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Atari Altirra Emulator

Atari Altirra Emulator

After the Internet became popular, websites such as AtariAge started creating articles to announce the latest tool for Atari personal computer development. It was called the Atari Altirra emulator. Currently it appears they have released version 3.00. The version I am using for this example is 2.81.

This tool is an emulator, which allows you to read in Atari Altirra emulator disk files from the Internet or by using your personal computer via an SD Card reader. I currently own one and plan to do a review on it soon. However, due to managing multiple websites, working a 9-5, I am a very busy person.

Atari ROM Files

Anyway, you will need to access some special ROM files to get it working. The best way to think of this is to sit in front of your actual Atari personal computer system and imagine what it takes to boot it so you can start writing programs. First you can boot the system clean just by plugging it in and firing it up. The system will boot into Atari Basic. So the first tip is to be sure you have a copy of the Atari Basic ROM file. You can usually download these online these days for free.

Next if you plan to boot a disk drive, you will need to attach another special file to read the disk drive. The cassette drive also has a separate file to boot from. To simpify this I will demonstrate with some live screen shots using the Atari Altirra emulator as an example.

When you first load up the Altirra emulator you will be presented with the copyright screen. This is the normal standard mode without any ROMs in it’s memory. 

Loading the ROM

Altirra emulator for AtariAs explained earlier, we will be loading in Atari Basic ROM to get the tool to boot into Basic mode. Click on the File menu, select Attach cartridge. This will immediately open up a file dialogue window on your desktop. Since I have already downloaded the Basic ROM file I will load it into the emulator. The file I am using is called ATARIBAS.ROM.

Next you will see a new dialog window that covers the main Atari Altirra screen. It is labeled Select Cartridge mapper. I usually leave this on the default of *1:8K since that is the system I want to utilize. Then just press the OK button to continue.

Atari Basic Start up Screen

Finally the Atari Basic window will appear. This is because Altirra has now accessed the correct ROM routines to manage Basic. This editor works in comparison to the original Atari 65xe. You can instantly start typing in a program or running immediate commands on the console. For example type in PRINT “I LOVE ATARI ALTIRRA!” and you should see the message printed below the line you just entered. It also will sound just like your Atari Basic as you type in the message. Pretty cool.

Attaching Disk Drives

As much as I would love to start demonstrating some Atari programs, this guide is dedicated to the Altirra emulator tutorial so we will now be attaching a disk drive where we can save our programs in Windows. Click on the File menu again and select Disk Drives. 

Note: You can think of attaching the disk drives section in comparison to connecting up an Atari 1050 disk drive, putting a floppy disk inside, and loading up the data from it.

This pop up window is labeled Disk drives and will allow you to attach up to 8 drives at a time. Examine the rows labeled D1-D8. These are the areas where you will be assigning a disk drive file. Next click on the 3 dots to the right of D1. A new dialog window appears. Search for the disk drive file MYDOS45D.XFD or a similar disk drive file. After this the D1 will now be populated with the reference to that disk drive file. Press the OK button to return to Basic and close the pop up window.

Emulator Keyboard Controls

You can use your function keys to control various things.

F1 = Scroll quickly through a listing
F2 = Start Console key
F3 = Select Console key
F4 = Option Console key
F5 = Warm Reset
F7 = Break out of a listing
F8 = Pause a listing
F9 = Pause activity
F10 = Freeze listing


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Steve has always had a passion for computers even before I owned one. His first personal computer was an Atari 65xe purchased at Children's Palace around 1986. In later years he attended DeVry University and received a Computer Science degree, works as a Front End Web Developer and is a born again Christian. Although this is a tech site, I am never shy to admit that I am a sinner saved by the blood of Jesus Christ. If you ever want to talk about salvation, I'm game.

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