Connect Your Atari 8-Bit Computer to a PC with the RespeQT Peripheral Emulator Software and an SIO2PC Adapter (15-30 minutes)

Task: Connect Your Atari 8-Bit Computer to a PC With the RespeQT Peripheral Emulator Software and an SIO2PC Adapter

Needed: Web browser, RespeQT software, SIO2PC adapter, micro-USB cableĀ 

Time: 15-30 minutes

Introduction

When I finished college and then graduate school in the late 1990s, I started collecting Atari software and hardware. I was excited to learn at that time that it was possible boot files on the Atari through a connection to a PC. I went to RadioShack and purchased the necessary supplies and built my own cable to convert the SIO signal to something the serial port on the PC could read. I still have the cable I built (see below).

Homemade SIO2PC cable
Homemade SIO2PC cable

For this reason, I still love connecting my Atari 8-bit computers to a PC. I find it easier than building SD cards and using SD card devices sometimes. I previously posted about buying an SIO2PC device from Atarimax and using their commercial Atari Peripheral Emulator (APE) software. This has been my go-to solution for the last 6-7 years.

There is an alternative approach I wanted to highlight using a much cheaper SIO2PC device, a micro-USB cable, and the open-source and freely available RespeQT software.

RespeQT is a fork of the earlier open-source project AspeQT that seems to be less accepted by the Atari community due to some history that I don’t understand and won’t try to repeat here. RespeQT allows your PC to emulate an Atari floppy drive through a COM port and USB cable to the SIO of the Atari. It is very easy to use and will boot ATR files as well as ROMs and CAS files. It will also emulate a printer for text-only output to the PC.

Instructions

First, purchase an SIO2PC device. There are several inexpensive units on eBay that plug directly into the SIO port eliminating the need for an SIO cable as with the Atarimax SIO2PC. I recommend this one ($15.25) and this one ($15.85) that can be purchased newly made from eBay. There are also several available from UK and European sellers.

Second, you will need a micro-USB cable to plug into the SIO2PC. These can be found on Amazon for about $5 to $10.

SIO2PC
SIO2PC

Third, download and install the driver that will allow RespeQT to communicate with your COM port. This step is important!

Fourth, connect your SIO2PC to the Atari and your PC using the micro-USB cable.

Fifth, download the RespeQT software from Github. The latest release is version 5.3 dated March 28, 2020. Distributions for PC, Mac, Linux, etc. are available.

Sixth, boot the RespeQT software. This will first open a setup options dialog like below where you can choose the port and the handshake method. I successfully used COM4 and SIO2BT for the handshake. Once you have made your selections, hit the Save button. This will then take you to the main software interface (see below).

RespeQT Options Dialog
RespeQT Options Dialog
RespeQT Software Interface
RespeQT Software Interface

Seventh, click on the disk icon next to 1: (drive 1) and load an ATR file. Then, turn on the Atari just as you would for booting a disk from an 810 or 1050 floppy drive (e.g. holding down the Option button to disable BASIC on the 800XL). Note that you can also simply drag and drop your files into the drive slots.

You should hear the familiar booting sounds coming from your Atari!

Comments

You can access the user manual from the Help menu. Worth reading to learn about all the different options.

If something doesn’t work, make sure you loaded the driver and are using the right COM port.

You can access up to 15 drives with this device if you are also using SpartaDOS X.

You can use RespeQT to write ATRs files from your PC to your floppy drive using software such as Copymate. I will demonstrate this in the next post.