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Alive 5

Hiya  Stimpy,  I'm glad that you're able to spend some of your valuable time 
on  this  interview.  Please feel free to answer these questions in as  much 
depth and detail as you wish.

Hello and thanks, my first interview, so I'll try me best!

Can you give us your real name, date and place of birth, current occupation, 
and  any other sordid biographical details that you may wish to  share  with 
the Alive! readership?

Okies, my real name is Lyndon Amsdon, I was born close to Christmas in 1984.
I  live  on  top  of the Mendips,  Somerset in England.   I  go  to  college

Can you tell us a bit more about your previous computer owning history.  How 
did you get into this game in the first place?

The STE was bought in November 1995,  our first computer.  It was bought for
midi, with Pro 24 but I thought it was a real buggy program.  I used to play
games mainly.  I've bought Vic-20s, C-64s which I used to play games on, but
for  working  on the STE was far better with the built in desktop.   I  only
recently  built a tatty 486 for running some Windoze apps,  like electronics
development tools and viewing datasheets in PDF format.

And   how   did  you  acquire  a  longing  for  Atari  gear.   We   see   on there is quite a collection there.

Err,  yes :)  I've just bought things over the years.   The SX-64 was bought
cheap  from  a friend who didn't really know what it did!   The  Falcon  was
bought locally in 2001,  and is very nice I must say.   I recently bought my
Jaguar,  after  stupidly  getting rid of my last one.   I really like the CD
unit  too,  and I am now collecting many of the games I wanted when I was  a
kid, hmm, I still am! ;)

It  is  interesting that you are a very young age for an  Atari  enthusiast. 
What motivated you,  when to most 17 year olds, the concept of 'Atari' would 
be  a  very  much a yesterday thing,  and not  culturally  relevant,  unlike 
something such as  Playstation?  Is it just a retro thing,  or is there more 
to it than that?

Well,  I used to own Playstation too,  but Atari is not really a retro thing
for me.  Sometimes I'll play some classic ST games, hear the old Yamaha chip
screaming away.   Mostly though,  I use my Falcon on internet for email, irc
and  so  on.   The PC is rarely used,  I get frustrated with Windoze.   It's
boring, nothing original.

And  the  next interesting fact I discover,  is that you are something of  a 
hardware  guru,  a  very rare species indeed.  How did you get your lifetime 
membership of the temple of the sacred soldering iron?! Why hardware?

I've been into building electronics stuff since I can remember.   These were
usually  amplifiers,  parts  of my hifi and so on.   After seeing sites like
Vezzs  website,  when  I went online with my STe in 2000 it seemed like  the
next  step  up.   I  built a serial port mod upgrade and was  hooked!   I've
fiddled  with 68k assembler on ST and Falcon after reading a great  tutorial
(thanks Earx!) but hardware is what I'm best at.  If I do write any assembly
code it's only to test hardware, or to probably look into the TOS code.

What makes the Atari 68k family,  in particular, interesting for you to work 
on. Is there any other computer which has inspired you to open the case, and 
get deep and dirty with the motherboard?

Not really.  The Atari, and ST in particular has lots of great documentation
on it.   The OS is simple to work with,  and I (usually!) understand what is
happening.   The  ST  also  uses some standard chips,  which datasheets  can
easily be downloaded,  like the CPU, ACIAs and so on.  There doesn't seem to
be any point modifying PCs, just buy the next CPU :)

Could you tell us a bit more about your current projects? The one that seems 
to be most interesting, is the soon-forthcoming Ethernet adaptor for Atari.

Yes!   It's  my first time I've made any of my projects in batch,  so I hope
everything  goes smoothly.   It allows an ISA network card to be used on the
ROM port of the Atari ST up to Falcon.   Well, more details on my website if
you're interestted :)

How  much interest has there been in the Ethernet adaptor?  I'd imagine  for 
things  like  broadband internet access,  it is very close to being a  'must 
have' item?

Quite  a bit,  what I'd liked to see is more Ataris being used on  internet.
There  are great operating systems available and many clients,  email,  irc,
ftp  etc.   Some need very little resources,  so could be used straight from

And what of this 'ultimate STFM'?

Hmm,  work  still gets done.   I'm currently venturing into CPLDs and FPGAs,
same ones as Mario Becroft uses.  I can program these to do whatever I want,
so I have started making a board with IDE,  68882,  FPU, and ISA controller.
I  might be adding some FastRAM too.   Already the ST has 256kbytes of NVRAM
so  I can "upload" TOS to it.   I flick a switch and it'll boot into the new
TOS.   Useful for testing modifications to TOS code.  I plan to change a few
things in TOS, and make a custom boot logo, nice!  The 68HC000 CPU had to be
shipped  in from the USA as it's a faster variant.   I've had the ST running
at 64MHz, I think the fastest speed ever - crazy!

After  you've  completed  the projects described on the  website,  is  there 
anything else to come after that?

Nothing really gets completed,  that's one problem I have.   There is always
some  way  to sqeeze more speed or improve on something.   I'll have to  see
what I can do with these CPLDs.  It was suggested to make a PCI card for the
new  Atlantos  with Yamaha chip on,  which I could also implement a SID  and
maybe some extras.  I do want to start vapourware so you'll have to wait and

How far do you think you could ultimately modify or expand an ST/Falcon etc?

The  Falcon has some way to go.   Most of the accelerators use the ST/Falcon
simply as an I/O device.  I feel though that the Atari range would have been
much better if Atari had made some sort of expansion connector, and stuck to
it  throughout the Atari range!   I believe the Zorro slots on the Amiga are
quite  useful,  at least,  there seems to be quite a few boards around using

What  has  been your easiest and most difficult hardware mod  to  fit?  What 
parts of the job, in general, do you most and least enjoy?

The boring parts are mainly cutting cases,  and enclosures.  Easiest was the
serial port mod,  just one chip.   Most difficult,  so far,  would be my ISA
controller  I'm  building.   I doubt I'll ever make or sell them as I  can't
think of a way of using across the ST range,  with no common expansion slot.
I was intending to make it work on a Falcon,  but realised the memory map is
too cramped if you have 14MB of STRAM.

Is  there  anything  that  you  might think  is  "impossible"  to  do  to  a 
motherboard? Or 'aint we seen nothin' yet?!

I had to cut 1 cm off the width of my STFM to fit into a rack case,  if that

What  suggestions  would  you  have for any  aspiring  hardware  fixers  and 
bodgers.  I'm  sure  we all could suggest ' a steady hand',  but what should 
ideally follow that?

Read,  read,  read!   Get the abacus books,  especially ST Internals.   Look
around various hack websites, and try and work out *how* they work.  I never
accept something that works, I always wonder why!  The 68000 datasheet has a
lot  to  say  also.   Amazingly,  I've  been doing all my  work  without  an
oscilloscope.   I  only  recently  bought one,  and I have to say  they  are
incredible.   Things  are  getting  done  a lot quicker.   Oh,  and  reverse
engineer too :)

What  do  you think of other people's hardware mods in the past.  In a  long 
history, are there any which have been brilliant, or alternatively, an utter 
disaster? Feel free to rate winners (losers?) and runner-ups at this point.

I  don't really put peoples efforts down.   We need as many active  hardware
modders as possible, and it seems they're leaving the platform :(

How  do you rate some of the present and future products coming around?  I'm 
thinking  of  things  like the CT60,  Tempest ,  and Eclipse  graphics  card 

The CT60 seems very good, I think I'm going to get one.  I just wonder where
we're  going  to go from the 68060.  The Tempest,  I don't know.   It's been
hanging  around  too  long,  but I wish it would happen.  I'm not  sure  how
compatible the PPC assembly is to 68K,  I looked at assembly on the PPC, but
really  need  to  have looked at machine code with the opcodes  and  so  on.
Either way,  a 68K emulator would be needed. I'm also looking forward to the
Atlantos machine,  especially with the Deesee card.  I consider buying that,
the Hades was great, I hope Atlantos is a bit cheaper though.

Which individual or company on the Atari hardware scene do you most respect?

So many!   I guess people like Rodolphe Czuba, Fredi, Mario Becroft and some
individuals on!   I like open hardware too, like open
source software.  Quite a few of the mods on my website were done by me, and
these are open for people to make.   If people want to develop further on my
ideas, feel free to ask me.

How do you rate current Wintel PeeCee's for bodging and fixing?  The modular 
nature  of their design has motivated a lot of people (some of whom  perhaps 
should  know better?) to delve inside the casing.  You could do a lot with a 
PeeCee's innards, so why come back to Atari?

They  bore  me!   You  can buy a new CPU every week if you want  more  clock
speed.   It seems no matter what you do to the hardware,  Windows will still
screw it all up!

Turning  away from these specific questions,  what else do you do with  your 
Atari  gear,  when you're not chatting on IRC,  or not glowering evilly at a 
naked and exposed motherboard ?!

Design things, reply to the endless numbers of emails!

Do you have any software favourites, games, and utilities?

Scooter PCB software,  I run that on my Falcon.   Games,  I like Formula One
Grand Prix,  Geoff Craymond on the ST.   I've had very little time to set up
my software recently to how I want it.  Busy time of year, exams and all :(

Do you have any interest in the demo scene end of things? On the face of it, 
with  the  likes  of CT60,  they are suddenly becoming  more  interested  in 
hardware issues than before !

Yes!   I like watching demos,  although,  I sometimes don't fully appreciate
which  ones  took  most time,  or had most technical features.   I've  liked
things like Whip!, impressive.

What do you do with the rest of your spare time,  if there is any left after 
all of that?

I don't have much time,  college is taking a lot of time currently.  I don't
know what people want actually, tell me if you want some hardware built!

Where  do you see Atari computers,  and Atari users,  in the next few years? 
Still in active daily use, or in a glass case in a museum?

I  don't  think  too much will change.   The CT60 and Atlantos  are  getting
people interested.

Emulators  on the PeeCee,  will these ultimately replace original  hardware? 
And should they?

I hope not!   Part of the fun,  for me, is using the hardware I built. But I
have bought a laptop,  to run emulator on, only because the ST Book or Stacy
are  too  rare,  and  battery hungry.   Nothing beats using the  real  thing

Here's a bit of free space to advertise your products,  services or point of 
view for free, go for it!

Ataris can be hooked to a LAN with ethernet,  visit Thank
you!  If you have any dead, dying, not wanted hardware add-ons, please email
me at

Phew,  what a lot of questions! We're all tired, but before we go, are there 
any final thoughts?

Thanks  for interviewing me,  and all people who have helped me out,  in the
scene and out of the scene. Atari rules!

Thanks Lyndon, and good night!

For Alive! Mag, 2002.

Alive 5