Thursday, 26 August 2010

No More Cassette Data Recorders!

I usually use emulators to play retro games but sometimes it's nice to take a real machine out of the box and connect it to an old TV. Nothing beats the smell of Atari power supply getting warm! What I don't like is the time that I have to wait to get a game loaded if I use a cassette recorder or Commodore floppy drive. Tapes and floppy discs won't last forever so it's a good idea to think about a hardware emulator. Fortunately there are at least a few emulators available. Most of them lets you use a SD Card as a storage device or an IDE hard disk. Here's what I managed to find:

Atari 8bit


SIO2SD is a device that allows you to load games/applications into 8-bit Atari computers via SIO interface from SD/MMC cards.

  • Works with SD/MMC (FAT12,FAT16 and FAT32 formats - Warning !!! Software up to version 2.0 had a bug in FAT12 code - FAT12 is typically used by Windows XP for 16MB cards)
  • Handles ATR (rw), XFD (ro) and COM/XEX (ro) file types
  • 16x2 LCD display allows to "walk" catalog tree and choose files to load
  • Handles SIO with turbo (allows to set speed index from 1 to 16, default is 6 (69kb/s), in versions 1.x speed index was always 10 (51kb/s))
  • All densities with 128B and 256B sectors, including 16MB disks
  • Handles drives d1 to d8 (up to version 1.2 only d1 to d4 drives were available)
  • Can be configured using ATARI (it's possible to load configuration tool directly from MCU flash memory, so no SD card is needed)

Schematics are available for free. SIO2SD is available at

Price: €74,99


The SIO2IDE is a simple interface that allows you to attach any IDE Disk Drive or CF Card to your 8-bit Atari computer.


1. ATARI side: SIO2IDE
  • Uses standard Atari SIO at a speed of 19200 baud
  • Works with Atari High Speed SIO (US and Happy) at a speed of 52000 baud
  • Emulates Atari disks D1: to D8: disk D1: can be swapped with Common disk D1: (HD1_ZW jumper, drive D9: in config file)
  • Can be used with any Atari DOS and OS
  • Can be used without any problems with other SIO devices (disk drivers, printers, modems, SIO2PC, second SIO2IDE etc)
  • Can be easy installed inside your Atari with 2.5' laptop HD or CF card
  • Is easy to configure via special utility software (changing disks sequence and active directory)
  • It use ATR files to emulate real floppy disk or hard drive

You have to use CF2IDE adapter to be able to connect CF card to SIO2IDE

2. IDE device side:
  • All IDE ATA/ATAPI devices can be used: Disk Drives (2.5' and 3.5'), Compact Flash cards etc.
  • Supports PC file systems, FAT16 and FAT32
  • Supports CD file system, ISO9660
  • Supports ATR disk images (SD, DD up to 16MB)
  • Supports directory change (multiconfig)
  • Is easy to configure, many text configuration files (sio2ide.cfg) can be stored in different directories
  • Disk configuration can be checked by special checkfs.exe PC utility
  • Standard system disk utilities can be used (defrag.exe, scandisk.exe etc)
  • Long File Name (LFN) support for HDD
  • TEST mode for checking HDD initializations
  • Supports Master/Slave IDE devices
  • Disk defragmentation is not required
3. USB port side:
  • Interface works as Mass Storage Class device (removable drive)
  • No drivers are needed for Windows 2K, ME, XP
  • Driver for Win98 is included in this SIO2IDE package
  • SIO2IDE in USB mode is not working with Linux

SIO2IDE is available at

Price: $65

Amiga / Atari ST / Atari Falcon / Amstrad CPC / ZX Spectrum / Sam Coupe / X68000 / Dragon 32 and 64

- HxC Floppy Emulator

It allows You to emulate any 34 pins floppy standart devices.

  • HE10 34 pins floppy connector
  • Shugart compatible mode supported
  • PC compatible mode supported
  • Tested on PC, Atari ST, Amiga, Amstrad CPC, Thomson, MSX, ZX Spectrum series computers
  • 3 LEDs ("Power LED","Floppy access LED"," SDCard access LED ")
  • 3 buttons ("Next","Select/Eject","Previous")
  • 1 audio transducer
  • 2*16 chars Alphanumerical LCD
  • LCD and buttons can be put on an external front panel
  • SD Card up to 2GB
  • SDHC Card supported up to 32GB
  • 10Mhz SPI bus mode. Average byterate: ~500KB/s
  • FAT32 supported. Subdirectory and long name file supported
  • Track mode based floppy emulator (Full track pre-encoded in the HFE image file)
  • Read support: Most of existing formats (FM/MFM/Amiga track) supported
  • Custom tracks supported
  • Write support: ISO MFM 256/512/1024 Bytes sector write supported
  • Write support not available on Amiga computers
  • Floppy bit rate supported:  250/300Kbits/s (DD floppies)  500Kbits/s (HD floppies)

Full list of supported systems and the unit itself is available at:  

Price: €70

ZX Spectrum

- Divide

It is an ATA (IDE) interface what means, that You are able to use hard disks or CF/SD cards along with adapters. The idea of this device is very simple - just PLUG and PLAY !

  • divIDE uses full 16 bits of ATA bus
  • divIDE works on all ZX Spectrum flavours (16, 48, 48+, 128, +2, +2A, +3 and clones)
  • Thanks to divIDE's onboard logic, theoretical transfer speed is 218 KB/sec (determined by the latency of INI/OUTI instructions)
  • divIDE has 8 KB of shadow flash ROM that hosts operating system core, leaving your original ZX Spectrum ROM intact. Additional 32 KB of RAM accessible as 8 KB memory banks are present
  • divIDE's auto-mapping feature transparently maps shadow ROM at important entry points, enabling standard tape emulation, BASIC extensions, NMI menu and DISCiPLE/+D or BetaDisk emulation
  • divIDE's MAPRAM feature helps developers and users to test new software without the need of reflashing their working system in shadow ROM. It can also emulate another 8 KB of ROM if necessary
  • divIDE works with all ATA-compatible devices (there are no known compatibility issues)
  • Available software supports widely used emulator formats (TAP, SNA, Z80, SCR).

For more informations visit:

Divide is available at:

Price: €35

Commodore 16 / 64 / 128 / plus4 /

- 1541 Ultimate

The '1541 Ultimate' is a storage solution for your Commodore home computer, such as the C64, C128, C plus4, C16, etc. This piece of hardware implements a 'real' 1541 disk drive for Commodore computers. There are two versions of this board; the 1541 Ultimate-I and the 1541 Ultimate-II. The 1541 Ultimate-I uses an SD-card or MMC-card to store the floppy disks, while the 1541 Ultimate-II uses MicroSD and USB pen-drives. Both the 1541 Ultimate-I and the 1541 Ultimate-II contain a replica of all the necessary hardware to be fully compatible with a real drive.

  • Full emulation of a real Commodore 1541 diskdrive.
  • Uses .D64 and .G64 files stored on MicroSD card or USB stick
  • Supports .G64 files as well (Read/Write)
  • Configurable ID
  • Configurable ROM (1541/1541C/1541II or custom)
  • RAMBOard memory expansion (up to 40K)
  • MicroSD or USB storage device (stick, card reader, and even HD)
  • FAT/FAT32 support, with sub-directories and long filenames
  • Supports SD V1.1 cards as well as SD V2.0 in High Capacity mode (SDHC)
  • Battery backed up Real Time Clock
  • C64 cartridge emulation:
  • Final Cartridge III
  • Action Replay
  • Retro Replay
  • Super Snapshot
  • Turbo Assembler w/ Codenet
  • Epyx Fastloader
  • Custom 8K/16K carts
  • Custom Ocean / System3 carts (up to 512K)
  • Commodore 1750/1764 REU
  • REU Compatible
  • Size selectable from 128K up to 16 MB
  • Can be combined with Retro Replay and SuperSnapshot compatible roms
  • Flexible freezer menu
  • Select, mount, create D64 images, browse disk images
  • Create new directories, delete files
  • Ultra fast DMA load of single file programs (.PRG files on SD/USB, inside .D64 or .T64)
  • Configuration screen, with resident settings
  • Tape emulation, through 6-pin header on the bottom of the board
  • Totally rewritten firmware, for easier expansion and maintenance

1541 Ultimate-II is available at:

Price: €129


SD2IEC is a hardware mass storage device using an SD/MMC card and interfacing with the IEC bus. It is based on the ATmega644 microcontroller from the Atmel AVR microcontroller family. The most prominent use of SD2IEC is emulation/replacement of a Commodore-1541 disk drive for a C64. Hardware and the microcontroller's firmware is available as open source.


  • Separate SD2IEC main and daughter board
  • Main board has 3 pin headers with power connections, all IEC signals, device selection switches and 2 LEDs
  • Main board measures 64.5mm x 40.8mm x 5.6mm (L x W x H)
  • Firmware can be upgraded placing the new firmware file in the root directory of the SD Card (bootloader). Please select firmware for SW2 and ATmega644P
  • D64/M2I support (both reading and writing for D64, even with direct sector access using U1/U2)
  • T64 is not supported
  • PRG/P00 etc. support
  • Subdirectory support (CMD command syntax).
  • Suport for Turbo Disk AKA Fast Load AKA Speeddisk fastloader
  • Supports the JiffyDOS fast serial bus protocol
  • Supports the Final Cartridge 3 fastloader/fastsaver
  • Supports an external "disk change" button
  • Supports FAT long file names
  • Supports FAT12/FAT16/FAT32 formatted SD cards
  • Improved IEC compatibility
  • Supports most typical IEC functions (LOAD, SAVE, OPEN, GET, PUT, CLOSE, ...)
  • 1571 ROM has been taken as reference for implementation
  • Many non-fastloader games run

SD2IEC at:

Price: $44,99