Atari ST Emulator Hatari STeemSSE

Atari ST Emulator

In 1984, the Macintosh introduced the world to a PC with a mouse, windows, and the concept of a graphical user interface (GUI), or “gooey”. I was a Carnegie Mellon University employee in 1984, and they had an agreement with Apple where you could purchase a Macintosh for a lot less than the public could. The CMU bookstore had the Macintosh, and the CMU publication department where I worked had both a Mac and a Lisa (the predecessor to the Macintosh. But the Mac still cost more than $3000 (about $7500 in 2020 dollars). No way did that fit into my budget.

But in 1985, a crazy story emerged that resulted in Atari, then a video game company that had a line of home computers with custom graphics and sound chips, 512 colors, graphics — releasing a PC with a mouse, overlapping windows, a full GUI – just like the Mac – the first ever GUI in color. And it was sold with a high-quality color monitor for $1000ish. Still a lot of money, but far cheaper than a Mac, and in color! The PC was called the Atari ST.

Atari sold millions of these PCs and they become beloved by their owners, even more so in Germany and other parts of Europe. The ST also become the standard for musicians to use for MIDI setups because the ST had built-in MIDI ports that had some kind of perfect timing capability for timing instruments. The ST is still remembered fondly. So much so that there is a group of programmers who created a very good emulator for the Atari ST. You can now recreate the full Atari ST experience on a PC or Mac screen today – running all your favorites at full speed – and even faster than the original ST, which ran a Motorola 68000 CPU at 8MHz.

I’ve put together some downloads and information that will help you get up to speed using an Atari ST emulator. I’ve found that two of the many available emulators, STeemSSE and Hatari both work very well. Hatari is being updated regularly and even emulates the STE, TT, and Falcon.

THE ATARI ST EMULATORS

First, you will some downloads:

  1. TO RUN HATARI ATARI ST EMULATOR
    1. this is, in my opinion, the best Atari ST emulator – it has been the most reliable and most stable for me, and it emulates the ST, STE, as well as the Falcon (even the Falcon DSP chip)
    2. You can even run Doom full speed on the Falcon emulator (this is called Bad Mood and uses the TOS TTP (TOS Takes Parameters) command-line feature. This zip file contains all you need plus some readme files to get you started. And here is a good overview of getting it to work.
    3. Hatari makes it easy to set up an ASCI (an Atari version of the SCSI hardware bus) hard drive
    4. Downloads can be found here – the software is regularly updated
    5. The hard disk in ASCI format (Atari SCSI) for Hatari is a file. You point Hatari to this file as it’s hard drive. Here is an empty 80MB file for you to start with
  2. TO RUN ANY ATARI ST EMULATOR
    1. You will need TOS ROM images for any emulator. A good collection is here
      1. The versions that I use are 1.02, 1.06 and 1.62 and occasionally 2.06 but 3.06 and 4.04 are also stable and used for Falcon and TT machine emulation. But the original Atari ST ran just about everything using TOS 1.02.
      2. The Atari STE (vs the original ST) had 4096 colors, a blitter graphics coprocessor and more RAM and ran TOS 1.06 and 1.62
      3. Lots of information on TOS here
      4. There is also a free “clone” version of TOS available called EmuTOS that avoids all potential license issues (although at this point all this stuff is pure abandonware)
      5. And you will need the software itself. The best place to get those is this site. The ST enthusiast who created this site also converted more than 1000 games to run on a ard drive, and fixed many bugs, and added “trainers” to the games.

BACKGROUND

When I moved to central Pennsylvania, the Atari 8-bit computers went on sale at a local store called Boscov’s and there was an Atari Users Group nearby. I got an Atari 800XL and a bunch of games, a couple of floppy drives, an Atari 1020 printer/plotter, a Koala drawing pad, and other stuff dirt cheap. I’m talking game carts for $0.99 and the plotter for $10. This was all on closeout because Atari was crashing and burning.

When the Atari ST came out, Boscov’s was one of the first stores to offer it. And it also went on super sale at one point. I got a 520ST with TOS 1.0 on disk (with 512MB RAM). I first had the monochrome monitor and then got the color one. The Atari ST sensed which monitor you had and either booted to color (320×200 16 colors or 640×200 4 colors) or monochrome (640×400). The monochrome screen was rock steady and crystal clear and was great for desktop publishing. It actually had a better refresh rate and more screen real estate than the first Macs.

I later got the upgraded STE with 4096 colors, stereo sound, a blitter graphics coprocessor, and more RAM.

I learned 3D modeling on the ST using Tom Hudson’s Cyber Studio and Jim Kent’s Aegis Animator. These allowed 320×200 16-color animations to be created. Spectrum 512, Render 512, and Deluxe Paint 4096 allowed 512 and 4096 color painting and animation on the ST (the same as the ST’s arch-rival, the Amiga).

Later Atari machines, as well as the last incarnations of the Atari ST , called the TT and Falcon, took resolutions and colors far beyond this and had a full multi-tasking version of TOS called MultiTOS – but I had moved on with Tom Hudson to the PC and was using his excellent Autodesk 3D Studio and Jim Kent’s Autodesk Animator. These were far better versions of the ST software and very similar in interface and philosophy.

As I write this, the Atari ST emulator scene is (weirdly) still strong. Thousands of software packages (many many great games included) have been tweaked to fix bugs, run on many versions of TOS (The Operating System), and run directly from a hard drive. These emulators allow you to replicate a full-speed Atari ST on your Mac or Windows PC. You can still find Atari ST hardware – even fully reconditioned from several online companies. Most people that I know who have actual ST hardware have replaced the floppy drive and hard drive with a disk emulator that uses a compact flash memory card. You can pretty much fit most of the ST software ever made on a compact flash card or two. Not that there wasn’t a lot – there was a lot of software – but it was really small compared to today’s megagiga-size installations.

The oddest thing about the Atari ST and Amiga era is that the ST is really the upgrade from the Commodore 64 or 128 and the Amiga is really the upgrade from the Atari 800. Here’s that story:

Atari had invested in the company that was building the graphics coprocessor chips and sound chips plus the Amiga’s multitasking OS, headed up by Jay Miner, who had designed the chips in the Atari 800. The Atari 800 was always far ahead of its competitors technologically – the Atari 800 had 512 colors vs the C64’s 16, it had custom chips for graphics and sound, real keyboards, and stuff like that – and this was to continue with the next Atari PC, as yet unnamed.

But Jay Miner’s company ended up being purchased by Commodore, and the people behind the C64 and C128 bought Atari who then — in one year flat — came out with the Atari ST. As an example of brand loyalty, most Atari owners upgraded to the ST. For all its technical shortcomings compared to the Amiga, it was and still is loved by its community and really held up against the Amiga and surpassed it in some areas (like disk speed and MIDI applications).

How the new Atari came out with a machine that was so good in so short of a time is truly amazing. I always thought it was a great example of doing more with less. I still like its simple OS and interface and speed. It boots super fast even in emulators, and the software loads quickly.

I was impressed with how programmers pushed the ST hardware over time, too. When the STE (ST Enhanced) came out, we got a 4096 color palette, 8-bit digitally sampled stereo sound and a DMA chip, hardware scrolling and a blitter chip, and more. But clever programmers created games using 60+ colors that used huge animated sprites. The game Lethal Xcess shows all this off well and there are other programs that allowed the ST to do things far beyond its “out of the box” capabilities.

The ST never got true multitasking until just before Atari went away – something the Amiga had from day one (and was ahead of IBM and Apple by many years). But again, most of the things I did regularly, were able to be done using a form of multitasking. Things like file downloads and printing were handled with clever software interrupts so you could effectively multitask in the background while you did other things.

But both companies made a fatal strategic blunder and competed against each other rather than IBM and Apple, even though both machines were far superior in those days to the PC or Mac. Neither machine really made a dent in markets other than gaming, though the later Amigas had add-in boards that allowed it to do professional video work and the ST became the number one machine for musicians working with MIDI worldwide.

The Atari ST and Amiga fates were sealed when a little video mode called VGA came out for IBM PCs giving them 256 colors – simultaneously addressable – and on-screen at one time. The advent of a game called Doom soon after did things that only the very highest-end ST or Amiga could do. Doom was a 3D shooter operating in a nearly true-3D environment. All ST and Amiga games looked “last generation” overnight and neither platform’s hardware could recreate the Doom experience easily or well. Doom doomed them.

ST enthusiasts ported a version of Doom to run on the last and fastest Atari ST ever created – the Falcon030. The Falcon came out too late to save Atari but it had a 16Mhz 68030 with a 68881/2 FPU and an amazing chip – the 56001 – a true DSP chip, plus MultiTOS, a multitasking version to TOS, video modes that competed with VGA and SVGA, and a lot more. Doom runs great and even runs with enhanced graphics and sound on the Falcon030.

It’s all history now and being kept alive by a small group of enthusiasts.

MY LIST OF BEST ATARI ST EMULATOR GAMES

  1. Bubble Bobble (the overall greatest game of all time – see all the levels and solutions for each here)
  2. Lethal Xcess (amazing game for the ST and Amiga – great sound, music, graphics, and playability – lots of info here)
  3. Magic Boy – great game showing off the STE
    1. hardware smooth scrolling
    2. blitter graphics chip
    3. stereo sampled digital sound
    4. more than 50 colors on screen during gameplay
  4. Gunship – check out Gunship Academy
  5. F15 Strike Eagle II
  6. Chaos Engine – superb gameplay – shows off the STE color palette, smooth hardware scrolling, stereo sampled sound
  7. F19 Stealth Fighter – check out this great strategy guide
  8. Dungeon Master
  9. Crystal Castles
  10. Fire and Ice – another STE-enhanced game with more than 30 colors, hardware scrolling and stereo sound
  11. Prince of Persia
  12. Captain Blood
  13. Sentinel – a really innovative and cool game
  14. F16 Falcon
  15. Sundog
  16. Flight Simulator 2
  17. Airball
  18. Baal
  19. Buggy Boy
  20. Gods
  21. Gauntlet 2
  22. Moon Patrol
  23. Oids
  24. Ogre
  25. Populous
  26. Saint Dragon
  27. Rampage
  28. Shanghai
  29. Silent Service
  30. Star Glider
  31. Wings of Death (the prequel to Lethal Xcess)
  32. Xevious
  33. Zork I, II, and III

Delve into the fascinating realm of Atari ST emulation, where the Hatari Atari ST emulator shines as an excellent tool to relive the classic gaming experience of the iconic Atari ST series.

Atari ST Emulators: The Atari ST, a home computer renowned for its sound and graphics capabilities, boasts a dedicated emulation scene. Modern Atari ST emulators offer fans the chance to experience the games and software that defined an era of computing.

Hatari Atari ST Emulator: Among the array of Atari ST emulators, the Hatari emulator stands out. As an open-source project, Hatari faithfully reproduces the Atari ST and STE hardware, enabling enthusiasts to play an extensive library of Atari ST games on various modern systems.

Hatari supports the emulation of most of the ST and STE hardware, including some special chipsets like the BLiTTER and the MIDI ports, providing an authentic Atari ST experience. It’s compatible with multiple platforms, including Windows, Linux, and macOS, making it widely accessible.

Community and Support: The Hatari community is robust and active, continually working on updates to enhance performance and compatibility. Users also benefit from comprehensive support and a wealth of resources to help troubleshoot issues and optimize their emulation experience.

Whether you’re a retro gaming aficionado or an Atari ST enthusiast, the Hatari emulator is your gateway to a nostalgic gaming journey. Rediscover the charm of the Atari ST era with the high-fidelity emulation that Hatari provides.