1930 East Grant Road
Tucson, AZ 85719
by Maurice Molyneaux
Don't you just hate switching cables? If you have both an RGB and a monochrome monitor, or if you have a monochrome monitor and use a television for color programs, it can be a real pain to have to constantly pull out and plug in monitor cables. I did this for a year and a half, then one day I finally broke down and did something about it. I bought Monitor Master, and my cable switching days were over.
Monitor Master (MM) is a video switchbox, colored Atari gray, and just a bit bigger than your ST's mouse. Its only control is a single big, black button on its face. Around back you'll find a cable that plugs into your ST's monitor port and four other jacks. Two jacks are designed to take ST monitor cables and are labeled "color" and "mono." In addition to these are two standard RCA phono jacks, labeled "audio" and "video." If you hook a standard stereo cable into the audio jack, you can then pipe sound from your ST to another monitor, or through your stereo system (Starglider takes on a whole new dimension when piped through some good speakers). If you have an RF-equipped ST (most 520STs and the rare 1040STfm) you can hook a composite monitor, VCR, etc., into the video jack. If you use a monochrome monitor and a TV, you just plug the monitor into the proper jack and hook up your TV as always.
The black button (MM's only control) is used to toggle between color and monochrome. Normally, if you're just using a TV by means of the RF modulator (if your machine has one) rather than an RGB monitor, you must still disconnect your monochrome monitor to run programs in low or medium resolution (though medium looks terrible on most TVs and composite monitors). When MM's button is pushed in, the monochrome monitor is disabled, and the RGB port, composite video jack or RF modulator can be used for output. When you want to go to monochrome, pushing the button so it pops into its out position disables color modes.
For those of you who didn't know, the ST's monitor jack has a pin called "monochrome detect" which, when connected to a monochrome monitor, lets the ST know it's in monochrome mode. Since the monochrome display signal is different than that for color modes (for example, the mono monitor has a screen refresh rate of 70 times per second as opposed to the color's 60), the ST will reset itself whenever a change occurs in the status of the monochrome detect pin. So, if you press MM's button while your computer is running, it will reboot. However, while doing this will reset the computer, I recommend that you turn off your ST whenever you perform this toggle, as doing so with the power on causes needless wear and tear on your computer.
There's not much else to say about Monitor Master. It does its intended job and does it quite well. The composite audio/video output is especially nice, because it allows you to hook up a VCR and tape your color graphics (only low resolution is worth the effort), in addition to hooking up to stereos and composite monitors. If your ST lacks an RF modulator (you can tell by looking at the back of the machine; if there's a jack with a TV icon above it, and a small slot with a channel 2/3 selector switch, then you've got it—if not, you don't), then you clearly can't use the composite video output.
However, Practical Solutions will soon be releasing the Video Key, a device which converts any ST's RGB output to a high-quality composite video signal (so don't you 1040ST and Mega ST owners despair). They also currently offer six-foot microfloppy disk-drive cables as well as numerous video cables; including special cables to hook up non-Atari RGB and multi-synch monitors. To put icing on the switchbox cake, if you're tired of switching cables between your mouse and a joystick, Practical Solutions is coming out with Mouse Master—the function of which I daresay we can all guess!
So, if you're tired of those monitor cable-switching blues, get yourself a Monitor Master.