Multi I/O / hardware

From: Michael Current (aa700@cleveland.Freenet.Edu)
Date: 04/21/92-07:37:18 PM Z

From: aa700@cleveland.Freenet.Edu (Michael Current)
Subject: Multi I/O / hardware
Date: Tue Apr 21 19:37:18 1992

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

ICD's Multifunction I/O Parallel Device ICD INC. 1220 Rock Street Rockford, IL 61101-1437 (815) 968-2228 256K MIO - $199.00 1-meg MIO - $349.00 XE Adapter Board - $20.00 Reviewed by Matthew J.W. Ratcliff Atari put an unusual "parallel bus" con nector on the back of its 800XL and 600XL computers a few years ago. The pa rallel bus on the XL and 130XE machines was designed to connect to external high -speed devices, similar to the DMA port on the ST. Software and some additional bankswitching technology were 

also added to accommodate these future produc ts that never came from Atari. ICD, Inc., however, decided to build the ulti mate multifunction board for the 8-bit Ataris, giving this machine all the feat ures you could hope for. First and foremost is the RAM contained in the MIO. I opted for the 1-meg version to test. One megabyte of RAM is 1024K, or about 5.7 double-density floppy disk drives. The default configu ration of the MIO yields over 3000 double-density sectors of RAMdisk space, among many other f

eatures. The MIO gives you a printer interface, a standard P: device. It takes the same cable the 850 or P:R: interfaces d o. A 63K printer buffer is part of the MIO default setup. This may be reconfig ured in increments of 32K, from 0 to 1023K. (The "missing" 1K is working RAM used by the MIO software itself, so it does not cost you any of the computer's main RAM.) I tested the printer interface with The Print Shop. I printed a sign, with a 64K printer buffer enabled. About one-t hird of the way through t

he printout, control was returned to The Print Shop m enu, while the spooler continued to churn out the picture. I then pressed R ESET while holding the SELECT key, to get to the MIO control menu. I found th at 44K of printer buffer space had been used by the graphic. I selected the sec ond option, printer configuration, and then pressed R for repeat copies. The M IO immediately began dumping the graphic again, with no problems. When y ou exit The Print Shop to the MIO menu, you cannot return. While in the

 middle of a graphic, I turned off the computer and rebooted from an MIO RAMdisk, and be gan work on something else. While the computer was off, the MIO ceased printin g. As soon as I powered up again, the MIO continued to crank out my graphics, exactly where it left off, without dropping a single dot. You will find that, when exiting from t he MIO menu, it is equivalent to a coldstart with most software. I found I could go to the MIO menu from BASIC, change some parameters and return to BAS IC--with my pr

ogram listing still in memory. The same was not true for MAC/6 5, BASIC XL, AtariWriter, or the Atari Assembler Editor. Apparently, only the XL and XE internal BASIC ROMs are safe from the MIO menu, while all external ca rtridges and disk software are not. You also have the RS232 port, simply R1 :, on the MIO. It is equivalent to the R1: port on the 850 or P:R: interfaces . It looks just like the old faithful R1: to your Atari. I've tested it at 1 200 baud on Delphi, doing some extremely fast file transfer

s to and fro m RAMdisk, using the Keith Ledbetter 850 Express, version 3.0. I have also t ested it with Amodem Plus 6.2, and again it ran flawlessly, with no modific ations required. One of the configuration features of the MIO is to redirect printer output (P:) to the RS232 port, for printers with that type of interface. If you want even more, another connecto r is provided for attaching up to eight 16-megabyte hard disk drives. Larger ha rd drives (20-, 40-, even 60-meg) can be partitioned into smaller l

ogical hard drives. SpartaDOS provides a great deal of flexibility in setting up your h ard drive. The complete technical documentation even provides information for setting up the hard drive and MIO using MYDOS for those who prefer it over SpartaDOS. One problem I ran into when testing oth er DOSs with the MIO, is that the RAMdisks are always double density. You have no choice in the matter. If you boot a single-density DOS 2.0S disk and format one of the MIO RAMdisks, it will show 707 sectors, as expecte

d. But they will be double-density, 256-byte sectors. This will cause problems if yo u try to duplicate from MIO RAMdisks to floppy, or vice versa. Copying a file a t a time seems to cause no problems, however. I did find that ICD's SCOPY ut ility (recently updated to support copying DOSs other than SpartaDOS) would copy from a single-density floppy to a compacted file on an MIO RAMdisk. From there I was able to SCOPY from the compacted file back to another floppy, r esulting in a mirror copy of the origin

al. It seems that you will need t o use SpartaDOS to get the most out of the MIO, although I have found other DOS s (2.0, 2.5 and OSS DOS XL) work fine with it. If you plan to use the RAM dri ves and printer spooler (without adding a hard drive), just about any DOS will s uit your needs. One of the nicest features of the MIO i s its capability to redirect all I/O. For example, if I boot off the floppy dr ive, D1: and copy the entire DOS system disk to RAMdisk D8:, I can then s wap them. The physical floppy

 disk becomes D8:, and the RAMdisk becomes D1: . (No switch settings need be changed; the MIO handler takes care of all the re direction automatically.) What this means is that you can now turn off your computer, and then reboot almost instantly off the MIO RAMdisk. RAMdisks in the MIO are far more reliable than any internal RAMdisk you may run in your computer. If your computer locks up and you have valuable information stored on RAMdisk inside your Atari, it is gone forever. You can totally crash you r c

omputer, instantly reboot from the MIO, and recover all your files! If you hook up a SASI or SCSI interface hard drive, your MIO configuration may be saved to the hard disk. Then, whenev er you power up, you will quickly boot off the hard drive, with your old config uration automatically restored. One of my few complaints about the MIO is that this configuration cannot be saved to a floppy disk, nor can it be set from a Sp artaDOS startup batch file. The setup procedure is simple to access and perfor m, bu

t it would be nice if it could be done automatically from floppy disk, as well. If you leave it plugged in all the time, as I do (with appropria te surge protection, of course), then it won't be an annoyance at all. You can set a write lock for RAMdisks a nd hard drives from this menu, similar to placing a write protect tab on a flop py. An 80-column adaptor board and networking capabilities are planned for the MIO in the future. For those of you who are curious about "battery backup" for the MIO board, th

is unit requires about 2 watts of cont inuous power. The MIO uses a standard Atari 9-volt AC supply, like that used w ith Atari disk drives. A battery backup unit would not be easy to build, nor cheap. Owners of the 130XE will need the bus a daptor board for connection to the MIO. This adaptor also gives you two vertical cartridge slots. Your RTIME8 cartridge can go in the rear slot, and y our programming cartridge in front. The only problem with this adaptor is th at it does not have the "fins" you find a

top the RTIME cartridge, or inside all Atari computers. This means that you'll have to retract the spring-loaded doors of some Atari cartridges (the Atari games, AtariWriter, and so on), by inserting a paper clip at one edge and sliding it back. This can be a real pai n. I've started removing the spring and door insert with beveled edges (but not the sliding piece) from my cartridges. I also found that some game cartridges would not run with the MIO connected (Caverns of Mars from Atari an d Atalantis from

 Imagic). The MIO turns your 8-bit into the ultim ate software development system, if you want fast compiles with many "include" l ibraries. It can be an impressive RAMdriven bulletin board system and, wit h a hard drive, it can become a fantastic BBS system. Should you opt fo r the MIO network (when it is completed) and eight personal phone line s, you can have the best 8-bit BBS system ever built. ICD has developed a reputation for firs tquality hardware and utility software for the Atari computers. The 

MIO not on ly lives up to that reputation, it improves on it. If you want the most co mputing power and interfacing flexibility possible for your faithful 8 -bit Atari, the MIO board is the only choice. 
 Michael Current, Cleveland Free-Net 8-bit Atari SIGOp   -->>  go atari8  <<--
   The Cleveland Free-Net Atari SIG is the Central Atari Information Network
      Internet: / UUCP: ...!umn-cs!ccnfld!currentm
     BITNET:{interbit} / Cleveland Free-Net: aa700

Return to message index