Classic Computer Magazine Archive ST-Log ISSUE 20 / JUNE 1988 / PAGE 79


Smart Watch

Michigan Software
43345 Grand River
Novi, Michigan 48050
(313) 348–4477
$59.95 (retail)

Michigan Software's installation instructions are attached for your reference.

by E.H. Wysocki

Edward Wysocki is an engineer with over ten years of experience in machinery design and construction. He has worked primarily within the plastics industry, currently working at a Grand Rapids, Michigan, firm that manufactures plastic medical devices. He owns a 520ST for personal use. Though he has added memory enhancements, a ROM update, and built custom cables for the 520, his experience with computers has been primarily within an industrial setting (i.e., process controllers, machine-computer interfaces).

The Smart Watch, a real-time clock module manufactured and distributed by Michigan Software, is a useful addition to the Atari 520ST. I recently purchased and installed this enhancement, and though the module works as advertised, I would give the following caveats to anyone considering its purchase and installation: The instructions packaged with the module are grossly inadequate to properly install the module (unless the buyer regularly works on Atari STs), and the module cannot be installed into a machine containing a RAM update.

The Smart Watch module is built in a modified 28-pin IC socket. The socket contains a circuit board and an IC chip. The bottom of the socket is potted with a black compound to seal the unit. The module comes with a 3.5-inch disk containing the necessary software, and three sheets of paper claiming to contain installation instructions.

Of the three sheets of paper, the first contains the product pitch and a 90-day limited warranty. The second sheet contains oversimplified installation instructions and a board diagram. The third describes software installation.

The installation instructions can be summed up as "crude." Unless the person installing the unit has had his ST apart before, it is likely that he will either be unsuccessful in his attempt to install the unit, or he will damage his machine by forcing it apart. To quote the instructions, "You will need a Phillips screwdriver to gain access to your main Mother Board of the 520ST; there are six screws that hold down the cover and additional screws that hold down the metal shielding plate. This plate must be removed as well."

The instructions neither mention removing the keyboard nor provide any information as to its proper removal. There is also no mention of the metal "twist-tabs" that retain the RF shield, let alone the fact that on early 520STs, the shield is soldered closed in two places.

I found the software installation simple and straightforward, except for the part about putting the clock reading program into an "Auto Folder." The instructions do not mention how one creates a folder and names it "AUTO." Your machine will recognize it as a run-first file and will automatically boot it on start-up.

A consideration that neither the advertising nor the literature packaged with the Smart Watch module mentions is the fact that if you intend to increase (or have already increased) your machine's RAM by using one of the commercial RAM updates (i.e., EASY ST RAM, etc.), you will have to choose between a clock or RAM. Because of space limitations under the metal shield, both modules will not fit. If this is the case, my suggestion would be to invest in a clock that would fit into the cartridge slot. Or, if you would prefer not to take your ST apart and peer into its brains, the cartridge slot type of clock would be an excellent alternative.

I am unable to offer an opinion as to the type of support that Michigan Software provides. On the third page of their instructions they state, "Should you still run into problems you may receive assistance by calling us at 313-348-4477." I attempted to contact their office at least five times in one week, at various times of the morning and afternoon. No one answered the telephone.

In conclusion, the Smart Watch does what the literature and advertising says it will do—it eliminates the need to set the date and time each time you start up your machine. However, the installation instructions provided with the module are inadequate unless the purchaser is experienced in taking the machine apart to reach its Mother Board. In addition, anyone considering this enhancement should also consider whether the clock module is more important than increased memory through a RAM update.