Building a retro computer, or even restoring one, is a great way to understand a lot of the fundamentals of computing. That can take a long time and a lot of energy, though. Luckily, there is a Twitter bot out there that can let you experience an old 8-bit Atari without even needing to spin up an emulator. Just tweet your program to the bot, and it outputs the result.
The bot was built by [Kay Savetz] and accepts programs in five programming languages: Atari BASIC, Turbo-Basic XL, Atari Logo, Atari PILOT, and Atari Assembler/Editor, which was a low-level assembly-type language available on these machines. The bot itself runs on a Raspberry Pi with the Atari 800 emulator, rather than original hardware, presumably because it’s much simpler to get a working network connection on a Pi than on a computer from the 80s. The Pi runs a python script that polls Twitter every two minutes and then hands the code off to the emulator.
[Kay]’s work isn’t limited to just Ataris, though. There’s also an Apple II BASIC bot for all the Apple fans out there that responds to programs written in AppleSoft BASIC. While building your own retro system or emulating one on other hardware is a great exercise, it’s also great that there are tools like these that allow manipulation of retro computers without having to do any of the dirty work ourselves.
As a community has grown up around the 8-bit microcomputers of the 1980s, there have been some beautifully crafted rebuilds of classic machines to take advantage of newer hardware or to interface to peripherals such as keyboards or displays that were unavailable at the time. Often these have taken the form of small boards, or boards that are designed to follow the form factor of the original machine, and fit in an original case.
[mytekcontrols] has taken a different tack with his Atari 800 build, he’s produced an Atari clone designed to take the most popular upgrade boards produced by the 8-bit Atari community, as daughter boards. And he’s followed an existing form factor, though it’s not one from the Atari world. Instead, he’s made it as a mini-ITX motherboard of the type you may well be familiar with from the world of PCs.
He’s calling it the 1088XEL, because with a popular 1MB upgrade board fitted it boasts a generous 1088k of memory. It sports the original five Atari LSI chips, and manages the task without resorting to surface-mount construction.
The forum thread linked above is a long one that makes for a fascinating read as it deals in depth with the design of an 8-bit micro clone. But if you want to skip straight to the hardware, start at about page 13.
We’ve had more than one 8-bit Atari on these pages over the years. Most memorable though is probably this laptop.
Thanks [Lenore Underwood].
[rossumur]’s first computer was an Atari 400, and after riding a wave of nostalgia and forgetting the horrible keyboard found in the Atari 400, he decided it was time to miniaturize the venerable Atari 810 disk drive by putting an entire library of Atari games on a single microSD card.
SD cards have been slowly but surely replacing disk drives for just about every old computer system out there. You no longer need 400k disks for your old mac, and your Commodore 64 can run directly off an SD card. The Atari 8-bits have been somewhat forgotten in this movement towards modern solid state storage, and although a solution does exist, this implementation is a pretty pricey piece of hardware.
[rossumur]’s hardware for giving the Atari 8-bit computers an SD card slot is just one chip – an LPC1114 ARM Cortex M0. This, along with an SD card slot, 3.3V regulator, a LED and some caps allows the Atari to talk to SD card and hold the entire 8-bit Atari library on a piece of plastic the size of a fingernail.
Designing a circuit board doesn’t have the street cred it once did, and to give his project a little more pizzazz he chose to emulate the look of the very popular miniaturized Commodore 1541 disk drive with a tiny replica of the Atari 810 disk drive. This enclosure was printed at Shapeways, and with some enamel hobby paint, [rossumur] had a tiny, tiny 810 drive.
While this build does require the sacrifice of a somewhat rare and certainly old Atari SIO cable, it is by far the best solution yet seen for bringing a massive game library to the oft-forgotten Atari 8-bit home computers.
Thanks [lucas] for the tip.
They’re not a 2600, but the Atari 400, 800 and 1200 are awesome computers in their own right. With only BASIC built in to the ROM, they’re not especially useful or fun, as [Jeroen] found out when he acquired an 800 with a broken tape drive. There are options that allow you to load emulator files from a PC, but [Jeroen] wanted something more compact. He came up with a way to load games and apps off an SD card using a simple microcontroller.
The 400, 800, and 1200 each have a port that allows the computer to talk to printers, modems, disk drives, and load games. There are already a few circuits around that connect the SIO port to a computer so games can be loaded, but [Jeroen] wanted a more compact and portable solution for his 800.
What he came up with is actually pretty simple; just an Arduino, SD card, and an LCD display that allows him to browse the directory on the SD card and load it into the 800’s memory.
A lot of folks over on the Atariage forums are really impressed with [Jeroen]’s work, and would like to get their hands on one of these boards themselves. The project isn’t done just yet – [Jeroen] still needs to make a case for his device – but hopefully he’ll be spinning a few boards up in the coming months.
You can see a pair of videos of the device in action below.
Continue reading “Loading Atari Games From An SD Card”
[FozzTexx] had an old Atari 800 collecting dust and decided to pull it out and get to work. The problem is that it’s seen some rough storage conditions over the years including what appears to be moisture damage. He’s read about a cartridge called SALT II which can run automatic diagnostics. Getting your hands on that original hardware can be almost impossible, but if he had a flashable cartridge he could just download an image. So he bought the cheapest cartridge he could find and modified it to use an EPROM.
When he cracked open his new purchase he was greeted with the what you see on the left. It’s a PCB with the edge connector and two 24-pin sockets. These are designed to take 4k ROMs. He dropped in an EPROM of the same size but the pin-out doesn’t match what the board layout had in mind. After following the traces he found that it is pretty much an exact match for an Intel 2764 chip. The one problem being that the chip has 28-pins, four too many for the footprint. The interesting thing is that the larger footprint (compared to the 2732) uses all the same pins, simply adding to the top and moving the power pins. A small amount of jumper wire soldering and [FozzTexx] is in business.