Sunday, 20 March 2016

1040 STE Revival! (with added joysticks)

There's no doubt about it, reviving my Mega ST has revived my Atari obsession too. I'm now up until the wee small hours every night browsing the Atari Forum and researching obscure bits of hardware and software!

The next step was, as I mentioned last time out, to rescue my 'original' STE - the one I grew up with - from storage.

STE Cleaning and RAM upgrade

First things first - it was *filthy* ! At least fifteen years of sitting near a window (before being stored away) also means that it's now very sunburned. Next to my Mega ST, which has obviously been kept away from sunlight in a studio for its whole life, the STE looks really yellowed.

Opening up the case, revealed decades worth of dust and dirt, so the first task was to give the upper part of the case a good wash and clean:

I'm not sure I'll go the whole hog and try to remove the yellowing, with hydrogen peroxide or 'Retr0Brite'. Although I've seen some positive reports, part of me quite likes the sunburned look, an indicator of a life well lived :)

A can of compressed air helped clean out the keyboard and the dust that had gotten past all the internal shielding to the motherboard. Much, much better!

Next, I decided to take advantage of the fact that the STE has easily removable RAM on SIMMs, unlike some other models which had the memory soldered directly to the motherboard. Replacement RAM is very cheaply available on eBay and elsewhere, so I decided to order the 4Mb upgrade. Now the STE will be able to handle some of the hard drive enabled games, networking tools and other software that requires 2Mb+  - ready for anything, in fact!

Post-RAM-upgrade STE sysinfo

Essential software


One of the best pieces of software I've come across, for both the STE and the Mega, is also one that benefits from having more than a Megabyte of RAM. It's NVDI, a great graphics accelerator. Quite simply, it makes the whole system zip along like never before. Opening files and folders on the desktop really is noticeably faster, making it a real joy to use.

The latest version is 6, I think, but the v.5 download can be found on a number of websites and on the Atari Forum. It can be a little tricky to install from hard drive (it originally came on 3 floppy disks) and it does require a hard drive with a few megabytes of free space, but for GEM applications it's well worth it.

Super Boot III

Super Boot is an excellent boot manager for the ST. I found that I needed different boot configurations for different scenarios. Sometimes I would need NVDI, for example, but sometimes it took up too much memory. Sometimes I need the STinG networking stack and sometimes not. With Super Boot it's easy to pick and choose which components to load from the hard drive at boot time.

It's tricky to set up and get the hang of - there are lots of options, not all of which are clear. But there's a comprehensive readme file with the installer, which explains everything and tells you what files to put where.

I wouldn't be without it now and highly recommend it for hard drive owners.

Floppy imaging

With both STs set up and ready to go, my next task was to begin archiving the 250-odd floppy disks I had from back in the 90s. The aim was to preserve the data and to make it available for use in emulators. This is still very much an ongoing project, but I thought I'd mention a couple of tools which have proved essential:


JayMSA on my Mega

JayMSA works really well for converting standard ST disks with no errors to .ST and .MSA image formats. It's quick and easy to use - especially when used on a system with NVDI. (For some reason, without the graphics accelerator some of the fonts can be partially obscured.)

It tends to baulk at disks with non-standard geometry (extra tracks and/or sectors, usually), copy protected games and disks with sector errors. But for the most part, it's coped really well with most of the disks I've thrown at it.

I can usually image around 25 floppies before my data partition is full. That's when I hook up my PARCP-USB adapter and transfer them over to my Mac, and to Dropbox.


The Pasti format (.STX) contains more metadata about the disk's geometry and layout. Unfortunately it's closed source and the imaging tool doesn't appear to be maintained any more, so it's not ideal. But it is pretty much the only solution for imaging the slightly 'odd' disks, copy protected games and disks with errors. So far it's only baulked at one of my disks - not too bad.

Joystick repairs

Another work in progress - something to keep me busy while the ST is chuntering away imaging disks.

I've dug out three old joysticks, only one of which was still working (strangely, the one with my sister's name on the box - yes, I was a notorious joystick-wrecker back in the day!)

They all needed a thoroughly good clean!

Opening up one of the non-working ones, I was able to clean the contacts on the internal micro switches and bring it back to life, relatively simply.

A photo posted by @alectronic on

This YouTube video was a great help, as was this wiki page, but luckily I didn't need to replace any micro switches (although a couple of the fire buttons are perhaps a bit worn, so could probably benefit from a new set). So, I now have two working Zip Stiks - anyone for a quick blast of Sensible Soccer?!

Sadly the third, a QuickJoy Turbo needs a bit of soldering doing, so that will have to wait.

It's great to get these cleaned and working again - especially given the eye-watering prices these are advertised for on eBay at the moment! (Ahm no' selling!)

Next up... I have some new gadgets...

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