How to get a MB02 for free?

Hey there! I wrote this article back in 2003 (!) for the German magazine SUC-Session.
I thought I also uploaded it somewhere, but I can’t find it, so let’s forget about the 16 years that have passed, and do it right now!

It’s REALLY old, so some of the info has been surpassed!

You’re allowed to laugh of me, not at me 😉

So, how can I get a MB02 for free?

If you do not have a floppy interface, you’re missing a lot of the possibilities the Spectrum has.
But even when owning an interface such as a Betadisk, Opus Discovery, D80, Disciple or PlusD, some people always want more…

When I first read about the MB02 some time ago I thought it was out of my reach to get one, because the MB02 isn’t produced any more and it succesor, the MB03, may not be produced, and if it will be it will cost about 300 euro’s.
The MB02 and MB03 should be almost twice as fast as the Disciple, you are able to connect 4 drives, floppies will be formatted with 81 tracks of 11 sectors, so the size will be 1.8 Mb’s! And you can store in a maximum of 255 directories.


The standard MB02 has an Z80DMA processor… This is why the disk-access is so fast.
The MB02+ has an IDE controller (you can install it on a standard MB02).
You can install up to 512kB fast ram and a real time clock.

Aaaaah… If I could get my hands on one…

But… There is another way of getting the MB02!

  • You are also able to use real 1.8 Mb floppies,
  • Discover the unbelievable speed of the disk-access,
  • You don’t need any cables,
  • There’s no risk of frying your Spectrum,
  • You can install it without getting out of your chair,
  • It’s very complete,
  • And it won’t cost you even one euro,

What do you need for this?


It’s like cooking.

You just need the right ingrediënts…


No, I’m not going to teach you how you will be able to build an MB02 on your own.
You don’t have to buy yourself equipment for soldering or etching…
I will explain.

Why the need of a PentiumII computer with Windows98?

O.k. You discovered it’s about emulating.
RamSoft’s RealSpec supports emulating the hardware of the MB02.

  • Direct disk-access isn’t possible under WindowsNT, 2000 and XP.
  • The 32-bit version of RealSpec (for Windows) doesn’t support the real disk-access.
  • Sound drivers are hard to install under DOS

So you need a PC with Windows98 or Windows95.
A Pentium1 processor isn’t good enough, because it’s not powerfull enough to emulate at 100% using RealSpec. I tried this with even the fastest Pentium1 233MMX processor (don’t know about AMD K6 processor though).

How will I be able to get a MB02 bootrom and the System Disk?

These are hard to find.
Luckally you don’t need the real rom and disk; the files of the two are enough.
But the’re not available on the web. Best way to get them at the moment is to mail me.
If there isn’t something against, I’ll let them put on the web (e.g. World Of Spectrum).

And then?

Well, you can edit the realspec.ini file (you are going to find that very usefull if you will run RealSpec more than once, as that will probably be the case).
But first I will show you what you have to edit using the configuration options while running RealSpec.

When you have started RealSpec press F3 for the Hardware Configuration menu:

Additional tools

Some on the internet I found a tool called ‘TAP2MBD.EXE’.
This tool will create MB02 floppy-imagefiles from .tap-files.

Am I able to boot in 128-basic?

I discovered when you enter Basic while booting the MB02, you will get in a sort of 48k basic.
I don’t know if it’s the only way of booting, and if it isn’t possible to use a 128 rom. Have to find that out.

How about the new Basic-commands?

This might be the most exciting part!

The MB02-fileformat is capable of storing 255 directories on one floppy.
Directory 0 is the root directory which you will enter when you insert a new floppy.

With the @ command you can select the disk-drive.
Example: @1 selects drive one.
With $ you select the directory.
$1 selects directory 1, $0 selects the root.

CAT or COPY will show you the contents.

Now think of the directory as a tape which automatically rewinds.
When you would use a tapedrive and type LOAD”” and start a tape, it would load the first basic program it finds.

The directories on a MB02 disk work the same way.
Even simpler: you can enter ‘LOAD’ without quotes (“”).
It will load the first basic file it finds, or when present in the selected directory, it will load the first AUTOEXE file.

Because of this tape-oriëntated disk-system you understand why it is easy to convert TAP files to MB02 disk files!

You don’t have to rewrite the code from the program to load from disk; even large multi-levels games with several levelfiles will be converted and loaded from disk without any problem!

Also headerless tape-blocks will be converted to headerless files on the MB02 disk.

I put about 6 directories on the System disk with large games, such as Batman, R-Type, Lemmings (with all 40 level-files!) and more!
And I still got 1.4 Megabytes left…

Use the MB-commander to copy files.

Automatically starting in Basic

I replaced the AUTOEXE file from the root of the system disk with:
10 STOP (and saved it with SAVE “AUTOEXE” LINE 10).
This way I will always start in Basic.

With LOAD “MBC” I start the MB-Commander.

The RealSpec .ini-file

I promised I would explain the realspec.ini file.
You need to configure the following lines to get MB02 emulation every time you start RealSpec:

MB02-Enabled: 1        # Enable MB-02+ interface
MB02-Rom: mb02.rom     # ROM file for MB-02+
DisksFolder: [location of your RealSpec directory]
MB02-Disk1: system.mbd # Load disk into MB02 drive 1-4 (MBD)

We want more! We want more!

O.k. I haven’t covered everything the MB02 is capable of, but that’s also because I haven’t figured it out completely.
For example: is IDE-emulation possible in RealSpec?

Breathe in and out slowly…

I think you will get it working…
You will find the manual and all other documents on:

The reason I wanted to emulate the MB02 is because I was curious about the power and it’s possibilities.
Now I’m more interested in buying a real MB02 or MB03.

It’s a pity they are hard to get and the price is high, but… I’m redesigning the MB02 schematic and PCB. The 8 Bit Company has published the schematics.

If you are interested in this project, please mail me. I might finish this complex project and produce some. The price might be less then 100 euro.

Don’t hesitate to mail me: benjamin.versteeg@b… – (edit: geez, that’s old 😉 )




Benjamin Versteeg