There are even some extremely powerful Atari-compatible clones around like the swiss 68060 based Hades or the german Milan, and clone projects like the french Phenix or the american Wizztronics machine.
These computers run various flavours of an operating system called TOS (The Operating System), which includes GEM, a graphical user interface from Digital Research.
More details on various machine specifications can be found here:
What is TOS ?
The Atari Computer History site
The Atari Library (presentation of almost all Atari products)
In some countries, Atari shipped machines with a SCART/Peritel cable that plugs into the monitor port instead of the RF Modulator. In this case you need the adequate cable and a SCART/Peritel equipped TV set. No tuning is required, and the RGB picture is better quality than RF. These cables might still be available from some Atari dealers, but it is also quite easy to home-build one, provided you know the pinouts (see section 3.7).
A TV will act exactly like an Atari Colour Monitor, and therefore will only display low or medium resolution modes.
Monochrome (640x400) requires special Atari high resolution 72Hz monitors (SM models). These monitors have a very stable, although small, paper white display. SM monitors can only display monochrome mode. TTs and Falcons can do without the SM monitor and display ST high-res on a VGA monitor.
ST Medium (640x200/4 colours) and ST Low (320x200/16 colours) need a colour monitor (SC series) or a TV.
Note that a monochrome display can only show Hi-res, and a colour monitor (or TV) can only display Mid-res and Low-res. Most games require colour, and most application programs require Hi-res, so the choice of your monitor is important.
If you want to display all ST screen resolutions with an ST/STF/STFM/STE you need both types of monitors or you can use a multisync monitor with a special adapter. A temporary solution for running monochrome programs on a colour monitor, can be to use a software Hi-res emulator such as Sebra (see section 2.2.3).
These monitors cannot be connected to a TT, as this machine requires a VGA monitor.
|ST High||ST Low/Medium|
|Vertical refresh rate||72 Hz||50 or 60 Hz|
|Horizontal refresh rate||31.5 Khz||15.75 Khz|
Connector pinouts can be found in Section 3.7 of this FAQ. The proprietary connector used on the Atari can sometimes be difficult to find. A source in the UK is Maplin's. In Europe (at least Germany and France), you can try Conrad Electronics. In the USA, the best source for such parts is probably Best Electronics.
Instructions on building a multisync adaptor for the ST can be found here:
Whatever the display you choose, the Falcon requires an external video adapter, either for ST type monitors or for VGA screens. There are also third party adapters that can switch between the two displays.
A text file about Multisync/VGA/ST-res adaptors for Falcon is here:
If the desktop screen doesn't come up after more than 5 minutes, either your ST is broken or you have an ST without TOS in ROM. Only some of the first pre-STF machines (the ones with no floppy drive) needed a special TOS boot disk without which they are more or less useless. If you happen to have one of these machines, you should seriously consider a TOS upgrade (see section 2.4).
An explanation of the contents of the DESKTOP.INF and NEWDESK.INF files can be found here:
Depending on the ST version you have, a language disk was supplied with some basic software, mainly:
1.3.3 Atari language disks
One way to find out which version of TOS you are running is to check out the latest copyright date in the Desk, Information box.
1.3.4 How do I know what TOS version I have
1985: TOS 1.00 (ST/STF) - original ROM versionIn addition to these, a Falcon will be running TOS 4.02 or 4.04 and a TT030 will have TOS 3.01, 3.05 or 3.06. The new Milan computer runs a licensed TOS 5.0.
1986: TOS 1.02 (Mega ST) - blitter support
1989: TOS 1.04 (STF/Mega ST) - coloured atari logo, better disk I/O, many bugfixes, faster.
1990: TOS 1.06 (STE) - STE hardware support
1991: TOS 1.62 (STE) - bugfixed version of above
1990: TOS 2.05 (Mega STE) - new desktop, customizable icons, HD disk support
1991: TOS 2.06 (Mega STE) - bugfixed version of above, support for future hardware.
For any serious use, versions of TOS below 1.04 should be upgraded. See section 2.4.
To obtain a full report on your hardware (RAM, TOS, disks, etc...), you should run a program such as Sysinfo.
Here are some good net resources for Atari emulator software:
PaCifiST ST emulator for PC
WinSTon ST emulator for PC
TOSbox ST emulator for PC
Gemulator ST emulator for PC
STemulator ST emulator for PC (in german)
Gemulator ST emulator for PC
Emulation Net (Atari emulation on Macintosh)
NoSTalgia ST emulator for Macintosh
STonX ST emulator for UNIX
STonX for DOS
Application Systems Heidelberg (MagiCPC and MagiCMac)
TOS2WIN ST emulator for PC
However, TOS is still copyrighted software and the distribution rights belong to Atari. Neither Atari nor JTS (the company who now owns Atari) has stated that any version of TOS can be freely distributed and used. Distributing it without a licence is therefore software piracy, which is illegal and enforced everywhere in the world.
Solliciting pirated software is also illegal.
Owners of a real ST can use a program called TOSDUMP.PRG to make a TOS image for their own use. This is considered legal as long as the image is not distributed and you own a legal copy of the program (ie: the ROMs).
Illegal copies of TOS images can be found at the following location. Remember that using them is software piracy. See section 2.1.
The Little Green Desktop
Emulators often have problems reading original ST floppy disks, mainly because of hardware issues on the emulating machine. A common workaround is to convert all the data contained on a disk (including special formatting, boot sectors, hidden tracks, etc...) into a disk image file. The most common format for this is the .ST file format from PaCifiST. The emulator then mounts the files as if they were real disks.
1.4.3 What are .ST files and what can I do with them ?
Here are various utilities for converting disk image files into disks, and vice versa.
ST2DISK (Atari)Many .ST files that are on the net are actually pirate copies of games. Even if these games are no longer produced or sold as new, unauthorized distribution and use of copyrighted software is still illegal. See section 2.1.
First of all, Atari ST, STF and STE computers do not have a real time clock (RTC) to begin with, so unless you set the time/date on every boot, they still figure they are somewhere in september 1986. On the other hand, other Atari computers with a built-in RTC were all designed to go way over 2000. Although the limit is not clearly defined, it appears to be somewhere after 2028. TOS also is also capable of tracking time at least up to this date.
Basically, the hardware and system software DO NOT suffer from any millenium bug.
As far as software goes, most programs do not even use any RTC or date functions. This will be true for games and 90 percent of your other software. What might suffer is any database program with some built in date tracking that does not comply with the system standard.
Another identified problem is for aftermarket RTCs, like the Forget-me-clock, which will happily tick on to the next millenium, but for which the setting software will not work anymore.
There is a web site specially dedicated to Atari and the Y2K issue.
Atari ST Quick FAQ - v2.9a - firstname.lastname@example.org