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The software described below has been superceded by the new Maxflash Studio software application.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 3: Programming the cartridge

Table of Contents

  1. Introduction
  2. Programming the Cartridge
  3. Solving common programming issues


This document assumes you have already obtained or created a working flash cartridge programming image, either in ATR format or on floppy diskette.

If you are looking for instructions on how to make your own flash cartridge programming images, see the Chapter 5: Using the MaxFlash Software.

Programming the Cartridge

Step 1. Loading the flash programming image.

APE/SIO2PC users

Load the flash programming disk image into the Atari's virtual drive #1.

Floppy disk users

Insert the flash programming diskette into a 1050 or compatible disk drive set to drive #1.

Step 2. Starting the flash programming image.

Turn off your Atari computer and insert the flash cartridge to be programmed.

Hold down the OPTION key to bypass the contents of the flash cartridge and while holding OPTION, turn on the Atari computer to boot from the flash programming disk.

Once the flash programming disk has booted, you should be greeted with a screen similar to the one shown below.

Follow the on-screen prompts to erase and re-program your flash cartridge.

The name of the software shown Zork: The Great Underground Empire is the title entered by the person who created the flash programming image. Hopefully it will describe what you are about to put on your cartridge.

You will be asked to confirm that you really want to erase the contents of your cartridge. Once programming begins the entire process is automatic unless an error occurs.

Erase/programming time is quick, but also very dependent on how fast your Atari can get data into the computer that is to be placed on the cartridge.

Typically reprogramming time for the 1Mb cartridge is 1 to 2 minutes with standard rate SIO and APE/SIO2PC, much less if you are using a high speed OS modification like the APE Warp+ OS, and a little longer if loading from a real floppy disk.

Once your cartridge is completely programmed, turn off the Atari for at least 5 seconds, then turn it on again to test your cartridge.

If your flash cartridge image was created with the -diskpacker (disk cart) or -exepacker (multicart) option of the flash-cart software package, it will automatically set any required options for you when the computer it turned on.

For example there is no need to enable or disable BASIC when booting on an XL/XE machine, the cartridge software will take care of this.

Solving common cartridge programming problems.

Q: "I have inserted my flash cartridge into the computer, held OPTION, and turned it on, but the screen just remains black, or the cartridge software starts anyway. What should I do?"

A: The utilities included with the flash-cartridge to automatically generate multi-carts and disk carts will also place a bypass feature into the cartridge that allows the cartridge to be completely ignored when OPTION is held during startup.

If your cartridge was programmed with software that does not contain this special code, or its software was corrupted during a failed programming attempt, then the Atari will not know to disable the cartridge at startup.

To get around this potential problem, the flash-cartridge hardware and software have both been designed to make it possible to insert the cartridge while the computer is on, with a reduced chance of crashing the programming software.

Follow the programming procedure given above, but do NOT insert your flash cartridge yet.

When the flash cartridge programming software starts, it will complain about not being able to find the flash cartridge programming hardware.

Once this screen appears, insert your flash cartridge into the computer normally. And press Y on the Atari to restart the detection process.

If the Atari computer does freeze during the cartridge insertion, press the RESET key. In most cases this will cause the Atari to reboot, ignoring the flash cartridge, and programming can proceed.

In pretty much all cases, repeating the above procedure a few times will result in success. After you get used to re-programming your cartridge it will get easier to insert it without crashing the computer, as you develop a feel for the best way to do it.

Despite the careful design of the hardware and software to allow hot-plugging, some computers are harder to pull this off in than others, usually due to slightly (or very) dirty cartridge contacts in the computer, or a case design that restricts how quickly the cartridge can be inserted, such as in the 400, 800 and 1200XL models.

A few other tricks that can ease cartridge insertion are, in no particular order:

If everything fails, even the tricks of last resort, please e-mail me at for support.

Q: "When I start the programming sequence, the cartridge fails to erase."

A: Try erasing the cartridge a few more times. If the cartridge consistently fails to erase, but is successfully detected, try programming it in another computer.

If the cartridge consistently fails to erase and you have tried it in multiple computers, please e-mail with the model and TV standard of the Atari computer you are using.

Possible reasons for erase failure are:

Q: "The cartridge programs OK, but when I start it I don't get the expected results."

A: If you are using a pre-made cartridge image, check with the person/site you got it from to see if there are any special issues with it, like hardware requirements, memory requirements, etc. Remember, a flash cartridge image can contain ANY software at all, you could be trying to program something that someone has prepared specially for a specific setup.

You may also have a corrupted flash image as the result of a bad download, file corrupted at the source, etc.

If you have created your own flash programming image, did you remember to test your cartridge image in the emulator first?

Check your emulator settings to make sure they are sane and match the hardware you are trying to use the cartridge in.

If you create a cartridge image using the automatic conversion tools that works in the emulator but fails to run on the real hardware, please e-mail details to