YouTuber works out a method to record video onto a standard audio cassette tape

Shawn Knight

Posts: 12,186   +120
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The Fisher-Price PXL-2000 was a black-and-white camcorder that used a standard audio cassette as its recording medium. Video was recorded on the left audio channel and audio on the right channel.

To overcome the bandwidth limitations of the medium, the machine sped up the movement of the tape by nearly 9x that of a standard cassette playback (the faster the tape speed, the more data can be read / written per second). There’s a reason VHS tapes used much larger strips of magnetic tape, after all.

Even with the speed advantage, the quality was very poor and the machine was only in production for about one year before being discontinued. Still, it demonstrated that it was possible to record video on a standard audio cassette and that’s where Slyka picks up.

Using a Sony tape recorder, he came up with a method using Python and Java to convert a video signal into one that can be recorded on an audio cassette and successfully played back. There were significant concessions that had to be made in terms of image quality – the resolution was cut down to a paltry 100 x 75 at only five frames per second, and there is no audio – but still, it’s an incredibly fascinating feat. Just imagine the sort of video content that could be hidden on a cassette tape where nobody would ever think to look for it.

It reminds me of this episode of LGR Oddware that covers the Danmere Backer VHS hard drive backup system.

It’s essentially exactly what it sounds like, a platform that lets you store hard drive data on a standard VHS tape. Again, it’s the sort of medium where you could hide data that nobody would ever think to check.

Masthead credit: GraphicPhotoArt - MomPhoto

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QuantumPhysics

Posts: 2,647   +2,267
It’s a complete waste of time.

I’m old enough to remember how difficult it was to “dub” AVHS tapes. You had to have two VCRs or in this case to cassette recorder’s, one of them had to be “played” and the other one had to be in “record” mode.

I’m old enough to remember how difficult it was to “dub“ a VHS tape. You had to have two VCRs (or in this case to cassette recorder), one of them had to be “played“ and the other one had to be in “record“ mode.

You had to physically wind the tape from beginning to end in order for the entire thing to be recorded and that took time.

Considering you can buy a micro SD card in one terabyte capacity there is no reason to try to record digital anything on to analog tape.

Not to mention how much tape is required to fit that much information.
 

captaincranky

Posts: 16,044   +4,849
Can you actually still buy cassette tapes? And the follow up question, if you could buy them, would "high quality" tape make any difference? "Metal", or chrome", for example :bewildered:

"Nobody would ever think to look for video on an audio cassette"
Unless you advertise doing so.
A 75 X 100 Pixels, offhand I'd say, you couldn't tell what the actress was doing, let alone be able to determine if she was old enough to be doing whatever it was.

I should report myself for that.....Na.
 
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Yynxs

Posts: 544   +183
TechSpot Elite
I love this too. As proof of concept, now the hardware hackers can get to work "improving" the video with, as Captain Cranky said, metal or chrome tapes and perhaps, other hardware.

I'm also reminded of how hard it is to smuggle video content out of controlled countries. If you can run low quality audio interspersed with reasonably improved video data, there are many places this could be used, not even including another "Guardians of the Universe" expansion.
 
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Aus spot

Posts: 81   +62
Since we use to play graphical (abit crap quality) games from cassettes. Can't see this as being better.
 

wiyosaya

Posts: 5,119   +3,208
What they did in VHS was to spin the video head past the tape - thus effectively increasing tape speed without having to make the tape move faster. I wonder if someone will try that with audio cassettes.

The Sinclair ZX-80 microcomputer used to use audio cassettes for long-term data storage. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ZX80
 
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captaincranky

Posts: 16,044   +4,849
I'm also reminded of how hard it is to smuggle video content out of controlled countries. If you can run low quality audio interspersed with reasonably improved video data, there are many places this could be used, not even including another
The main obstacle here again, is resolution. At 75 x 100, you really wouldn't be able to distinguish whether that was a cellphone or a pistol in the black kidz' hand, when the white policeman shot him...
"Guardians of the Universe" expansion.
Myself, I'm holding out for "Avatar" on audio cassette....


Ahem...., Once again, I find myself in the awkward position of deciding whether or not to report myself for that.
 

Irata

Posts: 512   +628
TechSpot Elite
What they did in VHS was to spin the video head past the tape - thus effectively increasing tape speed without having to make the tape move faster. I wonder if someone will try that with audio cassettes.

The Sinclair ZX-80 microcomputer used to use audio cassettes for long-term data storage. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ZX80
Also had that on pretty much all other 8 bit computers like Atari, TI and Commodore.
Had an Atari 1010 tape drive with my 600XL at first. Loading games took forever (think 20+ minutes if I remember correctly) and would often fail, so I saved up for a floppy drive as quickly as I could.
 
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Uncle Al

Posts: 6,925   +5,212
Simple to dub to video or audio tape .... the same media, in fact "back in the day" we used to take the big 9" video tapes that were old and cut them down to 1/4" tape for our reel to reel units. The real trick is the interface and even a half way intelligent electrical tech can do that. Not mocking the achievement, just making it know that it's not as great a feat as you might imagine .... of course, now that Radio Shack is gone, finding all those little parts is a bit more of a challenge!!! LOL
 
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wiyosaya

Posts: 5,119   +3,208
Simple to dub to video or audio tape .... the same media, in fact "back in the day" we used to take the big 9" video tapes that were old and cut them down to 1/4" tape for our reel to reel units. The real trick is the interface and even a half way intelligent electrical tech can do that. Not mocking the achievement, just making it know that it's not as great a feat as you might imagine .... of course, now that Radio Shack is gone, finding all those little parts is a bit more of a challenge!!! LOL
Digi-Key, Newark, and a few others are your friends not to mention being able to find stuff at both of those places that Radio Shack never even dreamt of. :)
 

wiyosaya

Posts: 5,119   +3,208
Also had that on pretty much all other 8 bit computers like Atari, TI and Commodore.
Had an Atari 1010 tape drive with my 600XL at first. Loading games took forever (think 20+ minutes if I remember correctly) and would often fail, so I saved up for a floppy drive as quickly as I could.
Never owned an Atari, TI, or Commodore - could not have afforded them, but the $99 ZX-80, that was a different story. It was in kit form.

The failing part reminds me of the Sinclair QL - which had built-in tape-based microdrives. The tapes could be read in one pass; however, the built-in firmware took many passes to read the tapes - thus wearing them out in the process. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sinclair_ql
 

Thrackerzod

Posts: 74   +66
Also had that on pretty much all other 8 bit computers like Atari, TI and Commodore.
Had an Atari 1010 tape drive with my 600XL at first. Loading games took forever (think 20+ minutes if I remember correctly) and would often fail, so I saved up for a floppy drive as quickly as I could.
The Coleco Adam computer had two built in cassette tape drives for data storage, but it had a serious flaw where turning it on created an electromagnetic pulse that erased any tapes that were in the unit. :laughing:

I still have an Atari 1010 tape drive but I never used it much since as you said it takes forever to save or load anything and it was kind of unreliable. I have the 1050 floppy drive for my 1200XL computer and it still works great. Cassettes never really took off for computers in the US but I understand they were pretty much the standard in Europe.
 

hojnikb

Posts: 35   +2
I wonder what kind of data density you would be able to extract from a audio cassete if you used a different head design for maximum density and modern signal processing...
 
Yeah well he figured it out more than 30 years after it was done originally. Why do millenials think they come up with everything?
 
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I used to work for the company that developed the hard drive to VHS tape backup. The company was Alpha Microsystems and the product was called VideoTrax. The tape could hold a few hundred megabytes (depending on tape size and record speed) it had a directory, could access individual files for restore, made use of FF and Rewind to quickly access files and was more reliabe than the hard drives it was backing up by a factor of 10. We sold a lot of them. Since the data was stored as an NTSC video signal, it could also be broadcast as a method of updating software or data on a nationwide basis. It was used by several large companies to update their retail locations. (A few minutes of rented time on a TV satellite is a lot cheaper than a digital data satellite feed.)

I still have several of them at home as mementos.

All of this was about 1980 or 81. (It's been a long time ago.)

Just some fun background.
 
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Irata

Posts: 512   +628
TechSpot Elite
Never owned an Atari, TI, or Commodore - could not have afforded them, but the $99 ZX-80, that was a different story. It was in kit form.

The failing part reminds me of the Sinclair QL - which had built-in tape-based microdrives. The tapes could be read in one pass; however, the built-in firmware took many passes to read the tapes - thus wearing them out in the process. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sinclair_ql
For some reason I always wanted a ZX-81. I know it was low endish even when new but there is something about the shape that always made me want one. Should check out ebay - did get some old hardware that I always wanted but could not afford as a kid like the Atari 400 or Matell Aquarius. Still need a Ti 99 4A and - the ultimate dream computer back then - Coleco Adam. Don‘t think it was ever released officially in Europe.
 

wiyosaya

Posts: 5,119   +3,208
For some reason I always wanted a ZX-81. I know it was low endish even when new but there is something about the shape that always made me want one. Should check out ebay - did get some old hardware that I always wanted but could not afford as a kid like the Atari 400 or Matell Aquarius. Still need a Ti 99 4A and - the ultimate dream computer back then - Coleco Adam. Don‘t think it was ever released officially in Europe.
I thought they were pretty cool. They gave me some basic computer knowledge that lead to my first software engineering position. The ZX-80, which I had, could be converted into a ZX-81 through a kit - which I bought and added.

The one thing that I really did not think of was that the cassette interface on both the ZX-80 and the ZX-81 was made to work with a standard cassette recorder/player. No special hardware needed. My mother had several, and I was able to use one of hers to save/load programs. IIRC, it worked pretty well.
 

Wizwill

Posts: 119   +56
Way back when, I had a 100 MB internal SCSI zip drive. I once loaded a copy of Windows for Work groups on a 100 MB Zip disk disk along with graphics and sound drivers and CD drivers. Because it was SCSI, it would boot from the Bios and ran my desktop perfectly. Not very practical but as a tech I thought it was pretty neat!

I currently have a copy of Nuance 15.3 Pro running on a surface 3 with 2 gigs of RAM. It dictates into Word 365 perfectly albeit a bit slowly.

I've been a hot rodder since I was a pre-teen. We delight in creating new technical bumblebees. If somebody says it can't be done, that's reason enough for doing
 
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hk2000

Posts: 120   +65
TechSpot Elite
I don't know, that's a lot of hassle to find a place to store data "where nobody would ever think to look for it." I'm sure there are easier, more readily available and less expensive ways to hide data!