ATARI++ - A "Beginners Guide" to Compiling and Using

12 posts
by welshy » Wed Dec 05, 2012 12:57 pm
Atari 8 Bit Computer Line manufactured from 1979 to 1992
Starting with the release of the Atari 800 and Atari 400 Home computers, these really were THE Gaming computer of the late70’s/early 80’s. Atari’s custom chipset was designed by the legendary Jay Miner (Atari VCS-TIA, Amiga Chipset etc).These custom hardware features enabled the computers to perform many functions directly in hardware, such as smooth background scrolling, player/missile graphics (Sprites) which would need to be done in software in most other computers of the time (The C64 was released 3 YEARS LATER!). These computers arguably had no peer as a gaming machine until the release of the Famicom (NES) in Japan in 1983. Renowned Dropzone programmer Archer MacLean stated “The Atari, being the Porsche of home computers, is capable of running Dropzone 2.5 times faster than the 64 and can handle any amount of blobs on screen, even when you release a Strata Bomb. It is visually, sonically etc., identical and about 12K shorter. However, the 64 is still a respectable BMW316”

Atari++v1.60 - Compiled using 2012-09-18-wheezy-raspbian, RPi is 256MEG and over clocked to 900MHz
Source Code - atari++_1.60.tar.gz*
Dependencies - sdl1.2-dev, libgtk2.0-dev (Optional)
Additional Files Required - Game ROMS (.bin, .rom) and/or Disc Images (.atr)

*Download Here -

1. Download the Source code from the Link
2. Extract the source code
3. CD into the extracted folder and Type -
make install (Optional, It WILL NOT run straight from console ONLY under “X”, but negates the need for “CDing” into the folder when you want to use it!)
4. Now make a New Folder, e.g. “Atari 8Bit” and put your downloaded image files in here (NB They MUST be extracted, it WILL NOT play compressed files (zip, rar etc))
5. Run the Program Type -
Press “F1” to open the Menu
6. Select “Machine” and change the sound to SDL

Running Games -
For ROMS (Cartridges) - Select Cartridge, open your rom/bin image, Select Cart Type (Tick a box e.g. 16k), Then Click Preferences - Exit Menu and Continue
For Disc Images - Select Disc Drive, open your atr image, Then Click Preferences - Cold Start, Exit Menu and Continue

Some of the “Classic” games to try emulating are -
#Ballblazer (Lucasfilm Games second release, a “Futuristic” Sports Game)
Defender (The BEST early 8bit home version of the 1980’s classic)
#Dropzone (Archer MacLean's Defender “Clone”/Homage)
#Encounter (Paul Woakes First Person 3-D Shooter)
#Mercenary - Escape From Targ (Paul Woakes’s “Seminal” 3-D Space Adventure Game)
Missile Command (Another excellent version of a 1980’s classic)
Missile Command+ (Improved Homebrew Hack)
#Rescue on Fractalus (Lucasfilm Games first release*, a Space Rescue/Shooter)

# These titles were released on the Atari Computers FIRST, then later ported other systems e.g. C64

*Trivia - The fractal landscape code was written by Loren Carpenter, who also programmed the "Genesis Effect" CGI sequence from Star Trek II - The Wrath of Khan
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by exobuzz » Wed Dec 05, 2012 1:12 pm
How does this compare to the atari800 emulator in terms of features / compatibility / speed ? I was considering looking at getting an atari 8 bit emulator running.
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by welshy » Wed Dec 05, 2012 1:52 pm
I have compiled/experimented with BOTH programs. Feature and Performance wise there is little to distinguish them, however, Atari++ has a better GUI/MUCH greater compatibility with ROMS/Disc Images than Atari800 (Which has the added inconvenience of needing a BIOS Image for EACH hardware revision emulated). I WOULD have preferred using ALTIRRA (In my opinion THE BEST Atari 8Bit Emulator!), but there ISN’T a Linux version (That I have yet discovered) and AdvMESS, although GOOD is realistically TOO SLOW on framerate (It’s those “Pesky” ANTIC/ CTIA-GTIA/ POKEY Custom Chip drivers (Or lack of) that I assume are the problem!)
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by exobuzz » Wed Dec 05, 2012 2:22 pm
thanks for the info. I'm just looking at atari800 now, as it's one I have used before. BTW if atari++ is sdl it should run under console, with perhaps some tweaks, or it does and I misunderstood ? if it doesn't id be happy to look at it and have a fiddle (but not wanting to step on your toes here etc).
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by welshy » Wed Dec 05, 2012 2:56 pm
No problem! Feel free! (Though it may be like “other” emulators I have “tinkered” with (e.g SNES9X-SDL-v1.39 i.e. NO increase in RESOLUTION/AND OR Performance so some of the advantages are negated (I MAY have done this when compiling Atari++ on my VirtualBox Testbed)). One of the things I have tried to do with ALL my “Guides” is to make “EASE of USE/Set Up” a primary factor (Including Compiling) as to not “Alienate” any users not conversant with Linux/Terminal Command Line (I’m still learning a GREAT DEAL myself#, my programming background/history is in 6502 Assembler/MSDOS (I did mention to a friend the other day my email correspondence now contain / instead of \!!!)) so they can learn/enjoy the process of compiling programs themselves and obtain a sense of achievement (Something “Binaries” don’t really do (Apologies and no disrespect intended, I KNOW you have posted a xpectrum Binary!)), and after all, isn’t that the Primary Object of the RPi?*

*I AM TRYING not to sound too “Pretentious” here!

# The next thing I am attempting to learn, when time allows, is Cross Compiling for ARM, which if successful, I WILL be posting the Binaries! (I would like to port “Daphne” the Laserdisc EMU to RPi!)
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by exobuzz » Wed Dec 05, 2012 3:04 pm
I agree, and it's more useful to give compile instructions and encourages people to also get involved. I did also post source/build instructions as well as the binary. Just thought I'd do the binary for those that really don't want to get involved.

You are probably right on the performance, but not having to load X saves some ram at least.

Appreciate your efforts. Nice to see some 6502 coders here ;-)
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by welshy » Thu Dec 06, 2012 12:59 pm
Yeah, but it kind of “Gives Away” my age! lol. I was the classic “bedroom coder” from way back, programming (Amongst others) VIC-20, Atari 400, Atari 600XL, Atari 800XL (Can you see a pattern developing here?), C64 then onto coding production equipment (6502 Controlled) during College studies for my HND. As you can probably tell, I’m WAY BEHIND the objectives of the RPi Foundation! One of my friends did his HND only 2 YEARS later, his “Computer Application” module revolved around using applications, Word, Excel, Power Point etc, NO ACTUAL CODING! It seems to me, on the whole, computer education has REALLY taken a step BACKWARDS in recent years, my friends/sisters children can ALL use computers but have ABSOLUTELY NO IDEA how they actually work, even in “Simplistic” terms (I DON’T blame them, the Education System is at fault!). Personally, I think its kind of sad, modern computer systems have access to the kind of things I DREAMED of as a kid (Which early computer pioneers envisaged e.g “You will have a computer that fits in a suitcase, it will be connected to every other device in the world and have to access ANY library’s recources”. Harrison Ellenshaw, Visual Effects Supervisor on TRON recounted this anecdote on the 21st Anniversary DVD told to him by a “TECH” working for one of the companies producing the CGI (He recalls sarcastically replying “Yes, Yes, of COURSE!” Thinking he had smoked a few too many “Herbal” cigarette’s!)). But all they seem to want to do with all this amazing technology at their disposal is use Facebook/Twitter and watch a “Hilarious Skateboarding Cat” on UTube!!! (Oh dear, I sound like a “Grumpy Old Man” there!). I recently returned to 6502 Assembler (After 20 odd YEARS!) after reading the excellent book “Racing the Beam - The Atari Video Computer System” (Yes, I know it’s a 6507, but it’s essentially the same processor, just a smaller “package”). Now THERE’S a difficult machine to program (But VERY rewarding!), it makes you appreciate the real “Genius” of coders like David Crane, Rob Fulop, Warren Robinett etc, what they achieved with such a minimalist system and its “MASSIVE” 128 BYTES of RAM!!!

One last Thing, many thanks for the “Appreciation” of my posts/guides, its nice to get some positive feedback!# (Especially when I see how many people have viewed them without even so much as a “Thank You” comment!)

#Special Thanks’ to everybody else reading this thread who has posted similarly for other “Guides”. It is VERY MUCH appreciated!
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by welshy » Wed Jan 09, 2013 10:51 am
After some recent ”Tinkering” when making a NEW SD Card Image, I have found Atari++ will indeed run “Fullscreen” in Terminal. All that is needed is to add the SDL Frontend switch at execution i.e -

atari++ -frontend sdl

As yet, I haven’t tried this with v1.60 (But I think it SHOULD work, from what I recall there was an SDL Front End Option), but it DEFINATELY works with v1.70 which can be downloaded Here -
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by SantaMatt » Sun Jul 27, 2014 5:52 pm
I can not run the make command. I get an error either as me or as sudo.

make: execvp: ./configure: Permission denied
make: *** [types.h] Error 127

Being quite the noob to Linux, Debian/Raspian and the pi, I am probably doing something wrong. Is there a dependency I need to load or something?

I am somewhat computer literate as I develop windows software professionally but the whole pi world is new to me. I am right now building a portable utility pi. In the case I will have dual wifi cards for network analysis, a digital radio with a directional antenna I'm going to build and various robotic environmental sensors connected through a pic controller. All I will need to do is reconfigure what is on the hub and then launch the appropriate apps. It will be setup with a 3.5 inch lcd monitor, plug into a TV or rdp from my Android tablet. I'm still waiting for some hardware to arrive and thought I would tackle the emulation part while I waited. I have installed RetroPie on top of Raspian with mixed results. I have the ssh and rdp stuff working already. And now that I have told you way more than you probably care about I'll send this.

Santa Matt
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by welshy » Mon Jul 28, 2014 5:57 am
Welcome to the Forum! Well, this is a 'Blast from the Past'! I posted this in the early days of the RPi when Emulators were limited to available Code from various sources. Since then many excellent RPi optimised Binaries have appeared, if your looking for a great Atari8Bit emulator I would suggest Andreys Atari800 port, its currently by far the best available.

Download Link - ... p/download

Additional: I just compiled Atari++v1.70 again on a newer version of Raspbian, seems to work fine!? The only dependency required is libsdl1.2-dev (you don't need GTK) then just ./configure & make. It runs without issue in X, to run in Console just add the -frontend sdl switch.

Edit: v1.72 also compiles and runs fine, however, I did run into issues with v1.73
Last edited by welshy on Wed Jul 30, 2014 9:44 am, edited 1 time in total.
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by Richard-TX » Mon Jul 28, 2014 7:37 am
Atari was the only computer company to publish the source code to their OS. The Atari OS was a true OS, unlike the C64 which was just a collection of subroutines you called by loading a register and then executed a JSR (some addr) to print to the screen for example. On the Atari you told the OS where the string was and then it took care of it from there. That is also why the Atari was capable of auto-booting and the C64 was not. For more info see the Document "De Re Atari".

All of the Atari emulators that I tried failed my tests. Duplicating the custom graphics and sound chip in software is a bit difficult.
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by welshy » Mon Jul 28, 2014 8:35 am
Richard-TX wrote:All of the Atari emulators that I tried failed my tests. Duplicating the custom graphics and sound chip in software is a bit difficult.

What 'Tests'?
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