Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Atarimax Maxflash Cartridges (Atari 800XL Accessory)

So Steve at Atarimax is one of the greats when it comes to adapting new technology for use with old technology. Most of his contributions have been to the Atari community, though he has made an awesome product for the Colecovision as well. He was the one who invented the SIO2PC cable which allows me to boot disk images from my PC to my Atari 800XL, or write disk images to actual 5 1/4" disks with my 1050 Disk Drive (for nerd cred I have to mention that my SIO2PC is the serial version. There was no USB version when I bought it. The only way that could be more hardcore would be if I bought the terminal rather than the SIO jack version. Feel free to take a moment and genuflect at my nerdliness). He also programmed APE (Atari Peripheral Emulator) which is the program that allows me to mount disk and cartridge images. All of these software and hardware innovations have breathed new life into the world of 8-bit Atari computing. I recently picked up one of his Maxflash cartridges along with the programming kit, and it has changed the way I use my Atari 800XL...again.

The thing about cartridges is that they work better than disks. They're more durable, they boot faster, and they don't require extra cords and power supplies. You just plug 'em in and they work. So when Steve developed programmable multicarts for the 8-Bit Atari, I immediately added them to my nerd wish list. It took me a while to break down and buy it, but I'm so glad I did.

You need three things to be able to write and rewrite your own custom multicarts for your 8-bit Atari: the programmer cartridge, a flash cartridge, and the maxflash studio software. Here's how easy it is to program the carts: 1) Open the Maxflash Studio software 2) Plug the flash cart into the programmer and the programmer into an open USB port 3) Select the games you want to be on the cartridge 4) Click "Synchronize Cart." The cart will take about 10 seconds to program (more or less depending on the number of games you include and the size of your flash cart) and you're done. Stick it in the cartridge slot of your 8-bit Atari and select the game you want to play with your joystick. You'll be amazed how fast the cartridge works and how quickly the games boot up. You can write all sorts of Atari images to the carts (.atr .rom .exe, etc.) but I prefer .xex files. It seems like I can fit more of them on a cart. Need some .xex Atari games? Look here or here.

So now you know that you need a Maxflash cartridge and the programming kit (sold separately) and the only question is whether to buy the 8-Megabit (not Megabyte) or 1-Megabit cartridge. I bought the 1 Megabit because it was cheaper, but immediately wished I had bought the 8 Megabit. You can fit 6-8 games on a 1 Megabit cart, but you can squeeze 50 or more games on an 8 Megabit cart. You want the 8 Megabit and the Programmer kit. You may have to save a few more pennies, but it's worth it. Oh, and you can save your custom multicart files so you can load the same menus full of games time and time again. I'm telling you, this is a super awesome product. It helps you play Atari games quickly and easily. I've found that some games that lag during play if I load them from disk are much faster and smoother when loading from the Maxflash cart. I love everything about these carts and I will be buying another when I'm done buying parts for the computer I'm using to type this sentence. Steve at Atarimax is a nice dude who has always had great customer service for all his products, and no, he didn't pay me to say that. I'm just an Atari fan who has found that he is the champ of champs when it comes to new tech for the 8-bit Atari. I have given him my business before and I'll happily do it again.

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