Visit Atarimax Store

Free-Net Logo
The Atari SIG Historical Archive
Created and hosted by:

Article #55 (74 is last):
From: aa700@cleveland.Freenet.Edu (Michael Current)
Subject: Black Box, Multi I/O / hardware
Posted-By: xx004 (aa700 - Michael Current)
Reply-To: aa700@cleveland.Freenet.Edu (Michael Current)
Date: Mon May 18 21:11:05 1992

Reprinted from Usenet: comp.sys.atari.8bit

Date: 13 May 92 20:59:56 GMT
Subject: Blackbox/MIO comparison

Date: 23 Oct 90 03:08:48 GMT  
Organization: The Ohio State University (IRCC)  
     Having had the opportunity to use both the BlackBox from CSS (Computer  
Software Services) and the MIO from ICD, I thought I would share what I  
have learned about these two unique pieces of hardware for the 8-bit Atari.  
The systems I have used include: 130XE computers (upgraded to 512K), 1-meg MIO
256K MIO, BlackBox, Supra Modem 2400, Seikosha MP1300AI printer, 2 Happy 1050 
floppy drives, an Adaptec 4000a hard drive controller, 2 Adaptec 5500 hard  
drive controllers, a Seagate ST225 20 meg hard drive, a ATASI 3046 40 meg  
hard drive, and a CMI 5516 13 meg hard drive.  
 What is an MIO or a Blackbox?  
     An explanation of just what the MIO and BlackBox are is in order. Both  
include a SASI/SCSI hard disk interface, a printer port, a RS232  
port, and some type of printer buffer. The MIO comes with either 256K or 1  
megabyte of dynamic RAM on board which can be used as any combination of  
ramdisk(s) and printer spooler. The BlackBox comes either with no user ram  
or 64K of static ram which can be used only as a printer buffer. Additionally,
the BlackBox (BB) can use the standard extended banks of a 130XE as a 64K  
printer buffer.  
     The RS232 and/or printer ports can be disabled in both units to allow an 
external device such as an Atari 850 interface to be used.  
     Both come with clear manuals printed on 8 1/2 by 11 inch unbound  
paper. The pinouts for all ports are clearly shown in the manuals and there  
are examples showing how to set up a hard disk system. The BBS manual  
includes several short assembler listings showing some methods of  
accessing the BB from machine language.  
     The MIO comes in a nice gray case with the SCSI connector and printer  
port on one end. The other end has the RS232 port, on/off switch, power plug, 
and two LED's - one is a power indicator and the other lights up when  
the MIO is busy.  My 1-meg MIO has a second 9 pin plug on this end for a  
planned 80 column adaptor which never happened. The 50 conductor ribbon cable 
which plugs into the computer is on one side.  
     The BB comes with no case. Cases are available for it for $39.95 (and  
they are even black!). On the front edge is the connector which plugs into  
the 130XE. The other side has the SCSI connector, the floppy controller  
connector (see below), and the power plug. The printer plugs onto one end  
and the modem to the other. The BBS also has two LED's which serve the same  
functions as the ones in the MIO.  
 Plugging it in  
     The MIO has a 50 pin connector which plugs in to the parallel  
expansion port on a 600XL or 800XL. An XE adaptor must be purchased for $16.95
to plug the MIO into a 130XE computer. This adaptor plugs into both the ECI  
port and the cartridge port on the 130XE and has sockets for two  
cartridges on it. The second cartridge plug is primarily for R-Time 8  
cartridge from ICD.  
     The BlackBox is built to plug directly into the 130XE. It comes with  
a short 5 pin cable for plugging into an XL machine. No extra adaptor is  
needed. For my own system, I use the XE adaptor from ICD and plug the 50 pin  
cable on the BB into it (I use the R-Time 8 and this keeps the cartridge  
stack shorter).  
     The MIO has the expected 9 pin and 15 pin d-connectors for plugging in  
your printer and modem. The BB comes with 34 pin card edges for use with 34  
conductor ribbon cable. You can use both standard crimp-on connectors for  
both cables (use 25 conductor ribbon cable for the modem cable) or you can  
buy the cables you need from CSS. There is also an unused 34 connection card  
edge on the BB. This is for the floppy controller that CSS is planning to  
release. This floppy controller will allow the user to attach industry  
standard disk drives -- up to 80 track 720K - to the BB.  
     The MIO comes with a heavy duty 9v power supply. The BlackBox comes with 
power supply which has +12v -12v and +5v output. All three voltages are used  
by the BB.  
     Both the MIO and the BlackBox have menus. Here is a list of options  
available from the Main Menu of both:  
1) Assign drives as floppy disks, or hard drive partitions. When assigning  
floppy drives, you can assign any physical floppy drive as and drive from  
D1: to D8: (and D9: on the BlackBox).  
Note: On the MIO ramdisks can also be defined. These ramdisks refer to MIO  
memory only - not memory available inside the computer. A DOS ramdisk  
handler must be used for memory in the computer.  
2) Swap drives - shows up as 'Exchange Drives' on the BlackBox and allows you 
to swap the drive assignments of two drives. For example, you could swap  
drives 1 and 4. The drive assigned to D4: would then become logical drive #1  
and you could boot from it while the drive that was drive 1 would then be  
addressable as D4:. I am writing this using PaperClip which I booted from my  
hard drive using this method.  
3) Lock Drive - Write locks a drive if it a hard drive partition or a RAMdisk.
4) Save configuration - This writes the current configuration to the first  
sector of device 0,0 (the first hard drive on your system). If no hard drive  
is present this option does nothing.  
     The other options available from these menus are different enough to  
need separate descriptions.  
 The MIO Menu:  
     The MIO Menu is entered by holding down the