The Falcon's confusing history

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Re: The Falcon's confusing history

Postby dhedberg » Thu Aug 17, 2017 1:33 pm

calimero wrote:From Zarchos link (http://www.obsolete-tears.com/anecdotes ... er-67.html) Google translated:
Thierry about a discussion between Duval (Mr. en dev atari), Thierry and Rudolph ... to end the show Microphone & Co of 92 (or 91);
---------------------------
He spoke especially us a detail that I thought hype at the time and that proved true after several overlapping: the first version of sparrow / FX1 were equipped with a chip video much better than the crap which ended on falcon, including a chunk mode 256 colors, it was still too inconsistent with the old modes video and mostly incompatible with the atari habits (plans instead of chunk), so it was replaced with a super 8 mode unusable plans.
Notice we fared well, one could also have a true color fashion
16 shots! He also talked about the microbox which was to be full 32bit finally he talked about so much good stuff ... to sort

so there was once a 8bit chunk mode, no wonder than there are trace of it in TOS! :)

Unbelievable! They had an 8-bit chunky mode and replaced it with an 8-bit planar mode? 8O
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Re: The Falcon's confusing history

Postby mikro » Thu Aug 24, 2017 12:11 pm

Btw, TOS4 source code is a nice read as well. There used to be an ST+ machine, hardware-wise very similar to the STPad. In the beginning of 1992, ST+ had became Sparrow. What is interesting is that this ST+ wasn't meant to be Sparrow, its _MCH was 0x00010001, i.e. better than the STE, worse then the ST Book/Mega STE.

The code also explicitly mentions the Dallas team working on the Sparrow.

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Re: The Falcon's confusing history

Postby Gaiyan » Thu Aug 24, 2017 12:51 pm

The ST+ did exist as a normal ST model though: http://www.heimcomputer.de/english/comp/520stplus.html
Image

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Re: The Falcon's confusing history

Postby czietz » Thu Aug 24, 2017 12:58 pm

Let me expand on this:

  • The _MCH cookie 0x00010001 was meant for the never released STPAD.
  • In internal Atari documents, the term STPLUS is sometimes used as a synonym for everything better than an ST, e.g. STe, MegaSTe.
  • There was however an STe-PLUS -- unreleased, though prototypes were built -- with a _MCH cookie of 0x00010008. This had an internal IDE interface and an additional 286 CPU to be able to run MS-DOS as well. I recovered its PCB layout sometime ago.

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Re: The Falcon's confusing history

Postby mikro » Thu Aug 24, 2017 1:11 pm

czietz wrote:In internal Atari documents, the term STPLUS is sometimes used as a synonym for everything better than an ST, e.g. STe, MegaSTe.

According to the code, only to some extent. There are various explicit comments about differentiating Mega STE and STPLUS for instance, same goes for STE vs. STPLUS. So at one point STPLUS used to be just an ST followup. Then later in the 90s they had unified most of the code base, perhaps when STPAD and STPLUS became equal. For instance the STPLUS covered in the source has IDE, colour capabilities similar to TT and yet it's not TT.

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Re: The Falcon's confusing history

Postby czietz » Thu Aug 24, 2017 1:30 pm

mikro wrote:For instance the STPLUS covered in the source has IDE, colour capabilities similar to TT and yet it's not TT.


Could you please point me to the file (and line of code) where you found this? I remember this differently.

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Re: The Falcon's confusing history

Postby mikro » Thu Aug 24, 2017 1:55 pm

czietz wrote:Could you please point me to the file (and line of code) where you found this? I remember this differently.

I guess the most useful is BIOS/STARTUP.S but re-reading it again makes me think that maybe you're right.

Code: Select all

* Revision 2.88  1992/02/12  01:31:40  apratt
* ci -u '-mAdded SPARROW, removed STPLUS.'

Hinting that the STPLUS had became the Sparrow.

Code: Select all

Revision 2.64  91/03/27  12:37:43  apratt
* Added STPAD: mostly, this is STPLUS

Hinting that the STPLUS used be an ST becoming the STPAD

STARTUP.S:2309:

Code: Select all

* distinguish STPLUS from Mega STe by using ttscu1: if bus error,
* it's STPLUS, else it's Mega STe.


STARTUP.S:2320:

Code: Select all

* Get here on bus error touching ttscu1 -- we're not a Mega STe.
* Probe for the IDE bus; if there, we're STe-PLUS, else STe.

This could actually hint what you have said -- that STPLUS is just a future ST, in this case STE or STE+ (the one with IDE and PC emulator, yes)

STARTUP.S:2343

Code: Select all

* OK, the CPU, VDO, and MCH cookies are set.  TT and STPLUS have
* configuration switches.  Set that cookie and use the high bit to set _SND
* and _FDC cookies.

What STE has DIP switches? Only MegaSTE and TT which are treated separately.

STARTUP.S:3281

Code: Select all

* Begin code which checks the ROM CRC's for consistency.  STPLUS has two
* one-megabit (128K) chips, and TT has four one-megabit chips.

256K ROM hinting an STE, yes.

STARTUP.S:5115

Code: Select all

ffmask:   and.w   #$0fff,d0      ; STPLUS/TT have other dirty bits

Can relate to either STE-like graphics or TT-like graphics.

My conclusion from all of this is therefore that STPLUS used to be STE, then STPAD and at last Sparrow. The great unification means that all TOS ROMs contained code for IDE, hard to say whether there was a machine other than STE+ with IDE support until the Sparrow.

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Re: The Falcon's confusing history

Postby troed » Thu Aug 24, 2017 3:59 pm

mikro wrote:What STE has DIP switches?


All of them. Atari just didn't populate the pads with an actual physical switch.

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Re: The Falcon's confusing history

Postby dhedberg » Thu Aug 24, 2017 4:27 pm

Interesting. Where can I find more info on these switches/pads for the different models? Anyone who knows?
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Re: The Falcon's confusing history

Postby troed » Thu Aug 24, 2017 5:37 pm

dhedberg wrote:Interesting. Where can I find more info on these switches/pads for the different models? Anyone who knows?


E6 = 1.44MB format option in GEM

High res motherboard image: https://troed.ddns.net/f/bb991575ab6c42c4b074/

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Re: The Falcon's confusing history

Postby mikro » Sun Sep 17, 2017 5:27 am

As found on the Facebook, it seems this "real" TT-based Falcon was supposed to have support for CD-I and get released in mid-1992:

21740332_10214493637717384_2264448479430442212_n.jpg

21740101_10214493637757385_6170953992080449354_n.jpg

Perhaps somewhere around 1992 they realised that CD-I is dead and went ahead with the Sparrow.
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Re: The Falcon's confusing history

Postby 1st1 » Thu May 10, 2018 7:22 pm

Some remarks, this thread has a lot of incacciracies...

1) Re: The Falcon's confusing history - Postby bid » 29 Jan 2017, 21:38

Falcon Microbox was planned - according to different sources - 030 or 040 based, it's not clear. The rumors I heared about Microbox in about 1992/93 was 030. The difference to the 030 sparrow we know and have is that it has full 32 bit architecture.

See https://www.maedicke.de/atari/hardware/microbox.htm (Falcon Microbox)

The confusion maybe comes because there was a second one, and that really was 040 and a bit bigger, and that was called Falcon 040.

https://www.maedicke.de/atari/hardware/falcon040.htm (Falcon 040)

Both of these were designed by Atari Dallas.

The Falcon 030 we know seems to be based on Mega STE design, enhanced by 68030, better video chip (videl) and DSP. It's hard to see when looking at the known FX-1 Sparrow prototypes, but I have read somewhere that with Falcon design they started by adding daughter board to Mega STE board for testing the new chipsets.

http://www.atari-computermuseum.de/falcon030.htm (FX-1 Sparrow pictures)

STylus/STpad, I have seen it once on Atari Messe, was a prototype, but they told it was ready for production. Maybe they decided against it as software was still not ready for pen computing. Also Momentus (Shiraz Shivji) failed on this software issue. The biggest step ahead at that time was a pen computer by Compaq with "Windows 3.11 for pen computing", I tested one of these in 1994, but Microsoft again needed time until Windows Vista/7 where touchscreen system really was useable.

2) by calimero » 30 Jan 2017, 13:22

TT RAM is 16 MHz only. The whole TT was 16 MHz design. First TT prototoypes given to external developers were 16 MHz 68030. The 32 Mhz clock was then add as daughter board on the original 68030 CPU socket. The first regular sold TTs were like that, and later that daughter board was integrated into the mainboard. The jump from 16 to 32 MHz was necessary to compete with Commodore Amiga 3000, as just before it's release they have speed up the A3000 from 16 to 25 MHz.

3) Postby calimero » 31 Jan 2017, 21:27

The ST was lightyears ahead of DOS machines because of it's Motorola 68000 CPU, instead of crappy 8086. Software side, if you take away that crappy 8086 segment memory adressing crab, a system running MS-DOS with GEM 1.0 was very similar to ST. There even were a few PC which could do 640x400 monochrome graphics like ST: The Olivetti M24. And there was a M24SP, with four times more memory on the graphics card, it could do 640x480 in 4 bitplanes. All components of BIOS,XBIOS,GEMDOS,VDI,AES,Desktop have their similarities on a PC running MS-DOS and GEM, if you compare BIOS,XBIOS,GEMDOS system calls, they have the same number and functionality as on a PC in BIOS,DOS. By the way, both, TOS and MS-DOS have a lot of similarities with CP/M function calls, which makes converting software between TOS,DOS,CP/M easier.

4) Postby calimero » 01 Feb 2017, 12:58 and by calimero » 02 Feb 2017, 00:12

The Atari Transputer Workstation (ATW 800) was something completely different from ST lineup. It was designed as a system for academic use, toooooo expensive for the masses. It was running Helios as operating system, posix compatible, using X window with some window manager as graphical user interface. Totally incompatible to TOS machines. Helios was a special OS similar to Unix, specially designed for Transputer processors. But it used a modified/enhanced Mega ST as "IO-board". That TOS running IO-board served as "storage system", keyboard and printer interface. Also Commodore experimented with that, using Amiga 2000 as IO-system. But there was also the idea, I don't know how far it got, to put a small version if the ATW into a Megafile chassis to attach it to Mega ST machines through DMA as a "computing accelerator", maybe for number cruncher, etc.

5) Postby bid » 02 Feb 2017, 10:35

DRI/Kildal was not firstly ripped off by Microsoft/MS-DOS. Microsoft just bought MS-DOS from another Seattle based software company, it's original name was Qdos. (Q stands for Quick'n'dirty). (This was necessary as MicroSoft sold an operating system for 8088 to IBM without having one.) It was by design that Qdos/MS-DOS was very close to CP/M system calls, that software easily could be converted from CP/M to Qdos, to have very quick a big software base. TOS originally was designed as a CP/M for 68K with GEM ontop, but instead of CP/M68K as the base, DRI decided to make GEMDOS close to MS-DOS. This is because they did not made GEM for ST first, they made it for IBM PC, which was running MS-DOS. So with having GEMDOS it was easier to adapt GEM to ST. So we have to be thankful to Qdos/MS-DOS to have folders and FAT and not that crap CP/M filesystem with very limited number of files per disk... So what we have - and we call it the ST - is - software side - a IBM compatible PC based on Motorola CPU. In old time I was very happy about this, because for school and university I had to develop some software for PC, without having a PC at the beginning. SO I wrote it on ST in C or Pascal, tested it until it's logics works fine, and only with little changes I could compile that for DOS as well. Commercially this was done - as far as I know - only one time, the other way arround. There was a company, which's name I have forgot. But they converted that way their MS-DOS + CD-ROM based software called "Wer liefert was" (Who delivers what) from MS-DOS to ST. This was a database which contained manufacturers and their products, and you could search for product and you got an adress where to buy it. That software runned in text mode on ST. ATARI presented it proudly on CeBit 1990 as one of the first CD-ROM based applications for ST.

Steve Jobs never was a good software or hardware engineer, no idea what he did when he worked at Atari in early days. Woz designed Apple I and II, others designed the other Apple computers. Jobs was good on other areas, visions, ideas and marketing. Seen so, I wonder a bit how the Tramiels could be successfull at all, specially Jack, at Commodore and Atari, they were no teccies, they did not have visions, they didn't understand their computers, they did not have talent in marketing. The only thing Jack T understood is, that it is powerfull and it could be sold cheaper that the competition. Computers for the masses, not the classes; Power without the price; these were the Tramiel slogans of Commodore and Atari.

MIDI on ST was stable not because of TOS/GEM, but because that computer was only doing one thing at the same time, playing midi data... Cubase and Notator use their own "drivers" to do midi over the 6850 interface chips, without using and BIOS, XBIOS routines. Those inaccuracies, latencies and so came only later on multitasking operating systems, Windows for example was never designed for accuracy in realtime applications. Amiga-OS also was not good for midi-latency when you run other software in parallel. And Windows had to "virtualize" (generalize) software midi interface woth drivers to different hardware midi interfaces. This is exactly the same what Microsoft later made also with DirectSound, DirectX and so on to virtualize sound and graphics interface that any game can use any sound card and graphics card in optimal way without knowing the real hardware. Today Midi latency in Windows is Ok as the systems are more than fast enough.

6) Postby AdamK » 02 Feb 2017, 11:45

GEM is quite nice, it is quite open for future developements and all layes are exchangeabe without influencing clean programmed software. It could have become what Windows and Mac-OS is today. If you compare AmigaOS, it did not have that flexibility as some important parts were not modular, the equivalent of VDI and AES on Amiga was one thing, so for new graphics card support you had to replace all of that by new one, the situation only changed with 3rd party software Picasso. The big problem of GEM was, that DRI and Atari did not support real Multitasking early enough, PC version never, Atari only after 3rd party introduced it (Magic, Geneva, MiNT), before MiNT was used to create MultiTOS late as 1992. Amiga-OS and Windows were able to multi task from the beginning. (But, yes, also MacOS did not from the beginning.) Imagine, MiNT came 1990-82, at the same time the Linux kernel arised. Both are quite similar in some view points, imagine if later MiNT kernel would have been merged with Linux kernel with some TOS compatibility layer, imagine that and what Atari could have done with that if there had been someone like Steve Jobs with ideas, visions and good marketing... (Ex marketing manager of Atari germany told me 3 years ago: In that time, Commodore and Atari wanted to held a meeting together with Apple to discuss how to cooperate in some way to compete with Microsoft, Apple refused to meet, imagine what could have happend... Hätte, Hätte, Fahrradkette.)

7. Postby AdamK » 02 Feb 2017, 11:45

Atari and Commodore was mainly not "dead in water" because of generally bad systems. They were too weak in ideas, visions, developers and money to compete against the trend setting army of Microsoft, Intel, Creative Labs, 3DFX and all these taiwanese hardware manufacturers which made more and more powerfull systems for low costs. The peoples where moving from ST and Amiga to PC because it was Power without the Price, Atari's slogan, because PC became Computer for the masses, not the classes, Commodore's slogan. Suddenly Wintel was technology leader. The Wintel-industry took over Atari and Commodore strategy, but based on many many companies full of talents. The money came from all of those business PCs they sold, while Atari and Commodore mostly sold their machines to home users. Because of low funds both did not made the necessary big steps, but both were on they right way but they started earlier as Wintel all these trends (Jaguar graphics chipset was simple 3D accelerater long before 3dfx came out with Voodoo).

8) by calimero » 02 Feb 2017, 18:54

There was more than one industrial use Atari compatible, they offered (VME) bus systems dor ST or complete 19 inch rack ST compatibles...

Code: Select all

GTI                        Rhothron GmbH
Unter den Eichen 108a      Tiergartenstr.5-7
1000 Berlin 45            6650 Homburg (Saar)
Tel.0308315021            Tel.0684171805

3K Computerbild GmbH              IBP Elektronik GmbH
Sassenfeld 71                        Lilienthalstr.13
4054 Nettetal 1                      3000 Hannover1
Tel.0215360001                     Tel.0511630963 


9) by calimero » 02 Feb 2017, 19:04

ST and Amiga were both rushed too fast to the market. It was a race between Commodore and Atari, to be the first, to beat the other. This race was won by Atari, Commodore just started to takeover with the Amiga 500. But both, early Amiga-OS and TOS were quite buggy. Amiga had a lot of guru meditation with kick earlier than 1.3 while TOS 1.00 was quite unreliable on harddisk operation, TOS needed a lot of patches and fixes until the end. On Amiga another early difficulty was that developers first had to learn how to clean design software on multitasking system, so often some application shot down others or the whole system as it thought, that it has the whole machine for itself. Software developers for Atari had to learn this as well when Magic, Geneva and MiNT/Multitos came up. A lot of ST software did not learn this until the end.
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1040STFM in PC-Tower (PAK68/2, OvrScn, 4 MB, 1GB SCSI, CD-ROM...) * 2x Falcon 030 32GB/14MB+ScrnBlstrIII * 2x TT030 73GB/20MB+Nova * 520/1040STFM * 520/1040STE * 260/520ST/+ * some Mega ST * 2x Mega STE 500MB/4MB+M.CoCo * Stacy * STBook * SLM605 * SLM804 * SLM605 * SMM804 * SH 204/205 * Megafile 30/44/60 * SF314 * SF354 * 5x Pofo * PC3

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Re: The Falcon's confusing history

Postby mikro » Mon Sep 24, 2018 10:29 am

I asked Mike Fulton on FB about the two competing teams but he couldn't confirm any of that:

There were never two "competing teams" working on Falcon030 and some higher-end machine. Atari didn't have the staff manpower for something like that. What we did have was multiple projects with the same staff members.

The Falcon030 was very much, "let's take a 1040STE and dump a few new pieces of hardware into it, like a new video shifter, audio DACs, and a memory-mapped DSP"..

The biggest problem with designing new ST hardware was living within the constraints of the original ST hardware.

The higher end machine you're talking aboutt was probably the "microbox", which looked a lot like the PS3 case, which was pretty much at the idea stage of things when the plug was pulled on it. I never saw anything beyond a foam case mockup for it.


[...]

Sam talking about products that didn’t really exist (or at least not yet) was not exactly unheard of.

WTF would a “TT-based Falcon” have even been? Why not a Falcon-based TT? Makes about as much sense. Keep in mind that ALL of the ST/STE/TT/Falcon machines had basically the same system architecture as the original 520ST. Except faster processors, which were taken off the main bus and cached, everything new that was ever added was essentially bolted on and memory mapped.

Adding new stuff this way wasn’t usually very efficient. For example, the Falcon’s processing speed went into the toilet when certain video modes were used because of their memory bandwidth requirements.

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Re: The Falcon's confusing history

Postby Cyprian » Mon Sep 24, 2018 12:05 pm

mikro wrote:Keep in mind that ALL of the ST/STE/TT/Falcon machines had basically the same system architecture as the original 520ST

that's not exactly true.
ST/STE/TT share the same concept of sharing bus ram (ST-RAM) - even cycles are assigned to the CPU, and odd cycles to the Shifter. Therefore regardless of graphic mode, the CPU is never halted by the video chip.

Falcon's concept is a bit different - the video chip works in the burst mode, therefore can halt the CPU if needed.
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Re: The Falcon's confusing history

Postby shoggoth » Mon Sep 24, 2018 12:24 pm

Cyprian wrote:
mikro wrote:Keep in mind that ALL of the ST/STE/TT/Falcon machines had basically the same system architecture as the original 520ST

that's not exactly true.
ST/STE/TT share the same concept of sharing bus ram (ST-RAM) - even cycles are assigned to the CPU, and odd cycles to the Shifter. Therefore regardless of graphic mode, the CPU is never halted by the video chip.

Falcon's concept is a bit different - the video chip works in the burst mode, therefore can halt the CPU if needed.


That's a particular implementation of that architecture. It's still designed around the idea of a shared STRAM/video bus rather than having a local bus for framebuffer storage, for example.
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Re: The Falcon's confusing history

Postby czietz » Mon Sep 24, 2018 3:56 pm

mikro wrote:
The higher end machine you're talking aboutt was probably the "microbox", which looked a lot like the PS3 case, which was pretty much at the idea stage of things when the plug was pulled on it. I never saw anything beyond a foam case mockup for it.



Thanks for posing that question. Would be nice, though, if we had a confirmed timeline.

As you can see from my initial posting, both specifications -- for the Sparrow, that would later become the released Falcon and for the high-end Falcon -- are dated December 1991. The revision history of the "high-end" Falcon document goes back to January 1991. If that was the Microbox it would still mean that it was planned/developed in parallel with the Sparrow/Falcon.

Also, we know that schematic, BOM and netlist (EDIT: and layout) exist for the Microbox, which in my terms would be a little further than "idea stage", already.
Last edited by czietz on Mon Sep 24, 2018 5:17 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: The Falcon's confusing history

Postby mikro » Mon Sep 24, 2018 5:11 pm

czietz wrote:The revision history of the "high-end" Falcon document goes back to January 1991. If that was the Microbox it would still mean that it was planned/developed in parallel with the Sparrow/Falcon.

That would confirm the article from my post above: viewtopic.php?p=353517#p327474 dating July 1991.

Also, we know that schematic, BOM and netlist exist for the Microbox, which in my terms would be a little further than "idea stage", already.

Yes, I've asked him about it but no answer so far. To me it also seems quite strange that we have this TT-Falcon designs, Microbox designs and he wouldn't know about it. I imagine Atari Corp. wasn't that big in 1993-4 that you wouldn't know (at least vaguely) what *all* of your colleagues are working on.

Too bad he didn't comment on the Dallas/Israel teams (contractors?).

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Re: The Falcon's confusing history

Postby Rustynutt » Mon Sep 24, 2018 8:17 pm

Back to the post depicting inaccuracies, too much content there to quote, ill throw in my 2 cents :)
Re: ATW. Purchased a card years back from (then unknown to me) a lot sale on eBay by Frank Lucas.
A U.K. user in the forums identified the card as one he was missing from an ATW project. It's the discussed MEGA DMA interface used to tie MEGA to an ATW. I donated the card, followed up not long ago, with the project seemingly on hold for the time being.
Maybe he can chime in with first hand experience.

Secondly, Digital Research GEM:
Moving to a different workgroup within a large organization around 1991, inherited a workstation that included an old Sperry 088 PC. Before my Falcon days, but in the ST's hayday, recognized the two sets sets of 5" floppy disk of DR DOS and DR GEM. DR GEM running on the PC looks just like firing up an ST. I donated those original disk sets to Dark Lord, feeling them much better purveyors of history than myself.


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