An edited version of this text also appears in
SOUND ON SOUND magazine Vol.12 No.10. August 1997  

by Chris Carter

The following text is in reply to a letter recieved by SOS from Dave Burraston. Dave had bought a second-hand Roland MC4 MicroComposer and had suggested a way of backing-up MC4 data (which is usually saved onto audio cassette) using the standard audio in/out connectors on an Apple Macintosh.


Initially I was both intrigued and little sceptical about this technique, so I thought I would investigate. As Dave describes, I tried saving some ancient Roland MC8, Roland TR505 and Akai MX73 programs into various Apple Macs: a Quadra 660AV, a Performa 6200, a PowerBook 145B and a Power Mac 7600 and with some slight adjustments, the process worked fine with all of them. As an example, an old monster MC8 program that took 10 minutes to save or load, only took up 1.9Mb of disk space while a 1 minute 20 second Akai MX73 save was 300k and a 45 second Roland TR505 save only occupied 135k. I then tried compressing these files even further with StuffIt Deluxe and succeeded in reducing the size by a another 70%-75% and as compressed, self extracting archive files they became 612k, 70k and 43k respectively, all reloaded without a problem.

Regardless of which program the data is recorded in (shareware or commercial), I got the most consistent results if the files were compressed and saved in QuickTime using Dave's recommended, 8 bit, 22kHz, MACE 6:1 compression settings and as either AIFF or QuickTime 'self contained' format audio files. Using the QuickTime format means that, in theory, anyone with QuickTime installed in their system can play back the files, be they Mac or PC users. The only hitch I came across was if Ram Doubler or virtual memory was enabled, it sometimes interrupted playback of the QuickTime audio signal, causing reload errors. As a precaution make sure you 'verify' any data before you throw away those old cassettes.

With data files this small and manageable they become an ideal size for sending over the Internet or saving to floppy disk and are certainly a lot easier to deal with than cassettes. Anyone still using this near obsolete type of storage and that includes old Spectrum and Commodore computers, should try this moderately straightforward and extremely useful technique.

In fact it works so well I spent a weekend transferring old and decaying cassettes saves into my Mac for much safer and more reliable archiving. Dave should be congratulated for this brilliant example of lateral thinking, I only wish I had thought of it myself years ago.


Copyright © 1997 Chris Carter / SOS Publications.
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