Testing Everything After Moving House

TT030

After moving house and in some cases having kit for 3 years in storage, will everything still work?

With the recent house move, I finally had an opportunity to gather all my kit together and set it up with room to actually use it in comfort, the first time since early 2008. The trouble was much of this kit had not been powered on for some time and in the case of the TT030, it had been in storage in a shed at my mothers house after we were burgled in late 2008!

I didn't know it was going into the shed when I took it there for storage, I thought it would be a place of safety!

 

The Studio Power TestStill, with most of the kit now in one place, my first priority was a power on test of the studio kit which included the Falcon, and a set of synths, some of which are just as rare as some of the Atari kit, but a lot more fragile. Despite the mess and haste in connecting, it all powered up properly first time, although there was still the MIDI cables to route and connect, along with all of the audio cables!

With a successful power on test completed, it was now time to focus on the rest of the computers themselves, and to try and fix any issues that came along. Thankfully I had tested the Stacy laptop before and after the move, so I know that machine was working just fine, it was the others I was unsure about, especially the TT!

 

The Atari TT LivesThankfully, once connected to a suitable VGA monitor, the TT sprung to life as if its last power on was only 10 minutes earlier, better still the SCSI ZIP drive was also working. Now I knew the machine was fine, it was time to fit the memory expansion I had bought for it 18 months earlier and at the same time, see if I could get the Matrix card that was installed in it working for the first time since I had bought it.

So first job was to back up the current working setup to the ZIP drive, a simple matter of formatting a cartridge, setting up a folder for each hard drive partition, then dragging the drive icon to its relevant folder. Now don't you wish backing up your shiny new modern machines was as simple as that? Once that was done I renamed the AUTO folder and created a new one, then copied the Matrix card redirection programs into the new AUTO folder. Next run the setup program and select the TT High resolution mono mode driver and reboot...

 

Atari  TT running Logic in high resolutionOnce the display switched, the card took over and a nice clear TT high resolution image was shown, success though now I had to test Logic. It's quite a sight to see logic load all cramped into the top left of the screen, but that small space it initially occupies is the size of the ST high resolution mode. Once fully expanded to fill the screen though, running a studio on a TT makes absolute sense because you have just as much screen real estate as the average PC, but no 'everything to everyone' operating system sucking up resource underneath. As a result, with the Emagic LOG-3 and a Soundpool 4 port MIDI interface attached, Logic on the TT can access 8 MIDI out's with better timing than any Mac or PC on the market today. Add MacMan MIDI interface to the LAN port and you have 2 MIDI in's and 9 individual MIDI out's (10 if you include the duplicated port on the LOG-3)

However, that's enough of the TT, now it's time to test the oldest machines in my collection.

The 260ST and 520STmThese machines are what got the ST going in Europe and in the case of the 260ST, not only was the floppy drive an extra purchase, the mouse was as well, mice did not come with the machines until 6 months after the machines launch in Europe. The 260ST I have is one of the machines without a mouse of its own, and with no spares I have to borrow one from another machine.

Hooking the 520STM up to the TV input of my Powermac 5500 and borrowing the external floppy drive from the TT, I powered it on and up came that horrid green desktop. Much as I like the fact that the machine powered on first time, even now I can not for the life of me understand why they chose THAT colour for the desktop!

 

Atari ST connected to Powermac 5500With a cable put together connecting the composite out from the monitor port to the composite in on the Powermac, the 260ST also powered up, though not first time. Leaving the machine for 5 minutes with power going into it, I then powered it off and tried again, this time it fired up and gave the ST Desktop, complete with that green.

Now the 260ST is German, with German TOS in ROM and a German keyboard, however as all the menu options are in the same places as the UK ST TOS, it was pretty easy to run through a couple of tests to make sure everything was running as it should.

Now it was the turn of my first ST, the 520STfm that I bought while at school in 1987. This started with a white screen and went no further, but powering off and back on brought the machine to life, though the floppy drive made a strange sound. Luckily it formats and reads disks fine, trouble is it hangs on a white screen when the reset button is pressed. Not an urgent thing to look into, because at least it is still working if needed.

Now the STe. This was donated by a friend of mine around 10 years ago and had been upgraded to 4MB. Powering on brought up a scrambled screen pattern and nothing else. Time to open up the machine...

Atari STe feeling poorlyOpen it up...After some testing the fault is revealedAnd here it is working :-)

It turned out one of the SIM pairs had a fault causing the machine to hang on boot. Removing the faulty pair brought the machine back to life.

Luckily both my Falcons are working fine, although one of them does have an issue with sound while the other won't run Cubase Audio. The Cubase Audio machine also had been used a lot for copying files and testing software, so it was little wonder that the Floppy drive was on its way out.

Time for a drive swap.

The Falcon is preparedRemoving the lidDrive ready to be swappedNew drive fitted and machine assembled

With the new drive fitted, formatting floppy disks has become more reliable, as have data transfers to and from the other Atari's and the Macs. The other Falcon looks more like an ST, but it's keys were decidedly cream, and not because of the sun either.

Ergh... A mucky Falcon keyboardAlthough the Falcon looked ok, its keyboard did let it down so it was off to 16/32 systems to buy a clean set of keys to do a complete keyboard swap, which would leave me with a complete set of UK keyboard keys to clean up and possibly fit to one of my German machines (After replacing the TOS ROMs with UK set).

There was a problem with this however, it made the Falcon look even more like the STfm and STe than it did before, the only real difference is a subtle change in the case colour, which by the way is not as a result of the colour change that cursed its keys. But to make my point (And many other peoples point at the time of launch and for years after), here is a picture of my ST coloured Falcon with my STfm and STe.

The three amigo's

With the all in 1 desktop machines all sorted and working well, it was time to look at the Mega ST2 and the Mega STE. For this I needed my old Mono monitor back, which had been left at my ex-wifes house and left in the wardrobe since November 2007, so not only did I need access to get it back, there was no guarantee it would work once I'd got it. Luckily me and the ex-wife still get along.

The Mega ST2 lives!With the monitor connected and the mains power connected up, I flicked the switches on both the Mega ST and the monitor. To my amazement they both jumped to life straight away, so the first thing to try was Cubase which loaded perfectly and ran without issue (Just as I remember it back in the 1990's). Next thing to try was Starglider 2, one of the few games on the ST that works in both colour and mono modes, and once again it ran perfectly.

It was a number of hours before I'd get around to trying the Mega STE, and I was looking forward to bootng it up and giving it a thorough run through.

Well...

Uh-oh...

It wasn't going to play, so I tried booting from a floppy with HDDriver on it, same issue though at least with the floppy I'd get to a desktop. Next thing was to make sure the drive was ok, so I fitted it to the TT030 and sure enough it booted fine and had 4 partitions on the desktop. Time to do a backup while I had access to the drive.

The Mega STEThe view of the controller board and the RAM under the hard drive

With the SCSI board and RAM exposed, I thought it may well be worth while re-seating them, first the RAM which made no difference, then the SCSI board. On booting this time, success, I got to the desktop and all 4 partitions could be seen. Now to power off and re-assemble.

Bad idea, the exact same error as before came back.

As yet I've not got the Mega STE fully working, but at least I know there is a chance. Once it is back up and running I intend to do a comparison between Atari's 3 fastest released machines, the Falcon, the TT and the Mega STE.

Watch this webspace...