Little Atari Disk Drive

You might associate Atari with the classic 2600 game console, but they also made computers. One guy who had an old Atari computer needed a disk drive for it.  So he made a tiny replica that plugs into it and runs on SD cards.

“My first computer was an Atari 400,” a blogger who uses the name Rossum said. “My first disk drive was the magnificent Atari 810. Overwhelmed by a recent wave of nostalgia from playing Zork for the first time in 30 years I have built a working model of an Atari 810 that uses 8Gig microSD cards instead of 5 1/4 inch floppies to emulate up to 8 drives.”

Tiny Atari Disk Drive

The original 810 disk drive used 5 1/4″ floppies that held about 90 KB of data. Yes, that’s kilobytes. Good luck fitting Portal 2 on that thing.

MicroSD cards, by comparison, can hold 8 gigabytes. You could easily fit nearly every game produced for the 8-bit computers on one small chip.

If he was making a drive for a modern computer, he could just use a USB connector. Since he was building this drive to work on a retro Atari computer, he had to use a format the Atari could recognize. That would be SIO, the Serial Input/Output (Nothing to do with SEO, of course) It uses a bulky 13-pin connector.

Rossum built the device out of a microSD slot, an LPC1114 microcontroller, a 3v3 regulator, an LED, and some caps. The case came from a 3D printer. It looks almost exactly like the original 810 disk drive from the 1980s. The microcontroller code can emulate up to 8 Atari disk drives on one small chip. Rossum designed a menu system that lets you choose from hundreds of Atari programs on the SD card.

This is a brilliant piece of modern retro computing. There are lots of emulators for classic video game and computer systems, Atari 8-bit computers included. For more modern retro, see our post on the new Commodore 64 and the USB Classic Atari Joystick.

Via: Wired/Rossum’s Posterous