Recommended hardware tweaks/mods for an Atari STe

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Recommended hardware tweaks/mods for an Atari STe

Postby ungatonipon » Fri Dec 28, 2018 4:58 pm

Hello, this is my first post in this forum. I'm a total newbie in the Atari world, and need to learn a lot.

To be honest (and I'm a little bit scared to confess this ;) ), I've always been an Amiga user, back in the 90s and after that, for many years, kept using it despite everybody else moved to Windows PCs. Despite my Amiga past, I always liked the ST box design a lot, and it's been now at the end of year 2018 that I decided to get myself an Atari STe.

I was lucky enough to get an almost mint STe, with no scratches at all, floppy disk drive working perfectly and just a little bit of yellowing. It's so mint, actually, that it still has the warantee proof-stickers on top of several screw holes... it has never been opened. It came with the original mouse and an RGB video-to-scart cable that works fine. It boots into GEM just fine, and came with a box full of disks of a MIDI program called Notator, along with a copy protection cartridge-dongle.

So my quest is, what hardware should I be looking for to start with? - My usage of this machine would be playing MODs with a tracker, trying games and also trying to make some graphics. I'm used to CF drives on Amiga, I guess I should be looking for an IDE controller and CF adapter, along with some RAM modules (30 pin if I'm not mistaken). Chose the STe precisely because it's got SIMM sockets, so it's easy to upgrade the RAM (although I'd rather not break those beautiful warantee stickers...).

So my questions are;

- What's the best IDE controller? Simple to install and cheap if possible.
- Once I have it, what's the recommendation to download disk images or software to install in that CF card?
- Is eBay the best place to find 30 pin RAM modules?

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Re: Recommended hardware tweaks/mods for an Atari STe

Postby Timnaber » Fri Dec 28, 2018 6:33 pm

The STe did not come with an IDE interface, it came with ASCI, an Atari version of SCSI.

Ultrasatan is the easiest and fastest away to get mass storage for yout STe. It connects to the ACSI port directly and has 2 SD card slots for storage.
https://www.lotharek.pl/

If you want to run Disk Images, you will need something like a Gotek Drive that can handle floppy disk images.

Then there is CosmosEx. It has mass storage, can load floppy disk images and also has USB for keyboard and mouse replacements. There is currently a private sale going on for this, but the initials run is all bought up. They may have future runs though. You can read about it here
http://joo.kie.sk/?page_id=384
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Re: Recommended hardware tweaks/mods for an Atari STe

Postby FedePede04 » Fri Dec 28, 2018 7:54 pm

welcome on board.
many here have own both systems, and know the strengths and weakness of both systems.
i never own an Amiga but all my friends did, so i have use the a lot back then :)
the Amiga was / is a great computer and i think most here can agree on that, but for most of us here our heart is with the Atari.
so if you not Amiga trolling, then i am sure you will be fine :lol:


i am not sure about this, but i think to remember that not all STE had sim slots some of the first had i believe had solder ram, but i could be very wrong here.

but one problem that the first STE had was a faulty DMA stream, many call it the Bad DMA chip, but i do think to read that was more in it, then just the DMA chip, an updated version of the DMA should fixed it. so if you have the faulty DMA, you will need to fix it before you attach and hard drive to it, or you will be losing data.

good luck with you new computer :)
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Re: Recommended hardware tweaks/mods for an Atari STe

Postby Eero Tamminen » Fri Dec 28, 2018 10:56 pm

Rather than tracker music, why not go for MIDI as you already have Notator? Especially with CRT monitors, it would have looked better with monochrome than color one due to larger resolution (640x400 vs 640x200) and higher refresh rate (71 vs 50/60).

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Re: Recommended hardware tweaks/mods for an Atari STe

Postby ungatonipon » Tue Jan 01, 2019 6:58 pm

Timnaber wrote:Ultrasatan is the easiest and fastest away to get mass storage for yout STe. It connects to the ACSI port directly and has 2 SD card slots for storage.
https://www.lotharek.pl/


Checked the videos and info, and looks nice. It'd be a way to run programs and games prepared to run off the hdd, thanks! I like the fact I don't have to open the machine to avoid breaking those nice warantee stickers :) thanks!

Timnaber wrote:If you want to run Disk Images, you will need something like a Gotek Drive that can handle floppy disk images.


I have a gotek already, that I use with the Amiga, it has the FlashFloppy firmware so it works with the ST but I need a cable for that, the round connector the STE has for this looks alien for me. I'll look around for that, it should solve the floppy games issue.

Timnaber wrote:Then there is CosmosEx. It has mass storage, can load floppy disk images and also has USB for keyboard and mouse replacements. There is currently a private sale going on for this, but the initials run is all bought up. They may have future runs though. You can read about it here
http://joo.kie.sk/?page_id=384


Wow, this really looks awesome. The network file sharing looks great. I'll think about this, too, thanks a lot.

FedePede04 wrote:i never own an Amiga but all my friends did, so i have use the a lot back then


Amigas (I guess, as many other systems like Atari) have become really expensive in the last 3 - 4 years, but you're always in time to have one again. The good thing about retro stuff is precisely that, it doesn't matter how much time passes by. Certain models like the A600 are 3x more expensive now, due to the new Vampire accelerator cards.

FedePede04 wrote:the Amiga was / is a great computer and i think most here can agree on that, but for most of us here our heart is with the Atari.
so if you not Amiga trolling, then i am sure you will be fine :lol:


:lol: well, certainly back in my teenager days I'd have enjoyed some trolling but now looking at things with perspective it doesn't really matter, the important thing is enjoying what you have. Said it before, but I really love the look of the STE. I'm going to enjoy it a lot. And I want to try to get online into some BBSs with it, too.

FedePede04 wrote:i am not sure about this, but i think to remember that not all STE had sim slots some of the first had i believe had solder ram, but i could be very wrong here.


So far, I tried a couple of RAM testing programs, and Sysinfo, and they report 0 errors in RAM, and two 512 kb in banks. I don't know if that confirms it's got SIMM slots without opening it, I really doubt it'd change even if the RAM was directly soldered. I'd have to break those warantee stickers to find out. Unless I find out a good use to the extra RAM, I'll leave it like that. I found out TOS version is 1.06 so I guess my machine is one of the first built, could be the one using SIPPs instead... that'd be bad. Not probable, but possible.

Image

FedePede04 wrote:but one problem that the first STE had was a faulty DMA stream, many call it the Bad DMA chip, but i do think to read that was more in it, then just the DMA chip, an updated version of the DMA should fixed it. so if you have the faulty DMA, you will need to fix it before you attach and hard drive to it, or you will be losing data.


well, I guess I'll find out after I try an UltraSatan on it. Being a 1989 STE, it's perfectly possible the DMA bug is there. I read a bit about this and it's def a possibility but I'll just try and, if I get issues, I'll then try to find a solution. Thanks for the tip, didn't know about this bug...

Eero Tamminen wrote:why not go for MIDI as you already have Notator? Especially with CRT monitors, it would have looked better with monochrome than color one due to larger resolution (640x400 vs 640x200) and higher refresh rate (71 vs 50/60).


Well, I don't have any MIDI equipment yet, just the software. Also, I only have a video cable with a scart end, I'd need a VGA out to connect a monitor I guess, and be able to use the high resolution mode. I can only choose low or medium resolution atm. I really just started in the Atari world :)

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Re: Recommended hardware tweaks/mods for an Atari STe

Postby alexh » Thu Jan 03, 2019 5:31 pm

I wouldn't bother with an external Gotek. Some games do not like to boot from drive B.

Lots and lots of games (and demos) have been filed, patched and now have run from hard drive support (once you get a CosmosEx or UltraSatan)

Take a look at

http://atari.8bitchip.info/fromhd2.php

and

http://d-bug.mooo.com/

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Re: Recommended hardware tweaks/mods for an Atari STe

Postby ungatonipon » Mon Jan 07, 2019 10:22 am



That's good to know, didn't know some games would have issues booting from a Gotek. I already have it, it's just a matter of the cable so I'll get it anyway but I'll first try how UltraStan works and find out whether I need more. Thanks!

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Re: Recommended hardware tweaks/mods for an Atari STe

Postby joska » Mon Jan 07, 2019 11:12 am

ungatonipon wrote:That's good to know, didn't know some games would have issues booting from a Gotek.


They don't, the problem is that they don't like to run from anything but drive A. If you mount your Gotek internally there should be no problem. Just don't ruin the STE case by cutting it!

FedePede04 wrote:i am not sure about this, but i think to remember that not all STE had sim slots some of the first had i believe had solder ram, but i could be very wrong here.


Early STE's have SIP modules, which basically is SIMM with pins. Not very common, but the SIP-sockets can be replaced with SIMM-sockets or you can solder pins to normal SIMMs.
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Re: Recommended hardware tweaks/mods for an Atari STe

Postby SteveBagley » Mon Jan 07, 2019 3:05 pm

FedePede04 wrote:but one problem that the first STE had was a faulty DMA stream, many call it the Bad DMA chip, but i do think to read that was more in it, then just the DMA chip, an updated version of the DMA should fixed it. so if you have the faulty DMA, you will need to fix it before you attach and hard drive to it, or you will be losing data.


Given the SYSINFO screen shot below suggests ungatonipon's STE has TOS 1.06 fitted, then I suspect it is extremely likely it will have DMA issues -- not an issue for running things off floppy (inc. emulators) but would definitely hit any storage connected via the ACSI interface.

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Re: Recommended hardware tweaks/mods for an Atari STe

Postby ungatonipon » Mon Jan 07, 2019 5:13 pm

joska wrote:Just don't ruin the STE case by cutting it!


No way! :) that case will remain as it is now.

joska wrote:Early STE's have SIP modules, which basically is SIMM with pins. Not very common, but the SIP-sockets can be replaced with SIMM-sockets or you can solder pins to normal SIMMs.


I see it's possible to buy SIPP modules, they're more expensive but not too much prohibitive. Soldeering pis to SIMMs could also be rather easy. But I first have to make sure I need 3 MB more.

SteveBagley wrote:Given the SYSINFO screen shot below suggests ungatonipon's STE has TOS 1.06 fitted, then I suspect it is extremely likely it will have DMA issues -- not an issue for running things off floppy (inc. emulators) but would definitely hit any storage connected via the ACSI interface.


I'll post here the result after I get a UltraSatan and see whether it works. I'm afraid my STE is rather old among the STEs... an early production unit.

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Re: Recommended hardware tweaks/mods for an Atari STe

Postby Greenious » Mon Jan 07, 2019 6:15 pm

This thread is like reading a depressing story about a half-empty cup of tea...

Don't assume all the possibly bad things possible before you have actually checked things out.

There are extremely few STE's using SIPPs, and the bad dma-thing... well... it pops up every couple of years and every time we must spend a ton of time convincing everyone and their mother their dma isn't bad all because an entry in the notator sl faq.

http://www.notator.org/html/notator_faq.html#DMA_STe
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Re: Recommended hardware tweaks/mods for an Atari STe

Postby SteveBagley » Mon Jan 07, 2019 7:11 pm

Greenious wrote:There are extremely few STE's using SIPPs, and the bad dma-thing... well... it pops up every couple of years and every time we must spend a ton of time convincing everyone and their mother their dma isn't bad all because an entry in the notator sl faq.


As they say, being forwarded, is being forearmed. Certainly in the UK, STEs with TOS 1.06 hail from the same era as those with the DMA issues. I know this from painful experience back in 1995 when I got my first hard drive (all documented in an issue of Atari Computing if you want to read the details).

Having said that, it appears this STE is running a Spanish version of TOS so things could be different with the release schedule there.

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Re: Recommended hardware tweaks/mods for an Atari STe

Postby joska » Mon Jan 07, 2019 8:08 pm

SteveBagley wrote:Given the SYSINFO screen shot below suggests ungatonipon's STE has TOS 1.06 fitted, then I suspect it is extremely likely it will have DMA issues --


I agree, it's very likely that it has the old DMA-chip associated with ACSI problems.

SteveBagley wrote: not an issue for running things off floppy (inc. emulators) but would definitely hit any storage connected via the ACSI interface.


Correction, it will affect many ACSI storage devices, but far from all. Atari harddisks are known to work just fine, and from memory a couple of other well-known brands back then showed no problems. However, other host-adapters did trigger this problem, and the UltraSatan is known to not work reliably with these STE's.
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Re: Recommended hardware tweaks/mods for an Atari STe

Postby joska » Mon Jan 07, 2019 8:11 pm

ungatonipon wrote:I see it's possible to buy SIPP modules, they're more expensive but not too much prohibitive. Soldeering pis to SIMMs could also be rather easy. But I first have to make sure I need 3 MB more.


I'd be surprised if it has SIPs, but even if it does it's not a big problem, just a bit inconvenient. And you need more than 1Mb, many HD-fixed games requires that.
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Re: Recommended hardware tweaks/mods for an Atari STe

Postby Frank B » Mon Jan 07, 2019 8:37 pm

joska wrote:
SteveBagley wrote:Correction, it will affect many ACSI storage devices, but far from all. Atari harddisks are known to work just fine, and from memory a couple of other well-known brands back then showed no problems. However, other host-adapters did trigger this problem, and the UltraSatan is known to not work reliably with these STE's.


My original March 1990 520 STe is 100% reliable with the Ultrsatan, "bad" DMA chip and all. The original issue was mentioned as being 1040 STe specific IIRC.

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Re: Recommended hardware tweaks/mods for an Atari STe

Postby Greenious » Mon Jan 07, 2019 8:45 pm

Yes, the "faulty" dmas all seems to work fine on ST, and as those who has followed Exxos fine work with this knows, the problem can be solved by swapping the CPU for a HCmos version.

Anyway, the thread is around here somewhere...
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Re: Recommended hardware tweaks/mods for an Atari STe

Postby joska » Mon Jan 07, 2019 9:21 pm

Frank B wrote:My original March 1990 520 STe is 100% reliable with the Ultrsatan, "bad" DMA chip and all. The original issue was mentioned as being 1040 STe specific IIRC.


Correct, you don't have to run into this problem but it seems that it's a very common problem for Ultrasatan users with STE's with the ST DMA chip.

There is no difference between a 520STE and 1040STE except for two 256Kb SIMMs and the label.

Greenious wrote:Yes, the "faulty" dmas all seems to work fine on ST, and as those who has followed Exxos fine work with this knows, the problem can be solved by swapping the CPU for a HCmos version.


I'm fully aware of exxos' research on this. Replacing the CPU is about as successful as replacing the DMA, i.e. it mostly works. I have tested this in my own STE and got timing problems with two demos, which was suggested by the demo's author to be a floppy problem. So my STE with no DMA issue got DMA issues when applying the alternative DMA fix. Which suggests that we're dealing with a very marginal design, which IMO is why we have this problem in the first place.

Yes, this DMA works fine in the ST. But the STE is not an ST. The ST DMA chip worked fine in the lab, where it probably was only tested with Atari ACSI devices. In the real world there *was* a problem, which for some odd reason was (mostly) fixed when Atari switched to a new DMA chip. Why did they do that? They were already loosing lots of money, why spend more on designing a new chip? Could it be that the engineers figured out the root of the problem and fixed (or attempted to fix) it?

My guess is that this is a databus issue and that the CPU swap and the DMA swap basically does the same thing. And the CPU swap is a good idea, as it's a lot easier to find a CMOS CPU than an STE DMA. But as my experience shows, the CPU swap can cause problems too.

Anyway, neither of us knows if the OP will run into this problem until he has actually tested it. If there is a problem there are ways to fix it.
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Re: Recommended hardware tweaks/mods for an Atari STe

Postby junosix » Tue Jan 08, 2019 12:52 am

joska wrote:There is no difference between a 520STE and 1040STE except for two 256Kb SIMMs and the label.

Could there be a chance in some situations that extra current draw from the 2 extra SIMMs is enough to push things over a tolerance threshold and cause problems or is it negligible?

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Re: Recommended hardware tweaks/mods for an Atari STe

Postby Frank B » Tue Jan 08, 2019 6:13 am

I swapped out the CPU on a 1040 STe when Simbo fitted a Monster for me. We discovered that Atari used a 6 mhz (!) 68000 in the machine and overclocked it. I wonder how many other overclocked CPUS are out there in the STe.

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Re: Recommended hardware tweaks/mods for an Atari STe

Postby joska » Tue Jan 08, 2019 8:03 am

junosix wrote:Could there be a chance in some situations that extra current draw from the 2 extra SIMMs is enough to push things over a tolerance threshold and cause problems or is it negligible?


I don't know. But IIRC the STE RAM is not connected directly to the bus but via the Shifter and MMU, so I wouldn't expect the RAM to have any impact on DMA. But it should be easy to test this if one has an STE and ACSI device combo with known DMA issues. I have neither anymore, my STE got repaired by Atari Norway in 1991 when my ICD Link did not work with it (but Megafiles and GE Soft devices did).
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Re: Recommended hardware tweaks/mods for an Atari STe

Postby Greenious » Tue Jan 08, 2019 9:04 am

joska wrote:
I'm fully aware of exxos' research on this. Replacing the CPU is about as successful as replacing the DMA, i.e. it mostly works. I have tested this in my own STE and got timing problems with two demos, which was suggested by the demo's author to be a floppy problem. So my STE with no DMA issue got DMA issues when applying the alternative DMA fix. Which suggests that we're dealing with a very marginal design, which IMO is why we have this problem in the first place.

Interesting, I've missed this info.

joska wrote:
Yes, this DMA works fine in the ST. But the STE is not an ST. The ST DMA chip worked fine in the lab, where it probably was only tested with Atari ACSI devices. In the real world there *was* a problem, which for some odd reason was (mostly) fixed when Atari switched to a new DMA chip. Why did they do that? They were already loosing lots of money, why spend more on designing a new chip? Could it be that the engineers figured out the root of the problem and fixed (or attempted to fix) it?


More likely atari redesigned all chips for the STE, but the DMA didn't get ready in time, so they used what they got. The ST does have a few different "chipsets" that mostly get along just fine, so my guess is that they assumed it wouldn't be a problem on STE.
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Re: Recommended hardware tweaks/mods for an Atari STe

Postby joska » Tue Jan 08, 2019 9:37 am

Greenious wrote:The ST does have a few different "chipsets" that mostly get along just fine, so my guess is that they assumed it wouldn't be a problem on STE.


Exactly. The ST DMA chip is not "broken" or "bad" in itself, it's just the wrong chip in the STE design. The CMOS CPU swap works around the problem, but can have sideeffects.
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Re: Recommended hardware tweaks/mods for an Atari STe

Postby yars » Thu Jan 31, 2019 12:48 pm

Hi all
Another new member here. I'm watching this thread with interest as it looks like I have the same model STE as the original poster.

I am currently awaiting my 4mb upgrade to arrive and will see if I have the suspect DMA chip when I open her up, as I am keen to get an ultrasatan.

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Re: Recommended hardware tweaks/mods for an Atari STe

Postby yars » Sat Feb 02, 2019 8:35 am

Looks like I was lucky see attached.
It has TOS 1.06 installed but I noticed there are already IC sockets there so I can easily swap the TOS. Does this mean it has been modified already or did they come with sockets?
You do not have the required permissions to view the files attached to this post.

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Re: Recommended hardware tweaks/mods for an Atari STe

Postby Greenious » Sat Feb 02, 2019 1:29 pm

All ST(E) came with sockets for TOS.

If you look in my guide thread (link in my signature), you'll find a how-to on upgrading TOS in STE.
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