Atari ST


The Atari ST is a line of home computers from Atari Corporation and the successor to the Atari 8-bit family. The first ST model, the 520ST, was released in June 1985. "ST" officially stands for "Sixteen/Thirty-two",[1] which referred to the Motorola 68000's 16-bit external bus and 32-bit internals. The Atari ST is the first personal computer to come with a bit-mapped color GUI,[2] using a version of Digital Research's GEM released in February 1985.[3] The 1040ST, released in 1986, is the first personal computer to ship with a megabyte of RAM in the base configuration and also the first with a cost-per-kilobyte of less than USD$1.

The Atari ST is part of the 16/32 bit generation of home computers, based on the Motorola 68000 CPU, typically with 512 KB or more of RAM, a graphical user interface, and 3½"floppy disks as storage. The ST was primarily a competitor to the Macintosh, Amiga, and, in certain markets, the Acorn Archimedes. Whereas the Amiga has custom graphics processors and sample-based synthesis[5] audio, the ST has a basic frame buffer and a 3 voice synthesizer chip[6] but with a slightly faster CPU and a high-resolution monochrome display mode ideal for business and CAD. Its simple design allowed the ST to precede the Commodore Amiga's commercial release by almost two months.

In some markets, particularly Germany, the machine gained a strong foothold as a small business machine for CAD and Desktop publishing work.

Thanks to its built-in MIDI, the ST enjoyed success for running music-sequencer software and as a controller of musical instruments among both amateurs and well-known musicians.

The ST was later superseded by the Atari STE, Atari TT, Atari MEGA STE, and Falcon computers.

The Atari 1040ST was introduced in 1987. It is based on the Motorola 68000 16/32-bit microprocessor running at 8 MHz. The keyboard and motherboard are included in one plastic case, as was its predecessor the 520ST. On the right side of the case is a built-in double sided, double density 720 kilobyte floppy drive.

The 1040ST comes standard with 1 MB of RAM and 196 kilobytes of ROM memory. On the left side of the case are two 5 pin round DIN plugs for MIDI in and MIDI out connections. There is also a 40 pin cartridge slot for plugging in ROM and game cartridges. Under the keyboard on this side are two 9 pin D-plug ports for plugging Joysticks and there are two more 9 pin D-plug ports, one of which doubles as a mouse port under the front of the keyboard. The keyboard has 94 keys and have an excellent feel to them.

On the back of the case going from left to right is a standard 25 pin D-plug serial port for connecting a modem, next an industry standard 25 pin D-plug centronics parallel port for connecting any standard printer, next is an Atari hard disk port using a 19 pin D-plug, a 14 pin round DIN plug to connect an Atari serial external drive, an RCA type plug for an RF modulated video signal, A 13 pin round DIN plug to connect an Atari RGB monitor, the on/off switch, and a reset button.

The 1040ST has three video modes: A 640 x 400 x 2 monochrome for text base programs like word processors, a 640 x 200 x 4 color high resolution mode, and a 320 x 200 x 16 color medium resolution mode. The 1040ST has a pallet of 512 colors to choose from, although on later 'enhanced' versions such as the 1040STe, introduced on November 13, 1989, the color pallet was increased to 4096 colors.

Although the video capabilities of the 1040ST were good, its audio capabilities are where the computer really shines. It has a built in sound generator supplying 3 separate voices and also contains a built in MIDI interface making it possible to connect your computer to a variety of electronic instruments and state of the art sound studio equipment. All for less than $1000 dollars!

The OS was called TOS (some say for Tramiel Operating System) and is burned into ROM for fast loading. The desktop was written by Digital Research Inc. and called GEM. This was a icon driven GUI similar to the MS Windows environment of that day.

In late 1989, Atari released the 520STE and 1040STE (also written STE), enhanced version of the ST with improvements to the multimedia hardware and operating system. It features an increased color palette of 4096 colors from the ST's 512 (though the maximum displayable palette of these without programming tricks was still limited to 16 in the lowest 320x200 resolution, and even fewer in higher resolutions), Genlock support, and a graphics co-processor chip called Blitter, which can quickly move large blocks of data (most particularly, graphics sprites) around in RAM. It also included a new 2-channel digital sound chip that could play 8-bit stereo samples in hardware at up to 50 kHz. Two enhanced joystick ports (EJP) were added (two normal joysticks can be plugged into each port with an adapter), with the new connectors placed in more easily accessed locations on the side of the case. The enhanced joystick ports were re-used in Atari's Jaguar console, and are compatible. RAM was now much more simply upgradable via SIMMs. CPU speed was unchanged and ran at 8 MHz.

The STE models initially had software and hardware conflicts resulting in some applications and video games written for the ST line being unstable or even completely unusable, primarily caused by programming direct hardware calls which bypassed the operating system. Sometimes incompatibility could be solved by expanding the RAM. Furthermore, even having a joystick plugged in would sometimes cause strange behavior with a few applications (such as the WYSIWYG word-processor application First Word Plus).

The STE was the first Atari with PCM audio, which was probably one of the most attractive features of the machine. It has the ability to play back 8-bit (signed) samples using the SDMA at the following frequencies: 6258 Hz, 12517 Hz, 25033 Hz and 50066 Hz—sampling frequencies above audio CDs, although, at only 8-bit resolution. The channels are arranged as either a mono track or a track of LRLRLRLR... bytes.

Very little use was made of the extra features of the STE: STE-enhanced and STE-only software were rare, generally being limited to serious art, CAD, or music applications, with very few games taking advantage of the hardware, not present on most machines.

The last STE machine, the Mega STE, is an STE in a grey Atari TT case that had a switchable 16 MHz, dual-bus design (16-bit external, 32-bit internal), optional Motorola 68881 FPU, built-in 3½" floppy disk drive, VME expansion slot, a network port (very similar to that used by Apple's LocalTalk) and an optional built-in 3½" hard drive. It also shipped with TOS 2.00 (better support for hard drives, enhanced desktop interface, memory test, 1.44 MB floppy support, bug fixes). It was marketed as more affordable than a TT but more powerful than an ordinary ST.

The Atari 520STFM and 1040STFM were the direct successors of the Atari 260 ST and Atari 520 ST. In fact, they had the same technical characteristics except from built-in floppy drive (hence the f of STF).

The 3.5" floppy disk drive has been integrated with the power supply into the computer. The early first versions of the Atari 520 STF had a RAM based Operating System (they have a 32 KB ROM), this ROM will be quickly replaced by a 192 KB ROM which holds all the operating system (called TOS 1.0).

An enhanced version of the Atari 520 STF was launched a few months later : the Atari 1040 STF to replace the Atari 520+ : It also had the same characteristics as the 520 STF except its memory (1 MB instead of the 512 KB) and the floppy disk drive : it used 3.5" double side disks (720 KB).

Not long after the launch of the 1040 STF, the 520 STF would be "unofficially" equipped with 720 KB floppy disk drives.

There was also a STFM model with a built-in floppy (the F) and an RF Modulator (the M).



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