In January 2017, Michael St Pierre (mytek) embarked on the project he’d been contemplating for two years: a completely redesigned Atari 8-bit motherboard, with an Mini-ITX form factor and using the original VLSI chips. After only nine months of gestation, the fully debugged version 1.1 boards arrived.
From the outset, the 1088XEL was built around the TK-II, Mousetari, UAV and Ultimate 1MB. Having already seen and used my alternative Ultimate 1MB firmware, Michael soon invited me to become involved in the 1088XEL testing process and asked if I could customise the BIOS in order to support the new motherboard’s unique features. Of course, the new firmware’s plug-in architecture made the creation of a drop-in 1088XEL module easy, although as time went on, a few modifications to the base code were also made.
Eventually, customised versions of the U1MB main BIOS, PBI BIOS and XEX loader were developed for the 1088XEL. Some changes – such as support for dual physical disks (used with the XEL-CF adapter) – proved highly challenging, but by the close of 2017, the new firmware was taking shape, although bug fixing and further development of the 1088XEL continued until April 2018. As the firmware neared completion. the task of updating the user manual and technical documentation began. By the beginning of June 2018, everything was finally completed.
In July 2018, Michael tabled the idea of another new Atari 8-bit motherboard, this time to be housed in a 1050 disk drive case. The result was the 1088XLD.
The 1088XEL and 1088XLD share almost identical Ultimate 1MB firmware, aside from the branding of the main BIOS. You should download the firmware which corresponds to your hardware.
New to Version 3.10
- Even faster search speeds in loader
- Keyboard and joystick acceleration in loader allows faster navigation of long directories
- File extensions on scrolling FAT filenames now remain visible even when highlighted
- Loader SD/CF adapter issues fixed
- XF551 now driven at full speed by HSIO driver
- ATR swap button now works in loader
- Improved DCB checking in PBI BIOS and support for immediate-mode sector IO
- Improved boot drive handling
New to Version 3
- Number of BIOS configuration profiles increased from three to four
- Massively faster and more powerful loader search facility
- Loader’s built-in FAT DOS now supports subdirectories
- Loader now remembers the last accessed FAT folder
- Loader scripts may include paths
- Loader can now open the location of any already mounted image
- Usability improvements to the loader and BIOS setup menu
- Optional synthetic ‘IO sound’ with ATRs and hard disk partitions
- Improved loader compatibility
- Auto-booting banked cartridge conversions on SIDE/SIDE2
- All hardware-specific HDD functionality moved to plugins
- Several important bug fixes
If you wish your existing configuration profiles to be preserved, be sure to select profile 1 before updating the firmware.
Important: Owners of Ultimate 1MB with the original v.1 CPLD code from Candle’s first run of boards must ensure that they update to the current JED prior to installing the new BIOS, otherwise they risk bricking the device. Boards with the PBI feature (including all manufactured by Lotharek and those from Candle’s second run) will safely run the new BIOS without modification. If your U1MB has a white PCB, it is guaranteed to be compatible with the new firmware.
Loader Quick Reference
Plugin Source Code
As well as the 1088XEL and XEL-CF, Michael offers many other interesting projects at AtariBits.
If you’d like to purchase 1088XEL in ready-built or kit form, you can find ordering instructions at The Brewing Academy.
Licensing and Donations
In light of the fact that firmware licensing revenue is modest and that updates are offered for free to the end user, donations are welcomed and appreciated. Indeed, it has been my mission to facilitate easy and safe firmware updates, and regular in-the-field upgrades are encouraged to ensure that devices remain up to date and bug fixes are delivered in a timely manner.