Tag Archive: atari


Atari STE modding

Coming soon:

Atari STE dual IDE interface

Exxos’ 1.44MB Fdd upgrade

Exxos’ fast TOS switcher

Exxos’ 32Mhz CPU booster

Being a collector of retro computers and games consoles I’ve always been disappointed to see my older kit slowly turn yellow with age, despite my best efforts to keep them away from too much UV light.

Recently I discovered that the process can be reversed, and that a handful of ingredients, all relatively easily obtained, plus a dose of UV light is the key to doing so.

Details of the process and ingredients, plus the back story of how this all came about can be found here: Retr0Bright

The basic gist is that many manufacturers added bromine to their plastic casings as a fire retardant, and it’s that bromine that causes the yellowing when exposed to UV light.

I’m not going to go into details about mixing up Retr0Bright, save to say make sure you wear eye protection and latex gloves, because one of the ingredients, hydrogen peroxide, can be quite nasty.

What I am going to talk about are my first experiences with the lovely whitening goo!

First off, it really is best to use a blender to mix in the Xantham gum used as a gelling agent, as it has a tendency to clump, and in fact I would suggest that you experiment with the amount you add, and even add in slowly in order to get a nice smooth consistency.

Personally I used the amounts recommended, dropped straight in, but ended up with something really thick and goopy, with some clumps, even when using the blender. I’ll add in a bit at a time next time with blending in between.

I had 3 items to test out the goo on, an Apple adb mouse and keyboard case, and an Atari ST case, and spread the mixture across the parts.

The key to the process is exposure to UV when coated with the goo, so mine were placed out in the sunshine. A point to bear in mind here is that you should wrap/cover the coated parts in cling film to prevent the goo from drying out.

Once the sun went in I popped them under a UV bulb on a timer, as I wanted to give the parts around 8 hours of exposure.

The results so far have been a mixed bag, with a good even change of colour on the Apple parts, but a very dappled result on the Atari, which to be fair was extremely badly discoloured.

To be fair, the Atari needs probably a second or even third go.

Looking at the process as a whole, I’d say that one of the difficulties, and aside from getting the texture of the mix right, is getting the UV distribution right, and sunlight is best for that, but I think if you wanted to do this on a regular basis, it would be worth setting up a permanent work station with multiple UV sources.

I’m going to do this again, and will also add some pictures, but it may be after I get moved to our new house.

So, as a fan of retro computers, I’m always looking for ways to expand my collection (See the Museum part of this site), and recently started looking at an area of my collection that was missing something: The Atari ST.

I managed to pick up an Atari 1040 STF fairly quickly, but the lack of modulator meant that getting anything other than Hi Res, which works on modern VGA monitors with an appropriate cable, was a pain.

So I resolved to try and get my hands on an STFM model in order to plug that gap.

A non working 520 STFM with good casework came up cheap on eBay, and I though if I could get it running again, then that would suffice, and if not, then it would hopefully yield some useful casework.

Well, I couldn’t bring it back to life, but it did yield a reasonable case, keyboard, PSU and newer TOS roms for the 1040 STF, plus the mainboard may yet be saleable as parts only, as it looks like some of the bits are in reasonable condition, and in fact somebody with greater electronics skills than I may yet be able to ressurect it.

An unexpected bonus was to find installed a Marpet 2MB ram upgrade kit, which will go with the mainboard and PSU as things I can resell to reduce the cost of Project ‘E’.

So, I determined to get a working mainboard to go into my case, and was surprised to find an STE mainboard, with PSU and 1 meg of RAM installed, and all the metal shielding, for just £26.99 plus a very reasonable £7 postage.

A few queries later, I was satisifed it was a runner, and purchased the board before somebody else could beat me to it!!

The idea of Project ‘E’ was thus born, to turn an STFM into an STE, and I awaited the arrival of the new components, which arrived on the 23rd of December, just 4 days after purchase, and quite amazing given the Christmas post!

So, I sat down with my 520 STFM case, and worked out just what would be required in order to slot the STE mainboard in.

As it happens, only 2 minor mods were needed.

1. 2x holes for the audio output.

2. The removal of a plastic lip that supports the cartridge slot.

First off was the 2x new holes for audio out.

As the picture shows, the centres line up vertically with the outside edges of the power switch slot, and horizontally with the modulator hole (At the very bottom of the picture), which is about the same size.

I marked the centres, drilling out both holes, then filing to allow a phono plug to connect properly with no interference.

Next was the lip. The next picture shows the lip beforehand, indicated by the yellow box.

With the case bare, I used a set of side cutters to remove the bulk of the lip, then filed the remainder off flat with the base of the case as below.

With both mods done, the STE board was able to slot into the STFM case, and I was able to reassemble and successfully test the machine.

The difference is visible above, with a metal tongue from the shielding supporting the cartridge slot, rather than the plastic lip on the case.

All in all about an hours work from start to fully assembled working machine.

STE fans will note that I haven’t mentioned a case mod to allow access to the STEs two additional joystick ports, found at the front left of the machine.

Well, that may come later, but since I have no intention of using them, it seemed like a lot of work to mod the case to do so, hence, for now at least, they are going to stay neatly hidden.

Interestingly, the case appears to have slight marks in the moulding that appear to indicate where the hole should be cut, which suggests to me that these, or at least some sort of other port, was intended there, and that it was catered for when the case moulds were made.

Thats my retro fun for the day, happy modding everybody 🙂

 

Having had a fairly lazy week off work, I’ve managed to cram in quite a few hours of retro computing. I have finally been able to get my Atari ST tested, and aside from the minor glitch of the internal floppy disk cable being partially disconnected, and having to buy a mono VGA cable because my home made one wasn’t working, I’m pretty happy with the results. Mono it may be, but it works fine on modern LCD displays. I now also have the means to write ST disk images to real floppy disks that the ST can read, courtesy of a piece of software called floimg running on an old Dell laptop with Windows 2000.

Lots more successful with the Amiga 1200 though. It has an internal scandoubler, so gives crystal clear images on any modern LCD display, boots up faster than my smartphone courtesy of the OS installed on its internal HDD, and thanks to the PCMCIA network card I just installed, I have Web access (though limited), and can upload and download stuff to it via FTP. The support the Amiga still has is ASTONISHING!

One point though, it has the WIERDEST TCP/IP setup for DNS of any computer I’ve used, but it does at least work.

I get my Amiga kit from amigakit.com, and am using the wired Easynet adapter. Wireless is also available :-), but you must have the OS installed on HDD for either the wired or wireless to work.

Hopefully the Retro scene will continue to flourish for many years to come.

Now, where did I put my Atari 800XL?

🙂