Atarimax "Maxflash" Flash MultiCarts

Preliminary Documentation, 07/10/2003

©2003 Steven J Tucker

Important Notice!

The software described below has been superceded by the new Maxflash Studio software application.

This software is still supported for advanced users, but all new users should try the Maxflash Studio suite located here before attempting to use these programs and scripts.

Chapter 6: Using the MaxFlash cartridge.

Table of Contents

  1. Introduction
  2. -EXEPACKER Cartridges (Multi-cart images)
  3. -DISKPACKER Cartridges (Disk-cart conversions)
  4. -MEMPACKER Cartridges (A8S image unpackers)
  5. Custom Cartridge Images

Introduction

Depending on what software you program your cartridge with, it may have some special features that make it easier to use.

-EXEPACKER Cartridges (Multi-cart images)

8Mb Cartridge Menu

Screenshot of a typical -EXEPACKER generated multicart.

System Requirement

There are no special system requirements for using a MultiCart image created with the -EXEPACKER option.

The -EXEPACKER menu software will operate on any Atari computer, even a 16K Atari 400.

Cartridge Bypass

If you hold down the OPTION key while turning on the computer, the cartridge will disable itself and allow the disk boot to proceed normally.

This feature is designed to allow you to easily re-program your cartridge without having to resort to tricks like plugging it in while the computer is running.

Only cartridges created with the standard conversion tools will have this option. If you have programmed your cartridge with code that does not contain the bypass feature, see the chapter on Programming Your Cartridge for more information on how to reprogram it.

Software Selection

Multi-carts created with this option have a built-in text menu to allow software selection either by Joystick or Keyboard.

Joystick Navigation

You can use a joystick plugged into port #1 to select a title from the multicart.

UpUp one selection
DownDown one selection
LeftUp one page
RightDown one page
ButtonStart program

Keyboard Navigation

The Atari arrow keys can be used to navigate the menu. You do not need to hold CONTROL down when pressing the arrow keys.

UpUp one selection
DownDown one selection
LeftUp one page
RightDown one page
ReturnStart program
SpaceStart program

In addition to directional navigation, each menu item shown on screen has a letter to the left of the selection enclosed in brackets.

You can start any program immediately by pressing the letter associated with it.

The program does not have to be shown on the screen at the time you select it, so if know your favorite game is selection <X>, you can just press X as soon as the menu appears to start it.

Cartridge Reset Time

Unlike a standard mask-rom cartridge, your flash cartridge contains its own bank switching, programming and state memory.

When you turn off the computer and then back on again to restart, be sure to leave it turned off for a few seconds so the cartridge can forget its previous settings and start normally.

-DISKPACKER Images (Disk cartridges)

Cartridge Bypass

If you hold down the OPTION key while turning on the computer, the cartridge will disable itself and allow the disk boot to proceed normally.

This feature is designed to allow you to easily re-program your cartridge without having to resort to tricks like plugging it in while the computer is running.

Only cartridges created with the standard conversion tools will have this option. If you have programmed your cartridge with code that does not contain the bypass feature, see the chapter on Programming Your Cartridge for more information on how to reprogram it.

System Requirement

Disk conversion cartridges generated automatically with the -DISKPACKER option require an XL/XE series computer to operate.

Using a cartridge programmed with a -DISKPACKER image on a 400 or 800 (non XL/XE) computer will just result in the cartridge not being recognized as valid. You can still erase and re-program the cartridge in these machines.

If your cartridge is programmed with a custom disk conversion, the system requirements will depend on how the code for that image was written.

Booting the Cartridge

Cartridges created with the -DISKPACKER option are fully self-booting.

Just insert the cartridge into any XL/XE series computer and turn it on normally. Do not hold down the OPTION key to disable BASIC, this will trigger the cartridges built in bypass feature.

Any configuration options set in the cartridge when its image was created, for example, enable/disable BASIC, enable/disable 800 OSB Translator, etc, will be configured automatically by the cartridge software.

Disk Bypass

The built in driver for -DISKPACKER cartridges replaces the normal OS access to Drive #1 with access to the cartridge rom.

You can still access the normal Atari Drive #1, for example to save/restore a game, by holding down the OPTION and SELECT keys during disk access.

For example, if you are playing Enchanter on a flash cartridge and want to save your game, just proceed normally but when prompted to 'Press Return to Begin' hold down the OPTION+SELECT combination and press RETURN.

Do not release OPTION+SELECT until you are prompted to re-insert the game diskette.

Side Reset

One of the advanced features of the -DISKPACKER option allows for 2-sided disk games that use less than the total capacity of the cartridge to be packed onto a 1Mb flash cartridge.

For example, the game Enchanter by Infocom is packed using this method. Both sides of the game disk reside on the cartridge, and the change from side 1 to side 2 is handled automatically as part of the cartridge creation configuration.

However, you may wish at some point to switch the cartridge back to 'side 1'. For example you would be prompted to re-insert 'side 1' if you were to type 'RESTART' to restart Enchanter.

You can force the disk driver to reset the cartridge to 'side 1' by holding the SELECT and START keys during disk access.

For example, you type 'RESTART' in Enchanter and are prompted to 'Re-insert disk 'Side 1' and press RETURN'.

Hold down the SELECT+START combination and press RETURN.

Unlike the OPTION+SELECT bypass, you do not need to continue holding SELECT+START after the disk access begins. Just hold it while pressing RETURN, then release it.

Post-boot Cartridge Disable

If you want for any reason to completely disable the flash cartridge 'romdisk' driver and disable the cartridge, you can do so by pressing START, SELECT, and OPTION together during any disk access.

If you disable the cartridge using the START+SELECT+OPTION method, it cannot be re-enabled except by powering the computer off and then back on.

Cartridge Reset Time

Unlike a standard mask-rom cartridge, your flash cartridge contains its own bank switching, programming and state memory.

When you turn off the computer and then back on again to restart, be sure to leave it turned off for a few seconds so the cartridge can forget its previous settings and start normally.

-MEMPACKER (A8S Memory Unpacker Cartridge)

Cartridge Bypass

If you hold down the OPTION key while turning on the computer, the cartridge will disable itself and allow the disk boot to proceed normally.

This feature is designed to allow you to easily re-program your cartridge without having to resort to tricks like plugging it in while the computer is running.

Only cartridges created with the standard conversion tools will have this option. If you have programmed your cartridge with code that does not contain the bypass feature, see the chapter on Programming Your Cartridge for more information on how to reprogram it.

System Requirement

A8S unpacker cartridges will work on any machine.

If the -UNDEROS option was specified during creation to unpack memory under the XL/XE OS, then an XL/XE computer will be required to use that cartridge.

Booting the Cartridge

Cartridges created with the -MEMPACKER option are fully self-booting.

Just insert the cartridge into any XL/XE series computer and turn it on normally. Do not hold down the OPTION key to disable BASIC, this will trigger the cartridges built in bypass feature.

Any configuration options set in the cartridge when its image was created, for example, enable/disable BASIC, enable/disable 800 OSB Translator, etc, will be configured automatically by the cartridge software.

Custom Cartridge Images

Your flash cartridge is designed to by flexible. That flexibility includes the ability for it to be programmed with any code someone might come up with.

For example, the cartridge created in the Mule Cartridge Tutorial is an example of a custom conversion. In this case a disk game was converted manually with special code that allows it to function without the kits disk-cartridge driver, and therefore work even on non XL/XE computer systems.

If you have programmed your cartridge with a custom created flash image, none of the above bypass tricks may work.

Check with the person who created the image to determine the correct way to use the resulting cartridge.