Text Time Travel

So, it looks like a lot of things just opened up for me along a path I thought was currently blocked. I am writing this on an Atari 800XL. Sort of, anyway… in some very surprisingly accurate ways, though.

My love of old tech works two ways these days: the retro way, where I try to recreate the experience of tech past with what I’ve got now; and the antero way, where I try to directly access the old tech with what I’ve got now. One of the tools I’ve always used for my retro side is emulators, I’ve been using Atari 800 emulators since STXformer back in the early nineties. Most recently, my Atari 800 emulator of choice has been Atari800MacX, because the things it does well are the things I want from retro: easy user interface to get to different types of content, and easily swap modes for compatibility. I have been aware of Altirra, another Atari emulator, but being a Mac person, running the Windows-based Altirra isn’t always straoghtforward. Yeah, I’ve done it once or twice, but the seeming extra steps didn’t seem to offer any extra benefit for my retro side.

Recently, the software WINE, which allows Windows software to run on linux machines by interpreting the Windows calls into linux XWindows calls, has updated to 64-bit… something… which allows it to run on recent Mac OS updates, including mine. I like having WINE in the toolbox, seeing a thread on an Atari board where folks had gotten Altirra running nder WINE under the newest Mac OS release, I decided to go ahead and try it. And either I’m finally getting used to the procedure, or it’s finally getting easy enough to allow my participation, but everything installed cleanly, first try, and minutes later, I’m dinking around Altirra to see what kinds of things I could tweak. Under one menu, I saw an option to load ROM files for various hardware… not too surprising, I was emulating an ICD MIO peripheral in Atari800MacX… but I noticed one of the options was Ultimate1M, a recently developed upgrade for the ancient hardware. Now, again, my antero side knew about the Ultimate1M, I have the Atari 600XL picked out to put one in, sometime soon. For whatever reason, it never occured to me that I could use the retro emulation tool as an antero showroom, trying out different combinations of modern hardware upgrades to see what works.

Like I said, a lot of options are more readily available than I imagined. With a little luck, this could be part of a success story: one hurdle I’ve been wrestling with is creating content created on the Atari side and getting it to the PC side efficiently. Through a series of misadventures, I believe I have succeeded in setting up the PCLink device on Altirra, allowing me to write files from the Atari side directly to my main computer’s drive. Hopefully, this will soon be my first Atari written and edited post to make it online.

Next steps for Altirra include making emulated models of some of my favorite real Ataris (256kXL+MIO, 320kXE+MIO, 48k800), revisiting some old favorite games (BoulderDash, Zombies, Pharoah’s Tomb), and creating my Perfect Emulated Atari (a not-yet-fully-formed monstrosity that packs as much useful punch into an emulation as possible).