I’m still enjoying messing about with the Atari Portfolio and I’ve now finally got my hands on a serial interface. Much the same in appearance as the parallel interface the unit plugs into the Portfolio’s expansion bus and carries a male DB9 connector with fortunately, unlike some other retro machines, a standard pin layout.
The RS232 parameters, baud rate, parity and so on can be set via the Atari’s Setup menu with a maximum baud rate of 9600. After plugging the interface in and initialising it I had a look through the library of Portfolio software that I have downloaded from various sources and selected a terminal emulation program called ‘Acom’ from Roudley Associates.
I connected up my trusty US Robotics modem and loaded Acom. Taking a gamble I simply entered ‘atdt’ and the phone number of my BBS, the modem duly dialed the number and I was soon logging into Nostromo without problem (apart from the screen size limitations.)
Thrilled with my success I fired off the obligatory Tweet using the same method as I’d used with my PX-8 and downloaded a couple of files before successfully connecting via Telnet to another Synchronet board.
I’m also thrilled to have acquired what I believe is a pretty rare 1Mb expansion module. From what I understand these units were available from DIP, the original creators of the Portfolio and retailed in the UK for the best part of £400, a considerable outlay. I opened the unit up and replaced the CR2032 battery before connecting it to the Portfolio. It formatted without problem and I transferred a good selection of software onto it from the Zip drive, thus far it has been working without fault.
I have seen some Portfolio’s for sale that have been converted to allow the use of standard compact flash cards in the memory card slot, this would be very cool, although battling with the restriction of the original hardware is for me part of the fun. Another possible upgrade is a backlight for the display, there’s a company selling a kit specifically for the Portfolio, however the existing screen has very good contrast, certainly in comparison to the Epson PX8 so this would have to be a luxury addition.
I took some video of the Portfolio connecting to my BBS and Tweeting via Tweety Mail, completely pointless of course but somehow very satisfying.