Classic Computer Magazine Archive START VOL. 2 NO. 1 / SUMMER 1987



Can you tell me how to get "reverse video" characters like the 800 series Atari computers have?

Jean Gay
Toronto, Ontario, Canada

Jean, there are at least two different ways to use inverse video characters on your ST. First, if you're programming for the TOS environment, send the VT-52 ASCII codes [ESCAPE] "p" (that's the ESCAPE character and a lowercase "p") to the console to start printing in inverse video. To turn off inverse, send the codes [ESCAPE] "q" (ESCAPE and a lowercase "q"). If you're programming in GEM, you'll need to change the writing mode to reverse transparent, using the vswr_mode( handle, 4 ) call from the VDI Library.


I just bought my 1040ST with a monochrome monitor, and was wondering if I should have purchased the color system. A lot of software only runs on the color system. Is there any way to convert my monochrome programs to color?

Thorarinn Jonsson
Varma, Iceland

Bad news, Thorarinn. Unless the program was originally designed to work with the monochrome system, it would be virtually impossible to make any color program run in monochrome. Your best bet would be to go ahead and buy a color monitor and keep both monitors handy--you'll get the best of both worlds. That's what we do here at START. Most of our word processing is done on the monochrome screen, and we boot in color to see the latest Darrel Anderson or Tom Hudson creation.


Why did Atari market a MIDI capable machine with such a primitive sound chip? The competition uses a top-flight sound chip, the same one used in many synthesizers. Will Atari reconsider this decision and revise the sound chip in a later model? Is it feasible to consider having an authorized technician modify my unit with a better sound chip, such as Ensoniq?

Gerald Stevens
Birmingham, Alabama

Gerald, when Atari went about designing the ST series computer, they tried to use the most powerful, time-tested "off-the-shelf" chips wherever they could. In the case of the sound chip, it's been in use for nearly ten years, and is considered a rock-solid performer. However, there's another reason, over and above the reliability and speed of the sound chip, that prompted Atari to use it. It contains two "free" onboard input/ output ports. These two I/O ports are not logically connected to the sound-making capabilities of the sound chip, so Atari put them to use controlling the floppy disk interface and servicing the printer port. By doing this, Atari saved having to use another IC chip for I/O, and devoted the motherboard space for it to the MIDI interface.

Yes, the chip is awkward to use and could be considered primitive, but it's perfectly serviceable for program bongs, beeps, boops, whistles, and grunts, and if you actually need to whip the chip, you can. Jez San, who wrote StarGlider, gets his AY-38910 to reproduce digitized speech and music. The G.I.S.T utility in The Catalog renders the AY-3-8910 as programmable as almost any other sound chip. Besides, if you're really into music reproduction, you probably already have a Casio or Yamaha synthesizer to play your music for you.

Some applications are even being released meaning they'll play the mood music for the application through your MIDI synth. Now some of that sound is awesome.


I've read the 520ST is upgradable to one megabyte, and I was wondering if the 1040ST also had RAM upgrades available. Also, I've heard about something called a "blitter" chip. Could you explain what it is and what it does?

Pat O'Leary
Minneapolis, Minnesota

Pat, we have an article in the pipeline right now that describes upgrading the 520ST to have two megabytes of RAM, and the 1040 to hold four megabytes. However, it may be to your advantage to have a look-see at the Mega ST series of computers that Atari should be selling shortly after you read this. They already come equipped with either one, two, or four megabytes of RAM.

The blitter chip ("bit-block transfer graphics coprocessor") is an IC whose sole purpose in life is to move the contents of sections of memory hither and yon very quickly. As it stands now, the 68000 "brain" inside the ST has to perform the function of moving memory around, which includes pictures like the Desktop. The blitter chip will perform this function independently of the 68000--while the 68000's back is turned, as it were. The chip is ready to go, and you'll be able to install it inside your current 520 or 1040ST. You'll also need a new version of TOS-in-ROM, which will include blitter chip support subroutines. These subroutines (in another form) are already present inside the ST, but perform their function using a software approach, instead of hardware. The blitter chip will also be standard equipment inside the Mega ST computers.


I recently bought the "QuestProbe" game from Adventure International, and when I tried to buy the "hint" book, found out the company has gone out of business. What do I do now?

William Payne
Folsom, California

William, you need to contact Shay Adams at:

202 Elgin Ct.
Wayne, PA 19087