Commodore Datasette

Published: October 26, 2021
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With disk drives being expensive, Commodore needed a cheap data recorder so it's customers, whether schools or home users, could buy and store their own software. The result is one of the slowest data transmission machines ever made. The Commodore Datasette 1530 (C2N) is Commodore's dedicated magnetic tape data storage machine. Using regular cassette tapes as the storage medium, it provides cheap storage to Commodore's home computers including the C64, PET, and VIC-20. It's a simple to use and a popular storage device amongst beginners. While datassettes are cheaper than a disk drive, the data transfer is extremely slow, around 60 to 70 bytes per second only. Higher transfer rates (up to ten times more) can be achieved with fast loaders. The Commdore Datasette interfaced with every 8-bit Commodore computer using a special port intended for that purpose.

commodore datasette 1530

The beauty is that these data recorders accept standard cassette tapes. They encode the data using digital tones, which sounded like high pitched squeels when listened to on a normal cassette deck. Because of its digital format the Datasette is both more reliable than other cassette data storage systems. Unfortunately, it's very slow, transferring data at around 50 bytes per second. After the Datasette's launch, however, special turbo tape software appeared, providing much faster tape processing (loading and saving). Such software was integrated into most commercial pre-recorded applications (mostly games), as well as being available separately for loading and saving the users' homemade programs and data. These programs were only widely used in Europe, as the US market had long since moved onto disks.

Confusingly, the Datassette at various times was sold both as the C2N DATASETTE UNIT Model 1530 and as the 1530 DATASSETTE UNIT Model C2N. Note the difference in spelling (one S versus two) used on the original product packaging.

Commodore 1531

The Commodore Datassette 1531 (Commodore VIC-1531, VC-1531 in Germany) was developed for use with the Commodore home computers C16, C116 and Plus/4. The only functional difference between the 1531 and the more common 1530 is the connector. The 1531 has a 7-pin mini-DIN-round pin plug. It is not possible to connect these datasettes to the home computers C64, C128 or VIC-20 without the use of a special adaptor.

Datasettes can typically store about 100 kB per 30 minute side. The use of turbo tape and other fast loaders increased this number to roughly 1000 kB.

Datasette documents

Instructions & manuals

Looking for the instructions?
Download here the Datasette manual (PDF).

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Commodore Datasette value and price guide

What's your Commodore Datasette worth in 2021? Here are some recently sold items with prices.

Item Title Date Price
Commodore Commodore VIC 20 Computer Commodore VIC 20 Computer Bundle Job X 3 09/2021 $ 343.39
Commodore Super Commodore AMIGA 500 Plus Super Commodore AMIGA 500 Plus C64 Sky 10/2021 $ 277.75
Commodore COMMODORE 64 DISK DRIVE 1541 COMMODORE 64 DISK DRIVE 1541 1530 09/2021 $ 265.35
no pictureSee all sold items on eBay for more prices12/2021-.--

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