Comments on what the "correct" cassette deck is for the Apple-1

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Joined: Aug 3 2011
Posts: 33

I thought I'd just post this up... got an RQ-2102, which is cited in multiple places as Apple's recommended cassette player for the Apple-1... it isn't. It might work well, but it's pretty clearly not what Apple intended to use with it.

It's got a counter, which Apple specifically says their recommended deck didn't have. Oh, and Radio Museum estimates the RQ-2102 as having launched in 1994, which I could believe (that does not look like 1970s styling, and it's pushing it for 1980s).

I have a sneaking suspicion that the RQ-309DS that Apple recommended for use with the Apple II (in both the Mini Manual and the red book) is actually the one they recommended for the Apple-1, too, with a trick - some time in 1977, it appears that Panasonic may have changed the buttons on the RQ-309 family, from flat buttons, to dimpled buttons. (However, that may just be stylistic differences (combined with art differences in newspaper ads), especially between regional versions - I believe the RQ-309DS is the US market version.)

It doesn't have a counter (matches what Apple said in the ACI manual), it dates to about 1974, and there's ads all over the place in newspapers in the mid 1970s, advertising it for $35-40 - right in the under $40 range that Apple said.

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Joined: Sep 5 2009
Posts: 80
Re: Comments on what the "correct" cassette deck is for the ...

I am probably the source of suggesting the RQ-2102 as the cassette used for the Apple 1 and early Apple II's. It looked very similar to me to the ones we used at Apple in the early Apple II days. I didn't have a Panasonic recorder to use with my Apple 1 so I wasn't as familiar with the Panasonic's detailed appearance . I do remember that the first Apple II tape duplication system was a string of these recorders hooked up to record from a single Apple II. One of my first assignments at Apple was to find a studio in San Francisco to mass produce tapes.

I would observe, however, that the RQ-2102 seems to work better on the Apple 1 than the older Panasonic recorders, they look good and work pretty well.

Thanks for digging out the correct information about the recorders.

wsander

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Joined: Jun 5 2008
Posts: 380
Re: Comments on what the "correct" cassette deck is for the ...

A word of caution...

This comment is based on my experience with other vintage tape players and other belt drive equipment from that era, not the RQ309DS.

Though you probably can find an old RQ309DS on ebay or elsewhere - if you are actually going to use it - you may need to give it a complete, non-trivial overhaul. I think that there is a reason that I can not recall seeing a period tape recorder bundled with a vintage Apple 1 (or Apple 2 for that matter). The belts and rubber drive wheels don't age well, resulting in very poor performance after a couple of decades. Like you say, the RQ2102 has a counter - which is extremely helpful. In the 1976 catalog, Radio Shack lists the CTR-25, which had counter and might be a preferable, period choice, though I can't speak to reliability. However, based on my experience with a couple of slightly later CTR-39s, the belts and rubber drive wheels probably slip and the mechanism will need an non-trivial, expert, overhaul. I had two of the CTR-39s and threw one out, because I couldn't get it working properly. The remaining one mostly works, except for auto shut-off, because of slipping belts/rubber drive wheels. My 80's vintage stereo tape deck is in the same shape, even though I replaced the main drive belt.

If you operate your computer, you may find that a more recent production RQ2102 serves you far better than a vintage RQ-309DS.

regards,
Mike W.

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Joined: Aug 3 2011
Posts: 33
Re: Comments on what the "correct" cassette deck is for the ...

Personally, I'm fine with running an RQ-2102, because it's a unit that's known to work well with Apple's cassette interfaces, and is readily available new for low cost. And, I'm not a stickler about exactly matching date codes and all - I'm fine with the Unicorn component set for instance, even though it has some much newer components and uses machine pin sockets instead of the period TI sockets.

However, some people do want everything to be exactly period, and I figured they'd find this of interest, given the conflicting information out there. (I've also seen stuff showing Apple IIs with RQ-2102s being portrayed as period, and there's concrete documentation that the RQ-309DS is definitely the correct one for that, so this is relevant for Apple IIs as well.)