AX-80 O.S. hacking co-op?

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Rasputin
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Re: AX-80 O.S. hacking co-op?

Post by Rasputin » Wed Sep 14, 2016 8:23 pm

Good news: MIDI SysEx out is now working and seems stable.

Bad news: MIDI SysEx in is still doing nothing productive, we still have no patch editor for tape dumps, and I still only have access to the Revision K ROM. <ahem, hint hint>

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Re: AX-80 O.S. hacking co-op?

Post by Rasputin » Wed Sep 21, 2016 12:08 am

tim_m wrote:I had always assumed that David Cockerell had something to do with the AX80, but it looks like you may be looking for 'Tamaki San'.
Long shot, but it seems that Toshio Tamaki has an Etsy page and a Twitter: https://www.etsy.com/people/toshio, https://twitter.com/september3030

Anyone know him or think this gentleman is our AX80 engineer? He seems to be the correct age, as he should have been 35 when Akai was started, so he'd be 72 now.

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Re: AX-80 O.S. hacking co-op?

Post by madtheory » Fri Sep 23, 2016 9:49 am

Long shot, as in, that guy's a photographer? So wrong Tamaki San?

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Re: AX-80 O.S. hacking co-op?

Post by Rasputin » Sat Sep 24, 2016 4:35 am

madtheory wrote:Long shot, as in, that guy's a photographer? So wrong Tamaki San?
Yeah, there's that. But everyone has a hobby, especially if you're of retirement age. I don't know that former Akai engineer/exec is mutually exclusive with having some of your artwork in a photo gallery, but I clearly agree with your reservations.

Then again, even if it really is him, perhaps it's best to not pester him. I don't know if there's really any reason to anyway, at this point. It would mostly just be a curiosity as, in my opinion, everything needed to hack the AX80 is out there already. Still would be interesting to have the inside scoop or some interesting tidbits, anecdotes, etc.

I've already got the great majority of the firmware dissected and annotated. I've been considering making my discoveries public for posterity's sake, but probably not until I at least get SysEx in working as there's just too much in my notes to clean up and so forth. Not to mention some Swiss cheese holes in my understanding.

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Re: AX-80 O.S. hacking co-op?

Post by madtheory » Sat Sep 24, 2016 10:00 am

I hear ya. The problem is that our patent and copyright laws are geared towards protection and profit. Once the profit dries up, the IP generally gets lost, forgotten about, dumped. No-one cares, unless there's profit in it. This almost happened even to Bob Moog's archive, and the BBC Radiophonics Workshop tapes. The VCZ plugin had to be reverse engineered, because there are so many barriers to Casio sharing that IP (they brought out their own, rather limited, iPad app version). A bunch of Roland synths have been successfully reverse engineered, and there are some great OS upgrades out there now. But Roland contributed nothing whatsoever.

So because the engineering team would have signed over the IP to their employer, we'd rely purely on their memory (unless the kept all the documentation, risking getting fired) which is totally unreliable. There are rare occasions where it's been so long that the company no longer exists, so de minimis non curat lex. I can't think of any example of that in the synth world though. Maybe the Synclavier plugin?

The other issue is that, this is a tiny niche, so unless it's a REALLY popular synth, it's a labour of love. My favourite example is the Yamaha TX16W Typhoon OS. They pretty much made the best OS of any sampler ever, easily as good as the Prophet 3000. No-one cares about it any more. NI Kontakt could learn a few things from those two machines though!!

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Re: AX-80 O.S. hacking co-op?

Post by Rasputin » Sat Sep 24, 2016 3:14 pm

Well, I personally prefer the labor of love approach. If there's any serious money to be had at anything then there's the inevitable rat race that comes with it, but otherwise it might have a chance to stay pure.

As for updates on the AX80 scene: I'm hoping to have SysEx fully working by the end of the week. Depends how lucky I am and how happy I can stay. On projects like these, morale and enthusiasm are make-or-break.

And yeah, I enjoy my old Casio CZ and Yamaha TX16W as well. The TX16W with Typhoon is pretty flawless, but I wish someone could identify a quieter headphone amp for the CZ series. But now I'm digressing.

I guess the point is, this community is pretty much on its own. If we love this old stuff enough to keep it alive then we've got to put in the work.

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Re: AX-80 O.S. hacking co-op?

Post by tim_m » Sun Sep 25, 2016 3:23 am

Rasputin wrote:
tim_m wrote:I had always assumed that David Cockerell had something to do with the AX80, but it looks like you may be looking for 'Tamaki San'.
Long shot, but it seems that Toshio Tamaki has an Etsy page and a Twitter: https://www.etsy.com/people/toshio, https://twitter.com/september3030

Anyone know him or think this gentleman is our AX80 engineer? He seems to be the correct age, as he should have been 35 when Akai was started, so he'd be 72 now.
I don't know. The link I had originally posted is dead, but the info lives on at archive.org here.

I really admire what you are doing, Rasputin. I wish I had more time to commit to this these days. (I've had two kids, moved cities, got an intense job, etc. since I started posting in this thread!) All of my DIY is on hold at the moment.

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Re: AX-80 O.S. hacking co-op?

Post by Rasputin » Sat Oct 01, 2016 2:19 pm

A few things ranked in order of importance:

We (okay, I) need a SysEx editor to be made, whether that's a custom Ctrlr panel or MidiQuest hack, etc. doesn't particularly matter to me. Given that Ctrlr is freely available, perhaps that's preferable. But heck, why stop at one?

Does anyone here burn their own EPROMs, have access to an AX80, and want to be a beta tester?

Does anyone have an AX80 with a ROM that is NOT revision 'K'?

An editor for tape dumps is also still desirable to me. I have programmed the decoder/encoder already, so we only need something to easily change the parameter values and copy/paste from patch to patch.

In other words, I made my deadline of the end of the week and MIDI SysEx patch transfer in/out is now available for the AX80. Well... so far as I can tell anyway. It all seems to work, but that's why I need someone to methodically test stuff to make sure I didn't accidentally break some other function.

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Re: AX-80 O.S. hacking co-op?

Post by tim_m » Wed Oct 05, 2016 8:51 pm

Sorry, I don't have access to an EPROM burner presently, and my AX80 is a Rev K.

I *think* the Rev K's are the ones with the shiny wooden side pieces, and the other revision are the ones with the tolex looking side pieces.

When you say that you've programmed a decoder/encoder, do you mean a desktop app? An editor for tape dumps is desirable for me as well for both my AX80 and Juno-60.

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Re: AX-80 O.S. hacking co-op?

Post by commodorejohn » Wed Oct 05, 2016 10:32 pm

I don't have an AX80, but I do have an EEPROM burner, and I can get people ROMs if they provide me with the part and the image file.
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Re: AX-80 O.S. hacking co-op?

Post by Rasputin » Thu Oct 06, 2016 12:10 am

tim_m wrote:When you say that you've programmed a decoder/encoder, do you mean a desktop app? An editor for tape dumps is desirable for me as well for both my AX80 and Juno-60.
It's currently a command line program working under Windows. Input a correct WAVE file, get a binary. Input a correct binary, get a WAVE file. Editing the binaries after decode is an exercise left in the user's hands at this point.

The utilities might work with the AX60 as well, but I don't have one and haven't bothered to attempt to find out.

I'm getting rather bored of this project, so in the near future I might just post what I've got so far and let everyone else worry about how usable it is or isn't.

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Re: AX-80 O.S. hacking co-op?

Post by tim_m » Thu Oct 06, 2016 4:34 am

Interesting. Would this program work for any WAVE file from a tape dump of a synth, like say a SH-101, or is the binary it outputs AX80 specific? I work largely on Macs, but I imagine that I could recompile your code to work on a Mac. I've haven't worked with Ctrlr yet.

I understand why you'd get bored. I wish I could be more help. I probably could help once I get a little further from the infant/newborn phase (ie. little sleep), but for now I can't do much.

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Re: AX-80 O.S. hacking co-op?

Post by Rasputin » Thu Oct 06, 2016 7:35 am

It likely works exclusively for the AX80. Like I said before, it might work for the AX60 too since it's the same era and company, but the AX80 tape out protocol is actually super weird so I would be really surprised if it works on anything non-Akai '84-86 era.

And yeah, it shouldn't be all that hard to port, but there are so many options like WINE, Bootcamp, VMs, etc. that it's pretty low priority... at least as far as I'm concerned.

Here are the tools to encode/decode FSK (tape in/out) audio from the Akai AX80 into binary patch data and vice-versa:

Just run the corresponding batch file to encode/decode. How it works should be pretty obvious, and I believe I included all the needed library files, etc. with it.

I might post the SysEx firmware in a couple days. Depends if I'm ambitious enough to add further SysEx handling or if I decide to just call the barebones implementation good enough.

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Re: AX-80 O.S. hacking co-op?

Post by pouncey » Fri Oct 07, 2016 6:22 pm

If a decent amount of Sysex support in firmware is created then making the midiquest editor for it shouldn't be difficult. I'm certainly more interested in that at the moment than the business with the tape out.

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Re: AX-80 O.S. hacking co-op?

Post by Rasputin » Fri Oct 07, 2016 7:35 pm

What's a decent amount?

And are you volunteering?

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