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Hi from Ireland

Posted: Wed Sep 05, 2018 5:43 pm
by KrisW
So... where do I start?

For me, my first Atari was a 2600 (woodgrain forever!) back in 1983, but despite this, my first home computer was an Amstrad CPC in 1984 (practicalities of not having a spare TV set to devote to a computer, and the poor availabilty plus high price of the 8-bit Ataris in Europe), on which I learned to program ... in Basic. However, in 1988 I became the proud owner of a 520 STFM, and I stuck with Atari for the next nine years, learning 68000 assembly and then C along the way, largely because the ST BASIC was so bad.

Actually, my career as a professional software developer began on an STE. Okay, it was a magazine cover-disk, but even a small amount of money changing hands made me a "professional". ("Boing", on the ST User September 1991 Cover-disk, and I apologise to anyone who tried to finish it... it got infuriatingly difficult very quickly)

So, my complete list runs like this, although I never owned more than one computer at a time:
1988: 520 STFM
1989: (Amiga 500... suberb games, but I truly hated the OS)
January 1990-May 1992: 520 STE, sold in May 1992.
May-September 1992: No computer at all (!!)
September 1992: another 520STE
November 1992: a Falcon030.

I believe my Falcon was one of only two in Ireland (my friend had the other one). We got the machines through Atari's Developer programme - I don't think the Falcon was ever launched into the retail channel in Ireland. We were writing tools and UI frameworks for app developers, but after 1994 it became obvious that nothing would come of it.

But it wasn't entirely wasted time: knowing C and 68000 and 68030 assembly-language landed me a job doing software development in a well-known computer company (back when they still had "Computer" in their name, and stripes on their logo), just as they finished ditching the last 680x0 hardware from their range... which perfectly describes how badly managed they were at this time! Since those days, work of all kinds, at various companies, kept me out of the home tinkering game for about five years or so, and so the Falcon was boxed up and left at home.

... until last week, that is, when I decided to bring the old bird out of storage and see what could be done with it.

The answer: "very little". I've lost (or had to give back) the VGA adaptor I used with the Falcon, and a power-up produces a 400kHz (or thereabouts)
"beep" every second from somewhere within the casework.

Any pointers to troubleshooting guides would be very gratefully received, as I'd like to get the machine running again, just for old times' sake.

Re: Hi from Ireland

Posted: Wed Sep 05, 2018 7:30 pm
by KyleB
There's still a couple of VGA adapters in the shop I think. Else if you're handy with the soldering iron you could make one.

Falcons have a speaker built in (or they did, most people rip them out). That high pitch beep you're hearing is the awful noise STs make when you've pressed a key, that you probably forgot all about. That it's going constantly means you've got a keyboard problem, one of them might be stuck down, or there could be some moisture or something trapped in the contacts.

Worst case is the keyboard controller itself blew up but that's a cheap fix. The only difference between ST and Falcon keyboards is the colour, so you can swap in whatever.

Re: Hi from Ireland

Posted: Wed Sep 05, 2018 8:11 pm
by KrisW
Hey, thanks for the reply!

Oh god, do I remember the key beep! This sound seemed to be lower in pitch, and more of a "beeeep" than the "bip" I dimly remember, if you get what I'm saying. With luck, my memory is off, and it's just a stuck key. I yanked the power quickly just in case it was something serious, and won't go further until I've some sort of video (does running a 640x480 VGA signal into a 4K monitor count as overkill?).

Frankly, after 22 years of non-use, I'm amazed the machine even powered up! I was expecting a loud bang and/or the smell of burning flux.

I've rescued a VGA lead from the recycling box at work, so I'll get a DB19 plug and spend an hour swearing as I solder it together, or, more likely, as I find D-sub connectors are a total swine to solder stranded wires into, I might just hunt for a pre-wired adaptor.

Thanks!

Re: Hi from Ireland

Posted: Wed Sep 05, 2018 11:28 pm
by KyleB
Two row D sub isn't so bad, real sod is 13 pin DIN on the older models

Re: Hi from Ireland

Posted: Thu Sep 06, 2018 8:23 am
by Petari
Since it was not powered on for many years it is sure that electrolyte capacitors are very weak. Just don't turn it on before replacing most of them - in PSU in first place - because more damage can happen.

Re: Hi from Ireland

Posted: Thu Sep 06, 2018 9:19 am
by KrisW
I've ordered the PSU capacitor set. I'm not applying power again until those are replaced.

I haven't done a visual examination of the motherboard yet to see the state of the parts, but my reading (and the little electronics I remember from college) suggests that I'll eventually end up needing to replace all the electrolytic caps. "Wet electrolytic capacitors will easily last for decades" sounds impressive until I remember that my Falcon is now two and a half decades old...

I'm just thankful that it was manufactured before the "Capacitor Plague" began in the late 1990s.

@kyleB - For a few months after I got it, I connected my first ST to an Amstrad CPC colour monitor by means of sewing pins with the points snipped off, wrapped in wire and then electrical tape, each directly inserted into that infernal DIN-13 socket. It worked surprisingly well (although it really needed a resistor on R,G and B, as the Amstrad used a lower voltage range)... as long as you didn't breathe to heavily near the cable once it was installed! :lol:

Re: Hi from Ireland

Posted: Thu Sep 06, 2018 12:11 pm
by KrisW
Re my beeping problem, some progress:
the 'Little Black Bit Book' wrote:If you remove the keyboard of the Mega ST and switch it on, the computer won’t boot up and sits there sending alert-beeps to notify you that the keyboard is disconnected
That pretty much describes my Falcon at bootup. Hope it's a disconnected cable, rather than a dead keyboard microcontroller.

Re: Hi from Ireland

Posted: Mon Sep 10, 2018 12:44 pm
by Tophe38
Hi, and welcome.

I share the path regarding computer. Own an Amstrad, then move to Atari. I also have an Amiga 500, wonderful for game, but with an awful OS for a stock machine. OS require at least one second floppy drive and memory expansion, too expensive at this time. With my 520 STF, I can easily program with GFA basic (folding procedure was a brilliant idea), and then move to C (with Pure C). GEM is also simple and efficient to program.

Re: Hi from Ireland

Posted: Mon Sep 10, 2018 12:53 pm
by Petari
KrisW wrote:
Thu Sep 06, 2018 12:11 pm
...
the 'Little Black Bit Book' wrote:If you remove the keyboard of the Mega ST and switch it on, the computer won’t boot up and sits there sending alert-beeps to notify you that the keyboard is disconnected
That pretty much describes my Falcon at bootup. Hope it's a disconnected cable, rather than a dead keyboard microcontroller.
That's actually just side effect of TOS keyboard press beep sound. When keyboard is removed IKBD chip detects constant keypress.
Yes, usually it is cable, connector error. IKBD chip failure is rare - didn't broke by me despite all torturing over years - electrical type torturing.