Task: Install the Altirra Emulator
Needed: PC running Windows
Time: 10-15 mins
I very much enjoy running software on original Atari home computer hardware. However, it is also nice from time to time to be able to run something on my Windows-based PC. This is especially true for programming where it is much easier and faster to develop and test on a modern PC before deploying to original hardware. The goal of this exercise is to install and try the Altirra 8-bit Atari emulator. You might also try Atari800. I have less experience with this one.
Altirra was programmed by Avery Lee to emulate the Atari 400, 800, XL, and XE computers as well as the XEGS game system. It was first released in 2009 and has been consistently updated since. Version 3.0 was released in December of 2017. According to the website, “Altirra is designed with emulation quality in mind, sometimes over speed and polish. It’s designed as a system emulator and debugger instead of a games machine, so there is some setup involved”. Altirra is licensed under the GNU General Public License (GPL), version 2.
Navigate to the Altirra website and scroll down to downloads. You will find there the latest binary and the latest source code. Clicking on the binary link will start the download of a zip file that contains both 32-bit and 64-bit executables that are compatible with the last several version of Windows. You can drop the executable right on your desktop and launch it. When you first launch Altirra you will see the following screen.
If you navigate to the System menu and then Profiles you will see a list of 8-bit Atari hardware that you can emulate. Now it is time to load a disk image. Atari disk images have the .ATR extension. Many can be found on the Atari Mania website. There is also some Atari 8-bit software on Archive.org. There is also this nice collection from Homesoft. There are others that can be found using Google. Download an ATR file and then boot it from Altirra from the File menu and the Boot Image option. This will bring up a dialogue box where you can choose your ATR file. From here you are off and running!
Altirra has an insane number of options for people who are really in the weeds with the hardware. Fun to play with and explore. Here is the link to the reference manual for Altirra where you can dive into the gory details.