Readers' Letters



Issue 12

Nov/Dec 84

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Dear Les,

Most people who own an Atari computer have experienced the famous `Atari lock- up' bug where the keyboard will cease to allow you to type anything even if you press system reset. Usually it occurs when deleting a line or part of a line near the beginning of a program. All you can do is switch off and start again.

The 400 and 800 models do it but what about the XL range? I tried a 600XL out in a store last Christmas and the same thing happened. Nevertheless I traded in my 400 for a 600XL elsewhere and Atari promised me that the new range did not have the lock up problem, but my local Service Centre tells me that the new range is just as bad and my machine is just as bad. In fact I have a program that I can make two alterations to and it will lock up every time.

It seems unbelievable that a company like Atari could continue to make a product with a fault for over four years and then launch a new model with the same problem. I have phoned Atari but they still insist that I am wrong and yet even their own Independent Service Centre disagree!

Stephen Taylor,


* There are still some bugs in the XL but Atari insist that the original lockup problem, which was a bug in BASIC, was cured. There were however several (thousand?) 600XL's released just before last Christmas that had a faulty chip causing a very similar lock-up problem. This became known as the `maths pack lock-up' and Atari exchanged all machines that had the fault. It could be that your machine is one of these. There again it could be that the bug is still in BASIC for Atari have now released, in the States, a Revision C BASIC on cartridge for the XL series. Owners in America can get a copy by quoting their serial number and sending $15 to the Customer Relations department. Wouldn't it be nice if Atari UK made this available but seeing as we never saw the Revision B Operating System or the Revision B BASIC there seems little hope.



Dear Les,

Thanks for publishing my program House of Secrets. I even had someone phone who had typed it in successfully to compliment me on what a good program it is!!

The reason for writing is that several people had problems in fitting in some of the long lines such as 318. The answer is to POKE 82,0 before typing and leave out all spaces between the commands or numbers, e.g. line 318 would look like 318ONX GOSUB350,400 etc.

You can also abbreviate commands with the exception of ON GOSUB or ON GOTO which produce errors.

I think these hints are worth mentioning as they are useful tips on their own.

David Blease,


* There is also one line in the program which ends in quotes and will not go in even with all these tricks. The answer is to leave off the final quotes, they will be inserted automatically when you LIST or RUN the program.



Dear PAGE 6,

The following points may be of interest in reply to Roy Lynch's letter in issue 10 concerning Pole Position.

It is possible to complete a full eight lap race on the Atari GP circuit as we have done it dozens of times registering a top score so far of 113,200 in an overall time of 460.59 seconds. The technique is simply to slow down as and when necessary (very frustrating) with a view to keeping the `Bonus Time' counter below 39 seconds up to lap 5 and under 34 seconds on lap 5 and above as you cross the line.

The time mentioned above was achieved with the aid of what we call 'the Boost', a situation where your speed goes over and beyond the standard maximum of 195 mph and something that seems to occur randomly during game play on Atari GP level. We have recorded speeds up to 233 mph with the aid of this feature in qualifying laps. We would be very interested to learn of anyone else who has come across this and what speeds they have achieved.

We have also noticed that it is just possible to squeeze between a car and a signboard when overtaking on the outside on a bend but we have also come across a slight bug in the program in that if you go onto the grass around the inside of bend 3, the front end of a 'mystery car' shoots in at the bottom right of the screen for about 1 seconds.

This superb game has given us hours and hours of interest and excitement. If you have not already bought it, do so!

Marc Duffield and Christopher Barlow,




Dear Les,

I am just getting into Adventures and found issue 10 excellent. I also like the new listing format, MUCH easier to read.

Readers who do not have paddles might be interested in the following modification to SPINNER:

400 POKE 705,A:POKE 706,B:POKE 707,C: A=PEEK(706): B=PEEK(707): C=PEEK(705)

401 FOR D=0 TO SP

402 IF PEEK(53279)=3 THEN SP=SP-1

403 IF PEEK(53279)=5 THEN SP=SP+1

404 IF SP<0 THEN SP=0

405 IF SP>20 THEN SP=20

406 NEXT D:POKE 77,0

407 IF PEEK(53279)=6 THEN F=F+2:B=0:C=0:POKE 708,F:IF F>252 THEN F=0

410 IF PEEK(53279)=6 THEN F=F+2:A=F:B=0:C=0:POKE 708,F:IF F>252 THEN F=0

420 GOTO 400

This enables you to change the speed by using the OPTION and SELECT keys.

Peter Boulter,





Dear Les,

I recently had two problems with my 800 which other readers may experience and if they are handy with a soldering iron and a screwdriver they can easily save themselves a lot of money on repairs.

The first fault was an intermittent loss of power which came back on a random basis when you fiddled with the cables, the on/off switch and the lid. The problem was a faulty microswitch on the lid which is easily accessed by removing the top of the computer. The switch is a push fit plus three solder joints. It cost me 26 to have this repaired at a Service Centre but a microswitch costs only 92p!

The second fault was a computer lock-up, again on a random basis, followed by the screen going bright yellow or dark red. The only way to regain control was to push the BASIC cartridge in and then gently withdraw it as turning the computer off and on had no effect. The problem was a loose chip. All you have to do is to unscrew about 14 screws and pull two connectors, lightly push all the IC's into their sockets and then put the computer back together again. Just remember which order you took it apart!

Obviously do-it-yourself repairs are not recommended if the unit is still under warranty but why pay someone else to just push a few chips back into their sockets!

John Dimmer,

Elgin, Scotland




Dear Les,

I recently had a problem on my 400 which may have occurred on other users machines and the solution, being very simple, may help others.

After I had typed in a program, I LISTed it okay but when I came to run it all sorts of nasty things happened so I LISTed it again to find that the listing had turned into a load of garbage with REM statements and lines which made no sense at all. I corrected the lines and re-ran it but the same thing happened. I took the machine to a Service Centre who kept it for a week and then told me that diagnostic tests revealed nothing wrong with the computer. I asked if it could be the BASIC cartridge so the engineer had a look. He pushed a small screwdriver into the bottom of the cartridge to enable the guard to be moved back to reveal the contacts which were absolutely filthy. The remedy was to use a good quality pencil eraser and rub gently along the contacts until they shone like new again. This cured the problem which has never occurred again.

B. Sutcliffe,


* 800 owners should also do this on their Rampacks and OS board to cure any similar problems. Often just removing and reseating the boards or BASIC cartridge cures all sorts of strange problems.



Dear Les,

One of the weakest links in the Atari Computer System is the 410 cassette with its frequent inability to load boot tapes.

Various solutions have been proposed and the most definitive article appeared in ANTIC February 1984 Vol.2 No. 11 pages 76-77 which reiterated and developed a similar article in ANTIC April 1983. A supplementary reference may be found in the article "Top Ten" from ANTIC July 1983 Vol.2 No.4 pages 90-91.

In essence one must replace two resistors of 240 K ohm and 330 K ohm which have a tolerance of 10% or 5% with the same resistors of 1% tolerance. They are apparently available from Maplin Electronics - see page 326 of their 1984 Buyers Guide.

So far, so good - but then in "Tangle Angles" ANTIC April 1984 Vol.3 No.1 page 103 in Mr Ratcliff's letter headed "Look for Gold Rings", mention is made of replacing six resistors!

Can anyone clarify this? How many resistors require replacement and are they readily locatable on the printed circuit board?

Kevin Fleming,

73, Woodend Cres., Aberdeen, AB2 6YQ


* I don't know the answer. Over to you more technical readers.



Dear Les,

Thanks for the `Reset Routines' in issue 11 and in response to your appeal for an XL fix, here goes.

Replace all occurrences of the inverse $ and inverse lower case v in the machine code string with inverse 0 (zero) and inverse lower case r respectively. What you have done is to replace the illegal `Put character' routine (EOUTCH) entry address with the new address used by the XL O.S. The EOUTCH address has been moved from $F6A4 to $F2B0.

Those readers who prefer to read in decimal DATA rather than risk typing in weird looking strings should change the equivalents of the above hex addresses i.e. low byte address 164 becomes 176 and high byte address 246 becomes 242.

XL computers should now return to the protected program when System Reset is depressed.

John F. Foden,



We received a bumper crop of letters this issue! Many thanks to all who wrote. Keep your letters coming as other readers like to hear of your Atari experiences. We also received a very interesting letter from Alan Sharpies on the question of copying utilities and hope to publish this and a reply next issue.