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The Pill or Super Pill what does it do?


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#1 qix_maniac OFFLINE  

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Posted Fri Oct 8, 2010 10:44 PM

I recently acquired "the pill" ..looks like a cart with an on off switch on top.

can anyone tell me what it does in simple terms? not just a link to techy talk but a summary "for dummies" on what it does and it's purpose?

Thanks in advance.

#2 Rybags OFFLINE  

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Posted Fri Oct 8, 2010 10:55 PM

Quick answer - it allows part of your computer's RAM to act like ROM.

Long answer - you can copy A8 cartridges by hotswapping them into the machine and using a previously loaded program to write them to a disk file.
Then you can load them into RAM - since the addresses used by cartridges are the same as high memory in a 48K system, you can run non bank-switchable cartridges from RAM.

It didn't take the games makers long to catch on, so most game cartridges have hidden "self destruct code" that writes to addresses within the ROM space, which does nothing if running from ROM but will corrupt a RAM-based copy to the point where it'll either be crippled or just crash the system.

The switch on The Pill allows you to load such a cart copy, then it should prompt the user to switch it on which should write-protect the RAM area from $8000-$BFFF

It's also of use to cartridge developers - you can simulate a 16K ROM environment to test your programs during development. But of course in this day of emulation, plus the fact that practically every game from the old days was cracked, it's not so relevant.

The cartridge itself isn't anything revolutionary - I don't have one but would guess that all it does is detect if a Write operation is being attempted to $8000-$BFFF, and if it is, it triggers the relevant cartridge control lines to make the system think that a ROM is present there.
In doing so, that inhibits the access to system RAM, and the write occurs to the non-existant ROM on cartridge.

Edited by Rybags, Fri Oct 8, 2010 10:57 PM.


#3 qix_maniac OFFLINE  

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Posted Fri Oct 8, 2010 11:15 PM

Rybags,
thanks for taking the time to reply.

I'd like to try it out. I have a disk drive, various dos versions I can boot from; I have the pill and I have tons of cartridges...

but half of what you said does not compute...I'd need dummy step by step instructions :-)

Do I boot my system with the pill inserted? Do I boot from dos first? ...what is the first step?

sorry about all the dumb questions which are probably obvious to most of you.

my goal would be to take a cartridge like decathlon, and try to use pill and see if I can save it on a floppy...can anyone help with that step by step who has done it before?

Edited by qix_maniac, Fri Oct 8, 2010 11:17 PM.


#4 Rybags OFFLINE  

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Posted Fri Oct 8, 2010 11:53 PM

You'd need games with specifically made loaders because you need to have the cartridge disabled at first.

Then it would prompt the user to switch the cartridge "On" and at that point it could run the game.

I expect that the "Super Pill" probably automates the process - in theory they could just have added some extra circuitry so that the write protect could be switched by software instead of manually.

I don't know if there's any games downloadable that could run with The Pill.

I guess it would be easy enough to write a loader that'd let you try out 8 and 16K non-banked cartridge images with it though.

#5 carmel_andrews OFFLINE  

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Posted Sat Oct 9, 2010 5:59 AM

Something that rybags missed out, both versions of Pill will only work with standard 8/16k carts, they will not work with xegs carts of any oss carts that use more then 16k

#6 Rybags OFFLINE  

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Posted Sat Oct 9, 2010 6:39 AM

Then you can load them into RAM - since the addresses used by cartridges are the same as high memory in a 48K system, you can run non bank-switchable cartridges from RAM.


As usual, you didn't bother to read the thread properly.

#7 UNIXcoffee928 OFFLINE  

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Posted Sat Oct 9, 2010 7:10 AM

I remember that there was also a similar type of product called: "The Wedge". Did anyone here have one of these?

#8 Tempest OFFLINE  

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Posted Sat Oct 9, 2010 8:03 AM

Then you can load them into RAM - since the addresses used by cartridges are the same as high memory in a 48K system, you can run non bank-switchable cartridges from RAM.


As usual, you didn't bother to read the thread properly.

Please stop yelling at yourself. ;)

Tempest

#9 BillC OFFLINE  

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Posted Sat Oct 9, 2010 10:57 AM

I recently acquired "the pill" ..looks like a cart with an on off switch on top.

can anyone tell me what it does in simple terms? not just a link to techy talk but a summary "for dummies" on what it does and it's purpose?

Thanks in advance.

The instruction manual on what THE PILL does and how to use it can be found here.

The required boot disk images can be found here.

Bill

#10 atariksi OFFLINE  

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Posted Sat Oct 9, 2010 11:10 AM

I recently acquired "the pill" ..looks like a cart with an on off switch on top.

can anyone tell me what it does in simple terms? not just a link to techy talk but a summary "for dummies" on what it does and it's purpose?

Thanks in advance.


To add to info already provided since most cartridges are already available as files (.ROM), you can use a PC uploader to run on real machine with or without the pill cartridge. If the ROM is unprotected, you can usually just load it to appropriate address $8000...$BFFF and run it otherwise use the loader with the pill to override the protection. Here's one uploader that uses the parallel port and will upload .ROM files as well as normal binaries:

eBay Auction -- Item Number: 320600224696

#11 Atari8bitCarts OFFLINE  

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Posted Mon Aug 22, 2011 5:02 PM

Got one hoping to test out soon, when I have time.
Any suggestions or tricks?

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Edited by chrislynn5, Mon Aug 22, 2011 5:03 PM.


#12 kheffington OFFLINE  

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Posted Mon Aug 22, 2011 8:55 PM

Deleted posted by mistake sorry.

Edited by kheffington, Mon Aug 22, 2011 8:58 PM.


#13 kheffington OFFLINE  

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Posted Mon Aug 22, 2011 8:56 PM

Deleted posted in error.

#14 davemac OFFLINE  

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Posted Sun Jul 30, 2017 4:59 PM

Hi everyone,

 

Sorry to bring up such an old thread, but I bought an 800 back in the late 80's and the previous owner had managed to effectively build a Pill switch into the machine itself.  It is just a NAND gate, which connects the R/W line (R line of cart slot) via the gate to cart slot pins A & 14, presumably to change the base address. The in-line two-way double-pole switch sits between the 7400 chip and the cartridge slot's pins. If anyone would like to build one I'll sketch up a schematic.

 

Cheers,

Dave


Edited by davemac, Sun Jul 30, 2017 5:00 PM.


#15 AtariGeezer OFFLINE  

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Posted Sun Jul 30, 2017 5:09 PM

I did that to my 800 too back in 1984.  Still have it :)



#16 davemac OFFLINE  

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Posted Sun Jul 30, 2017 7:05 PM

I did that to my 800 too back in 1984.  Still have it :)

That's great! I decided to try it on my 400 tonight, and it works fine. Ironically, my 800 seems to have been done that year too! Sadly the 800 broke last week. It now needs a C015199 ROM and I think a bad 7805 regulator caused it. I'm getting a 6V output from it, which is very odd. I've heard that you can program your own ROMs as they were based on the 24C64 EPROM/PROM. It's early days yet.

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#17 scitari OFFLINE  

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Posted Sun Dec 16, 2018 6:18 PM

Thanks for this thread. I still have my Pill from back in the day and just did a blog post about it on Atari Projects. I wonder how many of these are still out there? I don't think they pop up on eBay very often.






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