Thursday, 11 February 2016

Mega ST : Revival pt.1

This blog tends to randomly wake up and set off on new tangents, and here comes another one....

A few years ago I heroically saved an Atari Mega ST 4 from almost certain doom, as it was about to be disposed of from a huge uncaring bureaucratic institution where I happened to work. Getting it up and running and exploring what it's capable of in the 21st Century has been an interesting process, so the next few posts will describe what I've been up to, just in case it might be interesting and/or useful.

Growing up I cut my teeth (not literally, ouch) on an Atari STe, so I have a real fondness for the Atari platform. Letting the Mega go to waste would have been a crime! Plus, this machine came with a 50Mb Protar hard drive, which was the stuff of dreams back in the day.

Bringing it back to life was always going to be easier said than done. In the first rush of enthusiasm I cleaned it up, inside and out and it all appeared to be working fine. I bought an RGB to SCART adapter so I could hook it up to a modern(ish) TV, and invested in an EtherNEC box, which at that time appeared to offer the best hope for being able to easily transfer files to and from modern machines. However, this really required a hard drive - and my inherited hard drive had all of its partitions password protected and any people who might have originally known them were all long gone (not dead, just... not around any more)

So, my first attempts faltered. I had no way of accessing the hard drive and no drivers or tools to wipe it and start again. I found a few tools online that might have helped, but transferring them onto floppies was a painstaking process and when they didn't work my enthusiasm slowly ebbed away.

Fast forward to late 2015 and I decided it was about time to dig it out again and make a serious attempt at getting it all up and running.

Key to this process was my discovery, via AtariCrypt and the wonderful Atari-Forum, of Petr Stehlik's PARCP-USB device, which allows an ST to connect to a PC, Mac or Linux machine via USB and quickly transfer files back and forth.

After a long search this thread gave me the Protar drivers I needed for the ProGate 50DC. Using the PARCP-USB adapter I was able to transfer the utilities, update the driver and then format and re-partition the hard drive. I now had 50 whole megabytes of storage to play with! Unimaginable :-)

With that accomplished I had a few goals in mind. The first was to get the EtherNEC box working and find out whether a 30-year old Atari ST could connect to the internet successfully and do anything useful or interesting.

I also had a project in mind to back up a lot of old floppy disks that had been stored away since my STe days, before they succumb to bit-rot and the other perils of ageing magnetic media.

Plus, I also wanted to investigate a strange and intriguing expansion card that I found inside when I first opened up the Mega...

Over the next couple of posts I'll detail some of my experiences setting up the machine, getting it connected to the Internet, and beyond!


  1. Thanks for the mention there. Appreciate that :)
    This is superb and I look forward to the coming posts. Keep going!!

    1. Thanks :) Next post should be along shortly...