Atari STe+

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Atari STe+

Postby bid » Tue Apr 24, 2012 11:33 pm

I heard that Atari created a prototype machine called the STe+

Has anyone ever heard of this? I hear the prototype was built, and it had a hard-drive in it?

Any info's on this?
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Re: Atari STe+

Postby bid » Wed Apr 25, 2012 12:02 am

Image
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Re: Atari STe+

Postby alexh » Wed Apr 25, 2012 7:01 am

They used to sell the prototypes for $1000 at B&C (MyAtari) according to this thread :

http://www.jaguarsector.com/index.php?showtopic=1209

Unfortunately all but one image has been lost over time? (Way Back Machine?)

Image
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Re: Atari STe+

Postby wongck » Wed Apr 25, 2012 11:40 am

They still using the same old case for it?
Atari should design a updated version.
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Re: Atari STe+

Postby Dal » Wed Apr 25, 2012 12:06 pm

wongck wrote:They still using the same old case for it?
Atari should design a updated version.

I doubt they are much interested these days ;)
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Re: Atari STe+

Postby bid » Wed Apr 25, 2012 2:27 pm

Dal wrote:
wongck wrote:They still using the same old case for it?
Atari should design a updated version.

I doubt they are much interested these days ;)


Lol!!!! :lol:

Yep. I found some pics of the prototype Motherboard!!

Dal, I am very surprised not to find much information on this prototype, and I could not find any older threads about it on this forum (maybe as the + in "STe+" was not recognised by the search parser?)

Its got IDE (I think) and also 286 emulation (maybe implemented in Gem via a shell?!)

Is there any info about this on the forum? By the way, heres the mobo pics

Image

Image

Strange that HD was over the bottom left corner (above 4MB of fixed memory), and that the joystick/mouse side has 2x obround holes where there would normally be a notch for the keyboard mounted serial ports? Although the PCB outline mask pic shows that notch.

I wonder if Atari were considering 286 on there. I wonder if they might have put a DOS shell either into GEM, or more likely as a full screen thing like TOS. Maybe the "Install Programs" dialogue, would have had a DOS and DTP (DOS takes parameters), lol.

Maybe they considered that users might switch over to a x86 based TOS/DOS and still run GEM and AES on the top?

Why they never put the TT Shifter on a machine or something similar in 1989 or earlier, I will never know.
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Re: Atari STe+

Postby Dal » Wed Apr 25, 2012 4:12 pm

Also strange that the dram is mounted on the board rather than using SIMMs?
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Re: Atari STe+

Postby alexh » Wed Apr 25, 2012 4:43 pm

bid wrote:By the way, heres the mobo pics

They are not of the STe+

Dal wrote:Also strange that the dram is mounted on the board rather than using SIMMs?

See above. The STe+ had SIMM slots (as you can see in the PCB layout diagram in the 2nd post)
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Re: Atari STe+

Postby bid » Wed Apr 25, 2012 5:17 pm

alexh wrote:
bid wrote:By the way, heres the mobo pics

They are not of the STe+

Ahhh! ... Then my translation of Polish is not so good lol http://www.atari.org.pl/forum/viewtopic.php?id=5736

... Actually, I think that they posted on there that the mobo was STe+, but clearly it is different to the schematic.

By the way, there was a prototype STe+, and it was sold on Ebay a few years ago. I wonder who has got it!

See here http://www.atariage.com/forums/topic/90 ... cy-stbook/
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Re: Atari STe+

Postby bid » Wed Apr 25, 2012 5:20 pm

Heres some more info on it. http://www.jaguarsector.com/lofiversion ... t1209.html

Apparently there was more than one made, and it was almost production ready
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Re: Atari STe+

Postby bid » Wed Apr 25, 2012 5:27 pm

And here "There was an interesting variation on the STe in the R&D labs of Atari, called the STe+, which had an AMD 286 chip and a small IDE hard drive built in. Quite why this was abandoned nobody really knows, but a number of working prototypes were found in Atari's Mexico office when Atari finally blinked out of existence and have appeared on ebay from time to time. "

Source http://www.old-computers.com/museum/com ... ?c=24&st=1
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Re: Atari STe+

Postby wheeel » Wed Apr 25, 2012 7:26 pm

alexh wrote:
bid wrote:By the way, heres the mobo pics

They are not of the STe+

Dal wrote:Also strange that the dram is mounted on the board rather than using SIMMs?

See above. The STe+ had SIMM slots (as you can see in the PCB layout diagram in the 2nd post)


I find this really fascinating. I think its not so easy to simply say its not an STe+ simply because it doesn't match the picture of the schematic. The schematic and the board could simply be different revisions.

If you look at the picture of the top layer of the PCB, along the left hand side, you've got the cartridge port at the top, then below you've got two 15-pin connectors eerily reminiscent of the Jaguar-style joystick ports that (as far as I am aware) only ever existed on the STe and Falcon (except of course the Jaguar!) -- they didn't, for example, make it on the TT or Mega-STe.

However, the shape of the motherboard is definitely of the style used in the Mega-STe or TT. Even to the point that it looks like that below the two 15-pin connectors, there is the 6-pin connector for the keyboard as used in the TT/Mega-STe.

In this light, I would suggest that this prototype PCB did use discrete memory chips rather than SIMMs -- for whatever reason the hardware designers chose... Perhaps it was cheaper/easier?

What I can't seem to locate is the 80286. Looking around the board, the thing that draws my attention is the big chip in the bottom right-hand corner. However, even though it seems to be placed somewhat out of the way, it is most likely to my mind that this is the 68000 since it's the correct dimensions / pin count, whereas the 80286 is a 68-pin LCC (square) affair, to my knowledge. All the other parts I could hazard a guess as to their possible purpose or are physically too small, for example, the three square chips in the centre of the PCB are more likely as not those used in the STe for glue, shifter, etc. Of course, the 286 could have been on a daughter-board since there are two candidate connectors available, although one is likely used for the hard-drive interface.

Pure speculation, I admit, but a bit of fun trying to solve the riddle! :wink:
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Re: Atari STe+

Postby Dio » Wed Apr 25, 2012 8:36 pm

I think that's a prototype STE motherboard, not an STE+.

It's using a DIL 68000 (the big one in the bottom right) compared to the PLCC one of the release STE, and soldered DRAM instead of the SIMMs. The layout is otherwise broadly similar to the CA4003290 1989 STE motherboard, with the SMC MCU and the two other PLCC customs obvious.

And very different to the layer image shown higher up (and a much earlier part number - the one above begins CA421) which is far more believably a newer system.
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Re: Atari STe+

Postby wongck » Wed Apr 25, 2012 10:31 pm

alexh wrote:
Dal wrote:Also strange that the dram is mounted on the board rather than using SIMMs?

See above. The STe+ had SIMM slots (as you can see in the PCB layout diagram in the 2nd post)


In place of that IDE HDD.... may be it is experimental SSD :lol: :lol: :lol:

No, I think what you have there is an STE 2080 rather than a plus.
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Re: Atari STe+

Postby bid » Thu Apr 26, 2012 10:02 am

The motherboard photos, are interesting. It probably is not the STe+

But it does not have SIMMS, and yet has STe features as described. Also the board shape is odd?!

Its not a board for the MSTE and TT case, as the cartridge port is in the ST case position. And I dont think its meant for this case.

So was this designed for a standard ST case, or maybe one that we dont know about? ... I am also puzzled by the obround shaped holes in the board where the joystick and mouse ports would normally be? Could this be an early Mega STe or maybe a Mega STe+ ???

More forensic examination is required!! :lol:
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Re: Atari STe+

Postby Dio » Thu Apr 26, 2012 1:46 pm

I think you're reading too much into it. It's probably just a prototype board not designed to go in a real case while they optimised the design.

Given the (huge) number of components on the STE board they knew they would struggle to make it fit; one of the attractive points of the SIMMs was that they actually reduced DRAM footprint. I presume that's also the main reason to switch to a PLCC 68K.
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Re: Atari STe+

Postby bid » Fri Apr 27, 2012 2:42 pm

Got some more info. :D

I spoke to the guy who had this and then sold it on via eBay. They still sell stuff there, and the eBay shop is called MyAtari (I think they used to be called or are also called B&C Systems?)

Code: Select all
The first picture shown is the master films for making the PCB of the STE+ and of course not a schematic. There is many layers(9?) which make it a little hard to read. There are various foil layers plus solder mask and silk screen label layers. I bought that package from Atari when they closed Atari Texas where the STE+ was being designed. The IBM emulator was a built in COMPO AT Speed that used COMPO AT Speed software to boot into the IBM mode. http://www.atari-forum.com/viewtopic.php?f=15&t=16435
It did use SIMM memory. I have an internal Atari memo that suggested one reason it was canceled is because IBM was switching to VGA and the STE+ did not have high enough video resolution to do VGA so it would be obsolete before it came out.
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Hmmmmm!
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Re: Atari STe+

Postby wongck » Sat Apr 28, 2012 3:42 am

Sad to read it actually. Looks like Atari was too slow on the technology curve. VGA... they should have tried to get to that level instead of throwing in the towel. Given the fact the could put the COMPO AT hardware into it, why can't they also try to put the NOVA (or other VGA designs) in it. :( :(
... and of course the Falcon already do VGA... :( :(
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Re: Atari STe+

Postby Dio » Sat Apr 28, 2012 8:43 am

There was no possibility Atari could have kept up with the technology curve once the PC clones took off - they were immediately competing against tens of huge companies all over the world. Commodore didn't make it and this is the point at which even Apple, a far larger company with a much larger niche than MIDI and fanatical supporters, barely survived.
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Re: Atari STe+

Postby wongck » Sun Apr 29, 2012 1:35 am

Dio wrote:There was no possibility Atari could have kept up with the technology curve once the PC clones took off - they were immediately competing against tens of huge companies all over the world.

agreed.
guess it is also why all those smallish computer makers in the 80s all faded as well.
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Re: Atari STe+

Postby Silly_Pony » Wed May 02, 2012 1:22 am

I honestly can't agree, at least not until the late 90s.

I mean, VGA and below was basically JUST IBM's baby. One company. Then through the 90s all the computer companies were more or less doing whatever they wanted with VGA as a base, so the playing field is level still.

It gets scary when you have one or two megacompanies supplying the graphics chips for ALL PC clones, but that only happened in the early 2000s. I think they could have jumped from Videl to some generic SVGA in the mid 90s just fine.

I think Atari's problem was the management didn't want to develop new stuff, not that they couldn't. STFMs in 93 for £169... Yeah keep saturating that market boys.
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Re: Atari STe+

Postby bid » Sat May 05, 2012 8:38 am

Yep, but dont forget that Atari did everything "without the price".

So the TT, for example, had a VGA-like output. It plugs into a modern VGA monitor, and its the same pins, but the specification is just slightly different.

I think that Atari must have done this all along as a strategy. After all the Atari ST's hard drive port used a 50-pin connector, juts like Mac SCSI. But they just changed it a little. Making the SCSI (Small Computer System Interface), sorry ASCI (Atari Computer Systems Interface) just automatically assign device numbers on the chain. Also I think some very very slight other differences.

So, I am guessing that they didnt have to pay royalty, on anything they ever did. But the ST DMA port was and is very very fast.

Incidentally, Atari did announce, prior to the STe launch that it would have a 256 colour mode. This was widely reported in magazines, and I am guessing that something like the TT Shifter chip would have done it. Certainly the TT Shifter chip would have been in development at that time. The video on the ST and TT is very simple.

Yes, the marketing of the STe and STfm was totally wrong. The STe was not what was promised, and no one seems to know why it did not have sufficient enhancements to set it apart from the STfm. I was surprised that towards the end of the ST lifetime the STfm was re-released. Sheer madness! ... Although good value. Not the smartest marketing.

Thats why I like Atari though. I am a product designer, and trained in consumer product design. But I have rarely come across a company with such an abysmal marketing strategy as Atari. They have always been like it. .... The machines, and technology created by the engineers, like the ST Book, STacy, Falcon etc etc were simply ahead of their time. I have a TT, and it runs rings around a IBM PC of the same period. But they were'nt exactly marketed well.

The Falcon advertising for example. Anyone remember "Everything that communicates, comunnicates". And the Jaguar adverts and marketing was awful too. But I like the old simple 68000 based girl. You know where you are. And maybe Commodore did not push the serious computing enough either. Ive never heard of anyone using an Amiga, apart from for games. So it was known as a games machine.

I think Atari did the right thing to update the OS. And they should have done this more and sooner. TOS 1.0 to 1.6 was a very very simple GUI. I liked it. But compared to the Mac for example, although it had merits and was usable, it certainly did not look as polished.

The development of TOS 2.06 could not come soon enough. And with a hard drive and TOS 2.06, the ST is a surprisingly powerful and useful machine for serious computing.

Atari only brought out multitasking MultiTOS very late in the day. And I doubt anyone actually bought it. As other companies had brought out other multitasking solutions already. But clearly they were thinking of exiting the computer market at that time. Thats why the Falcon was so cut down, and Im guessing they maybe just wanted to squeeze the last of the profits out, get rid of old stock, IC's and components. Although I do think that the Falcon 040 in the Microbox case would have seen a market, especially in the music industry, Europe and for specialist tasks.

What does strike me is the price and what you got for your money with the Atari. The MEGA ST that I picked up off a business client recently was used until the late 90's as a CAD machine. With a MegaFile hard drive, SM144 mono monitor, Neodesk and a large Pen Plotter it was used to create technical drawings. An equivalent Mac of PC at the time would have cost twice as much. And back in the day, we are probably talking the difference of paying £5000 or £2000 for the whole lot. And the guy that runs the company loves and misses the machine. He actually asked me if I could install the old Atari Campus CAD system on his Windows PC in an emulator, as he liked the software, and found it much more intuitive.

The TT that I have, had been used in a factory environment to run a CNC machine. Quite odd I thought, to see a factory powered by an Atari. Lol. ... But again, I am sure that the power and reliability for the price is maybe why this was probably in continuous service for many years.

Maybe there was a market for cut price, simple, and well designed machines. They are not going to win prizes for megaflops. But the simplicity was a very cheap, solid and reliable workhorse. I'd like to think that maybe there was and is a market for such machines, but I can understand why Commodore and Atari backed out, once the far east could just copy the generic IBM based x86.

Incidentally, the x86 actually was a bit of an accident in its creation at IBM. In fact IBM executives were more focused on other types of computer. The x86 that we know and hate today, was actually a project to build a computer using standard off the shelf parts. They did not realise it would be a success, or even bother to protect themselves. So this allowed the far east to copy the bloated beige monstrosity.

I remember the 1st time I saw and used a PC. It was at a work experience, in a drawing office (I have always done CAD). It was the 1st beige one. And I think it was switchable between 33Mhz and 40Mhz. With Lotus on it. ... God I remember when i looked at it, I felt like my eyes had glazed over, and it though its sheer blandness, had already sucked in part of my soul. ... I think that was in about 1995.

All the machines I used for CAD were usually specialised workstations. Like HP units, probably similar to SparxStation etc. They were ok. But I never used or bought a PC until about 1999 when I went to university. They didnt even have windows there (thankfully), all the PC's were UNIX based terminals. You could boot up a GUI on some, using X-windows to web browse etc using Netscape. But it was rubbish and slow. So I always used text mode, PINE for email, LYNX web browser. All in text lol.

So the "wonderful PC's" were not that great!! lol. ... I used to download the entire websites, put it onto an MS-DOS disk. Take it back to my Atari, and then browse the website with a computer that could actually display things properly without taking hours, and grinding to bloated halt. I did end up buying a PC in 2001 I think, as I needed to use 3D CAD software for that platform. But, I have been since then, fighting a constant battle to keep the computer running properly. So many faults in Wintel PC's.

Everything about them is shocking. I run Windows 7 now. Yet, yesterday I thought I would copy 2 files off a CD Rom. Not you probably know that in windows, if you are copying off a CD, and then try to copy another file at the same time, then windows slows down to a crawl, starts seeking the CD Rom furiously, and generally then you try to cancel it. Wait 10 mins. End the process. Explorer shell crashes. Control-Alt-Del, and brink up task manager. Go to FILE > new task (run), type "explorer". Press return. Wait for shell to boot again. Eject CD and reinsert, as its stopped responding. And then start again. ..... Now every version of Windows from 3.1 to 7.0 does this. Madness. All they have to do is to maybe write a routine, so that it copies files from CD "one by one" like a list, rather than try to do several off optical media and timeslice until it crashes out of pure frustration. The system is complete rubbish.

As far as I am concerned, I am interested in having the right software. And actually, I would prefer a nice simple stable OS with no background processes, etc, that I can then just concentrate on my work, and maximise my computing power to the task at hand. ... Bit of a rant. Lol. God I hate PC's! :lol:
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Re: Atari STe+

Postby DarkLord » Sat May 05, 2012 9:10 am

Well...just to be honest, the Amiga's were a little well-known for doing video/graphics
work, not just games.

Think VideoToaster, Lightwave, Babylon Five (first season)... :)
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Re: Atari STe+

Postby Shredder11 » Sat May 05, 2012 9:54 am

Haha your story bid sounds very much like mine, even down to copying websites on to floppies to take home and view on my Atari STE! I even composed emails on my Atari to take to my friend's place to send via his PC Internet connection. The first PC I used was in 1995 also and the first I owned was June 2000, a hand-me-down PC Chips M571 mobo + Cyrix 166MHz (ran at 133MHz). I was blown away with the power and graphics of PCs, but apart from that they seemed dull. The Atari always had character and quirks which I loved, plus it always keeps surprising me even now with what it can do or is not supposed to be able to do. I'm also on Windows 7 x64 now and for the most part, it seems not bad.
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