Classic Computer Magazine Archive ANTIC VOL. 4, NO. 11 / MARCH 1986


1 million bytes of RAM-only $175

by JACK POWELL, Antic Associate Editor

One million bytes of memory. It's nice to have elbow room. Seems as if the 520ST was no sooner on dealer's shelves than the first schematics appeared, describing how to double your RAM.
   And what could you do with all that elbow room? For one thing, DB Master, a new database coming soon from Atari, is RAM-based. With a 1-meg upgrade, you could increase DB Master's available record count to an amazing 4,000.
   At Antic, we were getting a little tired of waiting over 10 minutes each time we compiled a C listing. With a RAMdisk-and enough memory-we could put all our compiling and linking files into the RAMdisk and compile to (and from) RAM.
   We had seen several do-it-yourself 1-meg upgrade articles in users newsletters and on bulletin boards. From their descriptions, it seemed pretty easy.
   So we contacted Computer Support, the authorized Northern California Atari repair center that fixes Antic's overworked equipment. They told us they had already spent some time on the 1-meg project and discovered that the process was not as easy as advertised.
   Among other things, they found you had to use the correct wire gauge or you lost information during massive file transfers. They also discovered that the memory controller chip in earlier STs couldn't handle one megabyte of memory and had to be replaced. They told us horror stories of burnt-out chips resulting from improper 1-meg upgrades.
   But they had been in continual contact with Atari engineers and just finished a refinement of the upgrade procedure which they confidently believed could be offered to their customers. Did we want to test it? Sure.
   Our machine returned from Computer Support looking just the same as when it had left. Except when we booted it with a RAMdisk installed, the RAMdisk showed 684K!
   We quickly moved all our compiling, assembling and linking files onto the RAMdisk. There was plenty of room. Next we moved some source code that had previously taken over 10 minutes to compile. How long did it take with our RAMdisk? Less than one minute.
   You want one, right? We don't blame you. However, we recommend that you get the job done by professionals at an authorized Atari service center. Computer Support, for example, charges $175 for a 1-meg upgrade, including parts.

A RAMdisk is nothing more than an area of memory set aside as a buffer that responds to most of the available disk commands-only much faster. You get the illusion there is a very fast, extra drive in your system. Of course, since it's all in RAM, you will lose all data on the RAMdisk everytime you turn off the power switch. Thus, it's a good idea to save your files to a real disk fairly often.
   You can use RAMdisks without a 1-meg upgrade, but with the 520ST's GEM in RAM and only 250K spare memory, there's not really enough space for practical use. The maximum size RAMdisk in such a configuration would be about 190K with some 50K left for your program. For a practical RAMdisk, you need more memory.
   There are already several RAMdisks available for the ST. Except for minor details, they all offer the same thing. There is one curious difference-each RAMdisk provides a different amount of maximum available RAM, although all their programs are about the same size.

   Hippo RAMdisk, from Hippopotamus Software, is perhaps the easiest to set up because it uses the GEM environment. It also offers the most available RAM-684K with a 1-meg upgrade, using the 198K TOS.
   Click on the program, choose your RAMdisk size from the drop-down menus, place your boot disk in the proper drive, and install the RAMdisk. Now, when you boot the disk, it will have an "H" disk labeled "HIPPORAMDISK." As with most of the RAMdisks available, you can create more than one RAMdisk on the same boot disk.

   A-RAM, from the Antic Software Catalog, is a British import which offers the next greatest amount of available RAM-678K, using the same configuration as above. The only real difference is that you type in your RAMdisk size rather than clicking on it with a mouse. A-RAM will install the first RAMdisk as "D."

   M-Disk, from Michtron, offers the least amount of available RAM: 597K. We have no idea where the missing kilobytes went. M-Disk installs as drive "C."
   There is also a public domain RAM-disk we found on CompuServe. Written by Gert Slavenburg, this RAMdisk has one big advantage over the rest. It's free.
   But, of course, there's no free lunch. The public domain RAMdisk copies all files from the boot disk to the RAMdisk, including the huge TOS. IMG. This not only creates 50% to 60% more boot-up time, but you then have to remove all those unwanted files. The program also yields a paltry 346K RAMdisk-about the size of a normal, single-side drive.


Computer Support
52 South Linden Avenue, #1
South San Francisco, CA 94080
(415) 589-9800
(Also check with your authorized local Atari repair center.)

Hippopotamus Software
985 University Avenue, Suite 12
Los Gatos, CA 95030
(408) 395-3190

Antic Software Catalog

576 5. Telegraph
Pontiac, Ml 48053
(313) 334-5700