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The Casio ROM
Pack system was a
of storing music
information, rather like modern-day MIDI files,
small, interchangable “cassettes” which plugged into a Casio keyboard,
like you might plug in a Flash memory card today.
The format first
appeared in 1983, and is similar in many respects to the Yamaha Playcard system, which
around the same time. Casio made a number of keyboard
models throughout the 1980s and early 1990s that accepted ROM Packs.
As well as just
listening to the music, ROM Pack keyboards had various training modes
to teach you to play the tunes, most using flashing LEDs above each key
to guide you - the precursor to the modern Key Lighting feature.
were read-only – you could buy various ROM packs with various tunes
but you could not record your own data to the packs. Casio
a writable equivalent – the “RAM Pack” – but very few keyboard models
supported the writable packs (in fact, the PT-50
is the only one I know of), and the packs themselves are
Thanks to a
hand-written note on the back of a PT-82 manual I recently acquired, I
now know that ROM packs retailed for £7.95 each at Cliff Owen Music in Seven
Kings (a shop which still exists at the time of writing) in around
support ROM Packs?
Casio keyboard models
support ROM Packs: PT-8, PT-50,
PT-80, PT-82, PT-87, PT-88, PT-180,
PT-480, PT-580, PT-680
MT-88, MT-800, MT-820, CT-800, CT-805,
SK-8, SK-8A. One source suggests that models PT-40 and PT-55 also support ROM Packs, but I can find no references to these keyboards anywhere - did they exist?
The Casio DH-280
Digital Horns (Wind Synthesizers)
was never licensed to any other manufacturer, but some ROM
Pack keyboards were sold under the Realistic
Concertmate brand in Tandy (UK) and Radio Shack (US) shops, but
these were simply rebadged Casio models.
I was recently informed that a company called Liwaco
(chiefly known for making hand-held LCD electronic games) also sold
re-badged Casio keyboards in France, and possibly elsewhere as well. A number of these Liwaco clones were ROM
Pack-compatible, and it appears that the ROM Packs themselves supplied
with them were also rebranded as "Liwaco
ROM," with a very different label design from Casio-branded
ROMs. See this
Other manufacturers may also have cloned ROM Pack keyboards. The
Russian company Electronica
cloned the Casio VL-1, naming it the IM-46, so
it seems likely they would have cloned other models as well, and there
could be many others.
What ROM Packs
have created a List of Known Casio ROM
sources, some reliable, others not.
It's almost certainly not complete, and probably isn't very accurate,
but it gives an idea of the sort of music that was available on ROM
and seems to
the one Casio supplied with most of their ROM pack-compatible
keyboards, so there
are plenty of these around. Other ROM packs are actually quite scarce,
and usually only appear on eBay when bundled with a keyboard.
What does the
music sound like?
models render the ROM Pack music differently, but there are some audio
examples on the List of Casio ROM Packs.
What's inside a
couple of capacitors and a
contact strip. Most of the Pack is empty space. I think the pack was
probably designed to be this size so that Casio could fit all the stuff
required for the writable RAM Pack into the same package. The writable
packs didn't seem to catch on, so we're left with a ROM Pack that could
be roughly a quarter of the size it is. Of course, the marketing
department probably had a large say in the dimensions as well.
see for yourself (click the image for a high-resolution
IC, but other packs may contain
different ICs - I opened an RO-261 and found an OKI M5268. The PCB was
also much thinner, but otherwise identical.
I have not been able to find data
sheets for either of these ICs, and
the only information I can find on the system is in the SK-8 Service
Manual, and is very sketchy and leaves a lot of questions unanswered.
Please let me know
if you can help.