Thursday, September 10, 2015


Exxos is pretty much a hardware genius who is always thinking of new ways to make our favourite computer even better. He has rescued old websites like Atari Music, UVK and also hosts ST Format coverdisks along with the entire FloppyShop archive.

Yep, he never seems to stop and will certainly be the only guy I'll trust to upgrade my Atari ST. Chris is a genuine guy with technical knowledge of the internal workings of Atari computers so I thought it was time that we got to know a little more about this soldering-iron geek. Now, this is a pretty big interview so go and grab yourself a coffee, sit back, relax and read. I hope you all enjoy this as much as I have?

My thanks to Chris for taking the time to write (waffle on!) and produce one heck of an interview! Don't forget that coffee and enjoy reading about one of the biggest players on the scene.

Mr Exxos, please tell us about yourself.

Hello Steve :) Well my real name is, as most know, Chris Swinson aka exxos. I should point out that I am not the company EXXOS who some confuse me for :) My handle is all lower case as not to confuse ;) I used to work in electronics repair for about 10 years. This was the leisure industry, So all kinds of fruit & arcade machines to jukeboxes I have repaired over that time.

My main area was Audio systems, From CD players to higher power amplifiers to electromechanical jukeboxes. I also ran the company BBS system, which was a dial-up network for depot's to download software updates. That system sucked, so I re-wrote the software in VB6.

Which Atari computers are you using?

The odd thing is, I don't actually use any working Atari at least currently anyway. I just don't have the time :( My trusty STFM had a video fault a year ago, so its been in bits. That was really 1MB RAM and my 1.44 floppy upgrade. It was a really old machine. Though once I get some time I plan on updating it and bringing it back to life. That machine was at my girlfriends were we mostly played games.

What is your own Atari hiSTory?

I got a 2600 way back, it was my first "computer". I loved that thing. I still have it with 4 or 5 games I think. I remember playing pole position to the point that it wasn't so much what score I could get, but how many times I could loop back around to 0000000. After while I wanted something better. I was probably around 14 at the time. I saved like crazy to buy an STFM. I found it was on offer at a local computer shop, so managed to buy it. Thanks to my father for putting the last few quids!

Later I brought my Falcon 030 and that was pretty much it, I think. A long time after buying my STFM, I got distracted into wanting to do hardware for it. My first design was a 1.44 floppy kit. Basically, it resulted in me killing that machine. Though as ST's were flooding onto eBay I could buy machines for less than 10quid and fiddle that way. That's pretty much what I still do all these years later :)

Are you a gamer?

I used to be years ago. Not so much lately as all my time is taken up with work or hardware development. I loved games like, Super Cars 2, Termodroid, Squareoff, Starquake, Xenon, Vroom, Chuck Rock, Castle Master. That game took me 25 years to finish, my girlfriend helped a bit ;) Back in the day, games were expensive and cash was limited, so mostly I was doing swaps with menus like automation. Though I had very few games back then and a lot were on cover disks.

Your website is huge!

STOS is the main section on my site, I try to keep everything STOS related all in one place. The games, I could do more pages, but with larger indexes and others hosting them, then I don't think it's worth taking up the drive space with re-hosting the same stuff. My site is around 35GB!

I wrote the Floppyshop site as a searchable index where people could search and download PD. Almost everyone will have a copy of the collection, but just having a copy isn't using the stuff. I felt a lot of PD was simply "lost" so The Floppyshop page was born. Recently, I hosted the UVK2000 site and took over which was a mess and I barely got it running on my server. Its a wonder it ever worked at all, I spent much time debugging that site, getting it in some form of working order.

Why the STOS fascination?

The main reason I wanted a computer was to write my own games. I remember looking through Argos, seeing a few pages of Atari ST's in various "packs". I went for the discovery pack as it had STOS "the game creator" so its the one I went for. Oddly there were only 1 Am*ga for sale, which looked a bit "dull" software-wise so I never went into Am*gas. So you could say if Argos never had the discovery pack with STOS included, then I may not have stayed with Atari's.

I did do some programs. Though they got rejected by the PD houses, basically because there was too many typos or spelling errors in stuff. They were programs like "Data Card" which was an address book program. The only stuff which saw light was MEGA Diskzine where I did 4 issues, with help from a few others. When STOSSER vanished, I wanted to do my own zine and keep the programming aspect in STOS, but also add Tesla coil type stuff, sci-fi or anything odd strange or cool. So, MEGA was born. I barely got issue 4 out and contributions were next to zero. I was doing most of the work myself and about that time I had started full-time work, So I simply didn't have time to do the coding or write articles. I have an epic amount of STOS projects I started but never finished.

Do you have a favourite upgrade?

I think my favourite must be the 1.44 floppy kit. It marks the first kit I designed and got working and it's even still produced today. While most of my work is in the boosters, I of course like the V2 for example. But once something is designed and finished, I somehow start to hate the thing. It's old, I could do better, I want to add more features. So Its design pretty much goes out the window and I am always thinking 2 or 3 steps ahead into the future.

As many know, I am still working on the CPU boosters. I recently went into production with the V1 STE booster which runs at 32MHz. I've basically hit the limit speed wise of the 68000. So I have drifted over to the 020 and 030 CPU now. Ultimately I want something along the lines of a 50MHz 030 CPU, with 32bit access to ROM & Fast-RAM.

England's own Jookie/Lotharek?

I don't really know why I do this stuff lol. I guess I love to design stuff and seeing it working on a computer just gives me a warm fuzzy feeling. I think it's an addiction. Like when I produce the first 16MHz booster, I though yayyyy I've done it, now onto 32MHz... It never ends. Just seeing those benchmark results pushing up higher and higher just wants me to push them up evermore.

I'd like to get the super speed hard drive working properly that I have been working with PPera for a while. Also the STE booster going into production along with the new PSU's. The V2 booster sales funded the ST PSU project, The ST PSU funded the Falcon PSU etc. So you can see how it all works. If it wasn't for those guys buying my items, then likely I would have given up and closed shop a long time ago. So big thanks to those customers as they really help fund more productions which at the end of the day, helps more people and gives me motivation to continue.

Your girlfriend deserves a medal!!
How many Atari ST's are dismembered?

Well, I don't live with my girlfriend, it's why I am not around on weekends. I've taken over her space with all the Atari stock, she doesn't mind one bit. She has the stock which is for sale, and she packs the orders and posts them for me. No surprise I just don't have enough time to pack orders and make trips to the post office. So everyone in Atari land should be thankful she posts the stuff for me.

I'm not sure how many ST's I have. Probably about 10 STE's, maybe 30 STFM's and then about 30 various motherboards. In general, it seems to cost about £35 for each machine as a general figure. So around £2,500 probably in machines alone. If you priced up all the upgrades as well, that would be tough. Things like the V2 booster, they are about £65 each, If I have 20 of them its £1,300 worth of stock. Similar to the 4MB MMU RAM upgrade kit, they are about £65 as well. I think I totalled that stock to over £2,000 a while ago. So if you factor in I have on sale around 40 different items, some are not expensive parts though, then you could probably take a guess of what the stock is worth In total. I would guess somewhere around £15,000 of current stock.

Where did Atari go wrong?

Oh gosh. I think this has been a huge debate for a long time. Lack of expansion seems to be popular. Though the ST did have the cartridge port which could do a fair few things. Atari knew expansion was needed as they produced the MEGA with an expansion port. While the ST wasn't born with PCI slots to easily update it (PCI wasn't invented for some years later aka sarcasm) I think Atari limited the ST's design too much. Everything is just so tangled up that if Atari had some forethought and built the ST with the idea that one-day people might want a faster CPU, then maybe there would have been a lot more hardware add-ons produced by 3rd parties such as Fast-technologies etc.
I think Atari fell into a type of "trap" which is something I try to avoid myself actually. Why do an ST 030 booster when we can have a whole new machine? Why stop at that, let's spend more time on updating the video hardware. Why stop at that? Let's add a DSP to help those audio guys out, let people play tracker tunes on it without taking up CPU time. Let's updated this, and that and take several years doing so until we get an awesome machine that we want. The fundamental problem is, waiting too long to produce hardware, and producing hardware on an "as perfect as possible" basis.
Overall, the Atari couldn't easily be upgraded which was the first nail in the coffin. Then, when Atari did start with the 030 CPU, the second nail was that they never produced it as an add-on kit. I think the geeks of the day would have loved to hack in a 030 into their ST's. Nobody has a crystal ball as to what will sell and what doesn't. Atari made the best choice they could probably make back then. They gave us the ST line of computers and they are still around even today. If you asked an STE user do they want a “super STE” with an 030 CPU and no other upgrades or a Falcon with lots of enhancements, but this would take 10 years longer, then you can probably bet people would want the “super STE” as they could always upgrade to a Falcon at a later time anyway.

What do you think of the current scene?

I think The Atari world hit a bit of a slump until fairly recently. There has always been a community, though it's not like the peek of the computer boom in the 80s kinda thing. There are more hardware guys about today like jookie developing hard drives for us. I think that has helped as people can download games images and play thousands of games.

I think websites like AtariCrypt are good to have. Review games on there, there is like a billion games to which who knows what they are or if they are any good. So games being reviewed with videos and images I think really will help people out in the long run. For me, I have seen some interesting games which at some point I would like to have a go at. (Wow!! I never expected to read that. Thanks - Steve)

I think as people buy their First Atari ST if the first couple games they play are just random, and the chances are they will be, let's just say bad games. Just not enjoyable to play. It's likely going to put that person off and they may not bother with the Atari ST again. Though if there are sites reviewing games, good ones which are fun to play, then chances are those new Atari people will keep coming back for more and more games. But it's not just games, there are music people out there using MIDI stuff. I'm not sure if people would bother to do word-procession or print letters out these days, so I think Games and Midi are what people would most likely to use their machines for.

Does the Atari ST have a future?

I started a thread on just that on a forum not long ago. My concern is: as the ST's are failing, due to bad PSU's etc, in 10 years time there is not going to be any working Atari ST's. If they are maintained, then the machines life is greatly extended. I think it's important to keep these machines running, which is why I build things like new PSU's as its one of the most common things to fail.

The Atari community needs new blood, new young blood that is to keep going. Gamers shouldn't need fancy high resolution 3D graphics to have fun. The Atari ST has a huge games list and I think there is far more variety than on today's PCs. Most games just seem to be running around shooting things but on the ST we have Pushover, Chuck Rock, Xenon and so many more which are still fun to play even after 30 years. I think the younger generation needs to see that they don't need a powerhouse to have fun gaming. Somehow think the Atari games will live on for a long time yet :)


- I'm sure you all want to check out his website right now!
- Itching to see what he sells and is currently developing? I bet you are, then clickety-click right here.
- Take a look at his FloppyShop website which is simply an AMAZING resource!!
- Don't forget to keep your Atari ST clean and free of those horrid virus' with the latest UVK!
- Here is a TV appearance which nicely follows up on the amazing interview with Chris Swinson!
- my MEGA ST thanks to Chris for this interview and we have many more to read right here. :-)


  1. Awesome interview, Thx

    1. Thank you!!!!! :o You're more than welcome. I need to do more interviews....