Display a Digital Photo on an Atari 2600 (10-15 mins)

Task: Display a Digital Photo on an Atari 2600

Needed: Web browser

Time: 10-15 mins


I am always amazed at the modern software tools people have created to expand the capabilities of the Atari 8-bit computers and consoles. I recently posted about the coding resources provided by Steven Hugg on the 8-Bit Workshop web page. These include books and an IDE for coding right in your browser.

One of the resources provided at the 8-Bit Workshop is Dithertron which allows you to load a modern digital image and convert it to a binary file compatible with viewing on a number of gaming platforms including the Atari 2600, 5200, and 7800. I found it surprisingly rewarding to load an image of myself and have it displayed on an Atari 2600 (photos below). This is super easy to do!


Step 1 – Navigate to Dithertron

Step 2 – Choose your image with the button at the upper left and adjust the window below to select region to be visualized.

Step 3 – Choose your platform with the button at the upper right. Atari options include Atari VCS (2600), Atari Antic D (5200), and Atari 7800.

Step 4 – Play with the brightness, contrast, color, and dither controls to get the desired effect.

Step 5 – Save the converted image as a PNG for download or select Open in 8-Bit Workshop to see the assembly code.

Step 6 – To get a binary file you can run on an emulator or original hardware you need to access the file menu in the upper left and choose DOWNLOAD and then select ROM. You can also download the source code.


I had a lot of fun playing with Dithertron and the 8-Bit Workshop IDE. I could imagen this would be a useful development tool for creating playfields for games. Note that the source code calls a BIN file which you can download with the BIN button shown below. You will need this file if you want to compile it yourself. Here is my Atari 2600 ROM generated from the image below. I loaded the ROM onto my Harmony cartridge and confirmed it works on original hardware (see second image below). Have fun!

Dithertron Image on an Atari 2600
Dithertron Image on an Atari 2600