Loading Atari Games From An SD Card


They’re not a 2600, but the Atari 400, 800 and 1200 are awesome computers in their own right. With only BASIC built in to the ROM, they’re not especially useful or fun, as [Jeroen] found out when he acquired an 800 with a broken tape drive. There are options that allow you to load emulator files from a PC, but [Jeroen] wanted something more compact. He came up with a way to load games and apps off an SD card using a simple microcontroller.

The 400, 800, and 1200 each have a port that allows the computer to talk to printers, modems, disk drives, and load games. There are already a few circuits around that connect the SIO port to a computer so games can be loaded, but [Jeroen] wanted a more compact and portable solution for his 800.

What he came up with is actually pretty simple; just an Arduino, SD card, and an LCD display that allows him to browse the directory on the SD card and load it into the 800’s memory.

A lot of folks over on the Atariage forums are really impressed with [Jeroen]’s work, and would like to get their hands on one of these boards themselves. The project isn’t done just yet – [Jeroen] still needs to make a case for his device – but hopefully he’ll be spinning a few boards up in the coming months.

You can see a pair of videos of the device in action below.


16 thoughts on “Loading Atari Games From An SD Card

  1. Awesome, got an 800XL a few weeks back for free. Someone was going to just toss it in the recycle box at work. Looked around for flash carts but the existing ones are not too friendly. I definately want to buy/build one of these. I wanna play M.U.L.E.!

    1. There should still be working disk drives about, and Atari released a LOT of games on ROM cartridge, compared to many other 8-bits that got none or hardly any. In the case of the Sinclair Spectrum, that didn’t matter. It had a ROM-cart add-on almost nobody used. But the tapes sensibly loaded 48k in about 4 minutes, vs Atari and Commodore that took about 30-40 minutes for roughly the same amount of data. WHY!?!?

      The Sinclair was all done in software too, of course, the cassette player connected to a pin on the ULA and the CPU just counted the interval between signal crossings. Compared to the rigmarole many American computers went thru. I think a lot of American 8-bits were designed with mainframe influences, using the right chip for each function. Sinclair went back to scratch and did it all with a couple of address lines and software.

      Not that I didn’t love my 65XE, the graphics were amazing in 1988 or so. In 1978 they’d have been jaw-dropping. Anyone else seen the Youtube vids of Wolfenstein 3D ported to the 8-bit Atari? You can download the game to play.

      ANYWAY, dunno if the rubber capstan rollers would have lasted on Atari tape players. The XEGS was the last of the Atari 8-bits, from about 1990. Compatible with 400 / 800 software mostly. So the tape drives from that will be 11 or 12 years younger than the first-gen ones.

      1. I played with C64 tape not really long ago nothing of what I have tried ever reached 30 minutes mark. Wiki says “Datasettes could typically store about 100 kByte per 30 minute side”, which makes it more like 10 minutes per average ~30kB game. Still stupidly slow, but 10 minutes is a much less painful wait than 30 minutes.

  2. Nothing fun about BASIC, I mean, it’s one of the easiest programming languages to learn, you can write your own programs, including games, but what fun is that? I mean, its not an arduino with a sketch or poorly written C program, way more fun to be had there….

  3. This program isn’t written in basic.
    My arduino acts as a floppydrive for my atari.
    The includes emulating the floppydrive on the arduino completely and getting the arduino to recognize the ATR and XEX file format

  4. What’s wrong with it not being a 2600? The 2600 was my first game system, but the 800 was my first computer.

    It’s on this I learned to program in BASIC, then later “Action!” and 6502 assembler. I had the official tech manual, with full hardware documentation, schematics, and ROM source code. It’s also what got me into electronics, building a ring detector for a modem that lacked one, and later a 256KB RAMDISK card. And of course running a BBS written from scratch was years of great fun.

    The 2600 was just a toy by comparison, never missed at all.

  5. always the same with this projects. all the time they are spread but people are not able to have a look or built their owns. sometimes the projects are only copies of existing projects. no links, no source, no pcb. funny. it sounds like the poland connection where the great amiga/atari st emulator is nothing else than a simple copy from another project someone works for nearly two years on it. finally a ARM based board with linux and amiga/atari st emulator – shame on you all! Btw. I hate project where vintage computers are destroyed due to builtin cards, solder additional hacks etc.

    1. “always the same with this projects. all the time they are spread but people are not able to have a look or built their owns.”

      How true your comment is. This post is not even 18 months old yet, and if you follow the link… the author has disappeared and so has his incompletely published work.

      Why can’t people just embrace the GPL, and publish things completely on GitHub?
      Free web hosting is where projects go to die, not live!

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