It was Christmas 2010 when I decided to start on this project. I wanted my son to be able to use my old 8-bit so he could experience the old-school games. He was 7 at the time and getting around the 8-bit wasn’t so easy. The clunky old 1050 with deteriorating disks from the early to mid 80’s wasn’t cutting it. There are many ways to get your current PC connected to the Atari and run it that way (I had done that years ago and it is great!), but again, more complicated than what I wanted. I decided to go a more simple route.
- Brush up on my old electronic skills
- Learn how to program in C (I always wanted to learn this)
- Figure out how the Atari SIO works
- …maybe about 10 other things
Yes…much easier than hooking up a PC to the old Atari.
I found a device called SIO2SD. What a neat project. This device was not easy to get (at the time) and I noticed he was using an Atmel processor. Not knowing one Atmel from another, I started researching and stumbled on Arduino. I wasn’t sure if it could do everything I needed it to do, but I thought it would be a fun way to get back into some electronic and programming design, so I ordered one up along with a MicroSD breakout board, a 16×2 LCD, a breadboard and other small parts. Worst case, I would have some background needed to move forward with something more complicated.
Searching online using “C Tutorial” turned up more than a few sites. I had programmed in Basic and Turbo Pascal, so it only took me some days to get going in C. Within a few weeks a had some strange noises coming from my 130XE and kept going from there. I was lucky enough to have a friend who is a programmer who helped me through some of this. Thanks, Jim!
After a few months, I had most of the things I wanted working, so I took a break. I came back in the early summer to start working on designing a circuit board. I had never used Eagle (and it may show) but after getting past a little frustration, I was able to come up with something.
I had considered trying to release something for Christmas 2011, but I really wanted to put out a complete product. I could not get a case that I liked and getting everything together to be affordable for the end-user was not possible for me at that time. While searching for possible cases and devices for Atari, I stumbled onto SDrive. Why didn’t I see this earlier? It has software that runs on your Atari that can control an SIO device with specific commands. I thought this was great. There is documentation that describes what the SIO commands for SDrive are and what they are supposed to do, so I decided to implement it into my project. It really is a great addition.
It was not all smooth. There were many Arduino crashes that I thought were design flaws in the Arduino. 🙂 It took quite a bit of time to debug and learn how to manage memory. It was a fun project though and I hope that others will be able to enjoy this device as well.