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Checkbook Cartridge #CXL8001


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#126 Chris Strong OFFLINE  

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Posted Fri Feb 24, 2012 8:12 PM

There doesn't appear to be any disk i/o done after you see the prompt and press any key. It just cold starts the machine. I did try using a disk with DOS files on it. DOS.SYS boots like you would expect, and then the cartridge takes over and gives you the prompt, then does a cold start. That behaviour, combined with the clearing of parts of DOS memory, and the jumps into RAM, make me think that the disk that goes with this is a BOOT disk, that actually loads code into RAM.


I think you are correct. Again, I wondered if it was like the Educational System cartridge.

Perhaps they did this for copy protection... ??


Not in 1980. I can't think of any Atari program from that era with copy protection, but I could be wrong. But all they needed to to was show the sectors as unused in the block at 360 and they had copy protection that was good enough for the time.

If this proves to be the case, my guess would be for reasons of memory...perhaps to keep it in 16K? But that is only a guess. It may have just been a proof-of-concept thing that never got any further.

PS. I'm tempted to put an AUTORUN.SYS on the disk that loads code in at $1403, and puts $22 at $2295. The cartridge should then execute the code at $1403. :)


Good plan, I say go for it. I'm probably going to let you guys take it from here, I don't really have the time for this project now, nor the energy to deal with some of the users on this site.

The Personal Financial Management System software I posted above dates from 1981, I wanted to mention that. So that makes sense that if this was shelved in 1980, and the new one came out in '81, it fits.

The "Atari Accountant" is mentioned in the disk-version of the In-Store Demo, but not the cartridge version. So that also pegs all this work as being very early.

My guess is that the Accountant and whatever-this-was were shelved by 1980, and PFMS perhaps only sold for a year or so. Aside from The Atari Word Processor and Speed Reading, all of the neat "Binder" programs were dropped. That's sad because they are really classy; you don't see that kind of thing in the early PC's to this degree until the later boxed IBM manuals.

I don't know if we'll ever figure out what this was intended to be, but I'm going to stand by my guess that the label was a photo or trade-show prop for a project headed by the same person (or team, but at Atari a lot of the products were headed by one programmer), and then the shell was reused for this project, which eventually was rewritten into the PFMS software which was also shelved after a short life. And of course Accountant was later rewritten into The Bookkeeper, which although I love it, was also a flop.

So those are my thoughts on it.

#127 Shawn Jefferson OFFLINE  

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Posted Fri Feb 24, 2012 8:32 PM


There doesn't appear to be any disk i/o done after you see the prompt and press any key. It just cold starts the machine. I did try using a disk with DOS files on it. DOS.SYS boots like you would expect, and then the cartridge takes over and gives you the prompt, then does a cold start. That behaviour, combined with the clearing of parts of DOS memory, and the jumps into RAM, make me think that the disk that goes with this is a BOOT disk, that actually loads code into RAM.


I think you are correct. Again, I wondered if it was like the Educational System cartridge.


Unfortunately, I think so, which means unless the original disk(s) are found, this cartridge won't ever be able to run properly.

PS. I'm tempted to put an AUTORUN.SYS on the disk that loads code in at $1403, and puts $22 at $2295. The cartridge should then execute the code at $1403. :)


Use the cartridge with this disk (DOS with an AUTORUN.SYS that does exactly what I said above.) You will see that code execution is branched to my code loaded into $1403. The code is a very simple viewer of the text strings at $2E00 that the cartridge init has unpacked. Use Ctrl-1 to pause/unpause output.

After you see "Done." it will go into an endless loop.

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#128 Chris Strong OFFLINE  

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Posted Fri Feb 24, 2012 9:04 PM

I came back...I had a thought.

We might be barking up the wrong tree.

Could DBAF be a development or debugging tool? Perhaps one of the internal debuggers written by Jim Dunion?

It sounds familiar.

#129 Chris Strong OFFLINE  

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Posted Fri Feb 24, 2012 9:07 PM

Are these disks available via ATR? I'm wondering if one of the data disks will work.


I don't know. I don't have a way to make ATR files right now (those are the SIO2PC files?). Anyway, I could not even boot up that software too look at it last night. I got everything set up but then could not find my SIO cables...sigh.

You have my email; If you mail me and remind me in April, I should have my stuff set up by then.

#130 Chris Strong OFFLINE  

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Posted Fri Feb 24, 2012 9:19 PM

We might be barking up the wrong tree.

Could DBAF be a development or debugging tool? Perhaps one of the internal debuggers written by Jim Dunion?


You know, the more I think about this idea, the more sense it makes....that it is looking for some sort of trace or development tool. That is a lot more logical than imagining that it being a cartridge/disc combo. And the disk prompt is clearly a "not ready for customer use" internal-formatted message....

#131 Defender II OFFLINE  

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Posted Sat Feb 25, 2012 8:50 AM


We might be barking up the wrong tree.

Could DBAF be a development or debugging tool? Perhaps one of the internal debuggers written by Jim Dunion?


You know, the more I think about this idea, the more sense it makes....that it is looking for some sort of trace or development tool. That is a lot more logical than imagining that it being a cartridge/disc combo. And the disk prompt is clearly a "not ready for customer use" internal-formatted message....


Are you saying it was just used to debug the Checkbook program during developement and wouldn't be sold with the disk?

#132 chrislynn5 OFFLINE  

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Posted Sat Feb 25, 2012 9:05 AM


We might be barking up the wrong tree.

Could DBAF be a development or debugging tool? Perhaps one of the internal debuggers written by Jim Dunion?


You know, the more I think about this idea, the more sense it makes....that it is looking for some sort of trace or development tool. That is a lot more logical than imagining that it being a cartridge/disc combo. And the disk prompt is clearly a "not ready for customer use" internal-formatted message....


I disagree, what makes you think the dialog isn't ready for primetime? It's no different than other cartridge's. The language, and grammer, seem the same. And the menu items and prompts match the messaging. I can't see a developer requiring a disk to debug. It's a simple I/O data save program, not too glamorous :)

I'm still thinking that it needs a disk (as the other Personal Finance offerings do) or the correct equipment (i.e. drives).

Edited by chrislynn5, Sat Feb 25, 2012 9:07 AM.


#133 JohnBuell OFFLINE  

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Posted Sat Feb 25, 2012 1:47 PM

Just for giggles, has anyone tried this in a "right" (even emulated) cartridge slot? With perhaps BASIC in "left"?

#134 Shawn Jefferson OFFLINE  

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Posted Sat Feb 25, 2012 2:52 PM

Just for giggles, has anyone tried this in a "right" (even emulated) cartridge slot? With perhaps BASIC in "left"?


I think this is obviously a left-slot cartridge, for a couple of reasons: its code is at $A000. It clears almost immediately, $80-FF, which is used by BASIC.


A little more playing with this... maybe the disk is some sort of debugging tool, as Chris suggested, and the cartridge does some preliminary setup and passes control to the debugger loaded in RAM? Maybe...

A little more fooling around with this. After the JMP to $1403 (code that doesn't exist and we know nothing about), if it returns, it checks the Carry flag and branches to code that shows a menu. (Try SETPC $A0E6, and CONT in the emulator). Now we're getting somewhere. Unfortunately, most of the options crash the computer. The initialize option shows a few more prompts before crashing...

Attached Thumbnails

  • atari000.jpg

Edited by Shawn Jefferson, Sat Feb 25, 2012 2:55 PM.


#135 www.atarimania.com OFFLINE  

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Posted Sat Feb 25, 2012 3:50 PM

Great work!

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#136 Defender II OFFLINE  

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Posted Sat Feb 25, 2012 4:01 PM


Just for giggles, has anyone tried this in a "right" (even emulated) cartridge slot? With perhaps BASIC in "left"?


I think this is obviously a left-slot cartridge, for a couple of reasons: its code is at $A000. It clears almost immediately, $80-FF, which is used by BASIC.


A little more playing with this... maybe the disk is some sort of debugging tool, as Chris suggested, and the cartridge does some preliminary setup and passes control to the debugger loaded in RAM? Maybe...

A little more fooling around with this. After the JMP to $1403 (code that doesn't exist and we know nothing about), if it returns, it checks the Carry flag and branches to code that shows a menu. (Try SETPC $A0E6, and CONT in the emulator). Now we're getting somewhere. Unfortunately, most of the options crash the computer. The initialize option shows a few more prompts before crashing...


Just tried this, and since it actually tries to boot the disk, I think this might be a custom boot disk with part of the software on it. It would make it a bit harder to pirate this software if there is also a cartridge. I have a feeling we'll really need that disk.


Awesome work Mr. Jefferson!
How do The Writer's Tool, Letter Perfect and Data Perfect compare to this?
Writer's Tool wouldn't work without a disk, but the others only needed one for saving.
Is this just a way to copy protect like a Paperclip dongle but more complex because it has some of the code stored on it?

Edited by Defender II, Sat Feb 25, 2012 4:38 PM.


#137 chrislynn5 OFFLINE  

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Posted Sat Feb 25, 2012 4:07 PM


Just for giggles, has anyone tried this in a "right" (even emulated) cartridge slot? With perhaps BASIC in "left"?


I think this is obviously a left-slot cartridge, for a couple of reasons: its code is at $A000. It clears almost immediately, $80-FF, which is used by BASIC.


A little more playing with this... maybe the disk is some sort of debugging tool, as Chris suggested, and the cartridge does some preliminary setup and passes control to the debugger loaded in RAM? Maybe...

A little more fooling around with this. After the JMP to $1403 (code that doesn't exist and we know nothing about), if it returns, it checks the Carry flag and branches to code that shows a menu. (Try SETPC $A0E6, and CONT in the emulator). Now we're getting somewhere. Unfortunately, most of the options crash the computer. The initialize option shows a few more prompts before crashing...


That is great! To actually see the menu in a non-text format. Option #5 Initialize looks like something that was used to setup the disk for storage to me. The menu definintely look less like straight up text and normal fonts (i.e. APX style), more like simple BASIC balloon text.

Thanx a lot!

#138 Defender II OFFLINE  

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Posted Sat Feb 25, 2012 4:20 PM

That is great! To actually see the menu in a non-text format. Option #5 Initialize looks like something that was used to setup the disk for storage to me. The menu definintely look less like straight up text and normal fonts (i.e. APX style), more like simple BASIC balloon text.

Thanx a lot!


Since it keeps crashing when any of those options are selected It looks like all the software including initializing a disk is not in the cartridge. :(
The bulk of the program must be on the debugging disk which could have been transfered to a final cartridge and/or disk once everything worked correctly, since the number on the cartridge follows the series released on disk. It seems like this may have been a demo setup to judge interest at some computer show of a program that wasn't ready in time? They just took what they had (their debuging set-up) and put a nice label on it, maybe a nice one on the disk too so they had something to show the public and competition. I have seen other prerelease show items and it just seems to fit that category.

Edited by Defender II, Sat Feb 25, 2012 4:36 PM.


#139 chrislynn5 OFFLINE  

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Posted Sat Feb 25, 2012 4:25 PM

Does anyone have evidence of one labeled like this, or in this state of quality? The big question is why the serial number and label. To give it #8001 doesn't just get slapped on, someone on the project had to have gotten that approved, etc. A mock-up wouldn't go that far in my opinion, there is no need.
Tonight or tomorrow I'll have some more time to try this cart out again with different disks, hardware, etc.

Thanx everyone for your help :)

#140 Defender II OFFLINE  

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Posted Sat Feb 25, 2012 5:15 PM

Does anyone have evidence of one labeled like this, or in this state of quality? The big question is why the serial number and label. To give it #8001 doesn't just get slapped on, someone on the project had to have gotten that approved, etc. A mock-up wouldn't go that far in my opinion, there is no need.
Tonight or tomorrow I'll have some more time to try this cart out again with different disks, hardware, etc.

Thanx everyone for your help :)


If they took it to a show for prerelease demo and customer feedback they would put a lable on it so it would look more professional and complete. The number is in the range of that type of software on disk but doesn't match anything directly, so for Demoing I don't think it needed approval. A final number could be assigned when it went to advertising and they just may have kept this one if it wasn't assigned to something else.
I think DBAF stands for 'Data-Base for Accounting and Finance' or just 'DataBase - Accounting and Finance'.

Edited by Defender II, Sat Feb 25, 2012 5:18 PM.


#141 Rybags OFFLINE  

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Posted Sat Feb 25, 2012 8:20 PM

The cart mightn't be XL compatible so it's probably worth running 800 mode in the emulator.

#142 Shawn Jefferson OFFLINE  

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Posted Sat Feb 25, 2012 8:49 PM

@Rybags: I was running in 800 mode. There are multiple jumps/jsrs to RAM, where no code exists. So the code is either loaded by the disk, or unpacked from the cartridge by some routine that isn't being called.

#143 Chris Strong OFFLINE  

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Posted Sun Feb 26, 2012 5:23 PM

How do The Writer's Tool, Letter Perfect and Data Perfect compare to this?
Writer's Tool wouldn't work without a disk, but the others only needed one for saving.
Is this just a way to copy protect like a Paperclip dongle but more complex because it has some of the code stored on it?


A ROM was very expensive in 1980, and it was very easy to copy-protect software at that time. Just marking critical sectors as unused in 360 was enough to copy-protect floppies. And at this early stage, I don't recall any Atari software being copy-protected. The Atari Word Processor may have been, I can't remember and I'm not set up to test it right now. But it was the exception rather than the rule in 1980.

Does anyone have evidence of one labeled like this, or in this state of quality? The big question is why the serial number and label. To give it #8001 doesn't just get slapped on, someone on the project had to have gotten that approved, etc. A mock-up wouldn't go that far in my opinion, there is no need.


Well, they did it on other projects. In the Warner era, the 2700, 1200XLS, 1055 disk drive...all thouse were made to the point of labels and some even promotional material. From the Tramiel era, things like the 1985 CES had a 130XE (which was a cheapened 800XL modified with a FREDDIE from the 1450 project) running an XC1411 monitor...there were a bunch of XC1411's at the show, but they never made it into production. The small color thermal printers went all the way to functional prototype stage; they had labels and things, but never existed outside samples and prototypes.

When you're showing a product at a trade show, you WANT it to look like it is in production, right?

And even the things we have been discussing here...I don't think the 815 or the Atari Accountant ever made it into a retail store....I suspect the sales were all to "friendly" customers. The production cost on Accountant must have been huge, but they threw it all away.

We've got some labels now for products that never existed from the ST era, they've show up on ebay. And I've seen an Atari 400 label that was a full professional label (like the metal 800 logo) stuck onto a piece of Internal Atari test equipment that never made it out. Most of the 800-era vaporware labels were probably trashed during the 1984 shakeup, but thinks like the 2700 controller labels survived and still show up.

The fact that it never made it into a catalog or price list suggests that this project changed mid-stream.


You know, the more I think about this idea, the more sense it makes....that it is looking for some sort of trace or development tool. That is a lot more logical than imagining that it being a cartridge/disc combo. And the disk prompt is clearly a "not ready for customer use" internal-formatted message....


I disagree, what makes you think the dialog isn't ready for primetime? It's no different than other cartridge's. The language, and grammer, seem the same. And the menu items and prompts match the messaging. I can't see a developer requiring a disk to debug. It's a simple I/O data save program, not too glamorous :)


I know what you are saying, but that "insert disk" message is poorly done. Not centered, a visible cursor, "Return" not printed in inverse....it does not fit the standard for a released Atari product at the time. Look at the other early work, none looks like that. I think it was in the late development stage.

Does anyone have their copy of the first Atari HCD catalog available? I don't even know where mine is right now, but it it might be worth looking through to see if this is mentioned as "coming soon" vaporware. Some of those photos, if you look carefully, appear to be pasteups.

Edited by Chris Strong, Sun Feb 26, 2012 5:24 PM.


#144 Bryan OFFLINE  

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Posted Sun Feb 26, 2012 5:46 PM

From the Tramiel era, things like the 1985 CES had a 130XE (which was a cheapened 800XL modified with a FREDDIE from the 1450 project) running an XC1411 monitor...there were a bunch of XC1411's at the show, but they never made it into production.


Atari had actually built prototypes of a 128K 800XL before the Tramiels came in (I've seen one), and they were using Freddie in late model XL's as well. The XF551 was at least partially developed under Warner as the 1050CR. So most of the XE stuff was simply stuff that was sitting on the shelf when Jack took over and he wrapped it all in new gray plastic.

#145 chrislynn5 OFFLINE  

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Posted Sun Feb 26, 2012 8:04 PM

Just for giggles, has anyone tried this in a "right" (even emulated) cartridge slot? With perhaps BASIC in "left"?

yep I've tried both configurations, no luck.

#146 chrislynn5 OFFLINE  

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Posted Sun Feb 26, 2012 9:11 PM

Well, I had no luck with just straight DOS 2/2.5 with and without system files.
I was however able to use K-Byte's K-DOS, it was the only DOS that would allow the cart to load then after I pressed ESC (as before) it showed me the BRK at 1418 and gave me the DOS prompt.
Shawn, etc you sound much more knowledgeable on the subject, so do you have an ideas? I can in K-DOS use command to Proceed at $A0E6 the menu and continue with options, most lock up but Init #5 has more (as you said). Any more entry points to try. I was abel to get a format menu once but forgot the memory location. Or use K-DOS to alter, etc any points?

I think we're close.

I haven't been able to find any disks that might have gone with it.

Attached Thumbnails

  • checkbookdebug_screenmenu1.jpg
  • checkbookdebug_error1.jpg
  • checkbookdebug_initmenu5-1.jpg
  • checkbookdebug_initmenu5-2.jpg

Edited by chrislynn5, Sun Feb 26, 2012 9:12 PM.


#147 Shawn Jefferson OFFLINE  

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Posted Sun Feb 26, 2012 9:43 PM

Well, the real problem is that it appears to be branching to code that should be in RAM in the $14xx page. Without that code, it's a bit of a guessing game... I don't believe it is DOS that it is branching to, but I guess I could be wrong. I doubt very much that anyone will be able to get it running as it was supposed to without that code in low RAM (I'd be pleasantly suprised if anyone did though!)

What DOS would Atari have been using in 1980? DOS 2.0S ? That's what I tried it with...

Edited by Shawn Jefferson, Sun Feb 26, 2012 9:44 PM.


#148 fibrewire OFFLINE  

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Posted Sun Feb 26, 2012 10:46 PM

What about DOS 2.0D for the Atari 815?

#149 bf2k+ OFFLINE  

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Posted Mon Feb 27, 2012 3:32 AM

How about DOS 1?

#150 chrislynn5 OFFLINE  

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Posted Mon Feb 27, 2012 6:49 AM

What about DOS 2.0D for the Atari 815?

Where can I get it? Will it work in a standard 1050? I'm not using emulator's, but Shawn is maybe he can try?




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