Waveterm Communication
Up Waveterm Keyboard Waveterm Serial Waveterm Communication


This is part 3 of the series "How to convert the Waveterm into a real computer."
Part 1, "Attaching a keyboard," can be found here.
Part 2, "Activating the serial interface", can be found here.

How do you convert a Waveterm into a real computer?

The hardware requirements for a real Waveterm computer have already been described in the previous two parts. The actions described here rely on a Waveterm that's connected to the PC over the keyboard connector as well as over the serial connector. If you haven't done that yet, do it NOW... you'll need it!

Attention: for now, this part and the previous one are limited to the Waveterm A and upgraded Waveterm B series based on an Eurocom II motherboard, as the later version of the Waveterm B unfortunately doesn't have a serial interface. I'm sorry, folks. Really.

Breaking the barriers

The Waveterm makes it unnecessarily difficult to exchange data with other devices. There are quite some barriers:

  • there are two kinds of Waveterms: older ones with 8" floppy disk drives and younger ones with 5 1/4" drives. Data transfer between the two types is impossible.
  • as the inclined reader already knows, the Waveterm A is based on the FLEX operating system. This has been invented before anybody could foresee the position the IBM PC would take... and uses a completely incompatible disk format. I haven't found a program yet that would allow me to write FLEX disks on my PC, apart from the fact that most today's PCs can't even read or write 256-byte sectors any more (tested... my older PCs can do it, my younger ones won't). At least it's already possible to read the disks into the PC (see my Waveterm Library on that).

Result: it is practically impossible to use today's communication possibilities, such as sound exchange via the Internet.

It was impossible. With the hardware add-ons already presented (with a value of approximately US$15, if you buy expensive parts... at computer junk part dealers it can be far cheaper), a null modem cable and the software described and presented here you can transfer files as well as complete disk images from and to the Waveterm.


Before we continue, please download the following file:

wttkit.exe (118KB)
Version 1.01

Don't panic, it's virus-free and doesn't send back any secret informations! Just  self-extracting archive... all files must be placed in the same directory. These are (in order of their appearance below):

  • wtainit.exe
  • save.low
  • ftkbd.cmd
  • terminal.cmd
  • xmodem.cmd
  • flex.wta

The next step is to format two disks on the Waveterm (for the daring adventurers one is enough) and to fill one of them with the Waveterm system - after all, we wouldn't want to ruin our original disk, would we? Ready? OK, let's go...

A quiet hour

First, connect (with Waveterm turned off!) the keyboard adapter cable to the PC's parallel port and to the keyboard connector on the Waveterm. Then, connect the two devices with the null modem cable.

Now, start the WTAINIT program on the PC. This is a DOS program that runs under DOS, Windows 3, 95, 98, ME (but not under NT/2000... sorry... create a DOS boot disk with the files above, they should fit on a 1.44MB disk without any problems). This is an expanded version of the keyboard simulation program already presented here.

Now you have to decide upon one of the following two equivalent methods to open up the Waveterm...

Method 1 - Quick And Dirty

Turn the Waveterm on WITHOUT an inserted System Diskette (if using a Waveterm B with Eurocom II motherboard, please boot it with the Reformat 68000 diskette to start the Waveterm A mode). The Monitor prompt should appear:


Now put the prepared System Diskette copy into the System drive. If the keyboard adapter cable works, you should now be able to boot the Waveterm by pressing the D key - this triggers a "Disk Boot" action in the monitor.

Directly after that (in the first two seconds or so) you must press CTRL+X - this interrupts the boot process (if you were too slow, the normal PAGE 0 should appear). After that, a slightly weird text should be visible on the Waveterm screen, like that:

>G ,YY)?

This means that FLEX has been loaded and that the Monitor has been reactivated. Now enter GCD03. Don't ask what that's supposed to do, just do it :-)
As a result, you should now see the FLEX prompt:

>G ,YY)?
>G CD03


Method 2 - Slow And Dirty

Turn on the Waveterm WITH an inserted System Diskette  (if using a Waveterm B with Eurocom II motherboard, please boot it with the Reformat 68000 diskette to start the Waveterm A mode, then insert the Waveterm A System Diskette). Wait, calm and relaxed, until PAGE 0 is displayed, then press Ctrl+F in WTAINIT, and then ESCAPE on the Waveterm's mini keyboard. When done, the expected PAGE 1 doesn't come up, but only a small "+"-Prompt and a blinking cursor... the PPG makers have implemented a small backdoor here that allowed them to exit from the application. If you don't like the deranged screen contents, you can press Ctrl+L and Return now to clear the screen.

Doors Wide Open

If you've made it this far, press F8 in WTAINIT. It will then tell you all the above stuff again and asks the question:
Is all set up correctly? <Y/N>
If you press Y now, you can relax and lean back now... with that, you've started a process that takes about 40 minutes. During this time, all necessary files are sent over the keyboard adapter cable that are absolutely necessary to allow file transfer over the serial interface later on. If you're using Windows, you can use that time to start and configure your favorite terminal emulation (for example, you can use the HyperTerminal software that should be included with Windows; it isn't important which program you use, it just has to be able to exchange files with the XMODEM protocol):

  • 9600 Baud (if you have set the switch settings like that)
  • 8 bit, No Parity
  • RTS/CTS Hardware Protocol

As soon as WTAINIT has done its work, you have all you need for a rudimentary file transfer on the Waveterm.


One of the transferred programs is called TERMINAL.CMD. Using this program you can put the Waveterm into "Terminal Mode" - the possibility to drive the Waveterm with a serial terminal is a basic capability that-s already implemented in the Monitor,  so the program's comparatively minute. Place the Waveterm into Terminal Mode now:


If all worked as planned and soldered, you shouldn't see any more changes on the Waveterm screen - but your terminal emulation should now show the FLEX Prompt +++. All other things can be done with the terminal emulation (which eases the process greatly if Waveterm and PC are placed at a greater distance).

Do you want a nearly complete FLEX environment? For that, the big file FLEX.WTA is part of the package... and that's what we'll now put on the prepared empty diskette.

For that, enter 


at the FLEX prompt now. XMODEM is a small program that can send or receive files and disk images. If you enter XMODEM without any parameters, it will tell you what they are. After haveing been started, it will prompt you to place a formatted disk into the right drive; when that's done, press Return and start sending the file FLEX.WTA in the terminal emulation. If you're in a really adventurous mood, you can remove the injured PPG system disk from the left drive and put it into the right drive.

This process takes about half an hour. As soon as it is finished, you'll find a relatively complete FLEX system diskette in the right drive that you can use instead of the normal PPG System disk at any time to exchange files and disk images between the Waveterm and your PC.

FLEX documentation can be found for free at the Flex User Group site - much fun!

How's AUTOEXEC.BAT called here?

If you want to use this FLEX system disk in Terminal Mode exclusively, you can create a startup file on the disk now. Place it in the left drive and create your first FLEX file by entering


ST.TXT is the name of the file that's executed on a normal Waveterm System Disk to start the PPG software. This is nonstandard FLEX behavior, but implemented like that in the Monitor. BUILD is a rudimentary editor that allows to enter lines into a file. So, enter the lines:


The # command writes out the new text file. Additionally, you have to copy a file:


If you boot from the disk now, it will put the Waveterm into Terminal Mode at once, and all operation can be controlled from the PC, so you won't need the keyboard adapter cable any more.

What comes next?

By now, you should have everything you need to exchange files and disk images between the PC and the Waveterm, and to use the Waveterm as a real computer. Maybe I'll add additional "features" in the future, so you might come back here to see what's new now and then.

I would like to create a disk images library, analog to the existing Waveterm Library, that allows all Waveterm A users on this world with Internet access to share as many sounds as possible. For that, I'd need your help - please send me as many disk images as you can create! Thank you very much... after all, it's for your benefit, too, if you can find new sounds here that have been created by other users.



Last update: 10/23/02