Falcon, Round 2

Some years ago I sold my full blown Falcon to finance a Firebee.

This Falcon was a beast. It was running well under MiNT and everything (CT63, CTPCI and Radeon graphix card) fitted in the original casing.

I don’t know, why I sold it… the Firebee is a nice project, but I adore the original Design of ATARI computers and the Falcon is simply the last computer made by ATARI. A kind of piece of history.

So some month ago thoughts came to my mind, that I have to get a Falcon again in the future. As we all know, Falcons are not that common to appear every day on forums or eBay. So I was lucky to find a Falcon on the  Facebook Falcon Community. An Italian guy was selling an Italian Falcon with 4 Megs RAM, New socketed DALLAS NVRAM Chip and 10 GB HDD.

I will document the progress of this project as it evolves. My plans are as follows:

  • CT63
  • 512 MB RAM
  • SSD Module
  • CF Card Reader
  • SuperVidel Graphics Card
  • Svethlana Ethernet Card
  • PicoPSU
  • 14 MB Falcon RAM

I opted for the SuperVidel instead of the CTPCI because of its better form factor and its said better compability.

Stay tuned for more updates 😉

Atari Mega STE dedusted

Today I want to share my Atari Mega STE with you. This Mega STE was my first really professional Atari. My parents bought it around 1992/1993. Before using the Mega STE, I owned an Atari 1040 STF with 1 Meg RAM and an external 88 MB Quantum LPS Hard Disk (ICD Hostadapter). The Mega STE featured:

  • MC68000, 16 MHz with Cache
  • 4 MB RAM
  • 105 MB Quantum LPS 105 Hard Disk
  • TOS 2.05


My software setup was (thanks to 4 MB Ram!) Mag!X 2.0 (now MagiC), Gemini and NVDI 2. It was a real work horse and a strong competitor to the current PC systems (386 SX and DX, also with 4 MB RAM and 100 MB Hard Disks). Despite the up to 40 MHz CPUs of PCs, the Atari was still faster, because of his slim and efficient programs like Papyrus.

When moving on to PCs later (Pentium 60), I kept using it, but when I bought my Milan in 1998, it was obsolete, and the upcoming Internet age does not let it come back for a long time. At least, I didn’t sold it and cleaning up my storage room, I become feeling very happy about this piece of my own history.

The Badge even has the protective foil attached!
The Badge even has the protective foil attached!


Altough I now own a top of the notch Falcon with CTPCI, CT060 and so on, I was eager to see it running again. After hooking it up to my original first SM124 from 1988 I started the Mega STE and  it welcomed me with Mag!X 2.0, Gemini and a well known Desktop. Even the arrangement of the Icons was familiar. Unfortunately it seems that I had formatted the disk some time ago and only partly restored the data on it. Most Icons and Apps do not work.

So what to do, to revive the Mega STE?

  • Install MagiC 6.2
  • Install NVDI 5
  • Install jinnee 2.5
  • Upgrade Hard Disk Driver
  • Get some network working

Before installing new stuff I wondered how to transfer files to the Mega STE. The Falcon, ready for Internet access is located in my office and Floppy Disks are no alternative, because all my other computers lack a disk drive. Fortunately I found STING on the Mega STE and an old ROM-Port Adapter by Elmar Hilgart. Although I would have preferred a NetUSBee or NetBee for network, I was glad that the ROM-Port Adapter was still on the hard disk.

ROM-Port Adapter with Pocket LAN
ROM-Port Adapter with Pocket LAN


Copying all install files to the Mega STE was a nerving and time-robbing thing. The ROM-Port seems to be a bit faulty, because transfer rates were only 5 kb/sec maximum. So first I copied the Netusbee driver to the Mega STE and changed the network adapter to a NetBee. But transfer rates were still low. I am going to check the ROM-Port solderings.

NetUSBee and NetBee's
NetUSBee and NetBee does not boost the transfer rates. ROM-Port faulty?


Another problem was the low disk size. 105 MB is not very big and even for ATARI users it might be a bit small. Downloading packages, extracting them and installing software needs some decent space. So I am going to upgrade the hard disk as well. I just bought a 9,1 GB SCSI drive from ebay and a 68-pin<->50-ping SCSI Adapter. Original 50-pin drives are really expensive these day – crazy!

I will keep you informed of the Mega STE’s progress.



Setup works fine…

Just refreshed the blog. After moving our domains to our own servers, I forgot the old domain to be transferred as well. So the blog was not reachable any more. I changed the blog URL to blog.atari-home.de now, and the blog is back online. I just have to rebuild the image links.

The Falcon is now running quite fine and the CTPCI works great @ 1920×1200 resolution. Take a look:

The CTPCI has landed

Today is an extraordinary day for me as an Atari Fan. The CTPCI from Rodolphe arrived. As I ordered with the regular 4-port PCI daughtercard and a single-port PCI daughtercard.

First you have to flash the CT60/CT63 with the newest ABR and SDE JEDEC Files from Rodolphe’s site: http://www.powerphenix.com/CT60/english/update.htm . I’Ve done this with a built JTAG cable and the Xilinx Software for Windows XP. A great explanation from nokturnal on this topic can be found at: http://nokturnal.pl/home/atari_16_32_bit/ct60_firmware_upgrade

Finally flash the Bios with the current Version 1.04a from Didier Méquignon which supports the CTPCI (note that the nice Diagnostic Cartridge from Pierre Mandin introduced in 1.03c is replaced by the RADEON driver and is no longer available :-( . http://pagesperso-orange.fr/didierm/ct60/ctpci-e.htm

I have to apologize for the bad pictures this time. My DSLR is at home and the iPhone Cam is the only one with me. Hm, remembers me a good citation: “the best camera is the one that is with you.”. Damn right.


Do you see the little orange clamp on the PCI daughterboards? This is the 3,3V power connector, the PCI cards need. If you have a full ATX power supply unit, you may just take a 3,3V cable, cut it off and put it into the clamp. Mostly this cables are orange color by definition.

If you use a picoPSU like I do, there is a little problem. Only one lane with 5V and 12V power is provided by the picoPSU.

Time for some soldering. I soldered an orange cable on the 3,3V pin of the picoPSU (instead of soldering it directly to the CT63). Thanks to Stefan aka Beetle who pointed that out at: http://forum.atari-home.de/index.php?topic=6984.60


Looking good!

Next you have to modify your Falcon board a little bit, to get the CTPCI extension working. Otherwise the IDE cables (which connects the CTPCI and the PCI Daugtherboard) will be blocked.


You have to bend the first three pins of the old Mainboard Power connector to the right and cut the plastic shielding of up to the 4th pin.

Now pull off the CT60/CT63. Install both IDE cables to the CTPCI (remember their order, one is PCI1, the other PCI2). and plug the CTPCI onto the CT60/CT63. A good explanation of this process can be found at Patrice Mandins Blog: http://pmandin.atari.org/dotclear/index.php?2010/04/02/244-ctpci-installation

Replug your PSU and the CT60 to your board. Be carefull with the new IDE cables as they are reaaaaally close to the Falcon Mainboard. I had even to modify the cables (modern IDE cables have a grip to easily release the cables from their connectors. Remove them by simply braking them away with a flat screw driver).


Looks Good! Please take a look at the CTPCI Expansion Port (for skyscraper stacking a EtherNAT or something similar): Do not put the original Falcon Keyboard ontop this expansion pins without proper isolation. Otherwise there are the possibilities of a short ciruit!

Double check everything and keep a fire  extinguisher ready (just kidding… or er.. not?!)!


Boot up the Falcon and take a brief look at your display….. if you see THIS, the CTPCI is working!


Next task on the list: Insert a RADEON card (mine is a 9200) and power the Falcon up (without Magic, NVDI or other video related stuff in your AUTO Folder).

The Videl output shows some debug messages about the CTPCI and then you can switch your monitor to die RADEON VGA or DVI connector. Hey, now you can change your screen settings and run the desktop at 1920 x 1200. Reeally nice 😉

Thats all for the moment. In the next blog entry I will go a bit deeper into configuring the Falcon with Easymint, fVDI, XaAES and Jinnee. I will use Beetles little wiki entry at atariforge.org: http://atariforge.org/gf/project/ctpci/wiki/?pagename=HowToRunFvdiOnCtpciAndRadeon

Networking solution for my Falcon: Hydra is here

Some month ago as I mentioned in an earlier post, at the moment I do not have internet access in CT63 Mode, because the driver for the Romport Adapter by Elmar Hilgart only works in Falcon030 Mode. Sad.

Yesterday two new Hydra (aka NetBee, aka NetUSBee w/o USB) arrived. I am eager to find out, how the drivers work and how the data transfer rate improves.

Unfortunately I do not have enough spare time at the moment, so I have to schedule this project later. Until then, to nice pics of this faboulus looking PCBs



CTPCI prerequisites 1: clear a space for the PCI Graphics Card

I am really happy, that i’ve ordered a CTCPI by Rodolphe Czuba. It will eliminate the Falcon’s last handicap, namely the poor video performance.

The CTPCI is a daughtercard to the CT60/CT63 including a PCI-Riser-Card which takes a ATI RADEON 7000/7500/9200 PCI Card (with up to 256 MB memory).

Many Falcon users have built their Falcon into a tower case for convenient access to it’s parts. But for me the original Falcon case is far more attractive! So everything has to be inside this case, and of course the CTPCI, too.

How to accomplish that? I always look for parts small enough to fit into the falcon case. The picoPSU power supply clears space in the back of the falcon and now I’ve replaced the old hard drive with a SSD drive. That’s really cool. Absolute quiet and no heat development are yet another advantages.


Now I’ve got some space and the RADEON 9200 PCI Graphics card arrived today. It is a low profile version which is chilled passive. On the next weekend I’ll try if it fits into the Falcon.

Tomorrow Classic Computing 2009

Hi again. Tomorrow I will attend Classic Computing 2009. The Exhibition about classic computers will take place in Hachenburg, Westerwald, Germany. I am happy to carry my Falcon 030 with me, to update it to the most recent ABE/SDR chip version.

These new software updates are necessary for using the new CTPCI graphics adapter card which hopefully will become available late this year or early next year.

Camera is with me, so be prepared for some pictures 😉

ATARI Germany Headquarters today…

… ATARI Germany was once located in a building in Raunheim, near Frankfurt. Today I was wondering again, that there was exactly one (1) picture of this building that spread over the web.


If you are searching for “atari raunheim” in google picture search this is the feeling lucky hit.

Modern Map Software like Google Maps could show us the building in a much more detailed way. Taken from bing maps (click for lager view).


The part of the building, shown in original picture above can be found in the right part of the bing maps pic.