How To Connect an Atari Portfolio to a Modern Computer

I recently stumbled over the Atari Portfolio. It is the first handheld computer, released in 1989. It runs a (compatible) version of DOS 2.11 and is a sheer beauty!

I got one on eBay to play with it, and soon realized that it’s mainly a pretty plastic brick as you have hard time accessing it with modern computers.

It uses an extinct memory cards (BEE cards) as storage. You can copy data on it with an additional parallel interface. And if you manage to get one of these you need to find a way to connect to the parallel port.

Fortunately, the Portfolio’s file transfer protocol was reverse engineered by Klaus Peichl and documented. He also wrote a modern version of the DOS file transfer program called Transfolio which runs on Win, Mac & Linux. And this was ported to run on Raspberry Pi as well.

Thus, the easiest way to get get data on the Portfolio is using a Raspberry Pi – connecting the Pi’s GPIO pins to the parallel port.

To do this you need:

  • A Raspberry Pi (I used an old Pi Zero WH)
  • a male DB 25 breakout adapter
  • and a few male-female breadboard wires

Connect the following Pi pins  to the DB25 parallel port using the breadboard wires:

  • GPIO4 – 3
  • GND (#9) – 25
  • GPIO17 – 2
  • GPIO27 – 12
  • GPIO22 – 13

Next, setup the Pi and compile Transfolio. Install Raspbian Pi Buster Lite on the Pi as later versions will not work (they are missing wiringPi).

When you are done, connect to the Pi and enter the following commands:

sudo apt-get update
sudo apt-get upgrade
sudo apt-get install git git-core
sudo apt install wiringpi=2.50
git clone https://github.com/skudi/transfolio.git
cd transfolio
make rpfolio
chmod +x rpfolio
sudo cp rpfolio /usr/local/bin/
cd
sudo rm -r transfolio

Aftwards you have a rpfolio command on the Pi.

Consider installing SAMBA on the Pi and share a network folder to make copying easier.

Turn on the Portfolio, enter the System / Data Transfer / Server mode and type in rpfolio on the Pi to get the help text.

Now you can start playing with your Portfolio… and so will I.