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Emulate Your Atari! - The Atari Times

Emulate Your Atari!


Computers, consoles, and handhelds all in one place!
by Gregory D. George

September 10, 1997
Emulation is the process where one computer mimics the chips and code of another. Emulators allow you to play classic arcade games on your PC. There are emulators for the 2600, 5200, Lynx, Atari ST, and even (gasp) Sega and Nintendo.

My first foray into emulation, was on my Atari ST. I found an emulator called X-Former that would allow you to run software for the Atari 8-bit computers on your ST. It was cool, but useless without a special cable that allowed you to hook up your 8-bit disk drive. In addition, this emulator was actually SLOWER than the real thing! You see, emulators translate processor instructions to another type of processor. Such as 6502 instructions to a 68000. Doing this takes a lot of time, slowing the emulator down considerably. My 8mhz Atari ST was unableto emulate a 1.79mhz Atari 8-bit at full speed. h

Next, I tried a PC emulator for my ST. It worked, but it was slower than Christmas. My friend A was literally able to eat lunch between Tetris pieces! After that, I gave up trying to emulate other computers on my ST.

Back in 1995, I started working around PC's for the first time. I knew that one day I would have to buy a PC, but didn't want to give up the Atari ST's capability I had grown accustomed to. So, I purchased GEMulator '95. It is piece of software that, with a special card containing the TOS ROM chips, would emulate an Atari ST to perfection.

Once I became aware of the internet, I learned that you could play classic game systems, like the Atari 2600 and ColecoVision, on your PC. Then I later learned of the arcade emulators. Then the Sega & Nintendo emulators. Now, I've literally gone emulator crazy!

If you're looking for a 2600 emulator, I'd recommend PC Atari Emulator. I've tried the others, and some have cute interfaces, but their emulation was not up to par. PCAE offers excellent emulation, a spot of sound, and joystick support. The later versions offer true Atari joystick support, near perfect sound, and the ability to play Pitfall II.

Playing an Atari Lynx emulator on your PC totally defeats the purpose of having a portable game system. But it doesn't mean BattleWheels or STUN Runner is any less fun. Handy is my choice for Lynx emulation, and it does a fine job. It's still not quite up to speed, (you need a FAST processor) but there is sound, joystick support, and the ability to resize the screen. I'm hoping there will be some form of ComLynx play in the future. Imagine playing 8 player Slime World over the Internet!!

One non-gaming benefit of these emulators is that it allows me an easy way to capture screenshots in the NL. Hopefully, people will buy the real game by looking at an emulated screenshot.

Emulation is a lot of fun and a good way to try out a game you've never played before. However, it is important to realize that these games are all copyrighted and legal action could be taken against you. But, it's a risk that many people take in order to play the great games of yesteryear. Kangaroo rules!



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