MOdulator DEModulator
November 27, 2018 7:31 AM   Subscribe

This sound brings me back... I did this in Poland in the second half of the 1980s! Mostly for the novelty of getting software from the radio, as I had all the games I wanted by (legally at that time and place) copying them from my friends. I can't remember what exactly they transmitted, some simple BASIC programs.
posted by hat_eater at 7:52 AM on November 27, 2018 [2 favorites]

In 2018 you can still download games to your Apple ]['s cassette port through the internet via audio files. It's pretty nifty, and it actually works. First it downloads a simple BASIC program, which contains a small machine language program, which downloads the next chunk via ROM routines, which gets decompressed, then optionally you have several stages of reading + decompressing data + formatting + writing to floppy disk. It's basically malware that does something you want.
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 8:03 AM on November 27, 2018 [2 favorites]

In 1980 we did this via cable TV.
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 8:31 AM on November 27, 2018 [1 favorite]

Sure beats the various bar code scanning hacks that magazines were publishing. The worst were the ones where you were supposed to type in a code listing, the bar code was simply a checksum to help detect typos.
posted by Nelson at 8:34 AM on November 27, 2018

We couldn't afford any sort of storage device for our first home computer (an Atari). Nelson's comment reminds me of the hours spent carefully typing programs from magazines and then pleading with parents to let the computer stay on a little longer. A few years later we upgraded to a Commodore 64 and were sure to pick up the floppy disk drive, which I think cost more than the computer. Managed to skip the whole tape storage thing.
posted by exogenous at 9:14 AM on November 27, 2018 [1 favorite]

exogenous, me too! Typing laboriously, while siblings whined that it was their turn to jam in a cartridge and play the Rat Shack knockoff of Space Invaders.

My typing skills in those days were not good enough to get much besides error messages, before my turn ended. And the parents were unsympathetic to objections about too short turns on the toy all the kids fought over. Sharing was the prime virtue.
posted by elizilla at 9:38 AM on November 27, 2018 [1 favorite]

R Tape Loading Error
posted by winterhill at 11:05 AM on November 27, 2018 [5 favorites]

A friend and I sent short programs to each other over CB in the very early 80s. It sorta worked sometimes; no error correction on the tape format and the noisiness of the bands meant you basically had to wait until after midnight... and as we were going to see each other at 9am in school the next day, it soon lost its thrill.
posted by Devonian at 12:33 PM on November 27, 2018 [4 favorites]

Rob Hagemans has done great work collecting the BASICODE archive, with audio and transcribed files. If you want to relive the experience (and annoy everyone within earshot) Minimodem transmits data via your soundcard.

There was one UK show that transmitted programmes with a flashing cursor on the screen that could be decoded with a simple photodiode circuit. I can't remember its name, though.
posted by scruss at 3:42 PM on November 27, 2018 [4 favorites]

I like this sort of thing! I started bookmarking this sort of thing, and called it "media abuse" when I couldn't find anything more apt. Some of my favorites:

* PaperBack: Backup data with a printer, and restore it with a scanner. "If you have a good laser printer with the 600 dpi resolution, you can save up to 500,000 bytes of uncompressed data on the single A4/Letter sheet." (previously on Mefi)
* back up to VHS tapes: Backer could store up to 5 gigabytes a tape, with a video sample.
* Dial-A-Cat: you can get cat photos over your cell phone, with a method that includes "hold the speaker of your phone up to the microphone of the device running the SSTV decoding software."
posted by Pronoiac at 11:10 PM on November 27, 2018 [7 favorites]

I started with tape on a Timex Sinclair-1000, the American version of the ZX81. Then I graduated to tape on a Commodore 64. I had a disk drive for a year or two, then it broke and I had to go back to cassette. Fortunately the Brits were still largely stuck on tape storage; I was able to buy Silent Service on cassette and, after waiting a couple weeks for delivery, enjoyed slow-loading sub simulator action.
posted by lhauser at 7:49 PM on November 28, 2018

There was one UK show that transmitted programmes with a flashing cursor on the screen that could be decoded with a simple photodiode circuit.

I remember this too. I think it may have been one of the BBC computer-literacy shows, but I can't remember anything more either and my Googling isn't turning up anything relevant other than a few passing references to "flashing square".
posted by We had a deal, Kyle at 11:42 PM on November 28, 2018 [3 favorites]

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