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Getting Started with the Atari Transputer Workstation 800*

Getting Started

It seems that quite a few people have come to own an ATW800 for which the documentation has long been lost. This situation is not so hopeless as it sounds: the operating system Helios, which was supplied with every ATW800, closely resembles Unix, and is documented in the book:

The Helios Parallel Operating System
Prentice Hall ISBN 0-13-381237-5

(An earlier version was entitled simply "The Helios Operating System", ISBN 0-13-386004-3. This older version is actually to be preferred, as it describes the state of Helios at the time the ATW800 was made.)

Of course none of this helps if you can't even get your ATW to boot, or the OS consists of a stack of floppies apparently intended for a DOS machine ... if this is your situation, Read On.

Booting up the ATW800

Get wired

First make sure that the keyboard and the monitor are plugged in, and that the "ignition switch" is turned on (fully clockwise). No key? Ask your neighborhood car thief for help ...

For test purposes you will also need to have a monitor connected to the 13-pin DIN socket; either an Atari monitor or a VGA monitor connected via an adaptor cable. (Once you have X11 up and running, the Atari monitor will no longer be needed.)

The boot disc

The ATW is not capable of auto-booting from its hard disc, so you need to have a floppy disc (DD = 720 kB!), containing the SCSI driver. If you don't have that, you can download either an ATW800 boot disk (as a ZIP archive) or just the ATW SCSI driver from here. The driver (SCSI.PRG) should be in a folder entitled AUTO. Note that this disk can be made on an IBM-compatible PC using normal DOS procedures.

Powering up

You may wish to refer to the front panel illustration.

Unless some previous owner was kind enough to install TOS 2.06, powering up is quite tricky. First, turn on the power without the boot disk - hold the boot disc in your right hand, and turn on the power with your left. The light marked "P" should come on (and stay on).

The Atari logo should appear on the screen, and you should hear the hard drive spin up and shake its heads a bit. The green light marked "HD" should also flash. (With the standard hard disc this takes about 5 seconds.) If not, then check your wiring!

Now put your boot floppy into the drive. The floppy drive should grind away for a few seconds, followed by more hard disc activity as the i/o server tries to boot from it.

What happens next will depend on how the i/o server is set up: either you will see an Atari desktop, or SERVER.PRG will start to run - see the section Starting Helios below.

If nothing happens, push the Reset button and see what happens. (Leave the floppy disc in the drive. Probably the problem was that you put the floppy in the drive either too late or too soon -- that shouldn't be a problem any more, now that the hard drive is already "spun up".)

Installing Helios

Hopefully you won't need this: Helios should already be installed on the hard drive. However ...

The Helios directory

At this stage you should be able to reach the Atari desktop (if you are in the i/o server program, press Control-Shift-F9 (!) to get out). Depending on how the hard disc has been partitioned, there should at least be an icon for drive C: on the desktop: if not, try selecting "Install Devices" from the "Options" drop-down menu.

There needs to be a Helios directory on the hard disc; it could be anywhere, but for the purpose of this explanation I will assume it is D:\HELIOS. This should contain subdirectories D:\HELIOS\BIN, D:\HELIOS\LIB, etc., corresponding to the directories /bin, /lib, ... of Unix fame. (Note that in Helios, unlike Unix, filenames and pathnames are not case-sensitive.)

If these directories exist and contain some files with plausible names, then it would appear that Helios itself is installed. Two files are absolutely crucial: D:\HELIOS\LIB\NUCLEUS and D:\HELIOS\LIB\NBOOT.I.

If the Helios files are not present, and you do not have the installation disks, then you can download a copy of Helios 1.3 from here.

To install Helios from floppies, you should create the helios directory and copy into it all the stuff from the discs labeled "Helios O/S V1.n", where 1.n is the Helios version number. Then insert the disc called "Helios ATW Specific Software" and copy everything in the directories BIN, ETC and LIB into the corresponding Helios directories.

The ATW-specific disk also contains the all-important SERVER.PRG and HOST.CON, which form the subject of the next section.

Note: if you downloaded Helios 1.3 from here then you don't need the ATW-specific disk: it's all on the 3 installation disks.

The IO server program

So far we have a mutant Atari MegaST with some transputer code on its hard-disc, but we still do not have a Transputer Workstation. For this we need to turn the MegaST into an i/o server for the transputer(s), and that is the task of SERVER.PRG.

SERVER.PRG is a non-GEM program, which means it can be run in any of three ways:

While you are experimenting you will probably find the third method the most convenient.

SERVER.PRG needs a little "steerfile" called HOST.CON. Here's a sample version:

host                = ST
box                 = ATW
message_limit       = 99999
system_image        = d:\helios\lib\nucleus
helios_directory    = d:\helios
bootfile            = d:\helios\lib\nboot.i

#root_processor = /tom
#logfile = logbook
#logging_destination = screen
#transputer_memory = 0x100000
#mouse_resolution = 4
#mouse_divisor = 2

The lines beginning with # are "commented out": at this stage you should probably leave it that way. The only thing you may want to change is the name of the Helios directory.

One more thing to check before starting up the i/o server: in the directory D:\HELIOS\ETC there should be a file called INITRC. It needs to contain something like this:

# Helios System Configuration File
# This file is interpreted by init to configure the system
# it is NOT a shell script.

ifabsent /window run -e /helios/lib/window window
waitfor /window

console /window console
run -e /helios/bin/login login

Make that two more things: if there is a file in D:\HELIOS\ETC called PASSWD, rename it NOPASSWD for the time being. Otherwise you may find yourself locked out of your own system ...

What are all those other discs for?

The "Helios O/S" discs only contain a very minimal installation. Once you have Helios running, the other programs can be installed using loadpac. Start by installing the online help ...

Starting Helios

By launching SERVER.PRG you should now be able to bring up the Helios console: a screen with "console" written in the top right-hand corner and an inviting prompt. If not, carefully check every step, and check also that the following files are present:

As an additional diagnostic aid, try the following: click once on the SERVER.PRG icon to select it, and select "Install Application ..." from "Options" drop-down menu. In the field "Arguments", type the magic string -bio, and click on "Install". Now when you run SERVER.PRG it will log

(Don't worry about the "supposed to ..." lines; they're normal. Only worry if you see "File not found".)

Starting up the X Server

To be supplied ...

*The following pages are copied almost verbatim from the defunct Totally Unofficial ATW800 Page that was maintained by Chris Gray.  I just reformatted it to be in-sync with the reset of my pages.