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Atari 130XE - displays black screen with a couple cartridge games


Ocelo
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Hello, I have a question about a problem I'm having with a couple cartridge games and my Atari 130 XE.

I have probably 30 to 40 cartridges for my Atari system that play great. Pop those cartridges in and they start right up. They are from all eras of the 8-bit releases, the original brown boxed cartridges to the grey XEGS era games.

I have two cartridges that when plugged in display a blank black/brown screen. I have thoroughly cleaned both with all manner of cleaner. The contacts look like new. I have also recently cleaned the contacts in my computer's cartridge slot. I tried holding down Start when powering on, no difference (that worked for my Shamus cartridge). I also tried holding down Option, same result.

The two games are "Star Wars: The Arcade Game" by Parker Brothers and "Choplifter" by Broderbund Software.

 

Could it be that these games are incompatible with the Atari 130 XE? Could they be damaged? They both give the same blank screen. I actually popped open the Choplifter cartridge and the traces are a little dirty, could that cause this issue? There's no damage to the pins, chips or solder joints or any noticable cracks in the wafer.

 

Thanks

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Could it be that these games are incompatible with the Atari 130 XE? Could they be damaged? They both give the same blank screen. I actually popped open the Choplifter cartridge and the traces are a little dirty, could that cause this issue? There's no damage to the pins, chips or solder joints or any noticeable cracks in the wafer.

 

If you haven't done so already, clean the cartridge contacts on the cartridge using a pencil eraser, as well as isopropyl alcohol on a q-tip.

 

Just to be sure, take a peek into the cartridge port of the computer that there isn't any damaged contacts in the card-edge connector. Not so likely since you say most of your other cartridges work fine. Trying the cartridges in a second computer is also good, but your post implies you don't have one.

 

Less likely could be invisible cracks in the traces. You can use a multimeter/continuity tester to verify continuity from the each edge contact to the chips.

 

Lastly, the worst case, it is possible that the ROM chips are bad. I've had at least 1 DOA cartridge from Ebay. But luckily it was an XEGS cartridge for which I was able to replace the ROM with a socketed EPROM. The second was an E.T. phone home cartridge that worked initially, but I killed the ROM with an accidental static zap from touching it when I had it out of the case while cleaning. I'm not sure that one is fixable or able to be retrofitted with an EPROM without replacing the entire PCB...

Edited by Nezgar
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If you haven't done so already, clean the cartridge contacts on the cartridge using a pencil eraser, as well as isopropyl alcohol on a q-tip.

 

Just to be sure, take a peek into the cartridge port of the computer that there isn't any damaged contacts in the card-edge connector. Not so likely since you say most of your other cartridges work fine. Trying the cartridges in a second computer is also good, but your post implies you don't have one.

 

Less likely could be invisible cracks in the traces. You can use a multimeter/continuity tester to verify continuity from the each edge contact to the chips.

 

Yes, I have thoroughly cleaned the cartridge contacts with q-tip and isopropyl alcohol. I also tried using a pencil eraser. I have also cleaned them with electronics cleaner and a 1-up card. No change.

 

However at first the Choplifter cartridge wouldn't even detect as present. The 130XE would boot to the self test screen before I did all the cleaning. After the cleaning, it boots to the blank screen.

 

I do have a multimeter I could check the traces with but when I had the cartridge apart to clean it I looked very closely for any cracks and I didn't see any. Doesn't mean they aren't there though.

 

I don't have another Atari to try either, but I wish I did. I am still suspicious that the games would work on an older 8-bit like an Atari 800. The Star Wars game used to work on my Atari 800XL thirty years ago. The Choplifter game was a recent e-bay purchase.

 

Thanks

 

 

Edited by Ocelo
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What about contacting another Atari owner in the area and testing it on their machine?

If I knew one in the Iowa City area, I'd consider reaching out to them. :)

 

I do have a possible opportunity to get my hands on an 800XL that belongs to my Uncle. I will certainly ask him the next chance I get.

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It doesn't sound right that your 130XE booted to the self-test screen before you did all the cleaning. A properly functioning 130XE, with no peripherals plugged in, should boot to the Basic "READY" prompt.

 

I assume you also cleaned the contacts on the 130XE cart connector?

 

Lastly, I had at least one case of an old Centipede cart (one of the brown Atari models) that had socketed ROM chips inside the cart. Opening the cart, removing and reseating the ROM chips made that cart work again. I doubt your carts are socketed, but it's one more thing to check.

 

I like your avatar, BTW.

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It doesn't sound right that your 130XE booted to the self-test screen before you did all the cleaning. A properly functioning 130XE, with no peripherals plugged in, should boot to the Basic "READY" prompt.

 

I assume you also cleaned the contacts on the 130XE cart connector?

 

Lastly, I had at least one case of an old Centipede cart (one of the brown Atari models) that had socketed ROM chips inside the cart. Opening the cart, removing and reseating the ROM chips made that cart work again. I doubt your carts are socketed, but it's one more thing to check.

 

I like your avatar, BTW.

Thanks!

I do also have an Atari 1050 disk drive connected to the 130 XE but turned off. Would unplugging that and trying the cartridges again be a good idea?

 

When I cracked open the Choplifter cartridge, it was not socketed.

 

I did also spray a small amount of electronics cleaner into the 130 XE cartridge slot. I'm leery of shoving things in there to really clean the contacts. I don't want to bend the pins.

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Unplugging SIO cable from the unpowered 1050 won't

make a difference so it's not worth doing.

 

If you had an alternative OS in the 130XE such as

OmnimonXE you could change to that and have a look

at what code the cart presents to the machine. And

write it out as data for compare to known cart

rom code.

 

I suspect it's just bad roms in those two carts so

expect a 2nd machine to act somewhat similar and it's

not really proof. But I would already be replacing

those two at this point anyway. You've already done

diligent cleaning and investigations that would

have found an obvious and correctable flaw.

 

Game cart boards are useless for eprom direct replacement

in most cases because Atari used very custom rom chips

with odd ball pinouts and complicated chip select signals

often in reverse logic to foil the eprom crowd ever ready

to market their own home rolled deal. No cases, can't

use the board as is and that window becomes very well

boarded up. You can purchase eprom ready cart boards

from B&C which will take them just fine and they may

even fit inside the original case if you are wanting to

keep it looking right. Otherwise just replacing what

you have now is far easier way to go.

 

Electronic cleaner into the motherboard slot and then

working the trouble cart in and out while still wet

will do the job perfectly. So no need to jab foreign

tools in there and risk bending anything.

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