Jordt Bartolome's DrivePACK Is a Smart, Highly-Flexible Replacement for Casio Keyboards' ROM PACKs

Designed for Casio keyboards from the '80s and '90s, the drivePACK lets you emulate add-on cartridges — or create your own.

Gareth Halfacree
2 months agoRetro Tech / Music / HW101

Music technologist Jordt Bartolome has built a tool to greatly expand the usability of Casio keyboards from the '80s and '90s, standing in for the now hard-to-find official ROM PACK accessories: the drivePACK.

"ROM PACK cartridges are a type of memory cartridges used by some Casio music keyboards from the 80s and early 90s," Bartolome explains. "These cartridges contain melody programs that can be played on CASIO ROM PACK compatible music keyboards (they have a special slot for them usually in the top right corner). A single cartridge may contain multiple melodies, which the user can select by pressing one of the piano keys to play or practice them in different ways on the keyboard, depending on whether the 'auto play,' or 'melody guide' mode is selected."

If you've a ROM PACK compatible Casio keyboard gathering dust, here's something to give it a new life: the drivePACK. (📹: Jordt Bartolome)

While Casio ROM PACKs were once a common sight in music stores throughout the world, they're now scarce — which is where the drivePACK comes in. "With the drivePACK," Bartolome explains, "you will be able to play on your CASIO keyboards with ROM PACK support all the ROM PACK cartridges that ever existed."

The drivePACK is a two-part device, connected by a ribbon cable. The first part is the stand-in for a ROM PACK cartridge, designed to slide into the keyboard's ROM PACK expansion slot; the second is a control panel that lets the user select from ROM PACK images, in DRP and BIN formats, stored on a SD card. The device can also dump real ROM PACK cartridges to images, receive ROM PACK data from a computer over USB, and even comes with editor software to create new ROM PACK images, its creator says.

"The firmware of the drivePACK has been developed in C and Arm assembly language using [the] Microchip Studio environment and the Atmel-ICE programmer," Bartolome says of the device's creation. "C has been used in most part of the code, and Arm assembly only in the parts that require precise timings and high-speed response to grant the maximum performance and minimum latencies.

"This applies to routines that emulate the cartridge and require fast read and write operations on the data/addresses bus. This could have been ideally done with a CPLD [Complex Programmable Logic Device] or small FPGA [Field-Programmable Gate Array] but it would have increased the complexity and cost of the PCB."

The drivePACK is now available on Bartolome's Tindie store for $140; additional information can be found on the maker's website.

Gareth Halfacree
Freelance journalist, technical author, hacker, tinkerer, erstwhile sysadmin. For hire:
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