Task: Install the Happy Board for the 1050 Disk Drive
Needed: 1050 Disk Drive & Happy Enhancement
Time: 45-60 minutes
The Atari 810 disk drive could read and write single-density disks with about 90k of data. Atari’s followup drive was the 1050 that was billed as dual-density. This was false marketing since the drive could only read and write about 130k of data. It was not true double-density. Some refer to the 1050 as providing ‘enhanced’ density since it was better than what the 810 could provide but less than other true double-density drives such as the Indus GT that could offer about 180k of data storage.
Happy Computing was formed in 1982 to provide special chips that could be installed in the 810 and then 1050 to provide true double-density data storage and faster read and write times. They also allowed you to make copies of commercial disks with copy protection. A drive modified with a Happy board was called a “Happy drive“. The good news is you can buy newly made Happy boards and install them in a 1050 drive with no soldering!
I purchased my Happy board from 8-Bit Classics for $39.99. They ship you the board and floppy disk with the software although my disk was DOA. You can also purchase these for about the same price from Atarimax. The installation is relatively easy and instructions are provided online. I will not provide all the details here. Basically, this involves removing the cover, removing the metal RF cage, removing two chips, and seating the Happy board in the longer of the two chip slots. I found this YouTube video helpful to see someone go through the installation steps.
A few tips. First, I didn’t need to unplug all seven cables connecting the drive mechanism to the circuit board as the instructions say. I only needed to remove the one toward the front and could simply tilt the drive backward to remove the circuit board from the case with the other six cables still in place. Once you have the circuit board out turn it over with the attached drive mechanism on the bottom. The RF cage has little metal tabs that have been twisted to hold the two cages from both sides of the circuit board together. You either break these off or simply twist them so they fit through the slot. Once you do this you can remove both metal RF cages. I disposed of mine as I don’t think they are needed unless you have a radio nearby. Finally, install the circuit board as instructed. The instructions and the video I recommended are pretty clear and I didn’t have any problems. Mine worked on the first try and was able to boot disks. You can hear a faster chirping noise on boot.
I have my Happy board successfully installed but have not yet tried out all the software options. I will do some posts about this later as I explore all the functionality. There are also some posts about Happy drives and the related software on Atari Age. You can sometimes find Happy 1050s on eBay if you don’t want to do the install yourself. Eight Bit Fix sells them for $125 and has them in stock at the time of this post.
Since my software disk came DOA I am making some new ones. I do this by finding the ATR disk image files for the Happy software and booting them from my PC using an SIO2PC cable with the AspeQT or APE running on the PC. The Happy Warp Speed Menu Rev. 7.0 ATR disk image can be found here. This includes everything you need to get started including Warp Speed DOS, diagnostics for your Happy 1050, sector copier, Happy backup, etc. Once booted I can make new 5.25 inch disks on my real drive connected as drive two. I will do a future post about how to do all of this.
Note this post on Atari Age about Happy Warp Speed 7.1.