1. Not old. Vintage. :)

Oqtadrive - Raspberry Pi & Arduino ZX Spectrum Microdrive

Discussion in 'SIG: 8-Bit Hardware' started by Vyper68, Oct 10, 2021 at 6:39 AM.

  1. Vyper68

    Vyper68 Chief Officer

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    Hi all,
    Those who have a passing interest for ZX Spectrums will probably be aware of the ZX Interface One and ZX Microdrive. For those who aren’t familiar this was Sinclair’s answer to the mass storage problem. So you had an Interface which plugged into the Speccy and provides a RS232 port, Network Jacks and connectivity for up to 8 Microdrive units. The Microdrive was basically a high speed tape drive. The Microdrive cartridge was a loop of thin tape which was run at high speed across a stereo tape head.
    The Microdrive was cheap compared to disk drives but reliability was problematic as was the cartridge which tended to stretch over time and become unusable. These days it’s hard to find a working Microdrive and more importantly the Microdrive cartridges are very unreliable these days, the felt pad in the cartridge is often disintegrating and needs replaced. I often use 8-Track felt and cut it to size, that doesn’t mean the cartridge will work though as the tape itself is deteriorating as well.
    So a couple of years ago a Kiwi called Charlie Ingley created a device called vDriveZX which used modern technology to replicate the function of the Microdrive. The device could emulate 8 Microdrives in one unit and also uses a SD Card to store the Microdrive images. It could be installed in a Microdrive case and the SD card could be inserted in the opening where the cartridge would go.
    Fast forward a couple of years and we now have the Oqtadrive, this uses a Raspberry Pi ZeroW and a Arduino Nano to replicate the functionality of the Microdrive. It can emulate up to 8 drives as per the vDrive, where the device is different is the Oqtadrive used a web UI or Linux command line to load the Microdrive images wirelessly over the network. So removes the need for a SD card.
    I have built one myself and it now lives inside one of my old Microdrive cases and it does what it says on the tin and works well, I prefer it to the vDriveZX. The other thing is the price of components, a Pi ZerW and Nano could be obtained for £18 and then all you need is some passive components and a level shifter and feedback motor.
    So if you have a Spectrum and Interface 1 with a broken Microdrive this is a good option to replace the internal components and get it back up and running.
    Andy Barr and nysavant like this.

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