Installing a HxC2001 Slim Floppy Emulator in an Atari ST

I hate floppy disks, they’re so fragile. Here’s how I converted my Atari ST so that it uses SD cards.

Disclaimer – Many things were harmed in the construction of this, specifically a floppy drive, a PC PSU and the home of a spider. Never mind though, considering the amount of fluff in the floppy drive I’m surprised it even worked at all.

HxC2001 Slim installed in an Atari ST

HxC2001 Slim installed in an Atari ST

If you’ve not heard of them, the HxC2001 is a floppy disk emulator. It has a standard floppy power connector and data connector on one end, and an SD card slot on the other. You plug it into your computer, shove an SD card in the other end and … that’s it really. There’s some software to use on your PC to fill the SD card with disk images and a neat little menu system if you have a supported computer system. They’re not even limited to Atari STs, Amigas or whatever; if it’s got a floppy drive, you can probably make it work, so that crusty old PC that makes your laser cutter work or your MIDI keyboard that has a floppy drive in it, it’ll probably work in those too.

I put mine in my Atari ST. It could have gone in my Amiga, but that already has a HDD and my Atari is a bit special. It was the first “real” computer I owned, and as was the custom of the time I used to pester my parents for various upgrades. By the time I’d done with it the machine had 2.5meg of RAM, a TOS 2.06 upgrade, an external floppy drive with a “boot from drive B” modification and a handful less screws and two conflicting “warranty void if removed” stickers.

And now it has an SD card reader in it, an 8 gig memory card and the ability to hold every single Atari ST game, utility and coverdisk ever made, ever in a thing the size of a postage stamp. If this thing existed back in 1993 we’d be rioting in the streets. Also I have a real Atari mono monitor. The only thing I don’t have is a hard drive, but Ataris and hard drives is a weird story.

To install the HxC I took the floppy drive out and intended on simply poking the bare PCB through the diskdrive slot. There’s a button on the HxC and with careful positioning both are accessible through the 3.5inch floppy slot. It looked a bit rubbish though, having a great big hole in the side of the case, plus there wasn’t anywhere convenient to attach the HxC.

So I took the floppy drive apart, discovering the whole thing is held together by exactly one screw and a lot of carefully sprung metal parts. If you push it just so it goes ping! and bits leap out all over the place. Lots of fluff too.

Once the floppy drive was apart I used my finest bodging skills to make a custom mount for the HxC, consisting of two pencil erasers and a quantity of hot glue.

Plenty of things were harmed in the making of this

Yes, those chips are too big…

While it was in bits I took the opportunity to check over the rest of the machine to make sure it was OK. The PSU was OK, containing no bulging capacitors, and the board itself looked about as manky as the last time I looked inside the computer. I got my Atari about 22 years ago and it was second hand then, and smelled a bit funny. It still smells the same now.

The RAM upgrade and TOS upgrades were a work of art. Art involving hot glue. You see to upgrade an Atari STFM the upgrade manuals usually begin with “find the CPU in its socket and remove it, place it in the adaptor provided and put the adaptor back in its socket. Do the same with the TOS ROMs”. I dimly recall a 14 year old me taking his ST apart on the kitchen table and discovering not a single chip in a socket and thinking “oh bugger, now what do I do?”. I think there was a mildly expensive courier trip where the ST went off to be sorted out by the people who sold me the RAM upgrade. I didn’t learn since the exact same thing happened with the TOS upgrade too. Going up to TOS 2.06 was way more exciting than Windows 95 ever was.

So the inside of my ST is full of very fine pitch bits of ribbon cable soldered to the legs of things, other things covered in hot glue and some very clever bodging where the adaptor sockets for things were soldered over the top of the chip they were supposed to contain. I don’t know who did the modifications for me, but their soldering job was spot on and all I had to do was blow off some fluff and apply hot glue to make sure nothing came off.

About James

If this were the 80s I'd be sat in front of a C64 or Speccy, or taking VCRs apart.