The Atari ST had a nice feature, a cartridge port. It allowed up to 128KB to be used as read-only memory but it was barely used by the general ‘gamer’.
There were quite a few cartridges released though, each one doing something slightly different, such as the following examples (not a full list!):
- the Discovery cartridge by Happy Computers for reading in protected disks (amongst other uses)
- the Multiface by Romantic Robot (which was abysmal compared to the Spectrum version)
- Fast BASIC by Computer Concepts (used a lot by MSD / POV for calculations in his 68K code)
- the numerous variants of the Replay sound sampling cartridges by Microdeal. They also released a video digitiser too.
- MV-16 – as included with the BAT game by Ubisoft. The game used the cartridges extra muscle to give better background music (from memory, it’s been a while).
- Spectre128K and SpectreGCR – Apple emulation on your Atari ST! (Preceded by the MagicSac cartridge which did the same thing)
- Real-time clocks – although without patching the software, they all suffer from the Y2K bug!
- Numerous MIDI cartridges and their associated software.
For the average coder, there wasn’t much to choose from. There were no development cartridges that allowed you to peek inside the memory of your Atari ST…
Then along came the Ultimate Ripper by Power Computing. What a cartridge that was. You could rip out chip music by a small selection of composers or digital SoundTracker format files. Graphics, from screenshots to internal graphics and sprites could also be found and extracted from the game or demo you were looking at.
I bought one (1991 I think) and I was impressed by it. It made music ripping (for the non-supported composers) that little bit easier. The one annoying thing was the way Ultimate Ripper moved the lower chunk of ST memory above the 1MB barrier. Code stored in the system variables etc was elsewhere. It took some getting used to, but I got used to it.
In 1992 I attended the UK demoscene coding party in Bradford, called The Great British International ST Party. Or the TGBISTP for short. This had been organised by Bilbo & Stick of Ripped Off. At this event I saw what looked to me like an Ultimate Ripper cartridge, but it had MonST running on it! This was the LLS cartridge by EGB of Automation. I joined the queue and kissed my Ultimate Ripper goodbye and the EEPROM was reprogrammed with a version of LLS.
Music ripping was a lot easier now. Using the same key layout as MonST but with the ability to trace through the code anywhere that you had pressed the NMI toggle & reset button.
To help preserve these ‘special’ kinds of cartridge, I’ve put images of them in STEEM-compliant .CRT files below. I’ve lost the files once before, so I’m making sure they’re preserved from now on with my website.
LLS Cartridge by EGB – the download includes the screenshots of it running plus a “manual/introduction guide” that I wrote for it back in 2002!
Ultimate Ripper v1.2 (the original one) – ripped by Zaphod Beeblebrox. The .ZIP also includes a few extra text files / tutorials on ripping non-standard music files.
Recently purchased in July 2020, is a hacked version of the Ultimate Ripper as above, but it also includes a copy of SuperMon. This combo cartridge will be dumped as soon as possible and uploaded onto this site.
In case you have an EEPROM burner lying around, you might want to read up on this old article.