Cute32 Technical info

Cute32 is:

A fully featured tool that allows archival and replay of all tapes designed for CBM 8-bits machines (Commodore 64, VIC-20, PET, Plus4, C16 etc.)
CUTE32 is able to completely and accurately emulate a Commodore Tape recorder C2N 1530-1531 in all of its functionalities but, unlike the original tape recorder CUTE32 takes advantage of digital file storage on Micro SD cards to archive the original magnetic tape content. This prevents data losses due to wear-and-tear that are very common when using cassette tapes to store digital information. CUTE32 comes in a high-quality box that reproduces (smaller scale) an original Commodore Tape recorder.

These are the most relevant features:

  • CUTE32 converts the content of the cassettes in a proprietary high resolution file format (HTAP). HTAP files have a self-validation mechanism (AuthentiTAPE technology) allowing to make sure the file is not manually altered. This allows to make sure it will always be possible to distinguish between the orginal files and any altered copy. HTAP File format, differently from what happens with the regular TAP files, stores all the information necessary for the preservation of the original signal stored on the cassettes. HTAP file format can be then easily converted to any of the popular formats used on the emulators (TAP V0, TAP V1, TAP V2, WAV etc.)
  • Specifications of HTAP file format have been made public to allow third parties to implement tools that will work directly on these files and/or to allow to implement the compatibility of the existing tools/emulators with these files.
  • Remote console tool running on Windows PC’s able to use all of CUTE32 card features controlling it via a Wi-Fi link
  • CUTE32 comes with an OLED display and a keyboard so it can be used completely in standalone without a PC
  • The remote tool is able to control multiple CUTE32 cards at a time
  • It’s possible to connect to the card using a Wi-Fi direct point-to-point connection or using home Wi-Fi network
  • Files can be exchanged between the CUTE32 and the PC by using Wi-Fi link
  • Console Application allows to catalog the full content of multiple SD-cards allowing to search for the required file in one or multiple SD-cards at a time. The search can be carried out also on the content of tape compilations and at the end of the search it’s possible to “reveal” the location of one of the found files by just double clicking it.
    Doing so will position the main window directly on that directory/that file and, if applicable, to the correct position inside the tape where a particular program starts
  • Both Application and CUTE32 card have direct update detection and fully automated update process execution from manosoft main site. Updates can be carried out also manually if desired.
  • Currently the console application runs on Windows PC’s (Win XP or better) but since the communication between the application and the CUTE32 card is via TCP/IP the development of other applications (also on mobile devices) should be extremely simple
  • The card implements anti-counterfeit technologies and this allows to avoid others to produce clones thus preventing card value losses. Even serial number and manufacturing date are protected from tampering and are displayed though a dedicated “About” function directly on the display of the device.
  • The CUTE32 card can be used in stand-alone mode retaining almost all the features it has when working in conjunction with the remote console
  • Persistent configuration based on both Micro SD Card and non-volatile internal storage
  • Wide compatibility with Micro SD cards on the market even with the most recent fast micro SD and SDXC (High capacity) formats
  • Hot-swap functionality that allows to remove-reinsert the SD card without having to reboot CUTE32 in the vast majority of the situations
  • Real Time Clock with support for Time Zones and automatic synchronization (PC or internet). This way the date/time of files created with the card is always correct
  • Bullet-Proof Firmware update with CRC validation of the content to avoid corruption
  • Zero-assumptions Recovery boot firmware that allows to recover from any Firmware-Update-related damage that could have bricked the card
  • Fully digital Buzzer volume setup (logarithmic) that can be made when working in stand alone but can also be controlled from remote (even when the content of a tape file is being played back)
  • Accurate FFWD emulation that allows to use any “FFWD menu” based tape and access each of the programs in the tape quickly without having to load all the preceiding ones
  • Full emulation of tape counter (Absolute and relative) that allows to load tapes asking to reset the counter and the to rewind to 0. Positioning is very reliable and rewind to zero can be either manual (REW) or with an instant-execution functionality.
  • The two preceiding functionalities, together with the emulation logic of the card, are allowing to load ANY kind of tape based program, multi-load, FFWD menu based, multi side, multi tape, based on counter reset or based on positioning to a specific counter. We didn’t find yet a program that cannot be loaded.
  • Tape player on CUTE32 is compatible with the popular formats TAP V0, V1 e V2 – DMP V0 e V1 and also, of course, with its HTAP V0 properietary format. Positioning features described above are available on atpe files of all listed formats.
  • CUTE32 supports tape accurate tape player emulation for all CBM 8-bit line Computers (PET emulated as VIC-20) taking into account also the different between PAL and NTSC standard CBM computer belongs to
  • The card has a progress bar that allows, during replay, to understand at a glance where the replay of tape is taking place and proportionally how much time is remaining
  • Time and Grabbing mode (CBM Computer type/TV Standard) are displayed on the display when the content of a tape is being grabbed to a digital file.
  • To master tapes and to grab tape content the card can be connected to an original C2N (1530-1531) Tape recorder. Other tape recorders might be used with a proper commodore flat 6-poles adapter. The recorder can be used fully in transparent passthrough mode with CBM computer without having to remove the card.
  • CUTE32 has a mini-din socket on the back that allows to connect it to a CBM computer of 264 series through a crossed Mini-DIN cable or to a CBM classic computer (such as C64, VIC-20 etc) using a mini-DIN to flat plug adapter. Both adapter can be supplied on request.
  • Azimuth justage visual functionality directly on the CUTE32 display that has two levels of precision
  • During Grabbing operations CUTE32 recognizes the content of the tape begin transformed into a digital file and display “FOUND: ..”
    as the CBM computer would do, This allows to quickly identiy the content being grabbed to file.
  • File being generated by the Grabbing operation can beautomatically named with the name of the first FOUND: item of the tape being grabbed
  • CUTE32 recognizes automatically all the programs contained in a compilation together with the number of tape turns where each of them starts. it is possible this way to jump instantly to the program of interest in a multi-program compilation single tape file
  • The tape turns counter is accurately emulated to match the one of an original CBM C2N tape recorder
  • It’s possible to manage directories containing a maximum of 500 items (files/sub dirs) each one with names even 63 characters long
  • Names of files/dir exceeding the width of the screen are smoothly scrolled when select to allow to read the entire name
  • Power supply is mixed-mode virtual-ground based so the card can be externally powered even when it’s connected to a CBM computer. This allows to power off CBM computer without being forced to power off CUTE32 card at the same time
  • It’s possible to record the digital signal from the C2N tape recorder connected on the back of the CUTE32 card as well as from the CBM computer the CUTE32 card is connected to (this allows to record on digital file the content of the tapes as well as the
    programs the end user creates on his CBM computer and the status of the games allowing to save it to tape)
  • Fully transparent pass-through that allows to use the C2N recorder connected on the back of the CUTE32 card with CBM computer CUTE32 card is connected to without having to remove the CUTE32 card.
  • Proprietary digital storage file format (.HTAP) that allows to grab/store the content of the tape with extreme precision (measurement precision 12ns, storage precision 0.5 us)
  • Playback of the files is executed with very high precision allowing to reproduce pulses that are only few microseconds wide with very low jitter. This allows to load successfully tape files that not even a PC based emulator can load.
  • Possibility to master tapes starting with any of the supported formats. A cassette mastered suing an .HTAP file is virtually hydentical to the one the HTAP file was created from
  • PCB has been professionally designed to reduce noise radiation and interferences. Impedance has been optimized to reduce signal deformation.
  • Components have been chosen specifically basing on their specifications for the function they’re called to support (for example OMRON buttons, Level shifter ICs etc.)
  • CUTE32 box has been designed with CAD/CAM and then “printed” using the very latest multi-jet 3D high resolution technologies. The box has a quality that is even better of the one of a moulded plastic box.
  • Tool available to convert HTAP file format (produced while grabbing with CUTE32 card) into any other standard tape CBM formats TAP V0,1,2 and even in WAV files with 192Khz maximum sampling rate

What CUTE32 is NOT:

  • An audio-oriented TAPE mastering/grabbing system. Audio methods are producing low quality results that would not be accetable in a preservation-oriented device
  • Despite CUTE32 is able to accurately grab any digital signal, even the one coming from non CBM machines, and even the export functionality could convert HTAP files (that are computer agnostic) into a WAV that would allow post-processing with utilites dedicated to other non-Commodore computers. The aforementioned functionalities will NOT be officially supported, even if from some tests we ran they seem to be working reliably.
  • CUTE32 is a tape-oriented system, as such it will not reproduce files that are not strictly tape images (such as RG, P00, T64 etc.) it’s anyway easy to convert these formats to .ATP (that is supported by CUTE32) suing publicly available utilities
  • CUTE32 is not the n-th solution to barely load a single-shot loading tape file to a CBM machine, based on a pre-built generic microprocessor card being attached as piggy-back onto a PCB with a handful of components