"If visual identification is not possible, the pathologist may
may be able to take fingerprints from the body. If decay has set
in things become more complicated."
BOOK REVIEW: ATARI PROFIBUCH ST-STE-TT BY SYBEX
by Richard Karsmakers
Back in 1987, the German company Sybex released the "Atari ST
Profibuch", written by Hans-Dieter Jankowski, Dietmar Rabich and
Julian F. Reschke. There was no doubt about it being a
significant book in the world of ST programming, that went
further than Data Becker's "ST Intern" (which was and is its only
competition on the market). It featured an almost
incomprehensibly complete summing up of just about everything one
might care to know about the ST, its Operating System, the
hardware side of things and loads more. During my work at the
German software company Thalion I saw no other reference books
lying around. The "Profibuch" was all they needed.
The book was revised by its authors three times until, last
year, Sybex got down to some serious adding and rewriting. The
fourth edition became a fact, of which a second print was made
earlier this year.
This fourth edition was called "Atari Profibuch ST-STE-TT". Like
its title implies it takes the next logical step after the first
three editions, which is a completely summary not only of things
applicable to the ST, but also of all information pertaining the
STE and TT. This means that, principally, everything you might
want to know about 260/520/1040 ST(+)(E)(F)(M), MEGA ST(E), TT
and STacy may be found here.
A giant leap for our kind of ST users, that seemed but a trivial
step for Sybex.
With a book as extensive as the "Atari Profibuch ST-STE-TT"
(which I will from now call "Profibuch") it is best to keep to
the list of contents when describing what it offers. Therefore I
will not attempt to do otherwise (for a change).
Just a sec' there.
I am going to insert Paul Gilbert's "Tribute to Jimi Hendrix" in
the CD player. Boy, oh boy. This just has to be the instrumental
sensation of 1992 if you ask me.
But let's not stray any further, even though there's a red house
over yonder hill...(at least her sister will).
PART I - TOS - THE OPERATING SYSTEM OF THE ATARI ----------------
BIOS and XBIOS
Apart from the rather obvious list and description of all BIOS
and XBIOS calls, this chapter also includes guidelines for
application programming, the VT-52 (Escape) codes, information
about the bootsector, hard disk drivers (and hard disk partition
recognition), the Operating System header, error messages, system
intialising sequence, the reset vector, the vertical blank
handler, the Cookie Jar and a list of system vectors and system
This chapter, apart from the obvious summary and description of
all GEMDOS functions, contains information pertaining the file
system, directory format, media change, the GEMDOS buffer,
channels, memory controlling, the GEMDOS pool, GEMDOS processes,
TPA, GEMDOS program format, GEMDOS vectors, GEMDOS expansions,
multitasking GEMDOS and GEMDOS error messages.
VDI Operating System routines
This chapter explains how to work with VDI (the depth of GEM),
raster formats, clipping, pixel size, GDOS, the ASSIGN.SYS file,
Line A (which should no longer be used for new programs) and the
whole shebang. Of course, a full list of the VDI functions is
AES Operating System routines
This chapter handles everything that has to do with AES (the
upper layer of GEM). Apart from a full list with descriptions of
these AES functions, this chapter dedicates space to the
different GEM versions, multitasking with AES, AES intialisation,
libraries, lots of AES block structures and the XGRF library.
As of the end of 1990, Atari TT and MEGA STE models have been
delivered with the new control panel called (tada) "XControl". As
this is a modular control panel that may be extended, this
chapter treats the format of the modules the user may want to
write. It also specifies the functions the CPX has to its
Guidelines for programming
This is an in-depth chapter about userfriendliness and
everything the programmer has to take care of - including
explanation of how a human's memory works. It also gives
practical examples, though only in C and Modula 2. This is the
chapter a programmer should read before getting down to serious
application programming - if he knows how to do C or Modula 2,
PART II - THE HARDWARE OF THE ST --------------------------------
The Main Unit
This chapter explains everything you'd care to know about the
main bits of your computer - about RAM, ROM, RAM expansion, TOS
in ROM, the Cartridge System (and the way the Operating System
handles it), DMA and the MEGA ST system bus.
The Graphic System
Here, you can find all there is to be known about monochrome
use, colour use, RGB monitors, how to make a monochrome monitor
display the colour screen in grey tones, the video controller and
The Sound Generator
The ST's rather measly sound generator is explained here. It's
an awfully short chapter - but, then again, there isn't that much
to tell about that, is there.
The Multi Function Peripheral MFP 68901
In all ST systems with the exception of the TT you will find one
MFP 68901 chip (the TT has two). This chip is, like its name
implies, capable of doing many things. It acts as an 8-bit
parallel port, for example, but also functions as timer (A and
B) and interrupt control. All these functions are described in
Note: You know it's actually quite boring to do a review like
this. But what else can be done rather than just summing up all
Nice that you agree with me.
End of note.
The Serial Interface
Well...er...this chapter explains the serial interface and
everything that has to do with it - asynchronous use, the RS232
port, the MFP USART registers and several protocols.
The Parallel Printer Interface
The previous chapter handled the (slow) serial interface. This
chapter treats the (fast) parallel interface. It mentions the
functioning of the soundchip with the Centronic port, for
The ACIAs in the ST
The ST has two Asynchronous Communications Interface Adapters
(chips) built in. Everything with regard to thay may be found
here: The control register, status register, its connection with
the ST hardware, the MIDI interface, the keyboard, the mouse and
IKBD (Intelligent Key Board) programming.
The Floppy Disk Interface
Everything pertaining floppy disk storage is handled here - the
way data is written to disk, the Floppy Controller and the FDC
The Atari Computer System Interface (ACSI)
This is the bit that's interesting if you're interested in the
Atari and the way it works with Laser printer, CD ROM and, of
course, hard disk. Basically, the ACSI interface is sortof an
SCSI interface that is more generally used throughout the
Anyway, all the specs and stuff are described here.
- PART III - THE HARDWARE OF THE TT -----------------------------
Faster, higher, further - The MC68030 Processor
Well...um...what about a total description of the MC68030
Processor to be found here? I bet you hadn't expected that, now
Anyway, all about the hardware side of things can be read here,
as well as specific things about the chip in the context of a TT.
It also describes the PMMU (the Paged Memory Management Unit to
be found built in the 68030).
So it even goes faster - The MC68882 Co-processor
The TT has one of those nice 68882 mathematical co-processor
thingies built in, so it's only logical for it to be treated in
the context of this book, too. It explains the way it is built in
the TT, how the thing itself is built up, 68881/68882 number
formats, 68881/68882 commands and its registers.
ROM and RAM in the TT
ROM in the TT is bigger, and there are two kinds of RAM (fast
and slow) in it. All of this is explained and detailed here.
Also, the TT Cartridge Port is described.
The TT Videocontroller
As the TT has far more advanced graphic features (such as a
maximum of 256 colours and a bigger resolution etc.) it has a
completely new video controller. This is described in this
chapter - including the connector, the ST/TT video modi, the
programming of the video hardware and the TT palette register.
And because it was so beautiful - another MFP 68901 in the TT
The TT has a second Multi Function Peripheral Chip - which is
quite logical as it has some extra connections like an SCSI
port and two serial SCC interfaces. It also boasts yet another
timer and more interrupts. These are handled by this second MFP.
A full description of the registers and all may be found here.
A step in the right direction - the TT-SCSI Port
Finally with the TT the people at Atari decided to build in a
more standard SCSI interface for hard disk connection. It is
fully described here, including all its commands and the
specifics to the SCSI interface built in the TT and its working
together with the DMA interface.
Serial but fast! - The SCC enables it
As you could already read above (if you have, that is), the TT
has a new kind of serial interface built in - the SCC interface.
It is fully described here, the BSC format, coding, the SCC's
insides, its registers, its programming, its use in the TT.
The VME Bus connector with the TT/MEGA STE
The TT has a so-called VME bus built in. All its specifications
can be found in this chapter - its hardware, how it should be
The System Control Unit in the TT/MEGA STE
Another thing that only the TT and MEGA STE have (them lucky
gastards!). Everything with regard to this chip is explained,
including its interrupts and all its registers.
The TT Clock chip
The TT has another clock chip as that in the MEGA ST and MEGA
STE. The main thing that's different about it is that it can
store 50 extra bytes in its battery backed RAM. This can be used
to store initialisation values that need to be re-used at each
booting (or something like that). This chapter explains all you
can do with the chip.
Other TT things to know
This chapter covers the ACIAs in the TT, its PSG, its DMA sound,
its Floppy Disk Interface (including HD drive connection
possibility), and the ACSI bus.
- APPENDICES ----------------------------------------------------
BIOS-, XBIOS- AND GEMDOS Error Numbers
Lists all TOS error messages and their numbers and causes.
Important Operating System Structures
This lists many important Operating System Structures, such as
an AES Parameter Block, CPXInfo, Memory Parameter Block and a lot
Keyboard Scancode Table
This is a scancode table of German, US, English, French and
'Standard VDI Code' keyboard scan codes.
ASCII Character Set
This lists the first 128 characters of the American Standard
Code for Information Interchange).
This lists the total ST's system font, together with their
hexadecimal, decimal, octal and binary codes.
Patch Variables in the AHDI Hard Disk Driver
As of version 3.00 of the Atari Hard Disk Driver there is a
possibility to patch some of the internal variables. This
appendix covers the offsets and names of those internal
variables, and to what effect they may be changed.
The IMG Format for Raster Images
This appendix explains the format for IMG Raster Images. Pretty
Short Introduction into the Syntax of C-Programming
For those who want to get a quick introduction into the C
programming language syntax, this is the appendix to slaver over.
Useful Tools for Programmers
Perhaps this chapter should be called 'the advertisement
section', for that is what it basically gets down to. If you want
to use your program decently, they say, you should get
"BigScreen", "SysMon", "TempleMon" and "WEGA Library".
The Atari STE Hardware
Just like the TT as opposed to the other Atari machines, the STE
has some other stuff in its hardware as opposed to the 'old' ST
and MEGA ST computers. This appendix gets down to the STE-
specific bits of hardware such as the extra joystick/paddle
ports, DMA sound, the Microwire interface, smooth scroll stuff
and the SIMM RAM expansion chips.
The real-time Clock of the MEGA ST(E)
All you need to know about this thing in the MEGA ST(E) is told
here - what registers it has and how it can be programmed.
The 68881 Co-Processor in the MEGA ST(E)
What would this be about? About the 68881 co-processor and all
things that have to do with it maybe?
Short Summary of the Hardware Registers
Here you will find all hardware chip addresses, what their
individual bits do, how to read/write from/to them, and basically
the whole lot. ST, STE, TT, everything.
Chip Pin Connections
We're getting there!
For the hardware boffins, this is another interesting chapter
which displays each and every chip ever present in and old/new ST
or STE or TT, with pin numbers and names.
Sources for further Literature
This last appendix covers the list of literature used, and stuff
you may want to read for further information. It is divided in
"Atari Documentation", "Further Documentation", "Books" and
- CONCLUDING ----------------------------------------------------
What is there to say? I mean this book really offers anything
you would want, and heaps more. Previously, some books have been
called the bible for Atari ST programmers - like "ST Intern" and
its English version "ST Internals", Katherine Peel's "Concise
Atari ST 68000 Programmer's Reference Guide" and the earlier
editions of the "Profibuch". But a book that is more complete,
more comprehensive and more detailed than this new "Profibuch"
has yet to be written. If there ever was a Mother of all ST
Programming Bibles, the "Profibuch" is it. All 1500+ pages of it.
I suggest all of you people who do not read German start writing
letters to whoever you think is applicable to get an English
translation underway. And if this English version does not
happen, I suggest you start learning German. The "Atari Profibuch
ST-STE-TT" on itself is already worth learning German for - and
what to think of the advantages in the future Common Market you
would have if you could speak the language of the EEC's major
This book definitely has to be on the shelves of whoever calls
himself a programmer on ST, STE or TT. It's the Ultimate
Reference Book (indeed, with capitals). It's hard cover.
The "Atari Profibuch ST-STE-TT" (ISBN 3-88745-888-5, order
number 3888) costs 79 German Marks or 616,- Austrian Shilling at:
Postfach 30 09 61
D-4000 Düsseldorf 30
In the Netherlands, the book costs 99 Dutch guilders (plus
postage fee) at:
NL-2000 CA Haarlem
Thanks go to Willem Hartog of ACN in Haarlem, Netherlands, for
supplying me with the book at an ever so slightly reduced price.
The text of the articles is identical to the originals like they appeared in old ST NEWS issues. Please take into consideration that the author(s) was (were) a lot younger and less responsible back then. So bad jokes, bad English, youthful arrogance, insults, bravura, over-crediting and tastelessness should be taken with at least a grain of salt. Any contact and/or payment information, as well as deadlines/release dates of any kind should be regarded as outdated. Due to the fact that these pages are not actually contained in an Atari executable here, references to scroll texts, featured demo screens and hidden articles may also be irrelevant.