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Alive 11
Atari on Mac!
                     Emulating Atari on Mac (part 1)

Now  a  lot  of  you may well be reading this article  under  some  form  of
emulation.  We are all familiar with the more popular options on the Peecee,
for  example,  STeem.  There  are emulators for Atari on other platforms  as
well, and as I have got the not totally obscure Apple Mac, it is time to see
how well one of these can attempt to emulate the fuji-boxes that we know and

This will be considered in two parts.  Firstly we will look at how the Atari
ST  and  related 16/32 bit family members perform under emulation.  For  the
second part of this round up,  to be seen in Alive 12, we turn our attention
to the classic 8-bit computers and consoles.  The Atari 800 series,  and the
console  family.  We  might  also get a bit of Lynx in,  as there is  a  Mac
version of the 'Handy' emulator. It would be really great to see if there is
a Jaguar emulator for the Mac, but that might be in the realms of fantasy!

For  now,  there are three main contenders for the ST and related  machines.
Nostalgia, and Hatari which mainly emulate the ST, with some extra features,
and  Aranym,  which  is something else altogether.  There is also 'Power ST'
which is a predecessor to Hatari,  but it is no longer maintained, so not of
major interest.

 NoSTalgia v1.42..
Authored by Philippe Gerin..

NoSTalgia was the first emulator that I tried. It emulates the STFM hardware
to  at  least  the level of Tos 1.4 with the blitter included.  You  can  in
practice  also use Tos 2.06 for that more modern desktop feel.  You have  to
provide  your  own Tos rom image to get the  desired  authenticity  level.In
practice, this isn't too hard to do of course.

It  does  come supplied with Emutos,  the freeware and  potential  copyright
hassle  free  'generic'  Tos.  This is also what is used in  Aranym  in  the
absence of Tos 4, and works pretty well for 'clean' appplications that don't
delve too specifically into one of the original Tos's.

NoSTalgia works pretty well, but is quirky in some aspects of operation. You
have  to  keep  adjusting  the  zoom mode  according  to  the  Atari  screen
resolution,  otherwise  the  display  is  garbled.  It starts up ok  in  the
extended GEM vdi-compliant screen, but not so well for native ST modes until
you  do this.   Also it does autoboot an .msa disk image pretty well for the
most  part,  but there is a NoSTalgia hard disk bootstrap which tends to get
in  the way of some demo autoloaders .Maybe there is a way to disable  that?
Further  investigations are needed.  (UPDATE suggestion,  don't boot it with
the hard disk image mounted on the desktop and enabled! I despair of myself

There  are some neat extra features over and above the basic ST  experience.
You  get  a  GEM  vdi  compliant screen option,  with  a  640  x  400  4-bit
resolution, and 14mb ram, which is nice!

The quirkiest feature of all,  is their implementation of hard disk support.
This  is  done  as  a disk image which  is  generated  from  Nostalgia,  and
instructions how to get it going are fairly sparse. I'm not the only one who
was  scratching  their head at first,  as the issue also confused a  lot  of
people on the Atari forum as well.

I managed to get it going by mounting the disk image on the desktop, but not
by using the method described in the readme file, which suggested a System 9
utility to do this.  This was of dubious use at best and didn't get anywhere
useful.  In fact,  the disk image mounter on OSX did the job. This is just a
right hand mouse click away in an options menu.

Even  then,  having  hit on the right way of doing this,  there are still no
guarantees for the end result, as the desktop.inf file from my first attempt
got  mangled,  the  second  time I opened it to copy in  stuff.  Minutes  of
funless end followed, as I booted up directories and files, but nothing that
could  run!  I  got around that by importing a new one,  my Falcon one to be
precise, to get it going properly again.

It  loads  in  and  autoboots disk  images  acceptably.  There  are  ongoing
compatibility  investigations,  for example,  I need to see if the hard disk
bootstrap interferes with the bootloaders on some .msa image files.  If that
is so, then quite a lot of demos are prevented from working.

I got it to a state where the hard disk driver didn't interfere with
proceedings. The compatibility rate was about the same as before.

The  majority of boodloader productions that I tried either got so  far  and
died,  or  declined  altogether.  I  haven't  tried any games yet,  but  the
NoSTalgia  homepage  is rife with screenshots of some  well-known  ST  games
happily  running  on  it.  I guess most oldschool demos  with  their  exotic
bootloaders really break anything not quite perfect?

There  are  some that do,  the Fish and Chips demo ran nearly perfectly  for
example.  And  those  demos and even many newer intro's which run  from  the
desktop. such as the most recent Outline party invitro do seem to work quite

Does it run Alive?  Yes it does! I tried issue 7, with the ST-Knights intro,
and no complaints from this emulator.

The  single  feature  of NoSTalgia,  which stands out as being  better  than
Hatari  is  the quality of their sound emulation.  This is about 90%  there,
even with regard to very new stuff made by the gwEmster.  More crucially, it
doesn't slow things down.

I  have an ultimate test for any ST emulator.  It is called the "Posh test".
This  refers to the checkpoint demo of that name.  This manages to beat  the
wonky autoloading,  runs quite well for about half the demo. It only crashes
when it gets to some fullscreen texture tunnel thing.

In comparison with Hatari, NoSTalgia is a fading star. The version I got is
over a year old, and I'm not sure when the next update will be coming along.
It still has potential,  and may well have its prospects uplifted with a new

 Hatari 0.70..
Authored by Thothy..

Hatari offers a very similar type of emulation to NoSTalgia, that is with ST
hardware,  and even some STe features creeping in. So far, the extended 4096
colour palette is emulated.  Hatari is an open source emulator, running on a
number of different systems, and the Mac OSX port is just one version of

There is still more to discover,  as you also get other members of the MC68k
family emulated,  allegedly up to an Afterburner-tastic 32mhz 68040. I'm not
sure  if this has been implemented fully,  as a system profiler I tried only
detected a 68020/32mhz at most? Still, I'm not complaining.

There  are  more options available here in general than NoSTalgia.  You  can
tailor for either a classic simple 1989 era floppy only 'gaming' ST, or else
a higher spec GEM-compatible running TOS 2.06 with an extended 4-bit  screen
mode  and  upgraded  cpu.  Like NoSTalgia,  you have to provide own Tos  rom
images  for optimum levels of authenticity,  but EmuTos is provided ready to
run if you need it. There is a bit more to play with on the extended GEM vdi
screen choices as well.  In addition to 640 x 480 pixels, there are also 800
x 600 and 1024 x 768 / 4-bit colour mode flavours

Hatari has the option of autobooting disk images,  and runs the ones I tried
well  enough.  Compatibility-wise,  it  passed  the 'Posh test' with  flying
colours.  It  even  ran  the overscan Sanity style rotozoom  screen  without
blinking,  yes  the whole demo!  Now if they can fix the sound to work a bit

I  also gave it a thrashing with some of the material on the 'No  Fragments'
demo archive. The results were encouraging.

I started off big, with the famous Carebears (TCB). The Cuddly demo actually
ran,  although Hatari struggled mightily with the sync scrolling on the main
menu.  Trying  out  'Sowatt' revealed more of the same,  with the  Tech-Tech
screen getting a litle bit garbled.  The 'No Cooper' demo by 1984 managed to
bomb out. I managed to get the file version of the Hemoroids 'Humeur Vitree'
STe demo running,  all apart from one screen.  Cool or what! There were some
other  high-profile  failures.  The  bootloaders for the Mindbomb  and  'Ooh
Crikey' demos were too much for either emulator.  In general, there was more
which was prepared to run on here than on NoSTalgia.

I've  yet  to  try  a  full  issue of Alive  on  this,  but  the  signs  are
encouraging, as the preview shell tester runs perfectly on here! UPDATE: Ok,
it  has  passed the Alive issue test as well,  our shell giving  neither  of
these emulators any headachey issues.

Neither  emulator  is  close yet with  reference  to  displaying  interlaced
palettes  to increase the colours onscreen,  of the sort created by Spectrum
512  pictures,  or its later Photochrome and Apex TGA viewers.  The pictures
display as a garbled mess.  To get these working will need a very high order
of perfection from the emulator.

The big advantage of Hatari over its immediate competition, is that the hard
disk useage is much easier and more straightforward than the NoSTalgia  disk
image hassles. Here, you just create a new folder and designate that as your
'C' drive.  From there,  you just set up and copy files into it as you wish,
and Hatari reads it next time it boots.

This  virtual device assumes something like 50 meg storage,  which should be
enough for most.  Any files placed in here have to be 'atari-compliant' with
the  file names,  no long file names or Mac specific text characters in  the
filenames.  This  makes it a much more viable proposition than NoSTalgia  if
you  are using a virtual Atari to do any sort of serious Atari work  on  the
Mac, rather than as a bootloading "ST-console" for games and demos.

The  one  weak  point  for Hatari is with the  sound  emulation.  With  this
switched on,  the emulated slows down a lot.  I watched a pixel-perfect Posh
demo with the sound turned off.  Shame really,  as the music is a vital part
of  that great production.  The sound quality seems to be about there,  just
that if there is a busy screen, it slows down a lot.

Hatari 0.80 was released during the course of this article!  This now allows
up to 14mb of (ST) ram. Is this now predicting some future Falcon emulation?
Also  the  STe  hardware emulation has moved up the pace.  Now some  of  the
blitter  hardscroll and splitscreen functions,  and STe Dma sound have  been
added.  I  can  confirm that the Dildo Fatwa 'Elvis' demo works  fully  with
Hatari,  including the Dma sound based singalong parts of it! Sorry Evil and
Baggio!  The  YM  emulation is still in need of a big kick to get  it  fixed

And another big bit of news worth sharing with you all. Hatari seems to now
emulate enough of the STe to allow Ray's Castle Wolfenstein conversion, in
the current beta, to run! Cool or what! I'll know shortly whether the final
release version repeats that happy story.

Hatari  is the most appealing and convenient of all three of  the  emulators
under consideration here. If I was stuck in extremis without a real Atari to
work with, this would be my current choice of a surrogate version.

 Aranym v.090..
Authored by the Aranym Team, Petr Stehlik among them..

Aranym  is  something different from the other two  emulators.  The  authors
would  have  us  describe  it as a virtual  high-end  atari  clone,  not  an
emulator.  Their  ultimate fantasy would be for Aranym to be distributed  as
Atari  or  Tos hardware,  running on a generic box,  with Aranym built on  a
linux layer invisible to the casual user.

Aranym further tries to disqualify itself as an emulator,  by emphasising it
is  a  platform running higher end cleanly coded  applications.  However,  a
rather large chunk of its heritage is owed to parts of the Falcon, including
the  Tos 4.04 rom being used in the early days before EmuTos,  and even some
of the sound hardware is emulated.  Indeed,  many of the screen shots on one
of the support pages have a "Wow look!  Apex Media running on here!" quality
to them.

Aranym emulates (cough!) a 68040 based atari.  This is several steps up from
the other emulators.  To summon it to life,  it uses a combination of EmuTos
with  Mint  and Teradesk,  or else the Falcon Tos.  It is quite easy to  get
working  out of the diskbox with a separately available Afros disk  image  .
The  parameters can be tweaked in a text-based config file,  which lives  in
your Mac documents folder. In the normal course of events, Aranym boots into
a  tasty  800 x 600 / 16 bitplane Falcon truecolour mode.  You  can  specify
generous,  almost limitless amounts of ram,  both ST and Fastram, which puts
it into the emulator superleague.

The  hard  disk  handling in this case is a mixture of  both  NoSTalgia  and
Hatari methods.  The Afros image is the first 'physical' device.  The booter
drive,  with  all  the  system start-up,  Mint and Teradesk files housed  on

There  is a second virtual device set up as an 'open' directory,  which  can
again be found in the Mac documents folder. It is just a question of finding
the  directory  on the Mac disk,  and copying files across into this  drive.
This is recognised as a second physical device by Aranym, and you can access
the files from the Aranym desktop.  Other options are available.  It is even
supposed  to be possible to physically connect another Atari hard  drive  or
CD-ROM and point the config pathways to boot from that. I might add that all
the  docfiles  relating to extra abilities like that,  tend to refer to  the
Linux version, rather than Mac OS.

From  there,  you  are  also supposed to be able to  directly  access  other
physical media devices like a cd-rom or floppy drive. I'm not so sure of how
the  latter  can do this on the Mac Aranym,  the host hardware not  natively
supporting  the  floppy  drive of course.  Much of the config file  is  very
general  in  nature,  with  some parts applicable to the Linux  in  its  x86
incarnation only.  There is no JIT compiler for this PPC Mac, nor will there
likely ever be?

There are several versions for different platforms. Aranym started as Linux,
where the majority of support is it.  The Linux/X86 version has an extremely
powerful function,  the 'JIT' (Just in time) compiler, which uses the native
processing power of the host machine. This makes Aranym potentially the most
powerful Atari there is, even more than the CT60? This feature not available
on Apple PPC,  so we are "restricted" to an emulated 68040.  Ah well, suffer
we must. I would guess that JIT could well appear on future Intel Macs!

EmuTos,which  has been mentioned a couple of times before in  this  article,
has  a useful level of compatibility.  There are some surprising things whch
run  on it.  I got the Dead Hackers Society CT60 4k intro's Episode 666  and
Acid  Tear  to run on it.  As a point of interest,  these displayed  happily
under  Aranym on the same flatscreen that refuses the signal for these  same
demos from my CT60! Also more conventional software such as Image Copy 3 and
Aniplayer both run on it as well. Image Copy is a little flaky in operation
and Aniplayer doesn't seem to be able to alter it's basic French language
configuration on Aranym. (UPDATE! Fixed that one, grud knows how!)

There  is  quite a lot that you think should,  but doesn't.  One such is the
GEM-demo,  another  is  the  GEM  Panic game,  which I thought was  kind  of
strange, but still.

At  some  point,  I would dearly love to check out how this works  with  TOS
4.04.  There  is  a current ongoing struggle to get this working,  as Aranym
will  boot with this in place,  but without a third party hard disk  driver,
won't  recognise  any  real devices or virtual disk images  on  its  own.  I
fiddled with the config file pathways to attempt to introduce a floppy  with
a disk on it,  but without success. I have got halfway there, identified the
correct device pathway for my USB floppy, which seems to sort of acknowledge
the device is present,  but does not open it yet?  As it stands, Aranym will
boot with the Tos 4.04 imagefile,  but ONLY the imagefile,  which means that
what you get by way of a desktop isn't a lot of use! It is a perfect copy of
a Falcon booting from the rom, and no devices present, so you aren't able
to do anything at all...

There is more research needed here,  I need either a pre-prepared disk image
with  Tos  4.04 on it and ready to run,  or else a file pathway to  properly
access  and get files off the floppy drive on the Mac?  I would say that  my
exploration of Aranym is most definitely a work in progress.

The other thing is,  that Aranym is currently silent.  I think there is some
kind  of  Aniplayer specific sound driver,  but this is conspicuous  by  its
silence. In general, there isn't any sort of noise coming forth from Aranym.
There  have been hints that there may be more work soon on the DSP  part  of
the emulation.

The  Tos 4.04 works now,  thanks to a HD-Driver hint from Evil!  Time for an

There  isn't  that much difference from  before,  compatibility-wise,  Those
programs which refused to run before,  didn't pick up the pace this time.  I
did  try out one or two fresh experiments.  The early pre-preview version of
Lasers  and  Men got as far as the start-up screens,  and so did one of  the
later issues of Falcon Maggie. I did manage to get the Yeti 3-D Quake engine
working  in a window,  and the Dead Hackers success story continued with the
EIL 3 invitro running.  It may be worth trying other demos from that source,
as Aranym is used as an emergency development system when Evil is away  from
home :-)

There  is  still  a fair bit to learn here,  some more Falcon  TOS  friendly
config hints, and perhaps a compatibility list might be a good idea?


All  of  these emulators were great fun to play with,  and provide a  pretty
good Atari experience.  Of the two ST-based emulators,  Hatari is definitely
out in front, and seems to be more active in general. The one major drawback
still present with it is the YM emulation, which seems to drag down when the
screen fills up.  Hatari is the most useable emulation out of the three,  in
relation to the sort of things I am likely to do.

NoSTalgia  is  still a good piece of work,  let down slightly by its  fiddly
hard disk setting up and handling. I've got a feeling it might come into its
own with a bit more investigation.

Aranym is bursting with possibilities as a higher end 'virtual machine'. I'm
not  sure if all of those possibilities are going to be realised on the  Mac
though, at least not before the Intel changeover.

At heart, I still prefer the real thing!

CiH, for Alive! Mag, Oct '05
Alive 11