Multi I/O / hardware

From: Michael Current (aa700@cleveland.Freenet.Edu)
Date: 04/21/92-07:36:24 PM Z

From: aa700@cleveland.Freenet.Edu (Michael Current)
Subject: Multi I/O / hardware
Date: Tue Apr 21 19:36:24 1992

Reprinted from the A.C.E.C. BBS (614)-471-8559

MAGAZINE by permission.

 REVIEW:  MIO Board by ICD by Jerry
Cross (GAG)

Several months ago, I had the chance to
attend the Summer Consumer Electronics
Show.  I happened to get there early,
and had planned to scan the products in
the computer area before going on to
other more important displays like the
X-rated video section next door.

Not much was happening at the time, and
I stumbled across a small booth inside
of the huge ATARI area with a guy from
ICD standing there.  Sitting on his
cramped table was a small box connected
to an Atari XE.  The ICD man said it
was their new product, a combination of
all the things us Atari folks have been
looking for.  It was called the MIO
(Multi-Input/Output) board.

To many of you, the MIO may be old
news...  despite the fact that they
have only in the last month or so been
actually available.  Nevertheless, To
bring the few of you up to speed:  the
MIO is one incredable package-

It has an RS-232 port for your modems
or other serial perifials, and uses the
same set-up as the P:R:  Connection,
only a bit improved.  Also included is
a printer port, and a plug for an as
yet unavailable 80-column board.

It also has a hard drive interface that
works with any SCSI/SASI protocal hard
drive.  The hard drive must have it's
own controller card for it to work. 
According to Supra, their hard drive
should work just fine.

The MIO also has a built-in ramdisk. 
There are two sizes, 256k or 1Meg.  The
entire ramdisk area is configurable-
you can divide it up into several
different size drives from 32k to 960k,
or just make one large ramdisk.  The
software even allows you to configure
the MIO to boot right from the ramdisk
instead of a floppy.

You can configure a print spooler (a
buffer to collect your printing data
and release your computer to do other
things while it prints) to whatever
size you want (up to 256k).

The MIO plugs into your computer using
the parallel plug located in the back. 
This allows for super fast disk access
and still allows you to hook up other
drives too.  If you are using an XE
computer, you must purchase an adapter
(about $20) since the XE uses the
cartridge port as part of its expansion

Well, I was sold even at the CES!  I
eventually tore myself away from the
ICD display to check out the video
section, but a few months later, I
finally got my 1-meg MIO board and ran
it through the tests.  The first thing
I noticed was the excellent
documentation that comes with it.  If
you are new to computers, this takes
you through all you need to know with
few headaches.  More experienced users
will not even need to look at the docs.
 The built in software is menu driven
and very user friendly.

The software resides on an EPROM inside
the MIO.  So what?  Well, ICD had taken
some of it's past experiences into
consideration and has set up a plan to
exchange future software modifications
for only a token fee.  The EPROM can be
easily removed and replaced.  Simply
send ICD $15 and they will send you the
new EPROM.  When you return the old
chip ICD will return $5 to you.  This
way you don't have to go without your
MIO while your chips are in the mail,
and the end cost is $10.

Since the software is resident in the
MIO, it takes no memory in the
computer.  Once configured, it stays in
memory within the MIO.  Also, the MIO
comes with it's own power source.  You
can turn off your computer and the
ramdisk stays intact.

About the only thing I don't like about
the MIO is the very short cable.  It is
only about 3 inches to prevent
interference, and the MIO must sit
directly behind the computer.  The
footprint is about the size of a disk
drive, but is only 1 inch high.  If you
have a cramped working space, this will
really cause a problem.  Also, because
of the heat generated by the board, you
can not set anything on top of it or
you will cause some problems with the

Another bad mark goes for the lack of
the addition of Sparta-Dos.  The first
thing you read in the manual is they
strongly recommend the use of
Sparta-Dos with the MIO.  Most DOS's do not support such large
amounts of memory, and others I have
tested acted funny.  So why can't they
throw in a copy for free?  Remember all
of those US Doublers, Ramdo's, and
R-Time cartridges you purchased that
came with Sparta-Dos?  If you do not
already have a copy of Sparta-Dos,
expect to order one right away, and at
a cost of around $40.

The modem port has an improved version
of the P:R:  software.  Some of the
bugs that prevented you from using
certain terminal programs have been
fixed, and will now run without
modification.  Some of the programs
tested include Hometerm, Express,
R-Scope, Omniterm, and Backtalk.

The MIO also responds to the XIO
configuration commands, so you can
control all the ports or change
configurations from basic.

The documentation does a very good job
in describing the interface, and lists
a number of hard drives by
manufacturers that are compatable with
the MIO.  As mentioned earlier, you
must have a controller built in to the
drive or you will have to supply one.

Some hard drives have controllers built
in and can be recognized by a 50 pin
SASI/SCSI interface on the drive
itself.  Most commonly found hard drive
do NOT have controllers built in. 
These drives are characterized by a 34
pin and 20 pin edge connector.  In
order to operate this class of drives,
you need a SASI or SCSI interface
controller card (NOT an IBM compatable
type!).  These controllers have a 34
pin edge connecter and several dual
rows of 10 pins on one side and a 50
pin SASI/SCSI connector on the other
end.  Tom Harker at ICD said in a phone
conversation in mid-November that they
would sell a SASI controller through
ICD since many people have asked for
them after failing to find them
available locally.  He expects to have
them by the time you read this for
around $135.

The MIO can be updated to allow the
networking of hard drives.  This will
allow up to 8 MIOs and 8 hard drives to
be connected along the same cable and
communicate with the same drive
concurrently.  This enables several
systems to share the same programs and
data.  The cost for this upgrade is

Pretty neat, huh?  I wouldn't part with
mine for anything!  Who thought of this
in the first place?  Well, highly
informed sources claim that Jimmy Rambo
had just finished a new 1-meg ramcard
and went running down the hallway to
the marketing department.  Meanwhile,
another inventer had just finished
modifing the P:R:  Connection to run a
harddisk drive, and raced out of his
office, crashing into Rambo.

"Hey" cried Rambo, "You got your
interface stuck in my ramdisk!"

"NO!  You got your ramdisk stuck in my
interface" shouted the technician.

There was a long pause, then they both
dashed back to their offices to create
the MIO!

And the rest is history.....  

Supplied by the CHAOS BBS
(517) 371-1106

 Michael Current, Cleveland Free-Net 8-bit Atari SIGOp   -->>  go atari8  <<--
   The Cleveland Free-Net Atari SIG is the Central Atari Information Network
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