Run a cartridge program

Typical use case: I want to play a game on cartridge, such as Pole Position.

Assuming that the whole system is powered off and all required cables properly connected:

  1. Turn on the TV or monitor.
  2. [Specific] On a 400, open the cartridge door (lid), remove any previously inserted cartridge. Insert yours. Close the cartridge door (lid).
  3. [Specific] On a 800, open the cartridge door (lid), remove any previously inserted cartridge in both Left & Right slots. Insert yours in the Left slot (unless explicitly designed for Right slot; only a handful of cartridges are). Close the cartridge door (lid).
  4. [Specific] On a 1200XL, 600XL/800XL, 65XE/130XE/800XE & XEgs, remove any previously inserted cartridge. Insert yours.
  5. Turn on the computer.
Run a cartridge program that also requires a floppy disk drive

Typical use case: I want to use a program on cartridge, that might use a diskette to store data.
Maybe AtariArtist, to store pictures on diskette? Maybe OSS Action!, to save a program on diskette?

Assuming that the whole system is powered off and all required cables properly connected:

  1. Turn on the TV or monitor.
  2. Insert your floppy disk drive #1 in the SIO chain and power it on. Insert a bootable DOS diskette in this floppy disk drive #1.
  3. [Specific] On a 400, open the cartridge door (lid), remove any previously inserted cartridge. Insert yours. Close the cartridge door (lid).
  4. [Specific] On a 800, open the cartridge door (lid), remove any previously inserted cartridge in both Left & Right slots. Insert yours in the Left slot (unless explicitly designed for Right slot; only a handful of cartridges are). Close the cartridge door (lid).
  5. [Specific] On a 1200XL, 600XL/800XL, 65XE/130XE/800XE & XEgs, remove any previously inserted cartridge. Insert yours.
  6. [Specific] On a XEgs, plug the external keyboard.
  7. Turn on the computer.
Load and run a BASIC program on tape

Typical use case: I want to play a game or run a program, which is in BASIC language, and stored on a cassette tape.

Note: In numerous users' manuals and in my own explanations (step #16 here), I mention that you have to press the "RETURN" key after a CLOAD, CSAVE, LOAD "C:", etc... when the computer beeps once or twice to ask you to press a key or two on the cassette tape player/recorder. In fact, it's just a habit, a convention. You can press any key except "BREAK". "RESET" will cancel the operation. "OPTION", "SELECT", "START" and "HELP" will have no effect.

Assuming that the whole system is powered off and all required cables properly connected:

  1. Turn on the TV or monitor.
  2. Insert your Atari cassette tape player/recorder in the SIO chain and power it on.
  3. Rewind the cassette tape and reset the counter to 000.
  4. [Optional] If you were instructed to go to "counter position 050" or "077" or something, do it now. Otherwise, leave the cassette tape at the 000 position.
  5. [Optional] If floppy disk drives are also needed for the session, drive "#1" must be powered on before the computer, and ready for use in the SIO chain with a bootable DOS diskette inserted.
  6. [Optional] If Atari 850 peripherals are needed for the session, turn the Atari 850 interface on. Then turn these peripherals on.
  7. [Specific] On a 400, open the cartridge door (lid), remove any previously inserted cartridge. Insert the Atari BASIC cartridge. Close the cartridge door (lid).
  8. [Specific] On a 800, open the cartridge door (lid), remove any previously inserted cartridge in both Left & Right slots. Insert the Atari BASIC cartridge in the Left slot. Close the cartridge door (lid).
  9. [Specific] On a 1200XL, remove any previously inserted cartridge. Insert the Atari BASIC cartridge.
  10. [Specific] On a 600XL/800XL, 65XE/130XE/800XE & XEgs, remove any previously inserted cartridge.
  11. [Specific] On a XEgs, plug the external keyboard.
  12. Turn on the computer.
  13. When the BASIC "READY" prompt appears, type CLOAD and press "RETURN" (unless requested otherwise – very unlikely – to use LOAD "C:", ENTER "C:" or RUN "C:" by the users' manual)
  14. The computer will beep once, informing you that you are expected to depress "PLAY" on the cassette tape player/recorder. One beep = one key to press.
  15. Depress "PLAY" on the cassette tape player/recorder.
  16. Press "RETURN" on the computer.
  17. The loading will start from the cassette tape, generating noises in the TV or monitor. If one is available, the soundtrack (music, recorded voices, instructions, commentary, etc) of the cassette tape will be played and heard through the TV's or monitor's speaker.
  18. Once the loading is completed, the BASIC "READY" prompt reappears. If any "ERROR" message is displayed before the "READY" prompt, then obviously something went wrong. Maybe the program is not written in BASIC but in another language? Maybe this is not a program and simply data? Maybe the reading failed because the tape is unreliable? Maybe the program actually starts at another position on the tape? If something went wrong, restart the procedure from step 1.
  19. Type RUN and press "RETURN" (unless requested otherwise – very unlikely – by the users' manual)
Load and run a program on tape (NOT a BASIC program)

Typical use case: I want to play a game or run a program, which is probably in machine language, and stored on a cassette tape.

Assuming that the whole system is powered off and all required cables properly connected:

  1. Turn on the TV or monitor.
  2. Insert your Atari cassette tape player/recorder in the SIO chain and power it on.
  3. Rewind the cassette tape and reset the counter to 000.
  4. [Optional] If you were instructed to go to "counter position 050" or "077" or something, do it now. Otherwise, leave the cassette tape at the 000 position.
  5. [Optional] If floppy disk drives are also needed for the session, drive "#1" must be powered on before the computer, and ready for use in the SIO chain with a bootable DOS diskette inserted.
  6. [Optional] If Atari 850 peripherals are needed for the session, turn the Atari 850 interface on. Then turn these peripherals on.
  7. [Specific] On a 400, open the cartridge door (lid), remove any previously inserted cartridge. Close the cartridge door (lid).
  8. [Specific] On a 800, open the cartridge door (lid), remove any previously inserted cartridge in both Left & Right slots. Close the cartridge door (lid).
  9. [Specific] On a 1200XL, 600XL/800XL, 65XE/130XE/800XE & XEgs, remove any previously inserted cartridge.
  10. [Specific] On a XEgs, plug the external keyboard.
  11. Press and hold the "START" key for 5 seconds while you turn the computer on.
  12. The computer will beep once, informing you that you are expected to depress "PLAY" on the cassette tape player/recorder. One beep = one key to press.
  13. Depress "PLAY" on the cassette tape player/recorder.
  14. Press "RETURN" on the computer.
  15. The loading will start from the cassette tape, generating noises in the TV or monitor. If one is available, the soundtrack (music, recorded voices, instructions, commentary, etc) of the cassette tape will be played and heard through the TV's or monitor's speaker.
  16. Once the loading is completed, the program will start automatically.
  17. If nothing happens after a while or if any "ERROR" message is displayed, then obviously something went wrong. Maybe the program is written in BASIC after all, not in machine language? Maybe this is not a program and simply data? Maybe the reading failed because the tape is unreliable? Maybe the program actually starts at another position on the tape? If something went wrong, restart the procedure from step 1.
  18. If it fails again, restart the procedure from step 1 but try pressing and holding both "START" & "OPTION" keys for 5 seconds while you turn the computer on. This will additionally disable the internal BASIC in the computers that have it.
Load and run a BASIC program on diskette

Typical use case: I want to play a game or run a program, which is in BASIC language, and stored on a diskette.

Note: Some commercial programs written in BASIC - which is rare, they are mostly written in machine language - will start by themselves without needing to load DOS first. If you want to try your luck, insert your program's diskette directly in step #2 instead of a DOS diskette. If the program starts by itself at step #10, that's great. If not, follow the steps below carefully.

Assuming that the whole system is powered off and all required cables properly connected:

  1. Turn on the TV or monitor.
  2. Insert your floppy disk drive #1 in the SIO chain and power it on. Insert a bootable DOS diskette in this floppy disk drive #1.
  3. [Optional] If Atari 850 peripherals are needed for the session, turn the Atari 850 interface on. Then turn these peripherals on.
  4. [Specific] On a 400, open the cartridge door (lid), remove any previously inserted cartridge. Insert the Atari BASIC cartridge. Close the cartridge door (lid).
  5. [Specific] On a 800, open the cartridge door (lid), remove any previously inserted cartridge in both Left & Right slots. Insert the Atari BASIC cartridge in the Left slot. Close the cartridge door (lid).
  6. [Specific] On a 1200XL, remove any previously inserted cartridge. Insert the Atari BASIC cartridge.
  7. [Specific] On a 600XL/800XL, 65XE/130XE/800XE & XEgs, remove any previously inserted cartridge.
  8. [Specific] On a XEgs, plug the external keyboard.
  9. Turn on the computer.
  10. When the BASIC "READY" prompt appears, the computer is ready to load a program from a diskette.
  11. If you already know the name of the BASIC program to load, say MYPROG.BAS, then remove the DOS diskette and insert your diskette into the floppy disk drive #1. Then type RUN "D1:MYPROG.BAS" to load & run the BASIC program MYPROG.BAS from drive #1 for instance. If you also have a drive #2, you can use it for convenience. Leave DOS in drive #1. Turn on drive #2, insert your diskette into drive #2 and type RUN "D2:MYPROG.BAS" instead.
  12. If you don't know the name of the program to load, then type DOS. With the assistance of DOS, explore the content of your diskette (ex: "A. DISK DIRECTORY" in Atari DOS 2.5). Find out the name of the program to want to load. Then exit to BASIC (ex: "B. RUN CARTRIDGE" in Atari DOS 2.5). Then proceed as explained above.
  13. If you just want to load your program without running it, type LOAD "D1:MYPROG.BAS" instead.
  14. Atari BASIC will return an Error #21 if MYPROG.BAS is not actually an Atari BASIC program [that was saved with the SAVE command]. Try this: NEW, then ENTER "D1:MYPROG.BAS". If it works, it means that MYPROG is actually a listing of a BASIC program, that was saved with the LIST command.
Load and run a commercial (autostart) program on diskette (NOT a BASIC program)

Typical use case: I want to play a game or run a program, which is probably in machine language, and stored on a diskette.
Commercial software is often on diskettes that start by themselves.

Assuming that the whole system is powered off and all required cables properly connected:

  1. Turn on the TV or monitor.
  2. Insert your floppy disk drive #1 in the SIO chain and power it on. Insert your diskette in this floppy disk drive #1.
  3. [Optional] If Atari 850 peripherals are needed for the session, turn the Atari 850 interface on. Then turn these peripherals on.
  4. [Specific] On a 400, open the cartridge door (lid), remove any previously inserted cartridge. Close the cartridge door (lid).
  5. [Specific] On a 800, open the cartridge door (lid), remove any previously inserted cartridge in both Left & Right slots. Close the cartridge door (lid).
  6. [Specific] On a 1200XL, 600XL/800XL, 65XE/130XE/800XE & XEgs, remove any previously inserted cartridge.
  7. [Specific] On a XEgs, plug the external keyboard.
  8. [Specific] On a 400, 800 or 1200XL, turn on the computer.
  9. [Specific] On a 600XL/800XL, 65XE/130XE/800XE & XEgs, press and hold the "OPTION" key for 5 seconds while you turn the computer on. This will disable the internal BASIC in these computers that have it.
  10. The loading will start from the diskette, generating noises or music in the TV or monitor.
  11. Once the loading is completed, the game or program will start automatically.
  12. If the game or program doesn't start after a while, if a DOS menu or prompt appears, or if any "ERROR" message is displayed, then obviously something went wrong. If you get a "BOOT ERROR" message, then the diskette simply does not contain the boot sectors required to launch the program. Maybe you inserted the diskette upside down, trying to use the "wrong" side? Maybe the program is written in BASIC after all, not in machine language? Maybe the diskette contains several programs? To understand what is going on, try booting a DOS diskette to examine the content of your diskette.
Load and run a program on a non-bootable diskette (NOT a BASIC program)

Typical use case: I want to play a game or run a program, which is probably in machine language, and stored on a diskette.
However, I need the assistance of DOS because the program does not start automatically.

Assuming that the whole system is powered off and all required cables properly connected:

  1. Turn on the TV or monitor.
  2. Insert your floppy disk drive #1 in the SIO chain and power it on. Insert a bootable DOS diskette in this floppy disk drive #1.
  3. [Optional] If Atari 850 peripherals are needed for the session, turn the Atari 850 interface on. Then turn these peripherals on.
  4. [Specific] On a 400, open the cartridge door (lid), remove any previously inserted cartridge. Close the cartridge door (lid).
  5. [Specific] On a 800, open the cartridge door (lid), remove any previously inserted cartridge in both Left & Right slots. Close the cartridge door (lid).
  6. [Specific] On a 1200XL, 600XL/800XL, 65XE/130XE/800XE & XEgs, remove any previously inserted cartridge.
  7. [Specific] On a XEgs, plug the external keyboard.
  8. [Specific] On a 400, 800 or 1200XL, turn on the computer.
  9. [Specific] On a 600XL/800XL, 65XE/130XE/800XE & XEgs, press and hold the "OPTION" key for 5 seconds while you turn the computer on. This will disable the internal BASIC in these computers that have it.
  10. The loading of DOS will start from the diskette, generating noises in the TV or monitor.
  11. Once the loading is completed, the DOS menu is displayed.
  12. Remove the bootable DOS diskette in the floppy disk drive #1 and insert your diskette.
  13. With the assistance of DOS, explore the content of your diskette (ex: "A. DISK DIRECTORY" in Atari DOS 2.5). Find out the name of the program to want to load. Very likely, it will have a ".COM" or ".EXE" file extension. If you get any error while trying to read your diskette, then maybe your diskette is formatted for another version of DOS? Try another DOS and restart from Step 1.
  14. Use the Atari DOS 2.5 "L. BINARY LOAD" command to run your program.
  15. If the game or program doesn’t start after a while, or if any "ERROR" message such as "BAD LOAD FILE" is displayed, then obviously something went wrong. Maybe the program is written in BASIC after all, not in machine language? Maybe the diskette contains several programs? Refer to the user manual to determine which program you are supposed to run.
Load BASIC alone

Typical use case: I want to write a BASIC program, and then surely save it on cassette tape.

Note: It will not be possible to use a floppy disk drive in this scenario. Other scenarios are available for this purpose.

Assuming that the whole system is powered off and all required cables properly connected:

  1. Turn on the TV or monitor.
  2. The worst-case scenario would be the inability to save your work later, because you cannot find a blank cassette tape to use. Play it safe. Find one or several cassette tapes that you are sure can be used to save your program.
  3. Insert your Atari cassette tape player/recorder in the SIO chain and power it on.
  4. Rewind the cassette tape and reset the counter to 000. Position it to wherever you intend to save your future program.
  5. [Optional] If Atari 850 peripherals are needed for the session, turn the Atari 850 interface on. Then turn these peripherals on.
  6. [Specific] On a 400, open the cartridge door (lid), remove any previously inserted cartridge. Insert the Atari BASIC cartridge. Close the cartridge door (lid).
  7. [Specific] On a 800, open the cartridge door (lid), remove any previously inserted cartridge in both Left & Right slots. Insert the Atari BASIC cartridge in the Left slot. Close the cartridge door (lid).
  8. [Specific] On a 1200XL, remove any previously inserted cartridge. Insert the Atari BASIC cartridge.
  9. [Specific] On a 600XL/800XL, 65XE/130XE/800XE & XEgs, remove any previously inserted cartridge.
  10. [Specific] On a XEgs, plug the external keyboard.
  11. Turn on the computer.
  12. When the BASIC "READY" prompt appears, the computer is ready and can use cassette tapes.
  13. You can now write a BASIC program, and save it regularly to a cassette tape as you progress, with CSAVE.
  14. The computer will beep twice, informing you that you are expected to depress both "PLAY" & "RECORD" on the cassette tape player/recorder. Two beeps = two keys to press.
  15. Depress both "PLAY" & "RECORD" on the cassette tape player/recorder.
  16. Press "RETURN" on the computer.
  17. The saving will start onto the cassette tape, generating noises in the TV or monitor.
  18. Once the saving is completed, a several-minute-long process, the BASIC "READY" prompt reappears. If any "ERROR" message is displayed before the "READY" prompt, then obviously something went wrong. Use an alternative cassette tape. Rewind it and reset the counter to 000. Position it to wherever you intend to save your future program. Try another CSAVE.
Load BASIC and also use a floppy drive

Typical use case: I want to write a BASIC program, and then surely save it on diskette.

Note: It is obviously possible to also use a cassette tape player/recorder in this scenario, simply because it's always possible. There are no pre-requisites to use a cassette tape player/recorder. Plug it when you need it, and use it.

Assuming that the whole system is powered off and all required cables properly connected:

  1. Turn on the TV or monitor.
  2. Insert your floppy disk drive #1 in the SIO chain and power it on. Insert a bootable DOS diskette in this floppy disk drive #1.
  3. [Optional] If Atari 850 peripherals are needed for the session, turn the Atari 850 interface on. Then turn these peripherals on.
  4. [Specific] On a 400, open the cartridge door (lid), remove any previously inserted cartridge. Insert the Atari BASIC cartridge. Close the cartridge door (lid).
  5. [Specific] On a 800, open the cartridge door (lid), remove any previously inserted cartridge in both Left & Right slots. Insert the Atari BASIC cartridge in the Left slot. Close the cartridge door (lid).
  6. [Specific] On a 1200XL, remove any previously inserted cartridge. Insert the Atari BASIC cartridge.
  7. [Specific] On a 600XL/800XL, 65XE/130XE/800XE & XEgs, remove any previously inserted cartridge.
  8. [Specific] On a XEgs, plug the external keyboard.
  9. Turn on the computer.
  10. When the BASIC "READY" prompt appears, the computer is ready and can use diskettes (& cassette tapes).
  11. The worst-case scenario would be the inability to save your work later, because you cannot find a formatted diskette with enough free space. Play it safe. Type DOS. With the assistance of DOS, format one or more diskettes at your disposal. Then exit to BASIC (ex: "B. RUN CARTRIDGE" in Atari DOS 2.5).
  12. You can now write a BASIC program, and save it regularly{1} to a diskette as you progress, with SAVE "D1:NEWPROG.BAS" to save your BASIC program NEWPROG.BAS (use any other file name, as you wish) on drive #1 for instance. If you also have a drive #2, you can use it for convenience. Leave DOS in drive #1. Turn on drive #2, insert your formatted diskette into drive #2 and type SAVE "D2:NEWPROG.BAS" instead.

{1} Atari BASIC does not check if a file of the same name already exists on the diskette. If a file of the same name already existed on the diskette, it will be overwritten. No warnings, no error messages.

Run the "Self-Test" program (XL/XE only)

Typical use case: I want to quickly check that the ROM & RAM, keyboard, display, sound of a computer I just bought is in working order.

Note: This embedded "Self-Test" program is not available in the 400/800 computers.

Assuming that the whole system is powered off and all required cables properly connected:

  1. Turn on the TV or monitor.
  2. Remove any previously inserted cartridge.
  3. [Specific] On a 1200XL, turn on the computer and then press the "HELP" key when the Atari Rainbow Logo appears.
  4. [Specific] On a XEgs, plug the external keyboard.
  5. [Specific] On a 600XL/800XL, 65XE/130XE/800XE & XEgs, press and hold the "OPTION" key for 5 seconds while you turn the computer on.
  6. You are now in the "Self-Test" program.
Run "Missile Command" (XEgs only)

Typical use case: I want to use the "Missile Command" game embedded in the XEgs.

Note: This "Missile Command" game is only embedded in the XEgs. But you can play "Missile Command" in any computer if you have a cartridge version of the game. See the appropriate scenario to learn how to run a cartridge program.

Assuming that the whole system is powered off and all required cables properly connected:

  1. Turn on the TV or monitor.
  2. Remove any previously inserted cartridge.
  3. If the external keyboard is not connected, simply turn on the XEgs computer. Otherwise, press and hold the "SELECT" button on the XEgs computer while you turn it on.

Knowledge base article: kb-howto-0002-atari-8bit-how-to-run-a-program-on-tape-disk-cartridge-classic-scenarios.
REV. 012.

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