For some years there has been talk of using 3.5″ floppy drives instead of the original 5.25″ drives with the Atari 8-bit line. It is not a fantasy, in fact it has been an accomplished fact for years. Essentially take an original XF551 case and motherboard, use an adapter for both the internal data and power cables, pop in a compatible BIOS, use a 5.25 to 3.5″ drive tray converter and put the cover back on. Presto!
Now I am able to offer a somewhat different approach. With the assistance of tf_hh and manterola from AtariAge.com I have developed an Atari SF314/SF354 ST case compatible version of the XF551 circuitry with builtin 3.5″ floppy drive support. It is a bare board pcb only, but I will be offering both a BOM and assembly instructions. Further details can be found here
We are in a new month with some new boards and updates to existing boards. I finally finished the three Youtube video series on using the PICKit3 and Microchip’s MPLAB X IDE to program the PICs used in the 1088XEL Alternate Atari Motherboard project. The final video goes over how to use the PIC Adapter with the PICKit3. Normally the PICKit3 is an in-system programmer, but with the adapter you have the option of programming those PICs out of system.
As an added bit of triumph I have finally been able to develop an XEL XF551 floppy disk drive board that works. It was harder than I thought, based primarily on some stupid assumptions. I won’t bore you with the details. But the basic version is up and running. This means that you can now install an XF551 capable disk drive in a free drive bay of your PC case and connect it to the board and then the board to the AUX SIO connector on the 1088XEL. Now you can have a true PC case with Atari inside including the ability to use an original 5 1/4 inch floppy drive.
I’m still working on a combo drive that will combine the SDrive and XF551 circuitry with a front bezel control panel for a free 3 1/2″ drive bay. Shouldn’t be too much longer on that.
Over the last few days I’ve been working on a pdf/video combination that would give the 1088XEL DIYers more information on how to program 1088XEL PIC MCUs using a PICKit3 Clone programmer and the MPLAB X IDE software. Finally got most of it done now.
Currently I only have a handmade adapter for 8 and 18 pin PICs, but I should be recieving a new PIC Adapter designed especially to handle all four of the PICS used in the 1088XEL build. Once they are in and I have one assembled, I’ll finish the group of videos with a short one on how to use the PIC adapter with both the JOY2PC and PICKit3 programmers.
In the meantime here are the pdf/video combinations I currently have available.
Time flies….. I wait impatiently for the official release of the 1088XEL motherboard project by Mytekcontrols from AtariAge.com. Bugs and life seemed to have conspired to delay the early summer release date. He has released the almost final schematic, but cautions that something may yet change after testing what he hopes is the final board version due in the next week or two from EasyEDA board house. That has delayed testing of some boards I have designed, as I want to be sure they will not only work, but work with his board. The SDriveXEL board I can test on my current Atari machines, but the XF551XEL and XF551SDriveXEL versions almost require the combined combinations of 1088XEL and the MicroATX case and power supply to fully test fit and function. I do what I can in the meantime.
In the meantime I have been working on one of the few remaining weaknesses of the 1088XEL. And while a lot can be builtin on the 1088XEL motherboard, you’re always going to need a way to pop in that new/old stock cartridge that you just acquired from Ebay (or the dumpster 🙁 ). A standard miniITX/microATX case just wasn’t built with the need for an external Atari cartridge slot in mind. There’s literally no designed slot for an Atari cartridge. So you have to work with what is there.
For awhile yet most tower cases in the mini-ITX and micro-ATX format still offer at least one 3 1/2″ and one 5 1/4″ external drive bays. Some have two external 5 1/4″ drive bays. Riches…… 🙂 So rather than expecting the Atarian to take a hack saw/Super Dremel cutter to the case to fashion a cartridge slot, I decided to see if I could fit a cartridge slot into the space of a 5 1/4″ drive bay. And then because sometimes the distance between the drive bay and the motherboard connection could be 12″ to 18″, I worked with tf_hh to deal with signal loss on that long a ribbon cable connection. After testing and finding what I think are all the flaws I’ve decided to release the product for sale.
On the 1090XLR front, I am happy to report that Roland Scholz, who developed the prototype PCBridge some years ago has successfully developed the first internal expansion card for the 1090XLR project. The card is a combination dual serial/single parallel port I/O card. Both the 1090XLR and card are still in prototyping mode. tf_hh is also working on a version for the 1090XLR of his SysCheck device. Progress should go much quicker once both have returned from their much deserved vacations this month.
With the imminent release of Mytekcontrol’s 1088XEL project I have decided to reimage the SDrive and XF551 floppy disk drive boards to allow an in case storage medium. Depending on your preference you can purchase an SDriveXEL for floppy disk emulation only or go almost totally retro with a real modernized XF551 floppy disk drive pcb that will drive a compatible 3 1/2″ or 5 1/4″ drive mech. There’s even an option to combine both SDrive and XF551 features on a single 4 layer pcb. For the die-hard DIYer there’s even the option to buy the bare boards and build from the ground up.
Your choice of mini-ITX case will be crucial as not all will have the required disk drive bays. The SDriveXEL option only requires a single 3 1/2″ or 5 1/4″ drive bay with adapter rails. The XF551XEL options all require both a 3 1/2″ and a 5 1/4″ drive bay or (2) 5 1/4″ drive bays in the case. I have listed some compatible cases below. By no means is this list exhaustive, but it gives an idea of what is needed. MicroATX cases that also handle mini-ITX boards are also an option.
Another crucial requirement is an adequate power supply to support the real 3 1/2″ or 5 1/4″ drive mech. I recommend an actual ATX12V standard pc power supply. A 200-300W power supply should be more than sufficient. No need to go higher. I have created a ATX12V adapter board to ease the use with the 1088XEL motherboard. It should work for either a 20 or 24 pin mainboard connector.
In other news….. the 1090XLR project continues in fits and starts. Currently the main prototype board and a serial/parallel I/O plug in board are in testing. I hope to begin testing Ralf David’s ROMDISK board soon as well.
Links to suitable mini-ITX tower cases: (I recommend this webbased pc component supplier due to several years worth of business with them. However they are not the only source for mini-ITX cases by any means.)
Over the last few weeks I’ve been putting the finishing touches on several small projects that have been sitting on the sidelines. I plan to have these projects up for sale by Cyber Monday.
One project was started over two years ago, but I kept stalling out on it, or my time got switched to other projects. I’m finally now going to offer it up for sale. That’s the long rumored and promised XF551 Control board. This modification will allow on both my re-imaged boards and Atari’s original XF551 floppy drives to have a track display and some front panel controls. More info will be available on it’s product page.
Another offering will be a simple 1200XL cartridge extension board. I’ve always been aggravated by Atari’s funnel shaped cartridge port that was too narrow to allow the Polish cases to be inserted. I finally got off my duff to do something about it. Further info is also on it’s product page.
Something that came up on a AtariAge.com thread a few weeks back also sparked my creative juices. Some people were grousing about the problem of the Atari 130XE’s cartridge port being awkward to use because a person sitting in front of the computer couldn’t see the connector when he/she was inserting the cartridge. It seemed to become a feel_to_insert situation. It became a particular irritation when someone frequently changed cartridges. While it’s not a perfect solution, I decided to try a dual right angle cartridge extension board. With it you can insert two of your most commonly used cartridges and switch between them without having to physically remove the cartridges. You still will have to reboot the computer after the switch. tf_hh was invaluable in developing a functioning prototype. More info is also on it’s product page.
Another thought I just had was a modified RA SDX cartridge. Essentially instead of the horizontal cartridge slot at the end of the internal pcb, put a vertical cartridge slot there. It should be doable. The tricky part’s going to be the cartridge case design. But it might help the unstable stacking effect on 1200XL/800XL/130XE computers. Since I already have functioning prototypes, hopefully I can have a preliminary rendering up by Cyber Monday as well.
There’s still a few small projects on the drawing board so to speak. Hopefully while waiting for the parts and boards to come in for these projects, I can finish them as well. At this point I am only planning one big project for next year, the 1090XLR. Not sure yet just what shape it will take, but hopefully I can come up with a prototype box by mid year 2017.
Today is a mismash of things. I partnered with mytekcontrols to bring to simi-mass market his creation TK-II Stereo Bundle. Essentially it is a PS/2 keyboard/Atari 8bit interface with the added feature of a stereo Pokey feature. With the price of Pokeys rising to new heights I decided not to include the necessary 2 Pokey chips, but otherwise the bundle is complete.
Also I am testing the 3D printer files for the Ralf David reimaged Eprom Burner board. Surprisingly the XYZ Printer Pro is behaving itself for now. There’s two files, one for the bottom and one for the top portion. I’ll be printing both today (I hope) for a preliminary fit test. The bottom should take about 5hrs. Not sure how much the top will take, hopefully a few hours less since it’s only about half a inch tall. Same size as the bottom, but not as tall.
I’m also doing some testing of smaller projects that have been sitting, waiting patiently on the side. Maybe I can finally get the XF551 track display project done, a 2364 2in1 adapter. and when the board order arrives a couple of other cartridge adapters for the 1200XL and 130XE. I’ll also be working on a software/hardware mod for the eprom burner project that I hope will allow moving the disk-based software to rom. We’ll see.
On the website arena, I will begin the process of upgrading and modernizing the website theme. It’ll go on behind the scenes until it’s ready to be activated. I’m shooting for Nov 1st. That’ll be the three year anniversary.
I doubt there’ll be any major projects the rest of the year. Refinements and small projects only.
Well another summer has come and almost gone. Just have to get through the dog days of August. 🙂
Today I get to announce new hardware for sale. It’s literally amazing what the Atari 8bit computer was able to do some thirty years ago. And the ability of some genius engineers to pull the most out of her. I’d been looking for as much info as I could on CSS products, specifically the Super E and Gang E programmers when I ran across this gem. I didn’t even know it existed. I got to know it well, at least the hardware side. It may not be a polished as the Thompson Pro Burner or as well known as the CSS product, but this Atari 8bit computer based eprom burner rocks. Check out the product page for the Ralf David XL/XE Eprom Burner Bundle.
After spending so much time on the burner, I almost forgot the other smaller projects I was working on too. In the coming weeks I should have several more new hardware pieces to offer. So stay tuned. :))