Mother, I want to modem like it’s 1987.
So, back in the late 1980s you watched Matthew Broderick in War Games war-dialling for an unguarded military mainframe to
hack, or you had a friend, a friend who had been supplying you with disks made by the Pompey Pirates, who had told tales of
people dialling into BBS systems and they were downloading whatever games took their fancy, or your read the Greetz on
menu disks that advertised telephone numbers of BBS in far away exotic places like America or France or St.Neots
Sadly, for me at least, modems were expensive and the conversation around having your own telephone line went something
like this:
“Dad, can I get my own Telephone line so I can make long distance calls to America?”
“Sorry, do I know you?”
Modems for many people were too exotic. We had reasonable hopes of a second floppy drive, crazy dreams of a hard drive
and zero-chance of a modem. (Anyone hoping for a laser printer was on drugs and best avoided.)
But fear not, a mere 30 years later you can relive the fantasy of a dial-up connection, resplendent with all fannying about with
serial port speeds that entails, thanks to modern technology and an ADSL connection and of course WI-FI.
There are two routes to take:
1. Raspberry PI (or any debian Linux based system or maybe other Linux distributions too) plus an USB to RS232 adapter and
the ‘tcpser’ command on Linux. (instructions here)
2. A WiFi Modem. I use this one:
Which is for you?
The Wifi Modem is literally Plug ‘n Play. Slot it into your Serial 1 port, read a couple of commands from the manual and you’re
good to go.  The only thing missing is Ally Sheedy.
Raspberry Pi modem route? Hmm. Not as easy as some guides make out. Keep in mind, I studied Computer Science, know my
round Linux and have used Serial to USB cables for years as part of my job: I did not find turning the Raspberry Pi into a
. I got it working, sure, but the experience wasn’t nearly as good, even when it was working, as with WiFi modem.
So, having spent a lot of time with Raspberry Pi Modem and
with the Wi-Fi modem, I would choose the Wi-Fi modem every time.
Once you’ve chosen your modem poison, how do you
intend to take it?
One big question is: Do I need to install a TCP/IP stack (Software) on my
Mega STe to make this all work?
Answer: Not to get to BBS systems, no. The thing to try and grasp, is that
BBS were prior to the Web and Internet. They were point-to-point
systems. What happened was your modem would call someone else’s
modem somewhere else in the world. And the 2 modem would talk
directly. So, if you were in the UK and the BBS was in Australia, your modem
would make a long distance call to Australia. Today, obviously we are using the
internet. You connect to the Internet in the UK, the BBS is connected to the
Internet in Australia, and the Internet acts as the carrier between the two. You
know this, I know this, your ST doesn’t know this. What’s happening is the ST
sends its dial command to the Wi-Fi Modem, and the Wi-Fi modem sorts out the connection to the internet based BBS and
feeds the details back to your ST in way it understands.
Basically the dialling software on the ST will send the URL of the BBS to the
, which the ST thinks is a telephone
number, then the modem will handle the TCP/IP side of things. As far as the Atari ST is concerned it’s connected to a serial
device, and the Pi or WI-FI modem handles all the clever stuff.
Outside of BBS systems and talking about the Internet
, then yes, you’re going to need a TCP/IP stack.
Which dialling software should I use?
Most recommendations seem to point to: TAZ or Neocom for BBS.
 Neither of which I found to be much use. The space reserved for telephone numbers in their dialling directories is pretty
small, after all, they were expecting just telephone numbers not,
 which can limit you a bit.
The two best options were:
VT52 which is an Atari App. This came on the Accessories Disk for the Mega STe (Google: Atari System Disks) it’s a bit
‘hands on’ technically speaking and very basic, but it works fine. It also will let you get to grips with the overall
configuration and the interaction between the ST, the modem and dialler software. If you are new to modems, and
reasonably computer literate, it’s worth starting with VT52 application to get your bearings.
The other option is Teddy Term v2.14 which is pretty easy to use and has some handy features like a telephone
directory and so on. I found this software very good.
Note: the WiFi Modem comes with 25pin female
connector, so  you will need a 25 pin male to
9 pin female adapter to hook it up to your
Mega STe
Now Open to the public
My Private Computer Nostalgia
The late 1980s and early 1990s were my personal golden age of gaming. I like tinkering with them, I like seeing what they can do and I like making a website. So here we are.