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Xebec

Why Mega ST over 1040ST?

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What were the main reasons for purchasing a Mega ST back in the day over a 1040ST(fm)?

 

From what I can see it adds:

- More memory out of the box (2/4MB)

- Blitter installed by default (= faster TOS, desktop publishing?)

- A non-standard expansion bus of some kind but I'm curious what was actually released for it?

- Detached keyboard (= ergonomics improvements)

- Battery backed clock

- Somewhat reduced desk space usage (monitor stacks on case)

- An opportunity for a noisy fan ;-) (hello Noctua from the future!)

 

Anything else?  The lack of real bus slots feels a bit like a miss here?

 

Thanks.. 

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There were several upgrades released for the expansion port,

including an internal hard drive and graphics cards.

 

The keyboard is soooooo much better than a 1040's it's not

even funny.

 

I've owned a couple of Mega's over the years and none of them

ever had a "noisy" fan.

 

One big thing for me was getting away from the mouse/joystick

ports being underneath, like the 1040. Very awkward, IMHO.

 

I also just plain like the looks of a Mega over any of the "all in

one designs". Personal preference, but there it is.  :)

 

But if you're really asking (as in the OP's first line) why I would

have picked a Mega ST over a 1040 in 1987/88, it would have

been for the "wow" factor, despite the increased price. 

 

For others, the increased memory out of the box would have

been needed for productivity, like DTP... Running a Mega ST4,

with a Mega Drive, Atari laser printer, and one of those gosh

awfully big monochrome monitors had to be heaven for those

in the industry.

 

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I remember wanting a 1040ST because it was all I could afford. However, when I was able to get a MegaST4 for a great price, I bought it (with a little help from the parents :) ).

 

My favorite reason to get with the MegaST was the keyboard. I was using an Atari 800 already, so anyone who has used one will tell you that it has one of the best keyboards out there. Moving to the 1040ST would have been a downgrade to a mushy keyboard. I didn't like it, but I would have had to settle if the MegaST4 deal didn't become reality.

 

My second reason was the 4MB of memory. I remember wondering what am I going to do with all that space?! I ended up having a boot disk with 440K of accessories and a 2MB (reset-proof) RAM Disk...and I still had plenty of room. Well, I'm glad I did get 4MB because when good multi-tasking programs (Geneva, MagiC) came out on the ST, I got rid of the RAM Disk and unnecessary accessories because I was now running out of RAM! Having two or more programs in memory at the same time comes in really handy as we all know now. It's especially useful if one is a telecommunications program (Flash, STalker, etc) and you're downloading a large file, I can work on something else at the same time. I could also be using a document processor (WordUp, Calligrapher, Papyrus, etc) and a graphics program (Touch Up, Degas, etc) at the same time and just keep going back and forth between the two until I get the graphic right. This is much more efficient than working on a graphic and importing it to the document processor then noticing a mistake, then quitting the document processor, load the graphics program, etc.

 

     I sometimes think I would have quit Atari if I got the 1040ST because of the cost/reliability of RAM upgrades. There were several RAM upgrades (Newell, Z-RAM, Marpet, JRI, etc) and I remember each having its own quirks largely due to Atari changing the motherboard design all the time. It was hard for these hardware upgrade designers to keep up, so they would sometimes not fit properly or come loose due to the on/off-heat/cool cycles. They generally needed to be installed by a technician so the cost soon climbed up to close to the cost of an STE when it came out. I don't know if I wanted to deal with this. I am glad to have avoided all this since I have 4MB as a standard part of the computer already.

 

My third reason would be the battery backed clock. I remember seeing 520/1040ST users always setting the time/date when they boot up. Worse are those who don't bother, so when they are confronted with two versions of the same file, they can't figure out which file to save or delete because they have the same size and time/date.

 

My fourth reason is longevity. I was still using this in 1995 until I got Falcon crazy :). One computer with NO internal upgrades lasting 7 years was unheard of back then, especially when you consider the fast pace technology was moving back then. I doubt many PC users were still using their 8088/80286s in 1995.

 

If you're just playing games, then a 1040ST would be just fine.

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I persuaded the section I work in to purchase a Mega ST, we used it to do all our CAD work

for circuit diagrams, all our documentation and it was connected via the RS232 interface to

an IEEE488 (GPIB) interface to run HP 10 pen plotters.

 

I also wrote some programs on it to produce data files that drove an Automated Test System 

that we were developing and some comms software to transfer the data to our HP controllers.

 

Why the Mega ? well it really looked the part in our workshop and more importantly management

didn't think it was a "games machine"

 

Also it totally smashed PC's of the day.

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Posted (edited)
4 hours ago, atarian1 said:

My third reason would be the battery backed clock. I remember seeing 520/1040ST users always setting the time/date when they boot up.

For my own ST, I designed and built a battery backed board that plugged into the cartridge port to overcome this, a small autorun read the time/date

off the board each time I booted, yes it was a real pain without it.

 

I bought a 520 STM that came with that aweful one sided floppy drive, I did the "piggy back" RAM upgrade

to bring it up to 1MB, unfortunately it's now only showing 512K, so looks like time to get the soldering iron out.

Edited by TGB1718
Update

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Back in the day, I went straight from 520ST to the Mega ST. Had the Moniterm card and the 19” monitor, 4Mb RAM, hand scanner, and Calamus DTP software, doing all printed ads for my old man’s business. Felt like a king going from a 520ST and two disk drives and SH204 hard drive to Mega ST 4 and Megafile 30...

 

Now I fancy 1040STs, and have modded few with blitter, 4Mb RAM, and TT Touch from Best. They are great machines, but the mouse/joy port placement is still criminal, and they just take a lot of space on the desk.

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On 7/18/2020 at 2:55 PM, Xebec said:

 

Anything else?  The lack of real bus slots feels a bit like a miss here?

 

Thanks.. 

Much nicer keyboard and better build quality

 

Also didn't it have internal space for a hard-drive, with SCSI?

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11 hours ago, zzip said:

Much nicer keyboard and better build quality

 

Also didn't it have internal space for a hard-drive, with SCSI?

Indeed better keyboard and build quality. Internal SCSI drive has space (easy accessible via separate 'door') and adapter (ACSI-SCSI) in Mega STE.

What I don't like, and guess that was not good for sales is that Atari did not make expansion bus designed to be good for future models, so with some reserved space, lines. Mega ST could be good start for it, but expansion slot is limited. Then there is complete different one in Mega STE, again diff. in Falcon. Sure, ACSI port was good for diverse things, like laser printer, but lot of expansions need access to CPU bus, some control lines.

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5 hours ago, ParanoidLittleMan said:

Indeed better keyboard and build quality. Internal SCSI drive has space (easy accessible via separate 'door') and adapter (ACSI-SCSI) in Mega STE.

What I don't like, and guess that was not good for sales is that Atari did not make expansion bus designed to be good for future models, so with some reserved space, lines. Mega ST could be good start for it, but expansion slot is limited. Then there is complete different one in Mega STE, again diff. in Falcon. Sure, ACSI port was good for diverse things, like laser printer, but lot of expansions need access to CPU bus, some control lines.

But didn't the regular Mega ST (non-STE) have space to mount a hard drive internally as well?   I remember my friend taking the cover off his, and there was a place to mount one.   This was years ago so my memory is fuzzy.   

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3 hours ago, zzip said:

But didn't the regular Mega ST (non-STE) have space to mount a hard drive internally as well?   I remember my friend taking the cover off his, and there was a place to mount one.   This was years ago so my memory is fuzzy.   

 

Yes, as I mentioned in my first post.

post-5822-0-49498400-1398165971.jpg

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5 hours ago, DarkLord said:

 

Yes, as I mentioned in my first post.

post-5822-0-49498400-1398165971.jpg

Nice!  I still want one, never have owned one... did they all have the 'long' button floppy drive?

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3 hours ago, leech said:

Nice! I still want one, never have owned one... did they all have the 'long' button floppy drive?

Mega ST's had normal drive and long buttons.  I have one of each.  My Mega 2 has the long button.  Mega 4 normal one.

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1 hour ago, tjlazer said:

Mega ST's had normal drive and long buttons.  I have one of each.  My Mega 2 has the long button.  Mega 4 normal one.

That's what I thought.  One of these days I am sure to end up with one.  Love the pizza box style case.  My first ST was the Mega STe, and I definitely love the keyboard being detachable.

Wish the Falcon had been released in a similar form factor, at least as an option!

I did finally get a Mega ST keyboard, they are the best in the ST line.

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17 hours ago, zzip said:

But didn't the regular Mega ST (non-STE) have space to mount a hard drive internally as well?   I remember my friend taking the cover off his, and there was a place to mount one.   This was years ago so my memory is fuzzy.   

Yes, there is space for drive, but don't know what adapter (ACSI-SCSI) was used for SCSI drives, did Atari sell it with built in drive at all ? As we know first ones with factory adapter were Mega STE and Stacy.

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12 hours ago, leech said:

I did finally get a Mega ST keyboard, they are the best in the ST line.

 

Respectfully disagree.  :)

 

I think the STacy's keyboard is just a notch above the rest. (you know

how this works though, keyboard "feel" is a matter of individual's

perceptions so I might be the only one to think this)

 

I absolutely think that the Mega ST's keyboard is next though.

 

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8 hours ago, ParanoidLittleMan said:

Yes, there is space for drive, but don't know what adapter (ACSI-SCSI) was used for SCSI drives, did Atari sell it with built in drive at all ? As we know first ones with factory adapter were Mega STE and Stacy.

 

I think it was 3rd party "kits" that were available:

 

https://www.atarimagazines.com/startv3n5/harddrivecompare.html

 

Scroll down a bit and you'll find it.


Some other info:

 

"Supra Corporation has released their MegaDrive ST, a 40-megabyte hard disk drive that mounts inside the Atari Mega computer case. The drive connects to the internal DMA port  (on the Mega's motherboard) and leaves the external DMA port available for the Atari laser printer or other peripherals. There is no external power supply, power comes directly from the Mega. Supra also furnishes formatting software that lets you partition the MegaDrive ST into as many as 12 drives. MegaDrive ST, $995. Supra Corporation, 1133 Commercial Way, Albany, OR 97321, (503) 967-9075." (I believe there were 20-40-60 megabyte sizes)

 

And all for...wait for it...$995.00 dollars!  :)

 

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Posted (edited)
2 hours ago, DarkLord said:

 

Respectfully disagree.  :)

 

I think the STacy's keyboard is just a notch above the rest. (you know

how this works though, keyboard "feel" is a matter of individual's

perceptions so I might be the only one to think this)

 

I absolutely think that the Mega ST's keyboard is next though.

 

Ha, I always forget about the STacy.  Crying shame Atari didn't stay around and make more laptops then.  These modern ones that keep getting thinner and have shitty keyboards piss me off.  The only ones I can use and not want to scream to the keyboard gods are the Thinkpads.

 

Edit: I used to always hit the 'i' key instead of the 'o' key on my phone's keyboard, I went and tried to adjust the size a bit, and now I hit 'k' instead of 'o'.... First World Problems!

Edited by leech

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On 7/25/2020 at 1:16 PM, leech said:

Ha, I always forget about the STacy.  Crying shame Atari didn't stay around and make more laptops then.  These modern ones that keep getting thinner and have shitty keyboards piss me off.  The only ones I can use and not want to scream to the keyboard gods are the Thinkpads.

 

Edit: I used to always hit the 'i' key instead of the 'o' key on my phone's keyboard, I went and tried to adjust the size a bit, and now I hit 'k' instead of 'o'.... First World Problems!

 

What!? Forget about the STacy? Blasphemy!  :) :) 

 

I totally agree about modern laptops' keyboards. Can't stand most of them.

 

Got an HP that I run Kubuntu linux on. Keys are so darned flat that they don't hardly

rise above the surrounding area. Don't like them at all. 

 

I don't use a smart phone. I know, I'm an old fogy. I still use a Sonim Enduro but at

least I can drop it in front of a car and it will survive being run over. Makes me think

of most of my ST's... Not that I would drop them in front of a car, or anywhere else. :)

 

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Thank you all - learned a lot here actually from this thread.

 

I didn't realize the Mega ST had an ability to mount a drive internally - I assumed with the pizza slice drives that meant external only.  I do like the Mega ST keyboard a lot though as Darklord points out (when I bought my Mega STE 5-6 years ago I asked for the 'older' style keyboard as it had the function keys that look like the AIO ST's..) 

 

I'm sure the blitter alone helped TOS a lot..  it's ashame the original ST's never had that.

 

Any recommendations on where I can go to read more about the video cards offered for the Mega ST (not-E)?    Did those cards drive all TOS / graphics output or was it basically a two monitor deal if you wanted to run all software? 

 

 

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