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Re: ZX Spectrum Angst.

Posted: Fri Nov 11, 2016 3:48 pm
by Spudgun
It's been quite a while since I last Posted anything. Well. I have had other projects to be worked on (As well as playing on my 48k rubber keyed Speccy).

Anyhoo. During the intervening time, I've been looking out for a disc drive for my +3e. The one I have is 'knackerd'. It kinda works, but not 100%. I do have another, but that's exactly the same. I can format discs via the Spectrum's test routine, but the Speccy wouldn't read from them afterwards.

3" disc drives are hard to come by. Nobody scraps a +3 Speccy. However, Amstrad PCW's do come up for sale once every so often. In truth. Amstrad PCW's tend to be bought by Spectrum owners, who scrap the Amstrads in order to get the disc drives. There are some Amstrad fans, so prices can be a bit steep.

The last time I saw a working 3" disc drive for sale (on Ebay), it sold for £45. This is just for the drive! It is possible to pick to a complete Amstrad PCW for the same sort of money. However. Very few people to Post them. They have to be collected (More expense). As luck would have it. I spotted a 3" drive on Ebay when I got back form Armadacon on Monday. It was advertised as a 'spares repair' job, but it was cheap! I got it on the Buy it Now button for £14 Posted!

The 3" drive is a fairly robust item. They only have two real faults. A drive belt failure, or the Head Reader is out of sync. On the two drives I have. The Head Reader was out of sync. As I don't have the equipment to re-sync the heads (It's a bit technical), I was hoping the the fault with the new drive would just be the belt.

The drive arrived today. It was quicky stripped down. The belt in the drive was broken (I wasn't surprised). I had a spare handy and the belt was replaced. The remaining drive was serviced as per the guides found within Spectrum websites. The refurbished drive was then put into my +3.

The new drive didn't work first time out. Considering that the drive had done nothing for around 20 years, it took a bit of cajoling to get it to do anything. After around 15 minutes of swopping discs (The ones I got from Dave H last year), the internal mechanism began to loosen up. The disc drive started to work!

I reformatted all of the discs that I got from Dave last year. Only one side of a single disc was beyond salvage. Read and Write tests were performed. The disc drive worked perfectly! It wasn't all good news though. I had previously bought a disc with a game on it (Gauntlet). It wouldn't load. I also have a disc called Disc Doctor (A copy was bought at the same time I bought the drive). Sadly. Even Disc Doctor couldn't save the Gauntlet disc. It was too badly corrupted. The disc could only be saved by formatting it and using it as a blank.

Now. It is possible to download a disc image from World of Spectrum. However. Getting the image back onto a 3" disc means fitting a 3" disc drive into my PC. I'll have to look into that.

Re: ZX Spectrum Angst.

Posted: Sat Nov 12, 2016 6:26 pm
by Spudgun
Things are moving a bit faster now.

Some pages ago. I mentioned that I had found some software that allowed me to port cassettes onto microdrive carts. I've now found software that enables me to port cassettes onto disc. Thus far. I have successfully ported Head Over Heels from 'cassette' (My PC really) onto disc. I've even got the game to auto-run! However. There are a couple of snags.

The program I'm using is in Spanish. Thankfully, it's also in BASIC. Now. You would think that I could used the MERGE command and load it into my +3 Speccy and edit it. It doesn't quite work like that. The +3 Speccy uses Logical Drives. A cassette player isn't a Logical Drive. The +3 Speccy uses a cassette player as a back-up if the disc drive isn't available. As a result. I can't use the MERGE command for tapes.

The only way I can sort this out is: To get my +2b (The +2b is a +3, but without the disc drive) out of the loft and and MERGE the program into that (I can't use the 48k mode as the memory addresses are different). Then I'll have to save the program back to 'cassette', but without the auto-run routine. Then I can load the program into the +3, where it won't auto-run. Then I can edit the program, by swopping out the Spanish for English. From there, I can put an auto-running version onto disc. There is one other snag.

The tape to disc program can't handle copy protected programs. So anything with Speedlock, Beep-load, etc is no good. This snag is slightly limiting. Thankfully. When most games got re-released on budget labels (KIXX, Encore, etc), the copy protection was removed. It's just a case of going through World of Spectrum and selecting non copy protected games (Head Over Heels being one of them).

There is one last snag that has me scratching my head. Once Head Over Heels had loaded. The disc drive should stop. It doesn't. It just keeps spinning.........

Re: ZX Spectrum Angst.

Posted: Tue Dec 13, 2016 7:02 am
by Spudgun
Yesterday. I managed to port a number of games from 'cassette' onto disc. It wasn't easy though. The first piece of success was being able to put the +3 into Tape mode (Done though BASIC). The method was very 'old school'. For those who've used the DOS operating system on PC's. The method for switching to the floppy drive was A:\. On the Speccy it's LOAD "t:". I could now load cassettes in the normal manner. I'll talk more about the Speccy's DOS system.

PC DOS and Spectrum DOS have similarities. However, the syntax is different. On a PC, you load the file into memory and then nominate the target drive. On the Speccy. The only drive you don't have to nominate is the disc drive! So if you want to save a file back to cassette, you have to write: SAVE "T:" "File". If you want that file on disc, it's: SAVE "File". It does get confusing! Another thing that has been causing on end of angst, is the Speccy's keyboard.

The keyboard for a PC and the Speccy are almost the same (We're talking about the Spectrum+ onwards here). However. There's one fundamental difference. The delete key is in a different place! On a Speccy. The delete key is where the tab key is on a PC keyboard. Where the delete key is on a PC keyboard, is another space key (Although the Speccy does have a space bar, which was added to the Spectrum+ onwards). This difference has caused no end of frustration when I've been typing! Moving onwards....

Copying games onto disc isn't easy. Although I've a piece of software that helps. It can't cope with games that have 'copy protection'. For anyone who has owned the like of a Spectrum in the past. They're aware of the likes of Speed Lock and Beep Load (I won't talk about Lens Lok as that's different). These systems were added to thwart direct cassette to cassette copying (Not that they ever worked though). The porting software needs to know: The file name being copied. The length (in bytes) and the start address. Many protected games hide this information in a loader file, so the transfer program can't see it. Since a cassette load files in sequence, each and every time. The transfer program won't work. On a disc. The files are in a random order and need the loader program in order to load the next file. Oh. That brings me onto another point. You can't have two files with the same name (The same for a PC disc). I can rename Speccy files, but I have to alter the name in the loader file as well. It's all a pain in the ass! Finally for this outing...

Thus far. I've managed to get four games onto one side of a disc (Hooray!). The +3 Spectrum has a neat trick. On a standard +3. The disc drive is the default drive (Mines a +3e so I can nominate the default drive to what ever I want). On the start-up menu. The Spectrum defaults to the Loader setting. All you have to do is: Insert disc and press Enter. The Spectrum will now look for a file on the disc called "DISK" and load it. I've built a simple Loader menu for the games and called it "Disk". Easy!

Re: ZX Spectrum Angst.

Posted: Thu Dec 15, 2016 1:58 pm
by Spudgun
I thought I'd talk about the disc drives that were fitted to the +3 today.

Amstrad decided to fit the rather oddball 3" disc drive to the 128K +3 Spectrum. It shouldn't be surprising, as the Amstrad PCW were already fitted with them. On the whole, they're robust and reliable, but they're not without their faults. You might not know this, but there was more than one model of the 3" drive.

I've had through my hands, three different models of the 3" drive. I've had two EME-156's. One EME-155 and one EME-232 (There are a number of others). That's four drives in all. As standard. The Spectrum was fitted with the EME-156. Currently. My Spectrum has an EME-155 which came out of an Amstrad PCW. So what was the problem with the EME-156's, I hear you ask. Considering that I said that the 3" drive was robust and reliable. I did say that the 3" drives do have their faults

By far the biggest fault of the 3" drive (Well, any drive really) is the drive belt. You'd be surprised at the number of +3's for sale on Ebay that have non functioning disc drives. Don't believe that hype in the Listings like: No disc to test the drive with. Or: Light comes on and the motor makes a noise. Trust me. That drive doesn't work! You have to remember that +3 Spectrums are now 30 years old. The rubber drive belts are well past their sell by date. All of the drives I've come into contact with. The belts have turned into a rubbery mush that was plastered around the spools and spindles. Replacement belts are freely available and they're cheap. So no problem there. However.... The EME-156 has another fault.

Design hasn't been kind to the EME-156. It's the only 3" drive that needs to be calibrated. If the Position Sensor isn't in the right place. The read-write head can't find the tracks on the floppy disc. Since the EME156 needs to be calibrated with the likes of an oscilloscope. Fixing it at home isn't really possible. It has to be sent away. A calibration service for these drives does exist! Moving on....

I've mentioned that my current drive (an EME-155) came from an Amstrad PCW. A number of PCW's were fitted with a single 3" drive. Most were fitted with two. However. The PCW's that had twin drives, had two different models fitted. These two different drive did two different jobs. Thus causing another problem for Speccy owners.

The PCW with two drives had one single sided drive and one double sided drive. The double sided drive was hard wired as the A drive on the drive itself. The other (single sided drive) was a generic 'call it what you want' drive. There is a catch with the PCW's A drive. Since it was designed to do a specific job (probably acts as the PCW's hard drive). You can't write to it as if it was a generic floppy drive. I fitted my EME-232 to my Spectrum and it'll read from a disc, but not write to it. It just comes back with a 'Invalid Media' report. I know the disc is fine. I wrote games to it on another 3" drive! This brings me onto the generic drive from a PCW: The EME-155

I suspect that the PCW's that were fitted with the single 3" drive, were fitted with the EME-155. I suspect that these PCW's had an actual hard drive of some sorts. Either that, or stuff like Loco Script was on a ROM or something. Either way, the EME-155 works perfect on a Spectrum. It's a straight 'plug & play' drive. So, what's everything worth?

+3 Spectrums are the 2nd most desirable 128K machines. The original 128K 'Toastrack' will fetch £100+ irrespective of its condition. The +3 is a bit of a mixed bag. I've seen complete, boxed +3's, with a working disc drive go for £100+. I've seen bare, but complete +3's (That's with the PSU, manuals and leads) go for between £75 and £100. Even then, the disc drive doesn't work. Bare +3's (Just the computer. No leads. No nothing) tend to fetch between £40 and £60. Of course. The disc drive doesn't work. What about the drives themselves?

It's fairly well known (within Spectum circles) that owners, users and collectors are buying up Amstrad PCW's and cannibalizing them for the disc drives (I've yet to see a single cannibalized +3). Replacement disc drives are hard to get. There are more PCW's out there than there are +3 Spectrums. Since the PCW is just a word processor. It doesn't have much of a fan base (Although one does exist). PCW's are cheap. You can pick one up (Complete. Boxed and with a printer) for around £50. This brings us onto the salvaged drives.

There are those who know and those who don't. I bought my EME-155 as an Amstrad PCW, non working drive for £10. One clean and new belt later... Happiness! I have seen 3" drives that were advertised as working and for the +3 Spectrum selling for up to £50. The SAME model drive!

Well I never.

Re: ZX Spectrum Angst.

Posted: Wed Apr 19, 2017 5:40 pm
by Luzie
Spudgun wrote:West Bank is actually a good game. However, it has one flaw. The Kempston joystick option is clearly displayed on the menu, but that option doesn't work!
You maybe wrong here. I tried Westbank on various Speccy-Emulators (SpecEmu and Fuse on PC) and first it seems, Kempston Joystick is not working. But today I tried USP ZX Spectrum Emulator from Google Play Store, loaded Westbank and Bingo: This works with Kempston Joystick Emulation! With Unreal Speccy Emulator I had no success, but with nZX Spin Emulator I got it working (Left-Right Scroll via Joystick Left-Right and shooting is done: Just Button: Fire to middle door. Fire Left door with Button down and Joystick to left and shooting to right door with Button+JS right.


Re: ZX Spectrum Angst.

Posted: Wed May 10, 2017 9:41 pm
by David A Harvey
I suspect that the PCW's that were fitted with the single 3" drive, were fitted with the EME-155. I suspect that these PCW's had an actual hard drive of some sorts. Either that, or stuff like Loco Script was on a ROM or something.
Locoscript and CPM+ came on self booting 3" start of day disks, I think there was the option of software on Rom on one of the late models of CPC but not on the PCW.

Re: ZX Spectrum Angst.

Posted: Sat Sep 16, 2017 11:29 am
by Spudgun
It's September again and my model making years is over. Time to drag out the Spectrums.

There was one mystery on my 128k +3e has has been nagging me for ages. When I first put everything together, it worked fine. However. Last December, it wouldn't load any of the games folders. I now know why!

The +3 Spectrum pre-dates the PC (The keyboard drive me nuts!). There are similarities though. On both the Speccy and a PC. The A drive is the floppy. When the +3e ROM was fitted. The hard drive became the A drive and the floppy ended up as drive C. That wasn't how I wanted it, so I swopped the assignments over (makes sense). The floppy worked perfectly as the A drive. Although the C drive loaded perfectly every time. I couldn't access the sub folders.

The +3 Spectrum does have limitations. Even though the ROMs have been upgraded, those limitations still exist. In short, you can only have a maximum of 4 devices mapped at any one time. Each folder (a partition) on the hard drive counts as a device. In order to gain access to that folder, another device has to be unmapped. So the hard drive (at the time) was mapped to C. In order to gain access to that Games folder. The floppy drive had to be unmapped and the Games folder mapped as drive A. This had to be done for every folder on the hard drive. It took me ages to figure it out why it stopped working. The unmapping and mapping of drives was done via software!

I managed to find the offending file and open it up. There it was. A (The hard drive) was the default. C (The floppy drive) was the assignment being swopped around. I did try to re-write the program, but the Speccy wasn't having it. The problem was; There was more than one program involved. In the long run, I decided to put the assignments back to how they were to start with. A is now the hard drive. C is now the floppy drive. I know. It's completely counter intuitive, but there you go.

Re: ZX Spectrum Angst.

Posted: Wed Jun 20, 2018 4:06 pm
by Spudgun
Back in 1984. I used to buy a magazine called Computer & Video Games (C&VG). On one issue, there was a cover mounted flexi-disc. It contained a game called Thompson Twins Adventure. Now. The Thompson Twins were a popular beat combo at the time, even if there were three of them and none of them were called Thompson. Anyway. Try as I might. I couldn't get the game to load. I tried every trick in the book (and a few I made up). No way could I get the game to work! So, I gave up.

34 years later, I managed to get my hands on a working copy. Was it worth the wait?


Re: ZX Spectrum Angst.

Posted: Sun Jun 24, 2018 8:59 pm
by Spudgun
I have been rather sad. I've actually finished The Thompson Twins Adventure. Even though the competition has been closed for 34 years. I have the answer. Is there any point in mentioning it here. No.

It's: Non Burning Lotion.