A friend gave me an Atari 1040 ST!

Every now and then a good luck also happens. Look at what a friend gave me for free? It is an Atari 1040 ST F, with SM124 monitor.

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Along with the computer and monitor, there are also accessories. There is a box of diskettes, an original Atari mouse, a program to record and play music via MIDI ports and manuals.

Atari 1040 ST F Atari SM124 retro computer monitor mouse Steinberg PRO-24 Cubase manual as a gift

The retro computer Atari 1040 ST

Let's start with the computer description. The Atari 1040 ST F was launched in 1986. It is equipped with a Motorola 68000 16-bit processor, 1 MByte of RAM and integrated double-sided floppy disk drive.

Atari 1040 ST Atari ST Atari1040STF rear ports serial parallel floppy hard disk video monitor power supply

We look at the back doors. Starting from the left, we have:

  • The serial port, with 25-pole male D-Sub connector. A modem with RS232 standard can be connected to the serial port, for example.
  • The parallel port, with a 25-pole D-Sub connector, to which you can connect a printer.
  • The port for the Atari hard disk, with 19-pole female D-Sub connector. From the manual, we read that the hard disk can transfer data at a speed of 10 megabits per second.
  • The external floppy disk drive port, with 14-pole DIN round connector. The external floppy disk drive is the secondary drive, as the Atari 1040 ST F already has an internal floppy disk drive.
  • Some versions of the Atari ST also have RF output to connect the television, but in mine it is missing.
  • This is the monitor port. It can work in three modes, depending on the connected monitor. With the monochrome monitor SM124 is high definition: 640×400 pixels in black and white. With other monitors it can be 320×200 with 16 colors or 640 x 200 with 4 colors. I will build a video cable to connect the Atari 1040 STF to a color monitor.
  • Finally, this is the power connector, IEC C13 standard. The feeder is internal.

At the rear, we also find the power switch and the reset button.

In the right side, we find the floppy disk drive.

Atari 1040 ST floppy disk drive internal double-sided diskette

In the left side, we find the two MIDI ports IN and OUT – they are 5-pole DIN connectors – and the expansion port for 40-pole cartridges.

Atari 1040 ST Atari ST Atari1040STF MIDI Ports in Out DIN 5 Expansion Expansion

The two ports to connect two joysticks, or a mouse and a joystick, are located at the bottom of the computer. They are two 9-pole D-Sub connectors, male.

Atari 1040 ST Atari ST Atari1040STF mouse port joystick DB9 DSub 9 poles below

The Atari SM124 monochrome, high-definition monitor

The Atari SM124 is a 12" black and white monitor with high resolution: 640×400 pixels.

Atari SM124 user manual monitor, black and white B&W monochrome high resolution

From the back of the Atari SM124 monitor come out the two cables: power and video.

Monitor Atari SM124 back power video cable

On the right side of the Atari SM124 monitor there are three knobs. Going up, from the bottom up, we find:

  • the knob to turn on the monitor and adjust the volume;
  • contrast adjustment;
  • brightness.
Monitor Atari SM124 side knobs adjustment ignition volume contrast brightness

Even if the monitor is 12", as you will see in the photos of the test, the visible area is much less than the diagonal of the monitor.

The MIDI Recording Program: Steinberg PRO-24

The program in this collector is the Steinberg PRO-24.

Atari ST software Steinberg PRO-24 PRO24 MIDI recorder music binder key diskette

Inside the collector, there is the diskette with the program and the protection key (a cartridge).

Atari ST software Steinberg PRO-24 PRO24 MIDI recorder music binder disc key binder

As you can read from the manual, the Pro 24 is a MIDI recorder for the Atari ST that, for many operations, works like a regular recorder. What differentiates it most from a traditional recorder is the fact that it records MIDI data and not sounds.

The computer, however, does not play any sound, it only controls the MIDI instrumentation. The sound possibilities of the instrumentation establish the limits of the sonorities and polyphony that can be obtained.

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Atari ST software Steinberg PRO-24 PRO24 III manual MIDI recorder

The Pro 24 III is a 24-track MIDI recorder.

Atari ST software Steinberg PRO-24 PRO24 MIDI recorder music binder

Connect and test the Atari 1040 ST, SM124 monitor and mouse

After describing the hardware and software a friend gave me for free, we connect the computer, the monitor and the mouse, so we can test them! Connections must be made with computer and monitor turned off.

Atari 1040 ST Atari ST Atari1040STF port connection mouse joystick DB9 DSub 9 poles below
Atari 1040 ST F connection connector DIN monitor Atari SM124
Atari 1040 ST monitor connector and power IEC C13 power power button reset

I test the computer turning it on directly, because the guy who gave it to me used it, from time to time, so I'm quiet. If it had been a computer abandoned for years, I would have had to follow all the verification procedures that I had already explained in this article.

We turn on the monitor first, and then the computer.

The monitor remains white, until we insert a diskette.

Unfortunately, with any disk that we insert, after an attempt to read, the computer displays the operating system. Evidently the floppy disk drive does not read.

Even by clicking on the drive icon, the computer prompts you to insert the diskette, even if it is already inside.

Atari 1040 ST Atari ST GEM TOS operating system drive not responding disk error

Never mind. I will try to fix the drive, but, in any case, it may be useful to replace it with a Gotek, to be able to load files from USB pen drives. I could download Atari programs from the internet, via a modern PC, and transfer them to pendrives and then upload them to this computer with the Gotek.

The Atari TOS operating system

The operating system of the Atari ST is called TOS (acronym for The Operating System) and includes several modules. One of these modules is the GEM (Graphics Environment Manager), which is the graphical interface.

Atari 1040 ST Atari ST GEM TOS sistema operativo desktop info Digital Research 1986 1987, GEM Graphics Environment Manager TOS The Operating System

At the moment, unfortunately, with the floppy disk drive that does not read, we can not do anything else, except navigate the menus.

Atari 1040 ST Atari ST GEM Graphics Environment Manager TOS The Operating System Operating System File Menu
GEM Graphics Environment Manager TOS The Operating System Atari 1040 ST Atari ST GEM TOS operating system menu view
Atari 1040 ST Atari ST GEM TOS operating system menu options
Atari 1040 ST Atari ST GEM TOS operating system menu options set preferences

Keep it going…

Another repair that we will have to do concerns the missing key: the CAPS LOCK. I'll have to find a spare button.

In addition, I would also like to open the Atari 1040ST to see how it is made inside and to give it a nice clean, both inside and outside!

Credits: In the video, the background music is: Star Wars Return of the Jedi.

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