In addition to playing around with retro computers, I enjoy installing various aftermarket upgrades which push the technology in interesting directions. A few such upgrades have started trickling in over the past few days, and more are still on the way. This evening I decided to crack into the installation of a new Happy 1050 upgrade for my Atari 1050 floppy drive.
The Happy 1050 is a small circuit card containing a new 6502 processor, PROM, RAM and support logic which plugs directly into the 6507 socket on the 1050 drive’s logic board. It provides enhanced functionality, including true double density operation, sector buffer cache, accelerated transfer speeds and MS-DOS floppy read/write support. The Happy upgrade was originally produced and sold by Happy Computers in the mid-eighties, but new units can still be purchased from AtariMax today.
The card shipped in an anti-static bag which also contained a Happy R7.1 software diskette, a letter with download URLs for the Happy manual/installation guide, and a page of advertising for other AtariMax products. The installation guide and Happy software manual PDFs must be downloaded from the AtariMax website - no soft or hard copy is provided.
The installation procedure was straight forward and nicely documented in the installation guide. I opened the drive chassis and removed the drive mechanism, logic board and RF shielding covering the CPU and ROM chips. At this point the old Tandon PROM and 6507 CPU were pulled from the logic board, and the Happy card installed in the 6507 socket (the logic board’s PROM socket is left vacant). Finally, after checking and double checking the cable connections (there are seven cable connections between the drive mechanism and the logic board with no orientation keys), I closed up the chassis.
I fired everything up and was greeted with … nothing. The power LED on the 1050 lit up, but the drive did not seek and was otherwise silent. As far as the Atari 800 was concerned, there was no drive attached at all - it “happily” dropped into the Memo Pad.
I became a bit concerned, having read the warnings in the manual on the various and sundry ways I could potentially fry the drive by not connecting the cables in the correct orientation or location, or by improperly installing the card itself (missed or bent pins, oriented backwards, etc.). I’d checked my work throughly - the only thing that stood out as a potential problem was that the pins from the Happy 1050’s onboard RAM chip protruded from the underside of the card enough that they hit the top of one of the existing chips on the 1050’s logic board. This caused the upgrade to sit in its socket at a slight tilt.
I removed the Happy 1050, and using a pair of pliers, carefully bent the row of pins on the bottom of the card off to the side. Once reinstalled, the upgrade seemed to fit into the socket a bit more securely. I did a test run without the drive’s cover installed just in case.
Presto! The drive sprang to life and booted the Happy 7.1 diskette. The software correctly identified the drive as a Happy 1050, and the diagnostics routines passed.
In closing, if you decide to pick one of these up you may need to mod it slightly if any of the chip pins aren’t allowing it to fit flush in the socket, either by bending them aside or trimming them down. Other than that caveat, it seems to be a great little upgrade and I’ll be playing with it more as time allows.