part 3 FAQ

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Archive-name: csas-faq/part3


  1. Some layout differ from original text version due to wiki formatting limitation.
  2. The hardware and software vendors mentioned in this FAQ may no longer be selling Atari products. The vendor information are outdated.

Welcome to! Please read this FAQ before posting a question to, since a lot of common questions are answered here.

Thanks to David Paschall-Zimbel ( for compiling most of this FAQ.

Entries are dated by the last change. ??.??.?? means they were last changed before the dates were added.

Welcome to (93.06.11)

This newsgroup is devoted to discussion about 16 and 32 bit Atari micros. At present that includes the Atari 520ST, 1040ST, Mega ST, STe, STacy, Mega STe, TT, and Falcon. There are also emulators for the Apple Macintosh and IBM PC/XT/AT available.

Most of the people who read this newsgroup are technically oriented. The newsgroup serves as a resource for Atari users ... feel free to contribute to the discussions.

Associated newsgroups include:

  • ! uuencoded binary programs
  •  ! technical programming/hardware topics
  •  ! uuencoded/shar sources

All the models in the ST line (93.01.30)

This is a pretty complete list of all the ST/TT models and their main features. If you have any additions/correction, of course, send them to me.

Name CPU RAM TOS B.I. Extra Comment
130 ST 8 /1 1 M   Never marketed
260 ST 8 /5 1 M

520 ST 8 /5 1 M

520 ST+ 8 1 1 M

520 STm 8 /5 1.2 M

520 STfm 8 /5 1.2 FM

1040 ST 8 1 1 FM

1040 STf 8 1 1.2 F

1040 STm 8 1 1.2 M

1040 STfm 8 1 1.2 FM

Mega 1 8 1 1.2 F MB
Mega 2 8 2 1.2 F MB
Mega 4 8 4 1.2 F MB
STacy 8 1 ??? F
STBook 8 1 ??? F
520 STe 8 /5S 1.62 FM AV
1024 STe 8 1S 1.62 FM AV
Mega STe 16 1S 2.06 F AV,MB,6U
TT 16/030

Just for developer
TT 32/030 S 3.06 F AV,MB,6U Various mem/HD configs
Falcon 16/030 1,4,14 4.04 F AV,FC Many enhancements!


CPU':    8 8 MHz 68000     RAM: /1 128KB     Built-in: F Floppy
  16 16 MHz 68000     /5 512KB     M TV Modulator
  16/030 16 MHz 68030     1 1MB        
32/030 32 MHz 68030   2 2MB  
          4 4MB        
          S SIMM slot        
Extra:    AV 8 bit digital stereo audio, 4096 colors, hardware scrolling, analog joystick ports
  MB MegaBus processor-direct bus slots
  6U 6U VME bus slots, second serial port
FC Motorola 56000 DSP, 16 bit stereo audio, much enhanced video

TOS: Highest built-in TOS

What are the specs on the Falcon?

Here's some stuff I culled from the (reposted) Delphi conference with Sam Tramiel.

Here's the specs on the Atari Falcon 030:
Motorola 68030 running at 16 Mhz
32-bit Bus
Optional 68881 or 68882 FPU
RAM: 1,4, or 14 megs
Standard Atari Cartridge Port
Motorola 56001 DSP chip

Expansion Bus:
Internal direct processor slot for 386SX PC emulation, or other coprocessor

Super VGA graphics: 640x480 with 256 colors
True color 16 bit mode allowing a display of up to 65,536 colors
Accepts external video sync signal to allow high quality genlocking
Overlay mode for easy video titling and special effects
Overscan on TV's and ST Color monitors
262,144 possible colors
hardware-assisted horizontal fine scrolling
BLiTTER graphics co-processor

Sound features:
Eight 16 bit audio DMA record and playback channels
Stereo 16 bit digital DMA input
Stereo 16 bit DMA audio output
SDMA sound/DMA Coprocessor

Standard Ports
SCSI II port with DMA
High speed LocalTalk compatible LAN
Connector for analog RGB color (ST or VGA) or composite video
RS232C serial port
Bidirectional parallel port
Stereo microphone input, miniature stereo plug
Stereo audio out, miniature stereo plug
Two joystick connectors
Two enhanced digital/analog controller/light pen connectors

Data Storage
1.44 Mbyte floppy disk drive
Optional internal IDE Hard Disk

System software
Pre-emptive Multitasking with adaptive prioritzation (MultiTOS)
Inter process communication
NewDesk desktop and eXtensible control panel
Multiple window user interface; number of windows limited
only by memory or software in use.

Hardware Accelerators

(Thanks to Shoou-yu Tang for this info.)

  1. 68000 based:
    1. ICD adspeed ST/STe
    2. Fast Tech Turbo
      • T-16 (16MHz)
      • T-20 (20MHz)
      • T-25 (25MHz)
  2. 68030 based:
    1. Gadget by Small SST (16MHz to 40MHz user changeable, 8 SIMM slot 68882 FPU socket, 1 expansion slot, TOS 2.0x).
    2. Fast Tech : Tiny Turbo Full size version

Can I use a SCSI tape drive? (093.08.11)

Archive-name: csas-faq/part3

Yes, just about any SCSI tape drive should be useable on the ST line. (Of course, if your computer doesn't already have a SCSI port, you'll need a SCSI host adapter.) There are at least two freeware/shareware programs that can help you back up your HD to SCSI tape: TapeBIOS and GEMAR (a German GEM ARchiver)

Can I use a Hard Drives?

What should I know about hard drives and the ST? (Thanks to Shoou-yu Tang for this info.)

To get a hard drive for ST, STe, Mega, Mega STe or TT(using DMA port):

  1. Host adapter (convert the ST's DMA to SCSI standard):
    ICD, Supra, BMS are the three major manufature. ICD has very good software updating support and updates very often.
  2. SCSI hard drive or MFM/RLL drive with SCSI adapter:
    1. SCSI drive:
      Like Quantum Pro80LPS, Seagate ST-xxxN series, they have a 50 pins IDC connector, and usually say SCSI hard drive or Mac drive. (Any Mac except Mac128, Mac512, FatMac has SCSI built in, so a drive that works with Mac usually has SCSI interface).
      No other adapter needed, just connect to the host adapter in 1.
    2. MFM/RLL drive:
      These types of drive is older and used in older IBM machines. To use them you need an adapter to convert them to SCSI. Adaptec 4000/4000A is for MFM, 4070 for RLL drive, Emulex and OMTI also has similar cards availible. Adaptec has stopped production for quite sometime so look for these in used/liquidation place. (usually goes $40 to $75 each).

Connect the drive to the adapter (said Adaptec 4000) then connect the adapter to the host adapter. (said ICD). It looks like following:

      --------------        -----------       ------------       ----------
      | MFM drive  |------->|ACB 4000 |------>| ICD      |------>| ST DMA |
      --------------        -----------       ------------       ----------
  1. Case, power supply and cabels for the drive system:
    Unless you have Mega, Mega STe, TT and the drive is 3.5" so you will put the drive internally, you will need a case with power supply to house the adapter and hard drive. IBM case is very easy to get and has a lot of space for expansion.
    For older drive you need about 40 watts each drive, for newer 3.5" drive they use about 20 watts or less, Quantum LPS drive use about 10 watts each, make sure your power supply has more than the drives need. Again if you use IBM case, the 150 watts power supply for that type case can drive at least 3 drives without problem.
    Cables: DMA cable usually comes with the host adapter.
    power cable from power supply to drive usually comes with power supply
    SCSI cable from host adapter to SCSI drive or adapter(for MFM/RLL), it's 50pins IDC female connector on each end with 50 conductors cable. Should be availible at place you get the drive.
    For MFM/RLL drive you will need the usual MFM/RLL drive cable: a 34 conductors cable and a 20pins connector, again should be available at the place you get the drive).

Now, connect them all together. Before power up, check the connection again. And check the jumper setting on the drive (consult the drive's manual). If you are using more than one drive with the system, make sure only the last drive has the terminator (either a DIP or a signle inline package of resistor, which usually is socketed and close to the SCSI connector on the drive circle board. Remove the terminator from other drives. [only the last drive should have the terminator]

Software usually comes with the host adapter, or you can FTP atari's AHDX5 from ftp sites.

Can I use 1.44 meg floppy disks and Flopticals? (93.08.11)

1.4 megabyte floppy drives will soon be available from Atari for MegaSTe and TT machines. If you own an older Atari ST, there is a company which offersa $199 kit (including floppy) to install and use the drive.

Note that Tos versions prior to 2.05 will not format a 1.4 meg floppy from the desktop.

Floptical drives (floppys that use optical tracking to get 21MB on a 3.5" disk)can also be used through a SCSI port. ICD's newer host adapter software (the'PRO' version) will handle them.

How can I enjoy enhanced graphics on my ST?

For stock STs, JRI makes a chip which allows a 4096 color palette. There is also a public domain enhancement that allows 32768 colors on older STs. This can be found as 32kcolor.lzh on some archives.

There are a number of graphics boards on the market. Here is a first pass at listing some of them. The information is based on postings by Ben Gilbert and Jari Lehto.

C32 board by Matrix Datensystem (Germany)

  • 800x608, 256 colors
  • all ST/TT models
  • 256k, 512k and 1meg versions

C75Z board by Matrix Datensystem (Germany)

  • 1024x768, 256 colors
  • Mega ST or STe, TT VME Buss

(Matrix GmbH has over 15, maybe over 20 with all versions, different graphics boards available, from hobbyist to professional, from CAD to GenLock and digitizing.)

ISAC board by Dover Research Company (U.S.)

  • 1024x768, 16 colors from palette of 4096
  • makes hi-res look like ST low res, just with a huge window
  • Mega ST buss
  • Dover Research Co. (612) 492-3913

The Imagine by Wittich Computer GmbH (Germany)

  • 1024x768, 256 colors
  • Mega ST only

(Versions available for all ST/TT models. Several possible resolutions. Reasonable price, but slow and not very compatible..)

Crazy Dots by TKR (Germany)

  • 1024x768, 256 colors
  • Mega ST only

(1280x800, 256 colors out of 16.7 million color palette. 1664x1200 for both 16 color and monochrome. True color option available. Mega ST, Mega STe and TT.)

reSOLUTION SuperVGA by GengTec (Germany)

  • 8 resolutions, 320x200 through 1600x1200
  • 16 colors without driver, 256 out of 256,000 with driver
  • 1 mb RAM
  • uses a standard VGA monitor
  • Mega ST or regular ST
  • available in U.S. from Rio Datel, 1-800-782-9110, (702) 454-700

(1024x768 is the highest resolution with 256 colors. Driver is called Multicolor VGA option. Compatible with NVDI and Blitter. Multisync monitor recommended.)


  • like ISAC card, but specific for TT VME buss


  • 832x624 monochrome
  • connects to MegaBus
  • works with Spectre


  • 1024x1024 with SM124 monitor
  • 2048x2048 possible with expansion
  • usable with most big-screen displays

ODIN by Marvin AG (Switzerland)

  • external expansion
  • gives TT-resolutions to a regular ST


  • RISC-based card
  • extremely costly

Here's a few more cards, available from OverScan GbR, Saentisstrasse 166,
1000 Berlin 48, West Germany, ++49 30 721 94 66, ++49 30 721 56 92 (FAX),
++49 30 727 05 6 (Mailbox, language: German)

  1. Autoswitch OverScan for the ST (NO STE compatibility) is DM 129.--,
    you don't have to buy a new monitor. The maximum resolution on a SM 124 is variable, but in most cases at about 732*480.
  2. AutoSwitch OverScan TT is a VME board. It's about 249.-- DM,
    you also can use your old monitor, but it only works in the TTs five color modes (3 ST-compatible modes, 2 TT-modes). Resolutions are variable, ask OverScan about the values for your monitor.
  3. Falcon ScreenBlaster blows up your Falcons resolution to a maximum of nearly 900*600 on SVGA-monitors. It'll be shipping as soon as Falcon030s become available, and the pricing will be near 150.-- DM.

Graphics cards for which information is sought:

  • OmniChrome board by Omnimon Peripherals
  • JRI GenLock
  • Atari/Lexicor 24 bit color card

Jari Lehto proposed the following recommendations:

Low budget  			SVGA - reSOLUTION
Professional high-end use	Cyrel (or is it Cyrix?)
Hobby or semi-pro DTP		Reflex
Hobby DTP			MegaScreen
To obtain TT resolution		ODIN

A few keyboard questions (93.09.02)

Here's how to connect a MegaST-keyboard to a 1040ST:
It's taken from the "ST-Computer" October '90 ('Quick-Tips')

It's no problem to connect the MegaST keyboard to the smaller computers 520St and 1040ST. To do that, you only have to get a 6-pin western connector plug to be connected to the keyboard. (available in Electronic shops) After that four cables must be connected with the 'Pfostereihe' (the plug inside the 1040ST) where normally the dazzy original-keyboard is plugged in. The exact connection is shown on picture 2 and 3

   ___|           |           *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  o  *           *  1
  |        6  *   |           18 17 16 15 14 13 12 11 10 9  8  7  6  5  4  3     1           o
  |        5  *   |                                                                          *  3
  |        4  *   |           Picture 2                                                      *  4
  |        3  *   |           520 ST Keyboard plug (not for You, Jeff)                       *  5            
  |        2  *   |                                                                          *  6
  |        1  *   |                                                                          *  7
  |___            |                                                                          *  8 
 Picture 1                                                                                 Picture 3
 Mega ST-Keyboard cable                                                                   1040ST
(seen from outside)                                                                     Keyboard-Plug
                        Picture 3 (Meg to 1040ST)          Picture 2 (Meg to 520ST)
                         MegST                              MegST
                         keyboard cable <--> 1040ST plug    keyboard <--> 520ST plug
                                  6 <--|----> 8                  6 <--|----> 1
                                       |                              |
                                  5 <--|                         5 <--|
                                  4 <-------> 5                  4 <-------> 14
                                  3 <-------> 6                  3 <-------> 15
                                  2 <--|----> 4                  2 <--|----> 13
                                       |                              |
                                  1 <--|                         1 <--|

Eickmann Computer, Franktfurt

If you remove the keyboard from the Mega ST and switch on the computer, the computer won't boot up and send you a series of 'Alert-Beeps'. If YOU want to let your Mega ST run without a keyboard (FAX-Server a.s.o.) simply connect a restistor to the keyboard-plug in the Meg and at once there's silence and he'll do his job! (Freely translated from Eickmann-Computer by me)

  6 *     10kj resistor
  5 *     _____
  4 *----|_____|--
  3 *             |
  2 *-------------+
  1 *-------------|
 Mega ST keyboard-plug

And here's another one: This one's about the Hardcopy-function of the ST's

Do you hate it - after pressing <Alternate>+<Help> the same time - when you don't have a printer connected to the parallel port of your ST and must wait a long time to work again because of the long break taking the computer to realize that there's no printer connected? Well, do this and forget about it:

connect the following pins of the printer port of your computer (better: create a Sub-D 25pin-male-plug an connect the pins on the soldering side):

  pin 13 connected to 14 and 15 (all across the plug)
  pin 1  connected to 10
  pin 23 connected to 11 and 12

What joysticks work best with the Atari ST?

The Atari ST works with joysticks with a 'standard' D-Socket. IBM-style joysticks, Apple joysticks, and Nintendo joysticks will -not- work.

Some recommended joysticks:

  • Konix Navigator - "best .. if you want to use it for any length of time"
  • Gravis - "responsive ... great for games like MidiMaze"
  • WICO - "strong reed switches, hard plastic and metal components"
  • Atari - "FAR more controllable and responsive than other, more durableunits"

What modems work with the Atari ST?

Any external modem should work fine with the Atari ST-series of computers. You will need to purchase or build an RS-232 cable. Be sure the cable is capable of establishing DTR with your modem, as many telecommunications packages check the status of the DTR line. (Ask your local hardware guru if you don't know what DTR is...)

The ST can connect to modems at up to 19,200 baud. Practically, you will purchase either a 2400-baud or 9600-baud modem. The cost of 2400-baud modems has dropped so much in the past few years that you should not even consider a slower modem. Believe me, modem speeds under 2400-baud are going to seem SLOOOOOOOW to you!

You will probably need a serial port patch program to use high speed modems on your ST; most versions of TOS have a bug in CTS/RTS handling.

What should I know about monitors and the ST?

The monitor is your connection to the ST. Without a monitor, you're typing blind. (Unless, of course, you have an RF modulator on your ST and attach it to your TV set. This is discouraged, as the bandwidth and resolution are pretty terrible for anything other than arcade games.)

There are three monitor choices for those of us owning Atari ST/STe equipment:

  1. Monochrome monitors - these include the venerable SM124, one of the sharpest monochrome monitors on the market. Street price is about $150, used monitors should run around $80-90. You can also purchase a 19" monochrome monitor. This gives you a 'big screen' to play around in, and is best for work with DTP and CAD systems. The price is a bit high at $1500+, and you'll need a plug-in board, which is generally set up for the Mega ST machine.
  2. Color monitors - including the SC1224 in all of its incarnations (JVC and Goldstar being the primary vendors). The newer monitor, the SC1435, has a 14" screen and stereo sound.
  3. . Multisync monitors - these monitors provide monochrome and color access in one monitor. The street price is around $450, about $100 more than a standard Atari color monitor. You need to reset your computer to change resolutions. In many cases, a nice little switch box is provided (or you can build one) which does this for you. Examples of multisync monitors include the OMNIMON RAINBOW MONITOR.

There are any number of monitor choices for those owning Atari TT equipment, although they all boil down to 'multisync VGA'. There 14" color VGA monitor from Atari is quite nice, as is the 19" monochrome monitor. Any standard 14" multisync VGA monitor will do as well. Forget moving your SM124 or SC1224 monitor to your new system, the cabling and electronics is just not going to work.

How can I turn my Atari ST into a PC emulator?

(Thanks to Shoou-yu Tang for this info.)

Supercharger is the only external PC emulator with 8MHz V30 and 1MB RAM in a nice lunch box. It connects to ST's DMA port and defaults as device 3. It's powered by external power supply. Has 8087 socket and one expansion slot. The 1MB RAM can be used as RAM drive by ST when the IBM side not used.

How can I turn my Atari ST into a Macintosh emulator?

(Thanks to Wayne ( for this info.)


  • Spectre GCR from Gadgets by Small, Inc
    40 W. Littleton Blvd
    Littleton, CO 80120
    Retail: $299.95

The Spectre GCR is a combination of software and hardware that allows the Atari Mega/ST/STe/TT line of computers to emulate an Apple MacIntosh Plus(tm) Computer. The emulation is so good that most Apple software runs out of the package using your Atari Disk drives to read in the Mac software. It does all of this while running 20% faster than the program would on a MacIntosh Plus and provides you a 30% larger screen area.

The Spectre GCR is a combination of software (written by Gadgets by Small, Inc), a cartridge (also from Gadgets), and a pair of 128K Apple ROMs (from either a MAC 512kE(tm) or Mac Plus - part numbers 342-0341 and 342-0342 which you purchase separately from an Apple source.) The Apple ROMs can currently be purchased for around $150. MacIntosh documentation and software, including the operating system (referred to as System/Finder), are also required to round out the package.

The Spectre software is currently at release Version 3.0. Gadgets supplies fairly frequent updates to allow you to keep up with the Apple OS releases. The Version 3.0 update retails for $20. Version 3.0 supports 15 of the 128K OS releases up to, but not yet including System 7 releases.

Spectre software supports Mac formatted disks (including formatting your own) with your Atari drives, Mac sound, large screen displays (1280x960) Mac harddisks via SCSI through a Megatalk board (retail $299.95 from Gadgets) or through an ACSI-SCSI host adapter (my Syquest works beautifully- and the excessive use of disk accesses in Mac software will have you wanting a hard drive). Spectre 3.0 also supports DOS Mounter and Apple File Exchange if you are needing MS-DOS data disks for Mac work. Language configuration support, keyboard support, A4 paper size support for Lasers have also been added to 3.0.

Running Spectre:
The feeling you will get when you see your Atari transformed into a MacIntosh with a decent screen is indescribable. The extra flexibility that you get will also make you feel more confident in the greatness of your Atari. You will also get to see some of the frustrations with one of the other sides of the fence - frustrations like excessive disk access, remembering not to remove/change a disk unless the OS tells you to, etc.

Speaking of changing disks, there are major differences in the operating philosophies of an ST and of a MacIntosh. You really must read the documentation that comes with the Spectre GCR (and I for one found that a real delight. Dave and Sandy have a very different approach to software documentation that makes it enjoyable reading.) You should also read the Mac Operating System docs. One other reference you may need if you are going to do much with Mac software is one of the reference manuals referred to as the MacIntosh Bible.

If you ask an Apple dealer if a particular piece of software runs on a GCR, don't figure you will get a straight answer. They won't know. The current compatibility list from Gadgets lists about 450 programs and their release numbers that have been tried and found to work with Spectre GCR. In general, if a piece of software won't work with the GCR, it is probably becuase of copy protection. Most serious Mac software is not copy protected.

One last note - earlier versions of the emulator exist that were not capable of reading Mac disks directly. It's a capability you will want.

(Thanks to Shoou-yu Tang ( for this info.)

Spectre GCR is the best availible, you need to obtain a set of 128KB ROM from Apple (they are used in Mac 512KE and Mac Plus, noted that Mac512 use older 64 KB ROM which is not good) to fully utilize the device. Also it's recommanded to use it with MONO monitor and at least 2MB RAM. The Spectre software takes about 300 some KB of memory, so on a 1040 there is not very much left for Mac, especially after the Mac system is loaded. 4MB memory and MONO is best. It can read/write Mac disk direct using ST's drive (double side drive, as most Mac drive is double side). With DOS mounter or software like that you can read /write ST, IBM disk from the Mac desktop as well (don't try to run the ST, IBM binary. It's only for file transfer). Or you can use Apple File Exchange to read/write ST, IBM disk. Syatem 6.0.5 runs fine, system 6.0.6, 6.0.7 runs also. But system 7 will not run with it.

Can/should I upgrade my ST?

The answer depends on the type of ST you currently have, and what you want to do in the future. Be aware that there are a large number of modifications one can perform on the venerable 1040ST, and that newer machines are coming down incost so much that to obtain a certain feature it may be cheaper to purchase new than to upgrade.

  1. Memory - most ST machines may be upgraded to 4 megabytes. The newer STe machines use either SIP or SIMM
  1. TOS - for those still running TOS 1.0, now is the time to consider an upgrade. TOS 1.4 has been around for at least 2 years now, and is -much- faster (and safer) for those using hard drives. TOS 2.06 is available as a hardware upgrade to ST and MegaST machines for about $150 from CodeHead

Hope you liked the FAQ. If you have comments, suggestions, more material, etc., mail me at

Thanks to David Paschall-Zimbel ( for compiling most of this FAQ.

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