THE DESPERATION DATA PACK
by Dan Ryan?


It finally happened. My MEGACOPY tape formatter malfunctioned and my supply of data packs was depleted. There was no time for mail order... I needed data packs THEN!! It was time to make a true homemade data pack, the kind I had attempted to make for years. I had spent countless hours before that night attempting to make a data pack using my dual deck cassette recorder. I had met with only frustration and failure. I had concluded that it was a task not suited to me or my cassette recorder. But now the Mother of Invention was on my side: necessity!

I spent some time thinking about all I knew about ADAM tape formatting. I remembered that Hackers Guide to ADAM I told us that it was indeed possible to make a data pack on a home-style cassette deck. I also remembered that Syd Carter's MEGACOPY documentation told us that a minimum of one minute of blank tape was required at the end of the formatted tape in order for the completed product to function properly. THE LIGHT CAME ON!!! I had failed in previous attempts to leave that critical minute of blank tape at the end of the cassette.

First, I used a Sony SF-90 (yes 90) tape which gave me a loose tolerance for blank tape. I used a Sony SF-60 as my master, feeding the 90 minute slave. Both tapes were completely rewound. I allowed the slave C-90 to record nothing for over a minute, then pressed the play button on the master tape side. When that side had finished, I repeated the process on the other side of the tape. The moment of truth had arrived. It was time to load BACKUP 3.0+ and block check my newly formatted (hopefully) data pack. MASTERPIECE!!!! No bad blocks.

Next came the challenge of getting a Sony SF-60 to format. I felt I had two good options. One was to use a Coleco (Loran) original as my master, requiring drilling two extra holes in the bottom of the case to allow insertion into standard cassette equipment. The other was to use a Loran duplicate, such as the ones sold by ADAM'S House. The reason I preferred not just using an already formatted C-60 as my master is that the Loran or Loran-like tapes are a couple of minutes shy of 60 minutes. I wanted to be sure to leave that critical blank tape at the start and end of my slave tape. I chose the Loran duplicate tape to avoid the extra drilling. The result was complete success.

Of course, in all instances, drilling of two holes in the back (top) of the slave cassette is required to allow insertion into the ADAM digital data drive. Simply examine the holes on an existing data pack and duplicate the arrangement. It isn't hard. An important point to make is that if your initial block check indicates bad blocks from the beginning, stop the process and remove the data pack. Then drill the two top holes on the OTHER side of the cassette and block check it that way. That will probably solve your problem.

I really can't advocate this approach for the heavy data pack user, simply because it is too time consuming. I suppose a cassette recorder with one of those fast duplication features would speed the process up, but it would still be slow. There are a number of sources of good third party data packs at reasonable prices. MEGACOPY is still a great device, and I recommend it. But for the casual user who just needs a couple of data packs or the moderate user who needs a few data packs FAST, this is an alternative you deserve to know about. If you think your dual deck recorder is not fancy enough to do the job, mine is a basic $60 job with no VU meter and no fast duplicate feature. It worked just fine, once I became desperate enough to figure out the process! And thus the Desperation Data Pack was born.
 

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