Sunday, 26 February 2012

Running a UK Atari STE in Japan

Another non-arcade related post I'm afraid. I'm waiting for some PCBs to come back from repair and I've been busy studying hard at Japanese so I haven't had too much time for taking photographs and so on.


Several years ago a school in which I worked were disposing of their old computers and other related hardware. Naturally I took some of them for myself (thus saving the school money). I ended up selling some when I moved away, but I kept the Atari STE (with 1 MB of RAM I believe) and eventually I brought it to Japan.


So this is a UK model, with 220V power requirement and 50Hz PAL video output.

The power supply was no problem. I use the same step-up transformer as that which I use with my Spectrums. The STE doesn't have an external PSU, so I can simply plug into it with a standard computer power cable available just about anywhere.

The next, much bigger, problem was the video output. I needed to get a cable made up which would take the video from the 13-pin RGB socket to my monitor. Although the pinouts are available on the Internet, I wasn't sure how to connect it properly, so I contacted Ian at the Retro Computer Shack (http://www.retrocomputershack.com/) about making me up a cable, which he did without hesitation. So, like my Spectrum cable which he also made, the output comes from the RGB socket and composite plugs connect into the monitor.

I downloaded Bootsie which allows the user to change a disk's boot sector. One of the options available is to start the machine in 60Hz mode, so having used Bootsie to change the boot sector of a blank disk, I can now insert that disk when starting the machine, and get a perfect picture on my X68000 monitor. I can run the machine at 50Hz, it will still work fine on this monitor, but only because I can adjust the sync rate. I'm using the monitor as a television though, so you can probably get a similar result on a standard CRT television.


Some programs will run at 60Hz, but Sensible Soccer switches back to 50Hz upon loading, which is a problem I've yet to overcome. Most other programs seem fine, and many cracked versions of games have a 60Hz option at the menu screen so they work fine too. Unlike my Spectrums, the STE won't work on my 100Hz TV. I've read on an Atari forum that this is a problem with 100Hz televisions, so it's not something I can easily overcome. My Sharp monitor gives a good picture anyway so it's not a big problem.

I didn't have an ST-compatible joystick so rather than take a chance in buying one from an auction site and hoping that it worked ok, I decided to make a simple adaptor so that I could use my trusty MSX/X68000 joysticks (Micom XE-1ST2); once again I ordered some parts from eleshop.jp and the result is below.

The pinouts for both joystick port and joystick are readily available, and it was not a difficult job to connect them up. I thought I had ordered enclosures for each end but it turns out I didn't, and so I'll have to get some the next time I order something from them. There are extra 15-pin joystick connectors on the STE but for the sake of compatibility I've kept it nice and easy with the 9-pin connectors, though Atari didn't help with their placement...

To copy disks from my Windows PC to ST disk I use makedisk on my Windows 98 machine (from pure DOS) and I've yet to have a problem with it.

Here are two screenshots of Robocop running on my machine. The colours are a little off but it looks better in real life than these pictures show.

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