The origin of the 576NUC+ starts with mytek and his idea for the iTari game console- an Atari 8-bit system board that would fit in a miniature compact Macintosh case using an embedded S-Drive Max as the screen and storage for the console. The concept for the iTari was announced in April 2020 on AtariAge.
In order to be portable yet compatible the iTari would be based on the smallest and simplest design of the 8-bit line: the XEGS. It would use the S-Drive Max to hold the software necessary to play games on a SD card. It would be a tiny complete 8-bit system that was simple enough for anyone to use and inexpensive to make.
When the FujiNet dropped on the scene its rapid development and explosion of features caught mytek’s eye. But it was the ease of working with the FujiNet team that was about to change the direction of the iTari forever.
NUC stands for Next Unit of Computing- a design from Intel that attempted to shrink and simplify the x86 computing experience down to the smallest form factor available. With some tweaks and a FujiNet board mytek realized the iTari could become an NUC sized device for the Atari.
The Fujinet would amplify the NUC+ design in dramatic ways- not only would it have the local storage mytek wanted with the on-board SD card the FujiNet would transform the iTari game console concept into a complete, miniature Atari 8-bit. First, the FujiNet provides the peripheral support for an Atari – serial, disk, cassette, and even printer emulation. Second it provides an entire platform to connect the Atari to the modern world of computing via it’s WIFI and networking capabilities. The ESP32 system in the FujiNet provides an entire co-computing system to offload complex loads and buffer the Atari from the complexity and resources required for modern networked computing. Connectivity scenarios not even imagined would be achievable with a FujiNet integrated right into the NUC+. And so it was. As an option board designed expressly for the NUC+ the mytek FujiNet board allows the NUC+ to remain self-contained and be connected to the larger world of available software and services via the Internet.
The NUC+ design didn’t stop with just a FujiNet integration- it took the XEGS design and expanded it in subtle and capable ways, maintaining the space constraints designed into the NUC+ spec. Mytek had a wealth of goodies he could imbue the NUC+ with. The TK-II keyboard interface was integrated to allow the use of PS/2 keyboards, careful video design allowed crystal clear video and sound output, VGATE circuits allow properly formatted video for authentic retro experience, expanded ROM allows multiple choices of OS and BASIC environments, and the expanded RAM and patched OS gives over 500 kilobytes for the NUC+. SIO and dual joystick ports with the flexibility for future cartridge expansion provide the totality of the classic Atari 8-bit experience without emulation.
When I started this little NUC thing, it was to get my mind off of the whole Covid induced isolation, and do something fun and distracting instead. And… I also wanted something that I could gift to my grandson when he gets old enough to appreciate it. Pretty soon I can check this one off my to do list.
– Michael St. Pierre on AtariAge thread
A team was formed- led my mytek- and eventually the NUC+ design emerged as we know it today. The team pitched in- prototyping, case design and printing, board builds, FujiNet design and integration, testing, and more testing. The core team dove in during those dark days of COVID in 2020 to develop, design, and test the 576 NUC+ in record time. Everyone on the team wanted this amazing device to work. Everyone reading about it wanted one to build or buy. In June of 2020 (just over a month after the iTari announcement) mytek showed images of completed NUC+ prototype boards on AtariAge. The thread exploded with comments. The project was well under way.
November 1, 2020, mytek announced in that thread that The Brewing Academy would be selling assembled systems when they were ready. The testing team already had working test systems and shakedown was on-going for the new system. By the end of November Dr. Venkman was posting images showing the NUC in BASIC and playing Galaxian. Mr. Robot had Fujinet prototype boards connected to it pulling images from servers. Early in 2021 mytek focused on completing the NUC+ and rather than chasing the AtariAge threads started a blog to document his work. There is a gap in the thread from January thru March 2021. The NUC+ work had gone underground.
By March 2021 mytek had developed a few iterations of his NUC-FujiNet board, completed his careful design of the video circuity “which is very near to UAV quality“ and released schematics to the public domain—but not the gerbers. Mytek was adamant about not wanting to support the DIY builds of the board as they were not necessary with retail builds by The Brewing Academy available soon. The gerbers were promised later in the year. Mytek posted updates on the blog and some information percolated over to AtariAge. Meanwhile, Mr. Robot began designing cases that incorporated cartridge slots, using a newly designed 2nd generation FujiNet/Cartridge design which came from a close collaboration between Robot and mytek.
Debugging, coding, and patching the OS to take advantage of the NUC+ features wrapped up quickly- this wasn’t the first XEGS based system mytek had built. The team tested and debugged. Fixed code and re-burned ROMs, and then started testing all over again. They got the NUC+ ready to ship.
In mid-June 2021 The Brewing Academy was ready with fully assembled retail versions, and on June 11 I myself made a purchase of the very first retail 576 NUC+. I’ve been enjoying it so much I committed to writing this guide and short history to inform others about the work done by the team to create the NUC+. The NUC+ with integrated FujiNet will be an enabling device that gives both experienced users and new generation of hackers a reliable and inexpensive platform to enjoy, explore, and hack on the simple and elegant designs of the Atari platform. Plus, it plays a lot of games and demos.
Contributors to the 576 NUC+ Project
The core team and their contributions enabled the 576 NUC to evolve into a finished product.
• Michael St. Pierre (mytek) – creator of the 576 NUC+, 1088XEL/XLD, TK-II, TK-II Stereo, joy2pic, mouseAtari and many other hardware upgrades for the Atari 8bits.
• Jurgen van Radecke (tf_hh) – instrumental in development of both the 512kb extended memory circuit and EMMU PLD code, and a patched version of the stock XEGS OS.
• Stephen Anderson (Stephen) – created and coded the animated rainbow 576 logo
• Steve Boswell (Mr Robot) – created the attractive case designs, collaborated on the FujiNet board and the FujiNet/Cartridge board.
• Orpheuswaking – extensive testing, feedback, playtesting and more testing.
• DrVenkman – advice, feedback, extensive testing, and more testing.
• Marlin Bates (MacRorie) – builder and enabler, donated many parts to the beta testers, he committed early to assemble and sell the retail version of the 576 NUC (via The Brewing Academy). You can purchase one from him today.
Additional thanks to:
• Hias for his HSIO patch.
• Avery Lee for his excellent Altirra Fast Math pack and Altirra BASIC.
• The Fujinet Core Team for creating the FujiNet and helping with the Fujinet-NUC design
The FujiNet team itself is composed of these primary contributors:
• Mozzwald – hardware guru for FujiNet, designed the modem code and with Thom was co-inventor of FN. Started with just an idea of a wifi modem for Atari…
• Thom Cherryhomes – co inventor of FN, thought leader, demo master, c wrangler, assembly mangler, and creator of the N: network device and countless videos explaining how to use the FujiNet
• Oscar Fowler – implemented the arduino to platformio code conversion and provided lots of functionality
• Jeff Piepmeier – designed and coded printing and cassette emulation
• Steve Boswell (Mr Robot) – designed prototype PCBs and helped with case design, provided many prototype builds.
• Montezuma – contributed the sio2bt code enabling additional wireless options.
You can buy a 576 NUC today at The Brewing Academy:
More info about these projects:
Note: this document has undergone a number of minor revisions in order to make it more accurate and easier to read.