Discovery cartridge modifications/questions

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Discovery cartridge modifications/questions

Postby Fujiyama » Tue May 23, 2017 9:58 pm

I've just found my old Discovery cartridge and knew there was some information compiled somewhere...
The Atari Wiki still isn't working, but I found some info in its source, which is readable (minus the images). There's also a Discovery cartridge owner's thread in this forum and I found some pictures and info here as well.

But I have a couple of questions I didn't see answered there...

1) Mine is the basic version (option 0) but with the extra cartridge option (the previous owner had done a nasty soldering job of adding a cartridge socket in the "J1" location. Obviously I'll have to check each connection, but I'm wondering: is this a cartridge "through" port? I'm a little confused because the Wiki article says:
OPTION 6
  • jack for plugging in a second cartridge
  • 2nd cartridge enable switch
HAPPY COMPUTERS has tested and found that the MAGIC SAC and DESKCART and SPECTRE 128 will operate as a second cartridge with OPTION 6.
Many other cartridges may work with option 6 that do not work with options 3 or 4. We do not guarantee that any cartridge will work as a second cartridge. Some L shaped cartridges may not even fit as a second cartridge. The 2nd cartridge switch allows the user to select whether the 2nd cartridge or the DISCOVERY CARTRIDGE is enabled.


I always assumed it was just an ordinary "pass through" type cartridge connector, but does the above indicate that some cartridges/dongles might have address conflicts or other issues in conjuction with the Discovery cart?


2) There's a magazine ad for the Discovery cartridge posted here where it says that "the Discovery cartridge can be used with high density 3.5" floppy drives (available from other suppliers". Are they referring to an external HD drive which plugs into the additional floppy connector (the "J3" connector on the Discovery PCB, next to the one which goes to the Atari ST rear floppy port via a cable)? But where does the HD detect signal go when all the 14 pins are already used?

3) Has anyone here upgraded a Discovery cartridge board to add/upgrade to other options?
Like I said, mine is an "option 0" with an added cartridge port done by a previous owner. The abovementioned magazine ad says that "A technically inclined user can add their own options" which I'm not sure means to upgrade from a basic (option 0) Discovery cartridge to an option 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 or 7 type unit, or if they mean that those with the right knowledge can modifiy it to do other things. In any case the schematics which have generously been made available shows the components and values, so I assume I can just add whatever additional option I need myself. Has anyone tried that?

I'm not interested in the Mac emulation (I'm writing this on a Mac and besides, the ST was way ahead of the Mac's features at that time, which is what the emulation is all about), but is the clock worth getting into, or are newer options better?
I can't see myself getting additional floppy drives, so those options might not be of any use either (it's been a while since I backed up anything with my Discovery cartridge but I seem to recall that I made floppy disk image files of them, stored on my hard drive, using the single built-in standard 720K STe floppy drive.
So what's left? The ROM sockets: are they just for the Mac emulator or can they be put to other uses of interest today?
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Re: Discovery cartridge modifications/questions

Postby Greenious » Tue May 23, 2017 10:12 pm

You can still read the wiki with wayback machine or by viewing the source of the page.

https://web.archive.org/web/20160304074 ... _Cartridge

http://www.atari-wiki.com/index.php?tit ... ction=edit
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Re: Discovery cartridge modifications/questions

Postby Fujiyama » Tue May 23, 2017 10:48 pm

Yes, that's what I said: I read the source.
But the wayback machine version definitely looks a lot better. Thanks :D
Too bad the full size photos aren't archived -is there any chance of the Wiki being fixed? Is anyone looking into it? It's a pity with all that info that it actually doesn't work as intended.
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Re: Discovery cartridge modifications/questions

Postby Greenious » Tue May 23, 2017 11:14 pm

Well, I assume the rom-port is a through-port, with the switch basically disabling the discovery cart. It should work with most carts, but you never know with these things until tried. (Edit, the switch likely just directs CS to either the discovery cartridge, or the pass-through port, which *should* work with most, if not all, carts)

Steinberg/cubase and the music dongle stuff thingie had a midi extender on the cartridge port that had port through, it worked with cubase/notator dongles afaik.

Atleast in theory, you can have 3 cartridges working concurrently on the cartridge port, 2 8-bit cartridges (one using high bit, one using low bit) and a 16 bit cartridge, by cleverly using CS in conjuntion with LDS/UDS. Also, theoretically, the cartridge romspace is 128k, and you should be able to use like 2 64kb cartridges, occupying different address spaces. And obviously various combinations of that...
(CS = Chip select, UDS = Upper Data Strobe, LDS = Lower Data Strobe)

In short, it's a science on it's own. It's may not be the answer you wanted, but it is nonetheless the best I can give on the topic.

As for HD-drives and the other questions, I really don't know how it worked. Ijor is the forum expert on the discovery cartridge, shooting him a message is probably worthwhile.
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Re: Discovery cartridge modifications/questions

Postby Fujiyama » Tue May 23, 2017 11:40 pm

Thanks Greenious. I didn't know about the limitation of 3 cartridges, always thinking only one could be accessed at once via a switching cartridge expansion device of some sort. That could explain things and I need to look up on my notes I did many years ago about which combination of cartridge add-on devices worked. I believe I tried out several combinations of the C-Lab/Emagic hardware (Unitor, Combiner, Human Touch together with the Discovery cartridge) and only one combination worked. IIRC the Discovery might have been connected at the very end of the chain.

The Combiner is the cartridge port switcher which works with C-Lab software (Creator or Notator). I believe Midex+ was a similar one by Steinberg, but of course it only worked with Cubase (the competitor at the time) so I sold it, being a Notator user.
There are "pass through" cartridge ports on all of those C-Lab devices and the through port of the Combiner is meant for the Notator dongle (or Unitor (with the dongle in its through connector) or a Unitor-2 which has the dongle built-in). As far as I remember...

I don't think I ever tried attaching any additional cartridge/dongle to the Discovery at the end of that chain -I should probably give that a go before recasing it all together with the computer.

I'll let Ijor get the opportunity to chime in here in case others are following the thread first, before trying to PM him.
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Re: Discovery cartridge modifications/questions

Postby Greenious » Wed May 24, 2017 12:21 am

3 cart limit is not really the limit, it depends on the type of carts aswell, as you can only have 1 software cart at a time regardless. And other types, like real time clocks, dongles and whatnot can occupy different addresses and so on.

To add, I do believe there was atleast one cartridge that used CS/UDS/LDS to combine a software/application cartridge with a real-time clock.
Reading a byte from the cartridge would trigger the clock part (when either UDS or LDS was active), while as per usual the software part was word-wide and read normally when both UDS/LDS was active.

Byte reads are also used to "write" to cartridges, by using LDS/UDS cleverly, demonstrated by STreplay16, RTCs and others. I also believe Paskud used this method in his IDE cartridge interface to combine drivers and IDE interface on the same cartridge. Ofcourse, that cartridge probably doesn't combine well with any other cartridge.

I keep remembering stuff here as I write, better stop now or I'll be going on and on all night... ;)

Fujiyama wrote:I'll let Ijor get the opportunity to chime in here in case others are following the thread first, before trying to PM him.

Well, I sent a pm about this thread. He'll chime in eventually... ;)
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Re: Discovery cartridge modifications/questions

Postby ijor » Wed May 24, 2017 1:12 am

I'm afraid this isn't exactly my area of expertise. I can tell you almost everything about the floppy functionality of the DC, but I never owned one with the optional components and I'm really not much familiar with them.

As far as I can tell, the complexity of the second cartridge arises from the possibility of keeping the ROMs enabled at the same time. I guess that if it wasn't for that, it would be pretty much a standard pass through connector.

I never connected an HD drive, so this is mostly in theory ... You could connect it to any of the floppy connectors, internal, external, or the extra ones. There is no HD detect signal. The drive should be configured to automatically select density. And, of course, the DC doesn't need a signal to double the clock as when using an AJAX FDC.

Yes, AFAIK the ROM sockets are only for MAC ROMs. But in theory they could be used for something else.

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Re: Discovery cartridge modifications/questions

Postby Fujiyama » Wed May 24, 2017 8:14 am

ijor wrote:As far as I can tell, the complexity of the second cartridge arises from the possibility of keeping the ROMs enabled at the same time. I guess that if it wasn't for that, it would be pretty much a standard pass through connector.


You mean keeping the Discovery's internal ROMs (MacOS) enabled at the same time as whatever other cartridge/dongle is attached to the Discovery's second cartidge port? If that's the case I should have no problem as I'm not going to use it for Mac emulation.

I never connected an HD drive, so this is mostly in theory ... You could connect it to any of the floppy connectors, internal, external, or the extra ones. There is no HD detect signal. The drive should be configured to automatically select density. And, of course, the DC doesn't need a signal to double the clock as when using an AJAX FDC.


I had to look up my notes from years ago about how I modified my Sony MPF-920-1:

1) turned the 34 pin data connector upside down, "the wrong way" (cutting away the notch which prevents this from being done)
2) moved the drive select jumper so it became "Drive 0" (some drives I've modified didn't come with jumpers but zero-ohm SMD resistors which needed to be desoldered and moved to a different solder-pad location)
3) shorted (connected a wire between) the two pins of the disk detect (CTIN) switch
4) attached a wire between pin 2 ( (of the 34-pin data connector) and the HD detect (HDIN) switch (not the pin that goes to GND but the other one). This micro-switch detects whenever a 1.44MB floppy disk is inserted because of its additional hole (which 720KB disks don't have)
5) I might also have had to check if the power connector had the same polarity as before

In addition to the modifications just mentioned I also noted that for use with a HD module PCB I would have to connect another wire from pin 2 (disk drive data 34-pin data connector) to the High density detect" input to the HD module PCB.

Does this make the drive configured to automatically select the density as you mention above? And will a second drive (attached to the second drive socket ("A/B" I believe it's marked, judging by other pictures I've found of the Discovery cartridge) also behave properly as a high density drive if it's a modified Sony 920-1 as described here, using just the signals from that standard Atari 14-pin cable?


Yes, AFAIK the ROM sockets are only for MAC ROMs. But in theory they could be used for something else.


So not really much use these days when a MonSTer board (and future plans for Exxos' 32MHz STe booster) has the ability to store multiple operating systems in its flash-ROM. And if you meant that it also might make it harder to access any additional cartridge/dongle attached to the Discovery I'm not going to add it.
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Re: Discovery cartridge modifications/questions

Postby Fujiyama » Wed May 24, 2017 8:23 am

Greenious wrote:Well, I assume the rom-port is a through-port, with the switch basically disabling the discovery cart. It should work with most carts, but you never know with these things until tried. (Edit, the switch likely just directs CS to either the discovery cartridge, or the pass-through port, which *should* work with most, if not all, carts)


Thanks for alerting Ijor. His and your info here is very useful when I've been away from the scene and need to brush up on things!
As for the switch you mention; according to the Discovery cartridge schematic the two switches appear only to: select which floppy drive to boot from (SW1) and which ROM bank (when using MacOS etc. EPROMs) to select (SW2).
Does the second switch (SW2) have a second function -to select between the internal ROM (MacOS) and the "pass-through" cartridge connector as well (depending on the jumper settings inside the Discovery)?
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Re: Discovery cartridge modifications/questions

Postby Greenious » Wed May 24, 2017 10:20 am

Fujiyama wrote:So not really much use these days when a MonSTer board (and future plans for Exxos' 32MHz STe booster) has the ability to store multiple operating systems in its flash-ROM. And if you meant that it also might make it harder to access any additional cartridge/dongle attached to the Discovery I'm not going to add it.


No, the rom-sockets inside the Discovery looks just like normal cartridge rom according to the schematics, there is nothing magical with it and it maps to normal cart rom space. Ie, you should be able to use it for diagnostic cartridge, Mega ripper, Monst etc. The oly thing is that it seems to be restricted to 64kb cart space, although you can swap between upper/lower space. Which is kind of contradicting the use of 128k Mac roms. There also seems to be a switch that turn the cartridge roms on/off, by either supplying power to them or not.

And the switch I refer to in my post above is the switch mentioned in the documentation for some options, "2nd cartridge enable switch". Looking at the schematics it seems it either just passes through ROM3/ROM4 (CS), or feeds a different signal from the HART chip. I'm unsure as to what that actually does.

Anyway, there is a lot of switches/jumpers on the pcb of happy, before playing with them, make sure you know what they do... lol
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Re: Discovery cartridge modifications/questions

Postby Fujiyama » Thu May 25, 2017 9:03 am

Ah, I see!
So the MacOS ROMs in the Discovery act just like a physically separate cartridge, and the switch (2nd cartridge enable switch) acts just like physically inserting/unplugging it?
A diagnostic ROM could be a useful add-on. I've never used one, but assume that a diagnostic menu pops up in a matter of seconds after power on the computer, so with the "2nd cartridge switch" it would work as setting the STe in "normal" or "diagnostic" modes I guess.

The big question is if it'll work in the chain of cartridge devices I'll be using. I found the thread where I had discussed some of this before, and my tests indicated that the following combination worked for me:

Atari STe -> Combiner -> Log3 -> Unitor2 ->Discovery

However the Discovery cartridge appeared not to function as it should after all, as described in my last posting in that thread), but never figured out how to resolve the problem. Could it be an address conflict?

Getting back to the test cartridge/ROM I found the user manual for the STe test cartridge (go to "Informations about 520 1040STe:" and click on "Manual test kit STe (Anglais)" ), and here, on the same site are instructions, screenshots and file-downloads for creating a test cartridge. Does anyone recognize this as the "official" Atari test cartridge, or something else? I don't speak French, so I'm not getting much from the info there unfortunately.
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Re: Discovery cartridge modifications/questions

Postby czietz » Thu May 25, 2017 9:18 am

Fujiyama wrote:Getting back to the test cartridge/ROM I found the user manual for the STe test cartridge (go to "Informations about 520 1040STe:" and click on "Manual test kit STe (Anglais)" ), and here, on the same site are instructions, screenshots and file-downloads for creating a test cartridge. Does anyone recognize this as the "official" Atari test cartridge, or something else? I don't speak French, so I'm not getting much from the info there unfortunately.


The ROM images for download on that site are from official Atari test cartridges. The circuit board is not from Atari -- dead giveaway: it has the year "2003" on it. However, the PCBs of the official cartridges are functionally identical. Which is hardly a surprise since these are more or less just two EPROMs connected to the appropriate signals on the cartridge port. So you can build your own clone of the diagnostic cartridge with the material on that web site.

Note that some tests require additional hardware like loop-back adapters or the DMA test board. As for the latter: Its schematics are known. I wonder if someone is interested in redesigning it using for example a CPLD.

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Re: Discovery cartridge modifications/questions

Postby Greenious » Thu May 25, 2017 10:05 am

I just looked at the archive with the v2.7 driver disk for discovery, and there is more info there. Including how to add 128k roms for spectre.

The thing really isn't that you can add Mac roms to the Discovery cartridge, it's that Discovery apparantly work just as a spectre cartridge when it comes to getting the ST reading/writing Mac formatted disks... ie, atleast to some extent, the spectre has the same abilities as the discovery cartridge, and is apparantly used the same way. By looking at the schematics, it seems the discovery cartridge is accessed by even byte reads to the lower 64kb of cart rom space, although really only 512 bytes seem to be used, it's configuration (lack of address lines), makes it repeat throughout the lower 64kb.

The rom images for the diagnostic cartridges are all over the forum, some creative searching will find them and/or links to sites which got them quickly... and I see you found it. (Btw, Best electronics got bare official atari cartridge pcb's with shell/case for like $10-$15...)
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Re: Discovery cartridge modifications/questions

Postby ijor » Thu May 25, 2017 2:09 pm

Greenious wrote:The thing really isn't that you can add Mac roms to the Discovery cartridge, it's that Discovery apparantly work just as a spectre cartridge when it comes to getting the ST reading/writing Mac formatted disks... ie, atleast to some extent, the spectre has the same abilities as the discovery cartridge, and is apparantly used the same way.


I never owned a Spectre, but as I understand the Discovery Cart doesn't clone the GCR hardware. The Discovery Cartridge can read and write MAC disks and can also convert them to a format readable without custom hardware. But this must be processed outside the Spectre emulator. You can't access MAC disk directly under emulation with the DC. While with the Spectre GCR, I understand, you can.

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Re: Discovery cartridge modifications/questions

Postby Fujiyama » Fri Sep 15, 2017 12:41 am

I looked closer at the Discovery cartridge schematic and it says that the two empty (U4 and U5) socket spaces take 27C256 or 27C512 EPROMs.

I don't understand much French, but according to that French do-it-yourself ST diagnostic cartridge page I mentioned earlier with the EPROM data downloads, it uses two 27C256 EPROMs, so it looks like I could just burn a couple of EPROMs, pop them into the Discovery cartridge and all of a sudden I have a diagnostic cartridge as well! I believe one of the switches (S6, S7, S8 or S9 maybe?) allows to use those EPROMs or bypass them (allowing other cartridges to be plugged into its "through" cartridge port).
Does this sound right?

Image
Using a desoldering iron I had to open all the soldered empty holes for the EPROM sockets on the Discovery board, then solder in two 28-pin sockets. That's all done now, so it would be great if I could incorporate a switchable diagnostic cartridge into the Discovery board.
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Re: Discovery cartridge modifications/questions

Postby Bama » Thu Oct 05, 2017 3:24 am

I just purchased a Discovery Cart - Option Zero.

How do I use it to read / write 1.44 floppies with a stock ST / STe? :shrug:

Like it says in this clip from an old Advertisement?
27E30D0D-4759-4544-9B88-F8934F776E29.jpeg
Looking forward to your ideas!
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Re: Discovery cartridge modifications/questions

Postby Fujiyama » Tue Oct 10, 2017 1:40 am

You'll find a lot of info here. And here.

On the subject of burning a couple of Atari diagnostic EPROMs and putting them in the empty Discovery cartridge sockets (U4 and U5), does anyone know which one corresponds to "high" and "low"?
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Re: Discovery cartridge modifications/questions

Postby czietz » Tue Oct 10, 2017 5:39 am

High is the EPROM connected to D15..D8 on the cartridge slot data bus, low is connected to D7..D0.

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Re: Discovery cartridge modifications/questions

Postby Fujiyama » Tue Oct 10, 2017 8:58 am

Thanks.
I probably have to set some jumpers and have specific switch settings for using it with the two 27c256 chips and found a lot of info on this in the DMACXROM.DOC file and a little bit in the DOPTIONS.DOC file (both part of the Discovery cartridge software) .
It's quite technical, so I'll have to re-read it through a few more times, but it does seem all of this is doable (using the Discovery cartridge as an Atari diagnostic cartridge as well).
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