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Atari 4160 STE

Published by nistur on Tuesday, January 14, 2020

I bought this computer as a 1040STE in roughly 2016. The previous owner appeared to have owned it from new, and was a musician. It came with a high resolution, third party monitor, which promptly stopped working, and a load of audio software. It was also very very yellow. It also came with a SCSI harddrive enclosure. My initial goal was solely to relive my youth, and play some games. For that, this was perfect, I didn’t mind the yellow, it gave it character.

Then I came up with a project idea. This would involve setting this machine up as a development box. For that some things changed. I would want a RAM disk for quicker compilation, so I needed up upgrade the RAM. If I got a full 4MB, then I’d want the 4160STE badge. Also, while I don’t mind play machines to show their age, a development box should be cleaned up. Finally, I needed another high resolution monitor. I had decided that, while I could perhaps fix the third party one, it was very yellow, and it didn’t have the Atari branding, so I’d not bother. I had been using a TV with RF up to now, but I set about finding an SM124.

I also ordered a 4MB upgrade. When it arrived, I cracked the case open to install it and found… something already jerry-rigged in the RAM slots. It turns out that it already had a 4MB upgrade in it. This worked by having two slots populated with PCBs, connected by ribbon cable to a board that was taped to the RF shield. The board had a bunch of mismatched RAM chips on it, and also had a few random wires with spring loaded IC hook connectors on it attached to seemingly random points on the mainboard. My upgrade kit was just four SIMMs. Much cleaner. So I undid the previous upgrade as much as I could, and replaced it with with the nice clean upgrade.

When I came to install and set up the development environments I’d be playing around with, some of them didn’t work. While experimenting with them in hatari, I noticed that they required TOS 2.06, so I obtained a ROM upgrade. Nice. In the meantime I also acquired a nice SM124 monitor, as grey as the day it was made. I was getting somewhere.

The yellowing and badge bothered me, so I ordered the badge. Initially I ordered a reproduction, but when I noticed in person how little it looked like the genuine article, I ordered the more expensive real badge. Then it came to retr0brite. I read up on how several people do it, and ended up going for 12% Hydrogen Peroxide Cream, wrapped in cling film, and left in a warm place (in my case on the radiator) for a few days. Here’s how it went.

01-full_shot.jpgAfter 3-4 days stewing, it came out… ok. In person, you could see the yellowing still, and I had lost all reference as to how it looked before. I was a bit disappointed, to be honest. It turns out this is because my memory is absolutely useless.

02-former_sticker.jpgThis is one of the things that had bothered me the most. The former owner had a sticker on the left hand side, which had stopped the yellowing in one small spot, and not only that, the sticker had folded at some point, so it wasn’t even a perfect circle. The fact that this was visible irked me.

03-badge_cutout.jpgWhere the badge was showed the discolouration quite clearly too. Of course once the replacement badge was on, no-one could see that. I could see that it had clearly gone less yellow, but I had no idea how much. I was not too happy.

04-floppy_side.jpgClearly the owner had left it next to a window somewhere with very directional light, as the floppy side was only lightly yellowed to begin with, so you could also discern the discolouration after bleaching. I should also point out that, while I’m moaning here, you might be thinking “I can’t see any real difference”, in person the difference was far more pronounced. Light plays tricks with cameras, it seems. It was at this point I remembered that I hadn’t sorted the base, as it was by far not as yellow as the top, so I put it together for a comparison.

05-comparison.jpgOk wow. I had not expected that. My complaints went right out of the window. This was far more yellow than I remembered. I was happy with this.

06-round_2.jpgSo, I started round 2. I put the base in this time too, and the top again, to see if I could improve on what I’d already got. It turns out that I shouldn’t have done. I have one or two more which need retr0briting, so I can improve as I go. I’m not too bothered.

07-worst_side.jpgIt’s not quite so visible, but the top started to get damaged. I think the bleach started attacking the plastic a bit. It’s quite faint to be honest, and I can live with it, but it’s a little disappointing. The base however. Yep. Now we’re talking.

08-floppy_side_reprise.jpgAnd again with the floppy side. Looking good here too. Not perfect, but I’m going to leave it like this, rather than risk damaging the plastic again.


So this is how it ended up. Badge still to go on and guts to put back in.