Watch on YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f4z7061OWJM
Rare Atari 260ST Pickup (With Extras!) - eBay Bargain Or Box Of Junk?
Note: This video has since been superceded by this one, where I present a load of research on the 260ST in addition to viewer feedback. If you’re looking to actually learn the story of the 260ST rather than listen to my uneducated ramblings about it, that one would be an ideal place to start!
So I bought a 260ST untested from an eBay seller in Germany… But what’s the 260 all about, does it even work, and what’s all this about extras that the seller didn’t even mention!?
Hey everyone, Rees here, and welcome to another episode of ctrl-alt-rees.
In this video I’m going to be taking a look at a recent ebay purchase, and the interesting thing about this is that it’s one of those listings that only comes along every so often where the title of the listing is essentially the name of the computer…
…in this case Atari 260ST
the description is essentially one line…
…“I have no idea whether this works so it’s being sold as untested”, albeit in German in this case because I bought this from a German seller
and it was only when I started to dig into the photos that I realised that actually there’s some quite interesting stuff included here that a lot of people have probably overlooked. So I stuck in a bid and I won it for what I think is a very very cheap price considering what’s in there - hopefully.
So I thought I would put a video together all about this particular purchase where we unbox it and have a look at it together to see what kind of condition it’s in, and also learn a little bit more about this interesting machine.
So without further ado as they say in the youtube world for some reason…
…here is the box, and as you can see it is quite a hefty box! It has all of the identifying information blacked out (hopefully) and it seems quite sturdy. It seems like it’s very well packaged so I have high hopes that the stuff that’s in here has survived.
So I think I will get my trusty knife and let’s pop this open and have a look at what’s inside!
So at first very hopeful that the seller had done a good job with the packaging because of all of this extra cardboard and stuff - but that’s literally it - there’s no bubble wrap or anything else.
So i’m glad that DHL looked after this parcel by the looks of it!
So the first thing that’s probably of no surprise at all is this Atari STM1 standard Atari ST mouse. Nothing too exciting about that, I’ve already got about six or seven of those.
I have a firewire cable! That’s very useful for the Atari ST…
Another firewire cable. OK.
…and here we go, so the first thing on the listing that wasn’t mentioned which was in one of the photos is this the manual - Atari 260ST manual - and I’ve never seen one of these before. I do have a bit of a collection of Atari manuals. Obviously this one is entirely in German but yeah, quite a rare manual for a rare computer and it looks like it’s in reasonable condition so nice thing to have absolutely with these old machines.
The other thing - which I was even more excited about - is this!
This is an atari SF314, which if you know your Atari ST stuff, you’ll know that this is the double-sided floppy drive and these are actually going for quite reasonable money nowadays on eBay. It’s the type with the big button so it’s an older one. It has a disk in it - looks like that’s actually a High Density disk so I don’t know if that was just shoved in there to protect the drive in transit. I’ll be very interested to see if this works because these are becoming quite rare in full working order and like I said - also sell for quite good money as well. So awesome to have that!
Another piece of cardboard…
…the floppy drive cable data cable…
…the power supply for the floppy drive.
European plug on that but that’s no problem - I can “persuade” that to plug into a UK socket.
Of course the external supply for the ST itself, so if you’re familiar with the STFM or the STE like the one I have here, the power supply is obviously built into those as is the floppy drive but the original 520ST and of course the 260ST - which is what this is p have the external power supply which is why they’re such nice compact little machines. That’s a 520ST up there on the shelf, so yeah good to have the PSU with that.
…and here’s the machine itself.
Right, let’s get this box out of the way.
So this is the Atari 260ST.
As you can see this one’s a bit grubby, someone’s written on the function keys in pencil. It looks like they’re just extra characters so hopefully that will just clean off.
Obviously a German keyboard with those lovely umlauts there, and a QWERTZ layout. Of course we have QWERTY here in the UK but not a huge problem, and the 260ST is quite an interesting machine because when they launched the Atari ST in Europe they basically did some market research and decided that the 520ST would have been too expensive, with the cost of getting it into Europe in the first place and also just compared to the local computer market and the kind of prices that computers were selling for in that local market.
So they decided that they would try to reduce the price as much as possible in the easiest way possible and the solution that they settled on was basically halving the amount of RAM - hence the 260.
So the 520ST has 512k of RAM, this one has 256k, and that wouldn’t have been a huge problem if it not were not for another issue that Atari ran into with the launch of the ST, and that was with TOS - The Operating System - that runs on the ST, and it runs from ROM, but the thing is, when they first launched these machines the version of TOS that was going to be shipped on ROM wasn’t quite ready.
So rather than delay the launch of the computer - they wanted to basically beat the Amiga to market and try to get that early mover advantage and everything else - in their infinite wisdom they decided that they would release TOS on floppy.
So you got a floppy disk with your Atari ST with The Operating System on it.
Now, the only problem with that is that essentially when you launch TOS from the floppy and it copies itself into RAM it takes just over 200k of RAM, meaning that you would end up with an Atari ST that basically had about 50k of available memory before you’d even done anything, and of course that was completely useless and meant that it was incompatible with most of the software that was out there.
Word got out and basically hardly anyone bought them, and Atari very quickly withdrew the 260 from sale.
Of course if you’re familiar with the story you’ll know that later on The Operating System was released on ROM and that was offered to people who bought these early machines. The sockets were already fitted to the motherboard so they just took the computer back to the dealer or to the retailer who would put the chips in for them - six chips in the case of TOS 1.00 - and that was that.
But yeah, they also offered memory upgrades to 260ST owners to take the RAM up to 512k, the same as the 520ST, and we’ll have to have a look and see whether this one has that RAM upgrade fitted and whether it has those TOS ROMs fitted.
I imagine it does.
So I think it’s time to take a look inside - and I have to say sat here holding this I don’t think that’s going to be too much of an issue because there aren’t actually any case screws in it!
Which is fine, I have plenty of spare screws but it does make you wonder doesn’t it…
Yes, so another thing about this particular machine is it also has this “nipple” in the middle which is quite a common problem. Reason being that the screws for the rear of the case were actually longer than the screws for the front of the case and if someone took one apart and put it back together and put one of the longer screws in the front you ended up with this “nipple” where the screw basically starts to slightly push through.
My other 520ST also has exactly the same problem.
Incidentally, I have been told about a way of fixing that with a hot air gun which I’m hoping to look into for a later video so hopefully that’s repairable.
Also this keyboard looks like it could do with a retr0briting… But anyway, let’s get the lid off and take a look inside.
So here is the 260ST next to my STE. As you can see, the STE is a little bit deeper because it has that internal power supply and floppy drive. So we’ll just move this a little bit out of the way so we can have a look at this… and yeah, you can see how filthy that keyboard is, but hopefully that will clean up nicely.
So we’ll just take this lid off - thankfully facilitated by the lack of screws - and let’s remove this keyboard and - there’s some parcel tape in there! That’s always a good sign…
So this is just obviously standard 520ST German keyboard.
I’m not sure what this tape - oh the screws! I see. So it does indeed include the original screws. That’s quite bizarre that they would be inside the machine rather than holding it together! But as i said at the beginning of the video this was a bit of a strange listing to begin with.
It’s always good to have those though so I’ll keep those out of the way and I’ll give this a proper clean up another time just get rid of some of that tape residue and stuff, get some IPA on there I think.
So yeah, all the tabs holding the RF shield down have already been twisted - and there we go! Wonderful. So we’ve got the 68000 CPU there, we’ve got the infamous Yamaha YM2149 chip - that’s the sound chip obviously - there’s a diode on there, that’s a bit strange. Obviously a bit of rework at the factory, and we’ve got the six TOS chips fitted. So it’s a six chip TOS, I’m not sure which version that is but we can have a look when it boots up. I imagine it’s probably 1.00 and of course it will be the German version, and yeah that RAM upgrade.
So just underneath here is the Shifter chip… ah, Copyright Rocke Computer… So that’s obviously not an official Atari thing. That is interesting, I’ve never seen one of those before so maybe that it’s even possibly more than 512k - could be a 1MB upgrade or - we’ll have to have a look won’t we. But yes, a very interesting little machine this.
Despite the outside being quite grubby and the screws not actually being fitted the motherboard itself is actually quite clean.
So lets just take a look at the bottom as well…
…got some parcel tape there…
…that’s just where the wires solder onto the chip.
Interesting, very interesting.
So I think I will put this back together - give the keyboard a quick clean and we shall see if it works.
Now I’ve reassembled the 260ST, I’ve also given it a quick once over with a wet wipe just to take the worst of that grime off, and it’s actually looking a lot better already. Although it could do with a deeper clean, and one thing that I did find when I was testing it just off camera a moment ago was that the power supply that came with it seems to be a bit intermittent.
Sometimes it powers up and and boots to the desktop and works OK for a while, and then the screen will go blank, and a couple of times I switched it on and it kind of briefly flashed up and then went off again so I think there’s an issue with that PSU.
I’ve dug out the ATX-based power supply that I put together for my 520ST and it seems to be much happier running on that so I’m hoping that’s not an issue with the machine itself - but it could be - it’s definitely something that’s worth investigating.
I’ve also got the floppy drive hooked up here with the PSU that came with it, and that’s connected to the ST.
So I think we will switch this thing on and see what happens!
Now, that pattern that flashed up just when I very first switched it on isn’t something I’ve seen with one of these older ST’s before and I think that may be an issue with the RAM, and yes the floppy drive also isn’t appearing on the desktop so it’s obviously not detecting that.
The newer versions of TOS will show floppy drives on the desktop whether it detects them or not, but this original doesn’t, so that’s a worry.
This is powered on now, you probably can’t hear it on the microphone but it does make a very very faint whirring sound but it’s not nearly as loud as I would expect from one of these Atari floppy drives, so there’s obviously something going on with this.
What I will do is get it hooked up to the STE in a moment and we’ll see how well it works on that if at all. But anyway, the 260ST seems to be working just fine at the moment. We’ll just check out the version of TOS. So this is just showing “Copyright 1985 Atari Corp” so this is almost definitely just TOS 1.00, which would have been the original version just on those 6 ROM chips.
Of course, as you can see, the menus are all in German so it is the German release as expected, so that’s pretty cool.
So I’ve just plugged the floppy drive into my STE and the light has come on which is very promising indeed, and it’s also making the right noises now. When atari floppy dives are idling they kind of make this whirring noise and it’s doing it now. It probably isn’t picked up on the microphone but certainly a good sign there. Perhaps not such a good sign for the 260 and perhaps there’s an issue with the floppy controller but I’ll do some more testing with that off camera afterwards and obviously, of course, I’ll keep you all updated on that situation.
But it looks like we potentially have a working floppy drive here. Now I would expect this to show up as the B: drive on the STE because of course the STE has an internal drive.
Anyway, so let’s get this fired up and take a look.
I have my UltraSatan hard drive emulator connected so it’s going to pop up with all of that stuff first but shouldn’t take too long to get to the desktop… and there we go, so we have A: and B: but that doesn’t really prove anything with these later versions of TOS because it will just show those anyway. So let’s have a look…
…Drive B: is not responding, so check the disk drive insert a disk.
Let’s insert a disk.
The noise changes. It’s trying to do something but it doesn’t sound like it’s actually…
…yes, I think the disk’s spinning but the heads aren’t actually moving, so perhaps hopefully an easy fix.
Maybe it just needs stripping down and lubricating, or it could be capacitors that need replacing or something like that. But certainly not a lost cause that drive so fantastic that that came as part of that lot - especially as it wasn’t even mentioned in the ebay listing!
So I think that’s all looking pretty promising actually. So what I paid for the 260ST, the floppy drive, the power supplies, the manual, and of course those incredibly useful firewire cables, was 140 Euros all in, delivered including taxes and delivery. I think that’s an absolute bargain - I think that’s a reasonable price anyway for a 260ST in any kind of condition. This one needs a bit of cleaning up but otherwise I think it’s going to clean up really nicely and it also seems to be mostly working which is fantastic.
It has that RAM upgrade as well, and to get the early SF314 double-sided floppy drive which - I mean they probably sell for that kind of money on their own anyway - so to get that and hopefully in an easily repairable condition is also a really big bonus.
So a really cool project here which hopefully shouldn’t take too much work to get back to its former glory.
What I will do is I’ll end this video here, and I’ll cover these in a future video. I don’t particularly want to go down this rabbit hole with this particular machine at the moment because, I mean, this is just something that I jumped on because it popped up and I just thought you’d find it interesting to see the unboxing and the initial testing process that I tend to go through with these.
But yeah, certainly further down the line a restoration video is in order and also servicing of that floppy drive, so very cool.
So if you’re not subscribed to the channel already and you want to see that at some point in the future - and more of this kind of stuff - don’t forget to hit that subscribe button!
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and if you have any comments, suggestions, questions, feedback, or any ideas on other stuff that I can test or maybe something I’ve overlooked to do with this machine and this floppy drive then please do let me know down in the comments, I’d love to hear it.
So finally, I think all that’s left is for me to thank you very much for joining me this time and hopefully I shall see you again soon.
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