettes.

I remember racks and racks of commercial games on sale on cassette at my local newsagent