Jump to content
applekevin

Looking to get my first A8, lots of questions, somewhat bewildered!

Recommended Posts

I've always wanted an Atari 8-bit, and now I've decided to finally bite the bullet and get one. And after reading through the forums and other places online, my head hurts!

 

In any case, I've tried to mentally categorize where my confusions lie so I can be more organized in asking them!

 

 

PART 1: Models

  1. I know that there is debate about which particular model has the best video out, or keyboard, or whatever else. Mostly what I'm seeing is that the 800XL is a sort of de facto standard. However, from what I can tell on wikipedia, the XE series is "more advanced." Aesthetics, picture quality, and keyboard notwithstanding, which model has the "best" specs?
     
  2. On that same not, wikipedia is extremely ambiguous and makes it sound like the XE series cartridge slot and XL series are incompatible (not sure if this means physically, electrically, or both), is that true?
     
  3. The 800 apparently had expansion slots, were these ever used for anything worthwhile?

I'm stuck between the 800XL and the 130XE in this regard. Moving on somewhat, as I read more and more, I found an almost dizzying array of mods and upgrades!

 

 

PART 2: Upgrades

  1. I know that the VBXE is supposed to enhance the graphical prowess of the A8s, and it also mentions having some sort of RGB output. Is this RGB a la SCART (obviously sans the connector)? Is this something that only applies to software specifically written for the VBXE, or does it give everything on the A8 RGB out?
  2. If so, does that then obviate the need for an S-video mod?
     
  3. Would the RGB out for the VBXE work with my Sony Trinitron professional RGB monitor? (I'm not sure what the technical name of it is, but I like it a whole lot!)
     
  4. If not, what is the best s-video mod in terms of subjective quality of the picture?
     
  5. Is the "Ultimate 1MB" the preferred RAM upgrade? I see other ones mentioned, do these serve complimentary roles, or is the U1MB the only upgrade I need in this department?
     
  6. I've also seen several references to stereo mods employing an extra POKEY chip, are there different versions of this, and if so, which one is best?
     
  7. Are there any CPU accelerators, and if so which is the most powerful?
     
  8. What is the 32-in-1 OS mod, or whatever one might call it, and is it worth having? Are the OSes for A8 in that you boot them from a floppy like with an Apple II, or are they embedded in the ROM like TOS for the Atari STs?
     
  9. What is the Multi I/O? It seems to be rather rare, are there any clones? Is it worth having?

PART 3: Peripherals

  1. From what I can tell, the SIO2SD and Nuxx SDrive seem to accomplish similiar goals. Am I correct in this assumption? If so, which is better? If not, how do they differ?
     
  2. What is the best of the CF/IDE adapters? From what I can tell, the consensus seems to be that SIDE2 is the best.
     
  3. I've seem a couple of different references to methods of getting A8s connected to the Internet, or networked. The first is an ethernet cartridge. (I think this comes with Contiki built in?) The other is a Lantronix serial port to ethernet converter. Are these more or less equivalent in their capabilities or do they have different applications?
     
  4. I've noticed several people mentioning that they have 9600 baud modems. What can those be used for these days? Are they only kept for posterity and/or nostalgia?

PART 4: Miscellaneous

  1. I'm somewhat confused about the nature of cartridges. Can all cartridge software be run from the SIO2SD? What about floppy software via cartridge? Is this why both SIDE2 and SIO2SD exist?
     
  2. Are there any cool upgrades, accessories, or peripherals that I am not aware of or haven't mentioned?

Wow! That was a lot of text! Well anyway, thanks so much for reading!

Edited by applekevin

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Hi applekevin,

 

Oh wow, that is a lot of questions indeed. Some are straightforward, others a bit ambiguous or a matter of taste, but I'll try to answer what I can.

PART 1: Models

  1. The 800XL is indeed the "de facto" standard, but... The 130XE has the advantage of a sleeker design, 64kB of extra memory, with the FREDDIE chip in it. This makes memory expansions somewhat easier to build in. However, the 130XE does not have an expansion port (used for some hardware, like some older IDE interfaces and the 850 parallel bus expansion module) but instead it reuses the cartridge port, with an "extra" port, where sadly not ALL the signals available on the XL's expansion port are put. All being said, I prefer the keyboard of the XL series, since they're more durable than the XE's. This is really a pro/con thing on all sides.
  2. The cartridge ports on ALL Atari 8-bit home computers are the same. Same pinning, same size, same working, however, not all Atari 8-bit home computers are 100% compatible, due to hardware changes and specially, the OS rom.
  3. The 800's expansion ports are there for memory upgrades, up to 48kB of RAM, and it has 2 cartridge ports, although the "Right" cartridge ports only was used for a handful of things. Notable: Monkey Wrench.

PART 2: Upgrades

  1. The VBXE is nice and fun, but so far there's not that much software for it yet, and if you're looking to play the classics, I don't think it's a needed expansion. In regards to RGB output etc... Google "vbxe atari" and look at the specs.
  2. S-video mod? Unless you'd buy an Atari 400, there's a composite signal coming from the monitor port, so what would you need S-video for then?
     
  3. Got no answer, try that website.
     
  4. I've really never needed to mod any of my Atari's to s-video, so I can't answer this either.
     
  5. As for RAM upgrades, there are a LOT of options there, some easier than others, some will only work with some models. If you're NOT into programming, get a 130XE and you can pretty much run anything worthwhile.
  6. There used to be several stereo mods. The most common one uses the adressing space of the original pokey, just shifted up 16 bytes. This has sort of become the standard.
  7. Since the Atari gets its color clock from the same source as the CPU, there's not much you can do to "accelerate" the 6502 without a lot of hassle. There is one expansion I know of that employs a 65816, which basicly is a 16 bits CPU, but has a "native 6502" mode, and as such can work with the Atari. Speedwise though, you don't want to mess too much with it, since it'll quickly make games unplayable.
     
  8. The 32-in-1 OS is a replacement eprom of 512kB, which has 32 16kB OS images burned into. (I already had trouble choosing 10 for my own expansion.) The OS is like the PC's BIOS, and is in ROM. When a diskdrive is attached, the needed DOS is loaded from disk. Some OS-es change the "selftest" routines into a monitor program, for machinelanguage programmers. Other OS-es can fix the compatibility issue between 800 and XL/XE machines, so older software will run on the XL/XE. Yet another class adds completely new functions, like a 80 column textmode. (Well, it's emulated.)
     
  9. As far as I can remember the Multi-IO, this is more a thing if you have, for example, 3 computers, but only 1 diskdrive. All peripherals are chained to eachother in a normal setup, where usually the printer is the last in the line.

PART 3: Peripherals

  1. Can't say anything about SIO2SD and Nuxx SDrive, beside that they indeed seem to accomplish similiar goals.
     
  2. In regards to CF/IDE adapters... SIDE2. It's the newest and is well supported. Older, more complicated systems, like the Black Box, also work well, but are "true IDE" so no thumbdrive, true IDE harddisks. Hard to find, expensive and more error-prone though. I think it'll only handle MFM drives even, which are now really hard to find.
     
  3. I have no information about networking/ethernet/internet connections, besides that emulators can hook up to the net over a kind of telnet connection.
     
  4. I've yet to see a 9600baud modem work with an Atari. As far as I know, there were only 2 modems for the Atari, both hooked up via the 850 interface (which is in dire need of the XL's expansion port, aswell as the SIO) and were 300baud or 1200baud. It might be working with 9600baud somehow, but I've never seen it yet.

PART 4: Miscellaneous

  1. Oh, carts... Phew... There are SO MANY TYPES, this is a really hard one to answer... A simple cartridge program can easily be "converted" to disk, but that doesn't mean it can easily go the other way around. It's all to do with memory mapping. Some cartridges have mapped memory in themselves too, which makes it even harder. Not everything will work with everything all the time. There are always exceptions to the rules. Sorry, this is one confusing part that's just not really explainable unless I go deep into hardware.
     
  2. Trackball, mouse, touch tablet/Koala pad, lightpen... Definitly cool accessories. In the way of peripherals, I've made my fair share of hardware, and most of it is unique to my machine. You certainly already mentioned the available and well known stuff. A diskdrive is still a must in my opinion, although you could also look at SIO2PC solutions with appropriate software for the PC, which in turn then emulates up to 8 (or 9?) diskdrives. If you have a diskdrive, there are also "core replacement upgrades" for that, that make it faster, better, stronger and make it sing in high pitched voices. Happy 1050, US doubler, Speedy 1050, etc etc. Quite a lot to choose from there.

One thing I can certainly tell you: Get a PAL version Atari. (Just saying, cause I have no idea where you live.) NTSC Atari's work with different clock speeds and a lot of software will just plainly NOT WORK on an NTSC machine.

Edited by Alphasys

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Thanks so much for your answers to all my questions!!

 

A few things:

 

In terms of cartridges being complicated, no I definitely understand. I'm not too much of an NES guy, but I'm vaguely acquainted with how difficult it is to build a flashcart for it due to the broad assortment of mappers. That being said, can the SIDE2 function as a sort of flashcart? Are there games/software exclusive to cartridges, and if so, is there anyway to play them without owning the originals?

 

Now, you say get a disk drive, but isn't that the point of SIO2SD and SDrive? To emulate one? If you don't have any original disks (like me) wouldn't it be better to just go with this?

 

I'm American, but, should I still get a PAL Atari? Obviously I would need to import it, but I do have a PAL TV somewhere around here. You say that a lot of software will not work on NTSC, but I assume that the converse is not true. Does the PAL Atari play NTSC games? Or is it like 2600 where it's basically impossible to convert between the two?

 

 

Again, thanks so much for taking the time to answer my questions!

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

PAL Atari System tends to play the best DEMO and many Games based in Europe because there are alots of currently authors still making a newest the best DEMO based on PAL Atari system. Yes, PAL system can play all NTSC games without any problems unless Games that designs for 400/800 only.

 

I do have both PAL and NTSC Atari systems at once.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Hmm,

 

Well, I know there are compatibility issues across the line of Ataris, but is this one you mention different? Will that translator OS or whatever it's called that allows you play 800 stuff on an XL/XE work there, or not?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Yes, there are new EPROM can overcome that issue 400/800 on XL. Please check atarimax.com and you will find the answer for it. It is for XL base that can play 400/800 Games based. If you don't that that hardware from Atarimax.com then you can using Translator for now ...

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Atari 800, Incognito mod...done. :)

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Atari 800, Incognito mod...done. :)

 

And swap out the ANTIC chip for the PAL version.

 

It isn't necessary to buy/import an entire computer, just change this chip. A true PAL machine wouldn't get along with an NTSC monitor, anyway.

 

Games will run a little slower after you've done this, but you soon won't notice. Trust me. ;-)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Adding to Alphasys answers:

 

PART 1: Models

 

1. I would stay away from the 400 and 600XL since these were introductory models with limited RAM and ports. I would also stay away from the 800, since it runs the older OS (OS-B) and only has 48k RAM, unless you are a collector or really love that model for some reason (and then you'd look into the Icognito upgrade)-you'll be frustrated that a lot of software does not work on this model. Personally, I like the 800XL, but everyone has their favorite machines. The 800XL is the "best all around" machine IMO: acceptable keyboard, cartridge slot on top, full PBI port, cool/sleak lines, and generally speaking most software runs on it.

 

PART 2: Upgrades

 

1. VBXE is definitely not a required upgrade, I would skip it until you've got some experience with the Atari 8-bit. As mentioned, there's not a ton of software out that requires the VBXE.

 

2. The monitor jack provides composite, chroma and luma (chroma/luma is basically s-video). With a simple cable you can get s-video output from the monitor jack's chroma/luma connectors. S-video gives you a better picture in my opinion. You should know that Atari for some reason did not hook up the chroma line on the monitor jack on the 800XL and a simple modification is required to bring chroma out to the jack.

 

4. There are many improved video mods, but most of the Atari 8-bit computers have s-video "out of the box", with the exception of the 800XL (see above), and those modesl that don't have a monitor jack at all (400 and North American 600XL).

 

5. A RAM upgrade is pretty much mandatory to take advantage of the newer software that's been developed. Classic games and software will work fine on a 64k machine (800XL, 65XE). There are many RAM upgrades available now that are very simple to install. There is one available that plugs into the PBI port on the 800XL and provides 320kB (RAM 320XL). The Ultimate 1MB is another good one that also provides other features but requires a bit of soldering. I would wait until you have some more experience with the Atari before you decide on a RAM upgrade. The 130XE has 128k, but personally, I don't think there is a ton of benefit from going with that model, when you will need more RAM to use the newer software and demos anyhow.

 

9. The Multi I/O, or MIO, is a device that plugs into the PBI expansion port, and provides SCSI hard drive capability, extra RAM that can be used as a ramdisk or printer buffer, printer port, and serial ports. They came in 256k or 1MB versions. They are interesting, but not required to enjoy your Atari 8-bit. The "blackbox" is a similar expansion module.

 

PART 3: Peripherals

 

2. Only want to add that the blackbox and MIO are SCSI interfaces. You may be able to use a SCSI/IDE convertor... if you are interested in IDE/CF, get the SIDE2 as mentioned.

 

3. You can connect the Atari to internet BBSes available via telnet, by using a SIO2PC adapter and software like APE. You can also use serial to TCP adapters like the Lantronix UDS adapters, but you'll need a serial port to do this (MIO, blackbox, P:R: connection, 850 interface, etc...). There is also an Ethernet cartridge that has been devleoped, but support for it is in the early stages still.

 

4. To use a 9600 baud modem, you would need a MIO, blackbox or possibly the P:R: Connection (can't recall if the PR did 9600 baud or not). Really, a modem in today's world is useless, so don't worry about this...

 

PART 4: Miscellaneous

 

1. Pretty much all the cartridge software released for the 8-bit has been cracked and converted to run from disk. There are a few exceptions (Space Harrier for instance). There are flash cartridges with varying features to allow you to run some cartridge images as well as disk and single binary files easily. The AtariMax Flashcart is one of these (Space Harrier uses the Atarimax format.)

 

2. You need a SIO2PC adapter and some program to emulate atari peripherals likes disk drives (APE for instance). Atarimax sells both APE and SIO2PC adapters. This is the single most important thing you can buy after your actual Atari computer, IMO.

Edited by Shawn Jefferson

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Wow guys! Again, thank you ALL so much for your awesome answers!

 

So, addressing the first point. I know the VBXE is not a required upgrade by any means. And I definitely won't be starting out with it. However, as I mentioned, I'm just curious whether the RGB out will work for all software, or just stuff specifically made for it.

 

With respect to the U1MB, I saw another post talk about removing the 32-in-1 OS and replacing it with the U1MB. Now I'm confused, I thought it was RAM upgrade, but does it actually upgrade the OS?

 

Will a PAL model run slower than NTSC because PAL is 50hz? If I replace ANTIC with a PAL model, will it work with NTSC TVs but have PAL compatibility?

 

Finally, still confused about the SIO2xx things. As I mentioned, there appears to be both the SIO2SD and SDrive Nuxx. I can't figure out which is better. Also, what is the advantage of the SIO2PC over the SIO2SD? I don't have a PC anywhere near where I would put my Atari unfortunately.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

So, addressing the first point. I know the VBXE is not a required upgrade by any means. And I definitely won't be starting out with it. However, as I mentioned, I'm just curious whether the RGB out will work for all software, or just stuff specifically made for it.

 

Yes it works for all software. Basically the GTIA is "emulated" on the VBXE board and sends it's output out via the RGB (AIUI).

 

With respect to the U1MB, I saw another post talk about removing the 32-in-1 OS and replacing it with the U1MB. Now I'm confused, I thought it was RAM upgrade, but does it actually upgrade the OS?

 

Yes, it does as well, and includes SpartaDOS and a real-time clock. (IIRC)

 

Will a PAL model run slower than NTSC because PAL is 50hz? If I replace ANTIC with a PAL model, will it work with NTSC TVs but have PAL compatibility?

 

You may have to adjust your vertical sync, and it may not work on all monitors. I did this with a Commodore 1084 monitor and one of my 800XLs and I only had to adjust the vertical sync and everything was fine. There are some programs that detect you aren't running a PAL GTIA though, and refuse to run anyway (one demo that I remember).

 

Finally, still confused about the SIO2xx things. As I mentioned, there appears to be both the SIO2SD and SDrive Nuxx. I can't figure out which is better. Also, what is the advantage of the SIO2PC over the SIO2SD? I don't have a PC anywhere near where I would put my Atari unfortunately.

 

SIO2PC and SIO2SD are completely different things. SIO2PC lets you hook your Atari to a PC that emulates peripherals, the SIO2SD/S-Drive connects an SD card to your Atari that looks like a disk drive. I would still go with a SIO2PC over the SIO2SD/Sdrive, first, but you'd need some PC close by, maybe an old laptop with a serial or USB port. You can use the SIO2SD/Sdrive to transfer files to your Atari, but it means moving the SD card to a PC and copying the files... and it doesn't provide the other features of the SIO2PC of course.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

...

Will a PAL model run slower than NTSC because PAL is 50hz? If I replace ANTIC with a PAL model, will it work with NTSC TVs but have PAL compatibility?

...

A PAL model will be a little slower in experience, yes. A PAL machine will "do" a vertical blank interrupt every 50th of a second, while NTSC does it every 60th of a second. However, because the PAL machine works in this way, there are MORE clockcycles available WITHIN the VBI routine.

 

This the main reason why all NTSC software will run on a PAL machine, but not the other way around. A PAL machine just has "more time" to do its VBI stuff. If this is used, an NTSC machine would call for a new VBI before the previous one is "done", causing the computer to lock up.

 

The same applies to Display-list Interrupts, to some degree, since the PAL Antic does it's datafetching a little slower, there's a few clockcycles "extra" that can be used. Depending on the time between DLI's, this might cause a lockup, or weird artifacting on screen, causing flicker or other weirdness.

 

You can probably understand that, if a DLI switches between colors or character sets, and the Antic starts datafetching before the DLI finishes this task... Heck of a mess on screen.

 

Since the XL/XE line was/is so popular in europe, most of the newer software was/is developed there and this problem really is a problem.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.
Note: Your post will require moderator approval before it will be visible.

Guest
Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

Loading...

  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    No registered users viewing this page.

×
×
  • Create New...