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But Mom! I Wanted An ST! - The Atari Times

But Mom! I Wanted An ST!

Linux head gives the ST a shot
by George Henson

December 3, 1996
First a little background on this interesting turn of events...

One day Greg (my good friend and co-worker) brought in the GEMulator. All I knew of the GEMulator was that it emulated a now almost outdated computer. I thought to myself "Well here is another Atari toy to play with..." Greg was ecstatic and explained to me the card and software was to emulate the Atari ST.

To me this was all fine and dandy, but was purpose did it serve? Greg installed the card and the software; the desktop painted itself and the busy bee of the ST sat on the screen. Greg was truly ecstatic. I though this was cute and thought "Whoa, another GUI." While Greg tinkered with it for a little while and set his preferences, he started explaining to me a little about the ST.

After working on computers for a number of years I have seen quite a few different types of OSes. I generally prefer the CLI's due to the fact that they are normally faster. This with the fact I have been raised in an Intel household lead me to DOS and Linux. Now coming from this background I did not find Atari STs overly exciting... 'til I took the mouse! I tried the controls and the next thing I knew I had caught the 'Atari Bug' and I was asking what is the real ST was like.

Greg said to wait until next week. So I did, and he brought in his ST. This was great, a computer that was powerful and simple to control. The perfect balance of form and function. What could be better right?

Over the next months Greg introduced me to the base of the Atari line. Sure I had a 2600, but then again, who didn't? As I found out more about Atari, I taught Greg about the world of Linux. This was mild compared to what happened next.

One day while web crawling, we found a page of emulators. We looked at each other and wondered what the chances they'd have an Atari emulator. Well we looked down the page and we found a 2600 emulator. So we downloaded it and the next thing we knew we were playing Frogger on a Pentium! I found a Linux port, which made me happy. I took it home and started playing all the classic games of yesteryear. I though "Well, what if someone made a ST emulator of Linux??" Next thing I know I found STonX.

For those out there who I just lost, STonX is a ST emulator that runs on Xwindows. Xwindows is the GUI which runs on most of the Unix boxes (Linux is a Unix clone). Why would I want this you might ask? Well for me, Linux is a way of life not just an OS, and I don't like MicroSquash Windoze 95.

After ftp-ing the source code (a common thing in the Linux community... it's FREE as long as you follow the GNU rules), I tried a compile STonX on a box at work. I knew it would take a while, so I went out to lunch. Sad to say it did not work. :( I thought that box was a little underpowered anyway, so I copied all the files and tried it on the box at home. Alas, this did not help either. The emulator would start, and then crash the whole system. So I stored the source and waited...

As time passed Greg kept after me, "How is STonX coming George?" as he sat there smugly playing Solaris [on his 2600 emulator]. Well, one weekend I had enough of his taunting and was determined to get STonX to work!

In the meantime I had built another Linux box at home, with a newer version of the OS. I thought this would be a good place to start. So I put the code on the box, started the compile, and when to bed. When I woke up the next morning I hurried over to the box and quickly fired up the emulator. The little bombs did not show up this time... a definite improvement over the last compile!

I got the little bee onscreen and I was ecstatic!! The same glow on Greg's face when he started the GEMulator was now on mine. At last, I had what was roughly equal to a Atari ST in a window. This was great!

The machine I finally got it to work on was a 486/33 with about 8meg of RAM and a good 15meg of swap space. I would call it slow but then again, I wouldn't want to insult slow that way. I thought about it for a while and to emulate a 68000 and run all the other junk in the background, it was impressive. I guess I shouldn't have made a ST with 14meg of RAM!

Then, as I moved the mouse back and forth watching the arrow, it hit me... I didn't have any software for it! I guess that's something I'll have to hunt down on the Internet. Or, maybe Greg will let me test his software library on my new ST on a Linux PC. :-)

The Official STonX Web Page:


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