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As well as the Casio ROM Pack and Yamaha Playcard formats, some
other proprietary software media formats were used from the 1980s
to the 1990s, before standard 3.5" disk drives replaced them.
Casio MS Memory (Bar Codes)
Keyboard models: MT-70, VL-5
Format current: Early
"MS Memory" is the rather grand name assigned to a bar code system
used on Casio keyboards prior to the introduction of ROM Packs.
Songbooks containing pages of long bar codes (dubbed "Bar Code
Scores") could be purchased, which were scanned into the
keyboard's memory using the wand that came with the keyboard.
It was necessary to scan several pages of bar codes to program the
pitch, length and chord information for the song, which was
apparently quite time-consuming, and resulted in a disappointingly
short, monophonic melody (with auto accompaniment if your keyboard
supported it - some didn't!).
The Melody Guide training system for the MS Memory music was
apparently very similar to the later systems, employing lights
above each key to indicate which notes to play.
Only a handful of Casio keyboards supported the bar code system,
which was quickly replaced by the vastly superior ROM Pack system. The MT-70 is probably
the one to look for, as it supports auto accompaniment with MS
Yamaha Music Cartridge (PSR Range)
Keyboard models: PSR-320, PSR-420,
PSR-520, PSR-620, PSR-330, PSR-530
Format current: 1995 to
The Music Cartridge system was introduced in 1995 on some
entry-level and mid-range Yamaha keyboards.
The cartridges themselves resemble game cartridges for early games
consoles, and fit into a slot on the top of the keyboard in a
Two types of cartridge were available: Song cartridges and Style
cartridges. While physically identical, Song cartridges contained
(usually six) fully-arranged songs, while Style cartridges
contained additional styles to add to the keyboard's built-in
style library, apparently with more complex arrangements and
variations than the built-in styles.
Music Cartridge tunes are rich, multi-channel arrangements, rather
like MIDI files. The guide modes supported are more sophisticated
than earlier systems and more akin to current training systems,
but the training facilities available vary by keyboard model.
Surprisingly, and somewhat disappointingly, on my PSR-330
keyboard, it does not appear to be possible to re-voice Music
Cartridge music, although the individual channels can be muted. So
you are stuck with the voice assignments programmed on the
Cartridge. This is strange, since the keyboard's
built-in demo songs can be
re-voiced. I am not sure if other keyboard
models support re-voicing Music Cartridge music.
The Music Cartridge system appeared during a period of transition,
as standard disk drives were starting to appear on cheaper home
keyboard models. In fact, the PSR-620 from 1995 has both a Music
Cartridge slot and a disk drive.
Only six keyboard models are known to support Music Cartridges:
the PSR-320, PSR-420, PSR-520 and PSR-620, all launched in 1995,
and the PSR-330 and PSR-530, launched in 1997. The contemporary
PSR-630 and PSR-730 had only disk drives, and the Music Cartridge
system was abandoned completely on later ranges.
ROM Music Book
Keyboard models: Some Clavinova
and Electone models
Format current: Mid to
I can find very little information about this system which was
used on some Clavinova digital
pianos and Electone electronic
The ROM Music Book itself consisted of a normal-looking music book
with a ROM chip and edge connector embedded in the back cover. The
book was located on the instrument's music stand, with the ROM
connector slotted into a socket on the top of the instrument.
According to the Manual for the MR-700 organ, the ROM chip
contains the usual type of data: programmed melody voices, voices
for lower keyboard and pedals, an Obbligato channel, rhythm
patterns and chords. Tempo, effects, arpeggio and balance are also
Each ROM Music Book probably contained six songs. The one that
came with the MR-700 apparently contained: Little Brown Jug, Spring Song, Edelweiss, I Could Have Danced All Night,
Loves Old Sweet Song and
There are also training modes with guide lamps, apparently very
similar to Playcard training modes.
Interestingly, there was also a writable version, named the "RAM
Music Notebook" with each Notebook able to store only one song.
This excerpt from a Yamaha
Clavinova Demonstration Tape (MP3, 10MB) gives an example of
what ROM Music Book music sounds like on a Clavinova CVP7.
Music Cartridge (TYU-30)
Keyboard models: TYU-30
Format current: 1986
The Music Cartridge system found on the Yamaha
TYU-30 keyboard should not be confused with the
identically-named system described above. The two systems are
completely different and incompatible with one another.
While the two Music Cartridges supplied with the TYU-30 really do
contain a ROM holding the music data, to the best of my knowledge
no additional Music Cartridges were ever available separately. I
would therefore classify this as a "fake" system, rather like the
Music Card system (below).
For more details, see the Yamaha TYU-30
Music Card (TYU-40)
Keyboard models: TYU-40
Format current: 1986
This system appears only on the Yamaha
TYU-40 keyboard, and isn't really a storage media format at
all. The three Music Cards supplied with the keyboard are simply
dummies, with small spikes on the underside which push against
sensors in the keyboard to select a different range of tunes from
the set stored in the keyboard's ROM. It is therefore impossible
to expand the library of available songs by purchasing additional
For more details, see the Yamaha TYU-40
Keyboard models: Casio PT-30,
PT-50, KX-101 (possibly other Casios?),
Amstrad CKX100, some Yamaha Clavinova and Electone
Format current: Early to
At least three Casio models, the PT-30, PT-50 and KX-101, allowed
saving of sequencer memory contents onto standard audio tape, much
like many home computer systems of the time. The PT-30 and PT-50
required an optional TA-1 tape recorder interface to be installed
in a compartment on the underside of the keyboard, and connected
to any standard audio tape recorder. The KX-101 was a combined
keyboard and stereo radio-cassette deck, and used its built-in
cassette recorder to save sequencer data.
While these could save and load your own compositions, I am fairly
sure it was not possible to purchase tapes containing pre-recorded
music data, so this system probably doesn't technically qualify
for inclusion in this list - but it's interesting, so I thought it
was worthy of a mention.
In the case of the PT-50, it is possible to transfer ROM Pack data
onto tape by first loading from the ROM Pack into the PT-50's
sequencer memory, and then saving this to tape. The saved data
includes the Obbligato channel (even though this is not normally
user-programmable), so the ROM Pack music is reproduced perfectly
when reloaded from tape.
Tapes saved by a PT-50 cannot be loaded into a PT-30, nor
vice-versa - the data format is different.
The Amstrad CKX100 can also save and load its sequencer data
to/from tape via the "Data" jack on the back. Again, I do not know
if it was possible to purchase tapes containing pre-recorded music
data, but this seems unlikely.
As the price of
3.5" disk drives became cheaper, these replaced proprietary media
formats for most manufacturers. The disks normally contain
standard MIDI or sample data, but this may be stored in
proprietary formats, so it cannot be assumed that disks are
interchangable between manufacturers.
Like disk drives on desktop computers, disk drives are considered
obsolete on keyboards and have now largely been replaced by
CD/DVD-ROM drives or Flash Card readers, but some current models
still support 3.5" disks. Most keyboards now also have USB
connectivity for data transfer, and some even contain hard disk
Do you know of any other formats I've not covered? If so, let me know!