Steve Sweet builds
the Frankenstein of CT60 tower systems -
don't try this at home!
Well here we
all are, at Cheshunt Computer Club, mingling
about, drinking coffee, dunking biccies and
just generally bitching when in walked this
new face, a face I later got to know to be Mark
Branson, what an ugly old sod I thought.
He had brought
some equipment in that he was tasked to dispose
This was to be
the last time that Mark would bring anything
in; from here on he'd be taking it all out,
to his home where it got stored, in bulk containers
stacked in his garden.
He was later
promoted to Club Junk Secretary and to this
day still holds that post.
short visit he soon became a regular face in
the crowd, he was addicted to Atari and soon
to be appearing with his new pride and joy.
He'd bought himself a bird, an Atari Falcon
as we know them. What did he do with this Falc',
well, he turned it on and looked at it a lot,
over the months he bought lots of software and
installed it, then turned it on and looked at
it a lot more.
One month in
particular he had this big grin on his face,
he'd discovered that some fella was designing
an accelerator for the bird, I eagerly listened
to his tales, being an accelerator fan myself,
I'd owned The Beastie for some while,
an Atari Mega STE with a 40 MHz PAK 030 fitted,
to keep it company a FRAK was also purchased
to take care of an additional 16 MB of fast
RAM, giving a total of 20 MB of memory, more
than a lot of PCs had at that time and with
a graphics card running 1,024x 768 it put a lot
of Intel crap to shame.
With this in
mind Mark spent a lot of time checking over
and comparing software that he had that ran
at blistering speeds on my Beastie. He was convinced!
He was going to buy one of these new boards
for his Falc'. The board eventually had a name
and every other word escaping from Mark's lips
was now "CT60", boy, I wish he'd shut
We had various
conversations where he'd ask my opinions on
the practicalities of chucking together custom
set-ups. Between us we'd actually planned out
how he was going to approach the CT60 project,
but, I began to realise that Mark was not only
gleaning information, he was actually grooming
me, for a mission much higher, it was to be
that I was the chosen one who would actually
put this dream of his together.
At some point
he'd decided what sort of case he'd need for
this project, he had found one on-line and committed
himself, his credit card had now officially
joined the team, Project Falc' was now assisted
but not sponsored by Barclaycard.
At a later date...
Mark turns up
at club with his newly imported tower case.
he had the case out of its protective wrapping.
He now looked
like an expectant father whose baby was up for
adoption the second it was born, how protective
can a bloke be over a few bits of bent metal,
he was a complete pain in the arse. He took
it apart really slowly and we talked through
every move we'd need to make.
was needed, I sat him down and told him straight,
if you want this project to work you're gonna
have to let me touch the bloody thing, and occasionally
I'm gonna have to hit it very hard and attack
it with sharp implements. Thank god for Cheshunt
Computer Club coffee, soon he had calmed down
and relented to open the box and let me look
at it from about ten yards away! Sucker, little
did he know!
Face it Mark
you're gonna have to let me at it! "Perhaps you'd
better take a walk," I said as I unboxed a large
Bosch drill! Within seconds he was unconscious,
by the time he'd come round I'd drilled out
the rivets holding the motherboard mount in
place, not a quick job, there were about 20 of
them, he awoke slowly and emitted a blood-curdling
scream, "That %^*) case cost me &(&^
£'s and you've wrecked it! I had that
imported and you've turned it into Meccano,
what about the warranty!"
Oh ye of little
faith, "I've just snuffed any warranty
you had big time!"
now turned to his Falc', I'd whipped off its
covers and prised out the motherboard complete
with shielding, I made a running decision the
shield would stay. Mainly for strength while
I handled it and some static protection.
I placed the
bare board on the steel tray and we muttered
and whinged a bit longer, me muttering about
the Falc', and Mark whingeing about the war!
I picked up a
centre punch and marked out the mounting holes
and with a "click" we were committed, each click
was accompanied by a squeak from Mark, the same
as you'd get from drawing teeth without anaesthetic.
I reached for
the drill again and Mark went out like a light,
maybe he's had a childhood experience
with Bosch I don't know about, a few screeching
noises later and I had a plate with extra holes,
"At least we could use it for straining vegetables," I
said as he tried to attack me with sharp implements
I'd fitted a few brass stand-offs with some
locking washers and nuts and the base board
was now ready for its new place in the order
of the universe. This was offered up to the
case and was re-riveted back in place.
you need to strip the case?" he asked.
not," I replied.
Mark went for
one his special walks that he later got well
That part of
the project drew to a close, it was time to
re-assemble his Falc' in its own case and as
it was 22:20 and the club caretaker called time
and we headed homeward.
We mulled over
the necessary steps on the way to our cars and
decided that we'd have to take the project elsewhere
for the next stage, "You'll have to visit
Castle Welshgit for surgery, and
bring your own sheep."
A week or so
later and Mark turned up on the doorstep, early
in the morning and with a big grin on his face.
We began to fill
my kitchen worktop with piles of tools and stuff!
At a previous
planning meet we'd decided that at each stage
I'd leave the machine usable in whatever phase
of the project it was in and so a temporary
affair for the keyboard was called for, I cut
the cable off a spare STFM keyboard and connected
it to a socket to match a Mega STE curly cable.
We'd decided to use a spare Mega STE keyboard
until he acquired his planned Eiffel board.
I instructed Mark in what I wanted him to do
to beef up the socket, it was to be shuttered
in cardboard and epoxy resin would be poured
in and allowed to cure over the weekend after
I turned to the
power issue. The CT60 demanded an ATX power
supply so I proceeded to cut off the Falc's
original power plug and snip the leads on the
ATX box, slip on some heat shrink sleeve and
solder the cables together, followed by a squirt
of heat to seal the joints with the sleeve.
The Falc' was
removed from its case and offered up to its
new tower home, a few new shiny screws and it
was home, I plugged in its new power source,
fitted the monitor cable and poked it through
a slot in the case, leaving it waving in the
wind, and offered up the new keyboard adapter
and switched on! Boy was he happy.
A later date...
arrived, Mark hadn't slept for weeks, and he
looked like a lab rat on extra Prozac! He had
e-mailed me and arranged for another session
at Ches', the CT60 needed a few mods that its
developer had decided on in order for it to
work with the next incarnation of its BIOS,
I took a few minutes to fit the necessary bits
and sever some tracks, it was now ready for
I reverted the
PSU cable back to its original state, in hindsight
this could have been left as it was until the CT60
arrived - hey ho!
I prised the
CT60 from Mark's clammy hands, snapping a couple
of fingers in the process, and fitted the memory
card, pulled some links off the Falc' motherboard
processor plug and pushed it into place. I checked
the fitting 'structions and connected up the
ancillary switch and indicator cables.
It was in a state
now where it could be powered up; the moment
of truth had arrived! So I decided to keep
him waiting for a bit and knocked up a switch/cable
assembly so he could switch between
Falc'/CT60 modes for whatever requirement.
Euston, we are
go for launch, T -6 seconds and counting, Mark
held his breath and I flicked the power switch,
he grinned so widely his skull separated from
his jaw/neck assembly requiring staples. Mark
was reborn, the Falc' booted to the desktop,
he needed some private time with his new love.
Private time, yeah right, this was Ches' Club,
no chance! He was surrounded by enthusiastic
members, none grinning as widely as him!
The machine was
now in a state where it could be used, but to
complete the project and get the case closed
up we needed to take the Falc' to the outside
world. We talked about this and adjourned to
a later meet.
We needed some
Mark had discovered
that he could obtain most of what we needed
by mail-order and had ordered them.
This left the
serial ports, printer port, the floppy drive
and the video cable to deal with. I made a series
of adapters out of recycled ISA backplanes for
the 9-pin serial socket, the printer port and
his video output, I cannibalised his original
cable for this and used crimped D plugs and
flat cable for the rest.
The floppy drive
was a problem, I decided to fit a header plug
from a duff PC card to the Falc' motherboard,
a standard floppy drive cable could then be
used for the job, leaving the future possibility
that Mark could have two floppy drives to play
I made up some
cables to take audio in/out to another cannibalised
backplane and fitted an ISA backplane mounted
power adapter, I had suggested this to enable
the use of external powered speakers. A SCSI
cable was fitted along with one internal SCSI
drive, the end of which appeared at the rear
of the machine where it could meet external
appliances or just a terminator plug. Mark is
looking for a coaster burner that may be fitted
internally (I can't work him out so don't bother
was still an issue, but planned for, we had
obtained an Eiffel board, I fitted this to a
steel bracket and poked it - yep you've guessed
it - out of an ISA backplane, this was nailed
into place, an extension cable was fitted to
connect to the Atari keyboard motherboard plug
about a foot away, and a PC keyboard pressed
into service. We now had external sockets for
keyboard, mouse, serial, printer, video, audio,
SCSI and auxiliary power.
With the covers
now fitted it no longer looks like an Atari,
until you switch it on and try to catch
it, this is now one fast bird! No cat is gonna
Euston, the Falcon
has landed! Now, I need an
Atari badge! Project Falcon
is complete! Until he sees something else he
can plug in to it.