Atari 520/1040STE.. the Artistic Side of ST

Submitted by binaryvalue on Fri, 06/03/2022 - 09:18

Released in late 1989, Atari STE is a multimedia-enhanced ST. The 68000 CPU remains the same, however, the STE features several improvements such as a new operating system, hardware graphics, 4,096 colors, and significantly better stereo sound.

  • The STE was released for $499 ($1,170 in today's money)
  • It is estimated that around 1 million STE units were sold


  • Compatible with older ST models
  • 68000 CPU
  • 0.5/1 MB of RAM, easily upgradable to 4 MB via 4 SIMMs
  • 1.6 TOS Operating System (GUI) -Later, 1.62 TOS
  • 4,096 color palette
  • Blitter chip (graphics co-processor) and hardware scrolling
  • 2 PCM channels of stereo sound
  • Two extra joystick ports (compatible with Atari Jaguar and Falcon 030)
  • Genlock support
  • 3.5" double-sided floppy drive

graphics Graphics & Modes

Atari 520STE box
The 520STE Discovery Pack sold well in France and the UK (Photo: reproduction box)

The STE can display 16 colors on screen from a 4096 color palette (instead of the STs' 512-color palette). Using tricks, STE can display much more colors on the screen.

  • Display modes: 320x200, 640x200, 640x400 with up to 16 colors on screen (without tricks)
  • 4,096 color-palette
  • Blitter chip, moving large blocks of data at a rate of 4 Mbytes/s
  • The STE can scroll the screen in all directions (horizontal and vertical hardware scrolling)
  • Genlock support

 sound Sound

 The STE sounds significantly better than any older ST model. It was the first Atari computer to offer PCM audio.

  • 2-channels of PCM (Pulse Coded Modulation) stereo sound
  • 8-bit stereo samples
  • Can replay stereo sound even at 50 kHz
  • Can be mixed with the 3 FM channels of previous ST models (hardware-supported)

ports I/O Ports

 Underneath the case

  • 2 x 9-pin mouse/joystick ports

On the back of the case

  • DB25 RS-232c serial port
  • DB25 Centronics printer port
  • ACSI (similar to SCSI) DMA port (19-pin D-sub)
  • External Floppy Drive Port (14-pin DIN)
  • Monitor port (13-pin DIN)
  • RCA stereo audio-out jacks

On the left of the case

  • 2 x enhanced joystick ports (same as Atari Jaguar and Falcon 030)
  • 2 MIDI ports (5-pin DIN)
  • ROM-Cartridge port

upgrades Expansions & Upgrades

ACSI2STM external Hard Disk

There is a good variety of STE upgrades, including CPU, memory, and storage upgrades. External hard disks based on SD cards (ACSI2STM, UltraSatan, and ACSI2STM) are very popular among STE users.

  • 4 MB of RAM, easy upgrade by placing 4 SIMMs X 1 MB
  • Gotek drive (internal/exetrnal)
  • External hard disk based on SD cards (ACSI2STM, UltraSatan)
  • STE Dual-TOS 1.62/2.06 PCB
  • 16/33 MHz BOOSTER (based on 68000)
  • 1.44 MB Floppy Disk (requires board)

variants Related STE Models

 These are two more STE models (never sold).

  • The 4160STE

The 4160 STE is a 520STE with 4 MB of RAM, that was never officially sold. The model was produced in small quantities and distributed to some key programmers and dealers.

  • The STE+

It seems that Atari planned to release a STE+ model with a completely new CPU and a built-in IDE hard drive. Probably, the STE+ was replaced by the Sparrow (later became Falcon 030). Nevertheless, there are still some working prototypes of that abandoned STE+ project.


Atari STE with SC1224 Monitor and Pacman Joystick (Photo from our collection)

 STE Gaming Titles

 The STE was not supported enough back in the day. Even when the 520STE started to sell well in Europe, software houses preferred to create standard versions of their software. Common versions for ST/STE, without taking advantage of the STE’s advanced chipset. However, later, several unofficial versions took advantage of STE’s chipset. These are some of these titles.

  • Lotus Esprit Turbo Challenge STE (Blitter boosted)
  • R-Type Deluxe
  • Obsession (very good pinball)
  • Stardust
  • Whitewater Madness (exclusive)
  • Xenon II (DMA streamed music)
  • Cannon Fodder (DMA streamed music)
  • Prince Of Persia (DMA music and sounds)
  • Dungeon Master (DMA streamed music)
  • Chaos Strikes Back (DMA streamed music)
  • Jinks (smoother STE scrolling)
  • Uridium (Blitter boosted and DMA streamed music)
  • Giana Sisters (optional DMA music)
  • Hard 'n' Heavy
  • Outrun (playable demo)
  • Metal Slug (playable demo)
  • Ghouls 'N Ghosts (playable demo)
  • Escape 2042
  • Alien Blast
  • Death Chase
  • Ultimate Arena
  • Pole Position
  • Top Banana
  • Roger
  • Jinks
  • Heartland 2000
  • Zero-5
  • PacMania STE


Atari 520/1040STE (c)


  • Wikipedia