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Shiuming Lai tests the latest networking solution

We Atari folk used to have the luxury of custom-made network adaptors, most notably BioData's excellent BioNet and Riebl's VME/Mega Bus Ethernet products, both very reliable and still in commercial use today. Also hailing from Germany is this new home user kit, which takes the route of providing an Atari interface and software to make use of an existing PC device.

"Connect It" ClipArt

Elmar Hilgart's Connect It bundle arrives exceptionally neatly packed in a nice bright Deutsche Post Euro Express box. Inside you'll find a Genius E3000II Pocket LAN Adapter which, though clearly looking dated with its lack of Windows 9x drivers and copyright date of 1994 (don't let that put you off, as the product and packaging is in mint condition), is actually a nifty little device. It has both BNC and RJ45 sockets, comes with a mains power supply (230V, 50Hz), a power-tap lead to run it off the PS/2 port of your portable PC if needed (irrelevant to this review, I know), and a BNC T-adaptor. Rather less thoughtful is the omission of the unit's MAC address on the outside, so that has been hand-written on each one by Elmar.

Image of Genius box

At first glance you'd be forgiven for thinking the Pocket LAN Adapter could plug straight into your Atari's parallel port, as it's obviously designed this way, with a pass-through port on one side. It's not as easy as that because Atari's parallel port is missing certain signals, so that's where the second half of the package comes in.

A tiny custom circuit board is included, plugging into the Atari ROM port at one side and connecting to the Pocket LAN Adapter at the other side via a short ribbon cable. To keep costs down this PCB is not encased, so it must be handled with extreme care. Personally I'd be happy to pay extra for a properly cased board, though in fairness it practically disappears from sight once plugged in and there's still the danger of accidental unplugging while powered on.

If you don't want to or can't use the mains power supply, the Pocket LAN Adapter may be powered directly from the ROM port thanks to another useful feature, see below.

Image of PCB

Good Design

Despite unclear print quality in places - I'm told this will improve - the bilingual (German and English) manual does a good job of explaining how to install the Ethernet module with the provided TCP/IP stack, STinG. After tweaking a firewall setting, my Falcon and PC were happily pinging each other (Computer Ping Pong?), indicating the successful establishment of the IP link.

Once this is done you're in business. So far STinG has enabled networking between Ataris using what ports are built-in, and now with Ethernet support it's just got a whole lot better. An obvious application is cross-platform file transfer. For the moment this has to be done with FTP, no transparent file sharing like in BioNet or Windows, where you can easily and directly access network volumes from within programs like any other drive, or on the desktop. There may soon be an implementation of Samba or NFS for MagiC and TOS users, allowing just this. It's been possible with MiNT for several years.

My Falcon running as an FTP server...

There's the remote file system...

Bish-bash-bosh and Bob's your uncle.

If your network is going to be exclusively Atari and limited to eight machines or less, there are still benefits to this package. First of all you can have a proprietary file-sharing system using Vassilis Papathanassiou's BNet software, while Ethernet interconnection will give superior transmission speed and distance (up to 500m with Cat. 5 media and signal repeaters every 100m) to any of the built-in ports.

Being a low-cost product it's, not unsurprisingly, limited to 10 Mbps bandwidth (10Base, the slowest form of Ethernet). Throughput seems to be typically about 1/12 of that on my point-to-point link with cross-over cable here. CD-R(W) and Zip will remain popular for rush jobs; where they lose out to "real" networking, regardless of speed, is unsupervised batch processing.

I recommend the ROM-Port Ethernet Link, it's good value. You're not going to break any speed records but the hardware is stable and software development continues as I write, ensuring more functionality and ease of use. Better act now if you want one because they're selling quickly. Our friends in Sweden snapped up the last lot like marinated herrings.



Connect It ROM-Port Ethernet Link


Elmar Hilgart Hard- und Software


Atari TOS computer with available ROM port


140 DM plus shipping (32 DM to the UK, check for others)


  • Share an internet connection
  • Simple installation
  • No problems with accelerated system bus (CT2-certified)
  • MiNT and STinG drivers included


  • No file/print sharing, low bandwidth


* * * *

Tips and tricks: TP cabling

Today's most common form of Ethernet media for interconnecting workstations and workstations to distribution facilities is Category 5 (Cat. 5) UTP (Unshielded Twisted-Pair). This cable is inexpensive, reliable and light, making installation easy. Internally, there are four "channels" consisting of complementary signal pairs twisted along their length in order to increase noise immunity. The same principle is used in some high-end audio cables, where external interference would degrade the sound quality (in fact, some hi-fi buffs swear Cat. 5 makes the best loudspeaker cable they've heard!).

A more advanced version called STP (Shielded Twisted-Pair) is available, offering all the advantages of UTP plus a screened jacket for extra protection. However, for this to be effective, the cable must be grounded at both ends. Here's how to quickly identify STP-compatible media and devices:

  1. STP cable has a metal sheath partially encasing the clear plastic RJ45 plug (Figure 1). This is electrically connected to the same at the other end via the internal screening.

Figure 1: STP cable.

Figure 1

Figure 2: UTP cable, no shield.

Figure 2

  1. STP-compatible devices have a pair of metal contacts (Figure 3, 4) inside the opening of each RJ45 jack, connecting the STP shield to ground. If your equipment has a chassis ground clip (Figure 5), be sure to use it.

Figure 3: STP RJ45 jack ground contacts.

Figure 3

Figure 4: UTP RJ45 jack has no ground

Figure 4

Figure 5: The ground clip should be connected for best performance and safety.

Figure 5

Both STP and UTP rely on the twisting of the wires for noise cancellation, so care must be taken not to cause them to untwist. When routing, never kink the cable (pay attention to the specified minimum bend radius, typically 50mm) and leave slack because excessive stretching can also untwist the wires.

MyAtari magazine - Review #3, January 2001

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