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adam6502

Atari 800XL - Currently Available Upgrades, DIY, Mods

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So I've got myself a new, or to me at least, Atari 800XL PAL (Manf. Taiwan) version that seems pretty much untouched. I've just built an SIO2PI, and SIO2Arduino to start getting software on to it but with regards to memory and video upgrades I'm a bit lost with all of the options mentioned in the forums.

 

Firstly with the video. I've got an s-video to VGA converter which I want to use, and I've seen a lot of recommendations to go the way of UAV but as I understand Bryan's got a lot going on these days and won't be producing more boards until next year at the earliest. I took a quick look at the s-video modifications thread which started in 2009 but it's really hard to figure out what the latest suggestions/methods are in this thread with a number of changes made in the last few years. Unfortunately Sophia is out of price range for me at the moment, especially with shipping and import taxes where I'm located.

 

What are the options for improving the video signal these days? Homebrew/DIY preferred over trying to get boards into the country.

 

Secondly, I'd like to upgrade the memory a little. Again, U1MB seems to be the go for solution these days but though the board is only $80 I'm looking at another $100 on shipping and customs fees. Looking at the stuff I want to do, 256K would be sufficient but I've no idea if there's any highly compatible, reasonably straight forward upgrades currently available, or again homebrew/DIY. Soldering is not an issue so not necessarily needing plug-in solutions.

 

Anyway, great to be accepted into the community; the last one I was part of was the FaST club in the UK back in the 90's but feel more at home with my 800XL on my desk.

 

Any help or advice on getting started also gladly accepted.

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For video, UAV is great or you could do something like the full digital (Sophia DVI board) in this picture if you don't mind cutting your case. With just a cable, it connects to a HDMI LED TV with no signal conversion required. Pretty incredible picture, but color will be weird on games that use artifacting.

247097bff291a7ed317376f5cec753fd.jpg

Edited by Grover Torbel

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For video, UAV is great or you could do something like the full digital (Sophia DVI board) in this picture if you don't mind cutting your case.

 

Yep, the UAV is what I wanted but sadly no boards likely to be available in the short term. I've been trying to check the ANTIC and GTIA chip information online in case there was anything more than just the chroma connection I could do myself, maybe with a bit of FPGA work or even just signal cleaning. The Sophia is not affordable for me at the moment. I was getting a rough idea of the prices from other threads but postage to Ecuador and the customs fees which follow make it almost as cheap to get a flight and fetch one.

 

The thread on s-video has a lot of posts with people contributing to improving video output but none of the thread seems to be a place to start from and neither defines a current DIY method for doing so. As much as I've got from it is connect the chroma up or buy a UAV.

 

I've scoured the net fro the Rambo upgrades which seemed a pretty standard way of getting to 256K RAM, but literally no guidance on getting hold of one, an alternative, a homebrew method or whatever. Most forms of upgrade seem to have disappeared apart from Lotherek's offering. As I've said, shipping to Ecuador is really expensive and even shipping to the UK which I could get forwarded afterwards is at least £20 from Poland (expensive by European standards) and then UK to Ecuador, then customs fees.

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I'd say the best way to go for cheap DIY in regards to an 800XL is the Clearpic S-video upgrade, though you'll have to install an S-video jack output or get a custom cable made for the monitor out DIN to S-video/RCA audio or buy a RIX Cat video Break-out-box to connect standard cables that can then go to your S-video-2-VGA converter like I have mine.

 

For the best and cheapest solution for a simple 256K memory upgrade I'd go with Dropcheck's (BitsOfThePast) re-imaged Rambo XL memory board, I think she sells the drams needed too.

 

Rambo from Bits OF The Past: https://www.bitsofthepast.com/?product=reimaged-rambo-xl-adapter

 

Video B.O.B from More Than Games: http://www.a8maestro.com/morethangames/index.html (currently under update construction, but mention of the B.O.B is there on this page and you can contact for availability)

 

Clearpic 2001/2: I tried to post a link for the 800XL version of this, but only came up with 1200XL versions...hopefully someone else can help here...

Edited by Gunstar

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Thanks you Gunstar.... working from your suggestions I've now found some more helpful information, although the actual products linked to are no longer in stock.

 

Clearly from those links however there is Claus Buchholz’s memory expansion solution. And for the video there is also Super Video 2.1. Both seem to be some kind of open-source solution with schematics somewhere but for the life of me I cannot find a homepage or schematics for either Claus's solution or Super Video 2.1 .... lots of people talking about them and saying they've fitted them, but no actual project page.

 

Dare I mention I just bought a Commodore 128 as well? It seems the video ram upgrade is desolder/solder job on two chips. Difficult access but very straight forward. Wish the Atari was like this cos Atari and Sinclair were the machines I was brought up on :(

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Thanks you Gunstar.... working from your suggestions I've now found some more helpful information, although the actual products linked to are no longer in stock.

 

Clearly from those links however there is Claus Buchholz’s memory expansion solution. And for the video there is also Super Video 2.1. Both seem to be some kind of open-source solution with schematics somewhere but for the life of me I cannot find a homepage or schematics for either Claus's solution or Super Video 2.1 .... lots of people talking about them and saying they've fitted them, but no actual project page.

 

Dare I mention I just bought a Commodore 128 as well? It seems the video ram upgrade is desolder/solder job on two chips. Difficult access but very straight forward. Wish the Atari was like this cos Atari and Sinclair were the machines I was brought up on :(

Yep, Claus' is the original. I was just trying to keep it simple for you, with a ready-made Rambo board for a cheap price or I could have pointed you to Claus' upgrade. I prefer to do DIY upgrades myself, just from instructions, to keep costs minimal, but in the case of my Atarimax Rambo clone I went with it instead of the Claus Buchhholz upgrade for the ease of increasing ram to 512K. you have to e-mail Steve at Atarimax for availability of it; that's the way it's always been as long as I can remember, not listed on the site.

 

I did the SV 2.1 upgrade on my 1200XL, but it's different than for the 800XL, and I've heard around here that the Clearpic upgrade is preferred to SV 2.1 for the 800XL, I can tell you the SV 2.1 is fantastic on my 1200XL and I can't imagine an improvement for it along with my Ambery VGA converter besides going with something like the Sofia board. The 1200XL has an extra broken chroma circuit not in the 600/800XL's and the SV 2.1 mod for it fixes it. Making it different than Clearpic for the 1200XL or Clearpic and SV 2.1 for the 600/800XL.

 

I'm in the middle of a slow re-build of an 800XL and I was planning on taking other's advice and trying out the Clearpic upgrade on it instead of SV 2.1.

Edited by Gunstar

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U1MB seems to be the go for solution these days but though the board is only $80 I'm looking at another $100 on shipping and customs fees. Looking at the stuff I want to do, 256K would be sufficient but I've no idea if there's any highly compatible, reasonably straight forward upgrades currently available, or again homebrew/DIY.

I use my U1MB as much for the four selectable Op Systems as I do for the memory expansion. It's great being able to switch to OSb with just a simple reboot rather than having to muck around with various Translator software.

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I use my U1MB as much for the four selectable Op Systems as I do for the memory expansion. It's great being able to switch to OSb with just a simple reboot rather than having to muck around with various Translator software.

The 800XL I'm working on is getting this for both those reasons. It saves doing a separate upgrade and is an easy install.

Edited by Gunstar

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Atarimax offers a 256K RAM upgrade (expandable to 512K) that I've been very happy with in my 1200XL. It's not listed on the website, but email Steven and he can help you.

 

Best Electronics offers a new production run of the Wizztronics 256K upgrade board. No personal experience with this one.

 

I've also been pleased with the Super Video modification on several machines. It's a significant step up from stock, though it can't match newer designs like UAV, let alone Sophia.

Edited by adam242

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I use my U1MB as much for the four selectable Op Systems as I do for the memory expansion. It's great being able to switch to OSb with just a simple reboot rather than having to muck around with various Translator software.

 

Just as a matter of interest, what's the main reason users are wanting to switch operating systems? When they were mainstream I was a daily Atari ST user, obviously with TOS and the GEM desktop. I could load up programming languages, games, a database etc but it was all done through the same OS. Am I going to hit a restriction on what I can load on to the ROM OS already available on the XL? I'm mainly wanting to start programming on it, maybe some BASIC to begin with, tapping the hardware a bit more later on, and getting back into 6502 assembly along side that. As a couple of leisure projects I was thinking about programming a game or two but in the same manner they were produced back in the 80's and I presume the alternative OS's weren't around then?

 

I think I'm going either for Claus Buchhholz's route as I can pick up components locally for this rather than trying to get pre-built boards shipped. I'd love a U1MB but I'm looking at almost $200 before it's sat on my desk. As for the video, I'm trying to source a UAV but if that doesn't work out the Super Video 2.0 mentioned above looks like the closest I will get to decent video output without a manufactured board, thank you for the link to the schematic.

 

It's probably of no interest to anybody but the reason DIY is much easier for me is purely down to getting ready made stuff to where I live, outside the city boundary of Quito in Ecuador. The main couriers companies (DHL, UPS) are pretty 'corrupt' and on top of the $80 standard shipping fee here I end up with $24 handling fee, 40% taxes instead of the 12% standard import taxes, a so-called 'fuel-surcharge' usually around $15 if I order packages directly from suppliers. I do have a method of getting stuff to the UK then to here in a consolidated package but unfortunately most companies shipping to the UK are not so cheap either. Last year I ordered 4 FPGA boards from Poland to the UK and they arrived well packed in a bubblewrap envelope. Postage with tracking and a signature was 6 Euros. Other suppliers are charging 20 Euros for a single pre-built smaller board.

 

Thanks guys for the responses so far, and I definitely have enough to work on with these suggestions.

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Just as a matter of interest, what's the main reason users are wanting to switch operating systems?

Most of the time I use the stock XL operating system. However, I occasionally use a modified XL OP that has high speed SIO routines built in. Mostly though, if I am changing to a different OS it is to an OSb compatible one so that I can run my "Gorf" or "Demon Attack" or similar cartridges. I like the SuperMon OS because it is OSb compliant but also allows for use of the built in BASIC. There are a few games though, like "Crush, Crumble, And Chomp" for example, that need a real Atari OSb and BASIC cartridge in order to run.

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I generally only keep those four operating systems loaded into the open slots on my U1MB. If another open slot were available, I would probably load a copy of OSa into it but I don't really need it so it's not all that important.

Edited by SS

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adam a local parts store? Name? where?

 

Are you in Quito? The parts I'm looking at sourcing are the ones mentioned in the 1985 Byte magazine article for a homebrew 256K upgrade. There seems to be a few updated versions of this article too but it's taking me time to read through them to see which is the most recent/practical.

 

There are some good components stores on Cristobal Colón y Versalles, and also Wolf electronics near Quicentro Sur. Wolf even have a stock of old 74xx DIP chips of various types and fairly cheap memory chips.

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I'm just checking up on the other OS's available, quite an eye-opener really :)

I have a folder full of something like 30 different OS choices but, like I said, I really only ever use four of them.

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If you want a UAV and a U1MB and the only stopper is shipping/customs and Bryan being busy.... PM MacRorie, I think he has both of those boards available and he's in the USA if that's a better shipping location.

 

The last I heard Bryan was making a batch of UAV's, I don't know if he's finished them or sold out yet

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Firstly with the video. I've got an s-video to VGA converter which I want to use, and I've seen a lot of recommendations to go the way of UAV but as I understand Bryan's got a lot going on these days and won't be producing more boards until next year at the earliest. I took a quick look at the s-video modifications thread which started in 2009 but it's really hard to figure out what the latest suggestions/methods are in this thread with a number of changes made in the last few years. Unfortunately Sophia is out of price range for me at the moment, especially with shipping and import taxes where I'm located.

 

What are the options for improving the video signal these days? Homebrew/DIY preferred over trying to get boards into the country.

 

 

Bryan, the creator of the UAV, posted a quick and easy video upgrade for the 800XL:

http://atariage.com/forums/topic/41580-quick-easy-video-upgrade-for-800xl/

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Nope nowhere near Ecuador, we should make a list of every supply shop everywhere.... there used to be books for this sort of thing but they were endless. We need them listed that are hobby retro friendly.

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Bryan, the creator of the UAV, posted a quick and easy video upgrade for the 800XL:

http://atariage.com/forums/topic/41580-quick-easy-video-upgrade-for-800xl/

 

I've used this video on one of my 800XL's and the results are quite excellent. I since put an earlier version of the UAV (rev C) into that machine, but compared to stock XL composite, Bryan's "Quick and Easy" upgrade is a major improvement, and well worth the minimal time and effort necessary.

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I'd say the best way to go for cheap DIY in regards to an 800XL is the Clearpic S-video upgrade, though you'll have to install an S-video jack output or get a custom cable made for the monitor out DIN to S-video/RCA audio or buy a RIX Cat video Break-out-box to connect standard cables that can then go to your S-video-2-VGA converter like I have mine.

 

For the best and cheapest solution for a simple 256K memory upgrade I'd go with Dropcheck's (BitsOfThePast) re-imaged Rambo XL memory board, I think she sells the drams needed too.

 

Rambo from Bits OF The Past: https://www.bitsofthepast.com/?product=reimaged-rambo-xl-adapter

 

Video B.O.B from More Than Games: http://www.a8maestro.com/morethangames/index.html (currently under update construction, but mention of the B.O.B is there on this page and you can contact for availability)

 

Clearpic 2001/2: I tried to post a link for the 800XL version of this, but only came up with 1200XL versions...hopefully someone else can help here...

8bitclassics has composite/s-video cables which connect to the DIN5 monitor port of the Atari 8-bits.

S-Video will only work properly on machines which have both chroma and luma signals connected to the port, the same is true of the Video B.O.B.

 

https://www.8bitclassics.com/shop/av-cables/atari-xlxe-5-pin-din-to-s-video-composite-av-cable/

Edited by BillC

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I have modified at least a dozen 800CAl with the SV2.1 and the video is about 95% as good as the UAV. The only time I can tell a significant difference is with the Last Word 80 column word processor.

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