520 / 1040 STe
The Atari STe is the successor of the Atari STf (The 'e' stands for 'enhanced') and is almost fully compatible with the STf.
In september 1986, Atari decided to make a successor to the STf. They planned to equip it with enhanced video features : Atari said then that the STe will have a 640 x 400 with 16 colors among 4096 and a 320 x 200 with 256 colors among 4096 graphic modes. Unfortunately, eventually, the STe will have none of these graphic modes.
The new features are :
- a new version of the OS ("Rainbow" TOS 1.6 and later, 1.62),
- a Blitter chip to quick perform memory moves (it is the the Mega STf one),
- the video chip (Shifter) has been enhanced: the STe can perform, as the Amiga, hardware scrolling in all directions and it is possible to write into the video counters. It also handle 4096 colors instead of 512, unfortunately, it can only display a maximum of 16 of them (without trick).
- 'phase lock' of the video output to an external video source permitting direct linking to genlocking device.
- It has enhanced sound features too: two 8 bit PCM (Pulse Coded Modulation) channels which can replay stereo sound at 6.25, 12.5, 25, or 50 KHz and which can be mixed with the 3 FM channels.
Despite its new and interesting features, the Atari STe was a flop in the marketplace. The STf market was too important and the software editors (especially game editors) didn't sell STe versions of their products.
Not long after this, Atari launched the Mega STe to replace the Mega STf.
There was an interesting variation on the STe in the R&D labs of Atari, called the STe+, which had an AMD 286 chip and a small IDE hard drive built in. Quite why this was abandoned nobody really knows, but a number of working prototypes were found in Atari's Mexico office when Atari finally blinked out of existence and have appeared on ebay from time to time.
Contributors: Malcolm Ramage.
PC emulator by James Cronin:
I had a 512 version of the STe, which we later upgraded to 1024 by the purchase of additional memory. We also later purchased a second floppy drive for it. As you said the main limitation to it was the graphics which you could switch between High, Medium and Standard. The High mode was only in black and white on the TV output. The nice thing was that they had a phono composite video output on them which allowed them to easily be hooked upto a projector / large TV.
One interesting thing we fitted to ours was a PC emulator. There were a number avaliable during the lifespan of the machine, either hardware or software. the unit we chose was called ST-AT16. It consisted of an aditional card which had an AMD 286 16Mhz processor on it, and a socket for the Motorola chip this pluged into the main processor socket, and you put the motorola chip onto this card as well. Two disks were used to swap it into PC mode and you then booted dos from here.
It was painfuly slow, and as we had no hard drive was very limited as most IBM compatible software that was beign produced at this time required a hard drive to run. Te fact that the graphics were now outdated soon brought it to the end of its life. However it became a glorified typewriter for a few more years.
Software wise all we really did was run ST FM software on it and only had one piece specific for the STe which was a midi program (name slips my mind).
It was after around 4 years of good service replaced by a philips 286 with a 1024X768 X 256 colour display. The only thing that ever went wrong was the phono socket for the TV out came lose on the board, but this was quickly soldered back on.