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Old 7th Mar 2024, 3:57 pm   #1
60136 Alcazar
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Default Atari 1040st

I've kind of 'inherited' an ATARI 1040ST and ATARI SM124 B&W monitor, together with a FOSTEX x26 multitracker cassette mixer. My daughter used these years ago with a keyboard and a Cubase floppy disc to record her keyboard pieces.

Are these likely to still be of use to anyone, or are they only good for the tip?

Mods - if this is in the wrong place, please move.
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Old 7th Mar 2024, 4:39 pm   #2
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Default Re: Atari 1040st

I'm sure collectors are going to be interested in this. The ST was very influential, and an important part of the EDM culture of the late 80s and early 90s.

Computers of this type in good working condition have been steadily increasing in value. Don't skip it!

See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Atari_ST#Music_industry.
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Old 7th Mar 2024, 7:14 pm   #3
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Default Re: Atari 1040st

Quote:
Are these likely to still be of use to anyone
In a word, yes, offer them in the right place and you will find a buyer / taker. Please don't throw these items out.

The SM124 is a 'special' monitor which is used only for the ST's hi-res mono mode and generally mandatory for productivity software like Cubase. Although these days it is possible to press a PC VGA monitor into service as a substitute mono monitor, the real thing is always better / more desirable.

If by any chance the Cubase disc is an original copy and comes with the software protection dongle which plugs into the cartridge port, that alone will go for a fair price. Also, what colour are the console and the monitor - grey, or borderline orange? These are rather prone to sun yellowing, so nice pristine grey is more highly valued than beigey-orange.

Are they still used anywhere? I'm still using mine, and an SM124 monitor, for what your daughter used hers for all those years ago.

If you want some advice as to value, the advice is the same as always, check auction sites for SOLD items only to see how much they have gone for for in the recent past. If you are able to say that the items work, of course that will help.

One thing I will say is that neither of the items, the monitor or the computer console, will travel well unless you happen to have the original boxes and polystyrene shells, which would also increase their value.

I have another ST here which is in working order but the casing is smashed to bits - I got it from its owner in that state, as a source of spares for mine - clearly, it had had a rough ride through the post, not helped by the fact that the inner core of the machine is quite heavy and really wants to keep going for a while longer whenever the plastic outer casing comes to a sudden halt.
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Old 7th Mar 2024, 11:14 pm   #4
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Default Re: Atari 1040st

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Originally Posted by SiriusHardware View Post

Also, what colour are the console and the monitor - grey, or borderline orange? These are rather prone to sun yellowing, so nice pristine grey is more highly valued than beigey-orange.
In artificial light, the computer console appears grey (but I'll recheck in natural light as my impression earlier was of dusty cream plastic) with cream coloured keys and is branded 1040STE; the monitor has a 'manufactured' date of September 1990. The Cubase disc I mentioned is wholly absent and probably went the way of most floppy discs...A-drives were never my favourite.
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Old 8th Mar 2024, 12:55 am   #5
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Default Re: Atari 1040st

The STe is actually the less common 'enhanced' version of the ST - it has two D-to-A audio outputs in addition to the mono 'chip sound' output of the standard ST so it can replay stereo sound samples, two analogue joystick inputs in addition to the original switched joystick inputs (making it more suitable for simulations, like flying games and driving games) and several other refinements, like a graphics 'blitter' as standard.

Like other 'enhanced' versions of established machines their additional features were never well supported by the software houses of the time, it made no sense to write STe-only software if you could write software which you could sell to both ST and STe owners (since the STe could run virtually all standard ST software).

However there is still a thriving ST 'scene' and there are enthusiasts who to this day are producing new STe specific versions of classic ST titles, mainly games of course, there are also a lot of STe- only 'demos', programs which show off what the STe (and of course what the programmers) can do.
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Old 8th Mar 2024, 1:05 am   #6
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Default Re: Atari 1040st

You will easily find a good home for this. Recording studios need them, in order to cater for legacy MIDI compositions. They will often have handful of each part, in order to ensure that they can cobble together a full working system when the need arises.

Interestingly enough, the 68000 processor has a MIDI bus, giving the computers equipped with it very tight timing. The BBC supposedly had the least latency. The Atari had the advantage of well funded software companies backing it as a platform. Cubase lives on to this day, as does the industry-standard Logic (a descendant of the C-Lab SW used in the ST). The ST is one of the most influential music computers in history.
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Old 8th Mar 2024, 1:18 am   #7
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Default Re: Atari 1040st

All down to the fact that it came with a MIDI interface as standard.

The ST's own internal sound generator was rather last-generation, almost identical to the basic three tones + noise generator sound chip used in the BBC B, Spectrum 128K, etc. Long after the heyday of the ST, some clever people began to make that very basic chip play sound samples and produce chip music which sounds more like it is coming out of the Commodore 64's famous SID chip.

The MIDI timing was / is indeed very good, largely because the ST(e) has a single tasking operating system so it focuses almost entirely on whatever one job it is doing, unlike on a Windows machine where every application and numerous background tasks all have to share a little slice of the time pie.
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Old 8th Mar 2024, 2:11 am   #8
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Default Re: Atari 1040st

I don't recall ever hearing that the 68000 CPU had a built-in MIDI interface
Although I know the ST did, as I once had to repair one whose MIDI Interface opto-coupler didn't withstand the zap from MIDI lead DIN plug touching the front of a CRT monitor.
But it did have a ad a constant-frequency CPU clock, whereas Spectrum had the ULA periodically stopping clock to the CPU. And the Beeb's 6502 CPU, whilst nominally 2MHz, would be reduced to 2MHz if accessing some of the hardware. Although it did have hardware timers in the 6522 VIA's, so didn't need to use software timing for longer periods.

The ST's 'late 1980's 16bit wars' rival, the Amiga, still has such a following that new enhanced models are being produced. And only a couple of years ago? a new magazine - Amiga Addct? - was launched & sold in larger WH Smiths.
Although it should be easier to re-make ST's, as I don't think it had all the custom IC's that Amiga's had.

I should still have a 520ST I bought (for £3!) in the box + external drive at a radio rally >> 20years ago. I can't recall if the 1040 was just twice the RAM (added on a plug-in card?). I do recall it having using a GEM style 'early Windows' GUI, but thought it's 'TOS' ? might have also been multi-tasking.
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Old 8th Mar 2024, 2:55 am   #9
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Default Re: Atari 1040st

In original STs the memory was conventional chip memory - in the 520 model half of the RAM ICs were simply missing, so to make a 520 into a 1040 you would add the missing RAM ICs and a handful of resistors. There were a lot of third party memory add ons available, separate PCBs connected to the main PCB via parasitic headers, which could take the memory up to 4MB.

In the STe, the memory was in socketed SIMMs (in a few early versions: SIPPs), making it much easier to upgrade a 1040STe to the maximum possible 4MB just by replacing the SIMs.

The ST has its fair share of big custom ICs, the MMU, the Video Shifter, the DMA IC, the blitter (where fitted). It would not be trivial to new-build one unless you were prepared to design FPGA replicas of all of those chips.

I would offer these items of Alcazar's a home but I already have my original working ST, a working STe and a working potential spares donor ST.
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Old 8th Mar 2024, 6:32 pm   #10
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Default Re: Atari 1040st

Now I've seen the thing in daylight, it does seem to have faded to a more biscuit colour than a mid-grey, though the function keys remain a light grey.
I've attached some images here.

I've since had some interest from an electronic music group in the south on this who also seem enthusiastic, so we'll see where that leads.
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Old 8th Mar 2024, 8:43 pm   #11
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Default Re: Atari 1040st

If I were you I'd stick it on eBay. You might be surprised at what some people will pay for these nowadays.
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Old 8th Mar 2024, 9:56 pm   #12
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Default Re: Atari 1040st

Doesn't look as bad as some, my original STFM is almost tangerine.

The left hand view shows the analogue input ports which 'normal' STs don't have, and the rear view shows the stereo audio-out connections under the power switch, another feature which only the STe has. If you do put it up for sale don't forget to specify that it is an STe, not just an ST.

The fact that it is demonstrably working also adds to its potential value.
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Old 9th Mar 2024, 12:31 am   #13
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Default Re: Atari 1040st

I do recall ST cases often being a bit discoloured even back in the early 90's, so maybe quite susceptible to this.

Assuming there isn't just surface grime build-up on the plastic (that can also often occur when stored for a while in lofts etc if box isn't sealed very well) and not removed by foam-cleaner like Ambersil (if still made), then retro-brighting can often work quite well.

Chris has had success on Beeb cases, with I think just Hydrogen Peroxide painted-on and left out in a good amount of Sunlight for a few hours.
But others have used UV lamps and various chemical mixtures involving washing-powder (with brighteners?) etc.
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Old 12th Mar 2024, 2:34 pm   #14
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Default Re: Atari 1040st

I remember STs being discoloured back in the day, but I always thought it was due to all the smoking that went on in studios then.

The 68000 has a MIDI bus, as a quick perusal at a diagram will show. It's a good point that it doesn't have all of the background tasks that a PC might. My understanding is that Vince Clark was involved in a study, where they hooked a bunch of computers to a storage scope, finding that the BBC had the least latency. But I am relying on memory from 30+ years ago...
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Old 12th Mar 2024, 4:49 pm   #15
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Default Re: Atari 1040st

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Originally Posted by knobtwiddler View Post
The 68000 has a MIDI bus
The 1040 might have one, but the 68000 does not, its 'just' a processor chip.
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Old 12th Mar 2024, 6:04 pm   #16
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Quote:
Originally Posted by knobtwiddler
The 68000 has a MIDI bus, as a quick perusal at a diagram will show.
I have to be honest, I'm not familiar with this feature of the 68000 at all despite having written quite a bit of homebrew MIDI software, in 68000 assembly language, on the Atari ST in the mid 1980s to early 1990s. I've got a copy of 'Programming The 68000' (Steve Williams, Sybex) beside me here and the acronym 'MIDI' isn't in the index.

In the ST / STe the MIDI interface to the system is provided by one of two 6850 ACIA (serial UART) ICs which are interfaced to the 68000's address and data bus in the usual way, so any MIDI data flowing to and from the CPU and other components is 'normal' data while it is travelling around on the system bus and only becomes 'MIDI' data once it gets east of the MIDI ACIA.

You mentioned there was a document showing that there is some kind of specialised MIDI handling bus built into the 68000 CPU - do you have a link to that?
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Old 12th Mar 2024, 7:56 pm   #17
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Default Re: Atari 1040st

My memory is hazy and I am not a specialist in processors, so you are very likely right about this. I was shown a diagram of a 68000 to prove its MIDI credentials, but it was years ago and my recollection could be inaccurate.

When I worked in studios, people would often discuss which MIDI sequencer was tightest and reasons were given (not all of them being based on fact, I suspect). The 68000-based machines were regarded as the machines to have for MIDI, and the PC acquired a stereotype that it wasn't as tight as something based around the 68000.

In 1993 (14 years after 68000 inception) the Akai MPC3000 sequencer (famed for tightness) appeared, which was also based on the 68000. I always wanted to hook a scope against an ST to compare with the MPC. As discussed, the machines that used the 68000 typically had low latency, but more likely as a product of overall system architecture, not because the chip had a feature intended for electronic music interfacing.

edit - there is a good article here on the timeline of the Atari and its use in music, from 1995: https://www.soundonsound.com/techniq...nt-state-atari
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Old 12th Mar 2024, 8:14 pm   #18
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Default Re: Atari 1040st

Interesting article, thanks.

I think the main reason the ST and indeed the BBC Micro have such relatively tight MIDI timing is because they both essentially have single-tasking operating systems - there may be some background interrupts going on, servicing low level OS routines which are looking for key presses etc, but the machines devote most of their processor time and power to running whatever user program is active, whereas on a Windows, Linux or Mac machine there is a lot going on, with a lot of time-wasting background applications running and stealing processor time from what the user considers to be the main time-critical task.

Anyway, we're drifting a bit. What has Alcazar decided to do with his machine, I wonder?

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Old 12th Mar 2024, 9:23 pm   #19
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Default Re: Atari 1040st

Interestingly for one of Erasure's tours Vince switched to using Roland MC-8's, as he got fed up with the sloppy timing of computer based setups. The MC-8's controlled the synths in his "tank" which also provided a clock signal for an Akai groovebox that did all the drum sounds. Loading new sequences into the MC-8's required special cassette tapes that luckily after much moaning Roland found a stash of them.
A lot of artists back then would have just used tape for backing tracks (Depeche Mode did) but it was supposedly seen as better if you sequenced everything, look at the cover to the Pet Shop Boys single "DJ Culture" to get an idea of the kit needed to sequence everything live.
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Old 12th Mar 2024, 11:30 pm   #20
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Default Re: Atari 1040st

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Interestingly for one of Erasure's tours Vince switched to using Roland MC-8's, as he got fed up with the sloppy timing of computer based setups. The MC-8's controlled the synths in his "tank" which also provided a clock signal for an Akai groovebox that did all the drum sounds. Loading new sequences into the MC-8's required special cassette tapes that luckily after much moaning Roland found a stash of them.
A lot of artists back then would have just used tape for backing tracks (Depeche Mode did) but it was supposedly seen as better if you sequenced everything, look at the cover to the Pet Shop Boys single "DJ Culture" to get an idea of the kit needed to sequence everything live.
At one time a few synth based acts had to use a lot of equipment around if they wanted to play everything live.
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