Ever since the Cortex firmware was released in 2014, allowing firmware flashing of the low cost Gotek USB floppy emulator to replace Amiga floppy drives, there has been the expectation of similar firmware releases for the Atari ST & Amstrad CPC. The creator of the Cortex firmware freely released the firmware for the Amiga, but reading through the comments on their website it appears they abandoned future development due to unreasonable demands from users of the firmware. Understandably so! I have used this solution on a couple of my Amigas, plus set up devices for a few other users. It works well enough to be a good replacement for floppy disks for most games.
There are already some very good USB floppy emulators on the market – the HXC floppy emulators http://hxc2001.free.fr/floppy_drive_emulator/. Over time I have always considered purchasing these devices, but I have always put it off due to the cost. After all, I only really want to use them to play games. My guess is that ever since the Gotek floppy emulator firmware was released, purchases of HXC devices for Amiga usage may have been impacted (just my opinion!).
The creator of the of the HXC devices and software has made the very clever decision to release a specific firmware release for the Gotek devices which allows usage of the devices for Amiga, Atari ST & Amstrad CPC computers. For a very affordable sum of 10 euro, you can purchase a licence for a single Gotek unit. Combine this with a Gotek unit from eBay (about $20 – $25 AUD shipped from eBay) and you have a very economical USB drive replacement solution. The big advantage using this firmware is that it will be actively updated and improved. I have recently installed this in an Atari 1040 STe and am very happy.
The Gotek Unit
The Gotek units can be purchased very easily from eBay. There is a choice of grey and black colours. The devices are all very similar. Some have different firmware, which does not matter as it will be overwritten. The main difference is the numerical segment displays. Some have no display, some have 2 or 3 digits. For future proofing I purchased a 3 digit model, as the price is only slightly higher than the 2 digit model. At the same time purchasing the Gotek unit, if you haven’t already got one, purchase a USB TTL serial programmer. These should come in around AUD $3 shipped from eBay, and come with cables.
To purchase the HXC firmware follow the instructions at http://hxc2001.free.fr/floppy_drive_emulator/. Essentially you need to send an email as per the webpage, and then you receive instruction on how to pay.
Preparing the Gotek device
Instructions are provided on how to program the firmware when purchase it. I won’t repeat all of that. It is simple, but I will point out a few things:
To make programming the device easy install some header pins where indicated in the picture below. Note this requires soldering.
Follow the instructions provided to then install the software. Many people have reported issues using the serial bridge. I successfully managed this first go using Windows 7 64 bit on Com port 6. After install the serial bridge, the actual firmware installation is done via USB stick in the device directly. Very easy!
Installation in Atari ST
First thing to do is open the case, and remove the existing floppy drive. In the picture below the switches are connected to my quad TOS install. Note the floppy drive cable will probably need to be twisted to use with the Gotek. These is because the pin 1 is on the other side of the floppy. Luckily the cable is still just long enough to reach.
To mount into the Atari ST, the holes in the Gotek are actually in the correct spot. However, they will need to be made bigger to allow M3 screws to be used. Use a hobby/ dremel type drill for this. Note that the hole in the top right corner picture below does not need to be drilled as it fits over the guide pin.
In order to allow nuts to secure the unit in place, a bit of plastic near each hole needs to be removed. I carefully used a small chisel.
Now placing this in the ST itself, longer screws will need to be used as the original floppy drive screws are not long enough to fit the nuts. Look for M3 screws 5mm longer than the original floppy drive screws.
Now place the insides of the gotek back, and attached the top and all cables.
Luckily the top case fits on, and needs no modification to allow the segment display to be read, and the buttons are just in the right place!
USB stick installed – plenty of instructions on how to set up the USB stick. A couple of points – The firmware to natively use .ST files has not been released yet (June 8th 2015). Files must be converted to .hfe format. Very easy using the supplied software, including batch conversions.
And here we go! A bit of Xenon 2 action.