Task: Test the RAM of an Atari 400 or 800
Needed: Atarimax MaxFlash or similar
Time: 10-15 mins
I remember being really interested in the diagnostic tests that were included in my friend’s new Atari 1200XL. These allowed you to test the RAM and other things such as the video, sound, and keyboard. What a great idea to have this built-in and available on boot up. The diagnostic software was also included on the Atari 600XL and 800XL models. I assume these were moderately useful back in the day although I don’t recall ever finding any bad hardware. These are much more useful now as we acquire old hardware that is often not functioning in some way.
Unfortunately, these diagnostics were not available on the Atari 400 and 800. I have acquired a number of these older machines and like to test them out as they come into my collection. There are several diagnostic programs available (e.g. The Monkey Wrench) although I have only tried The Atari 400/800 Stand Alone System Test (SALT) that I present here. SALT came in cartridge form and there is very little information about it online. The ROM from the cartridge is hard to find as well and is not available from common sources such as The Internet Archive or Atari Mania. The ROM I have is version 2.05 and I found it listed on an Atari Age forum.
Download the SALT 2.05 ROM here.
Load the ROM onto a flash cartridge such as the Atarimax Maxflash.
Boot your Atari 400 or 800 with the flash cartridge inserted and choose the SALT ROM.
You will see an intro screen with the name of the program and a green dialog box at the bottom.
Enter a question mark ? at the prompt and hit return. This will bring up the diagnostics menu.
Choose the R option and hit return. You will need to choose the number of 8K RAM modules to test. Note that the SALT program takes up 8K so you will only be able to test 40K or 5 modules. Hit return to start the RAM test.
This was really easy and the Atari 800 on my desk passed with no problem. If you have a computer that passes the test but you suspect still has a RAM problem you might need to shuffle the RAM cards to make sure the one that was being used by the SALT program is now free for testing. Also, there are a number of other tests available in the menu that you can try.