Atari 8bit on OSX

Ready basic prompt

atari800 – emulator of Atari 8-bit computers and the 5200 console

That’s the tag line for the man page for the atari800 emulator. It’s maintained by a group of contributors on Github – specifically Mark Grebe has done the work for OSX. The emulator is based on the seminal work done by David Firth in the UK. It’s written in C and has many features which make it a very faithful emulation of the Atari 8bit series. While I’ve been working on uplifting the physical hardware of my Amiga 500 I’ve been playing with Atari 8bit emulation on my Macintosh.

From the Source’s Home page on Github:

Atari800 emulator was written by David Firth in 1995 and released under the GPL. So it was available with full source code in C. The code was written with portability in mind and that allowed various people to create ports of Atari800 for PC, Amiga, Atari, Mac and machines running UNIX-like operating systems.

As there were no new versions of Atari800 since spring of 1997 several people (Perry McFarlane, Rich Lawrence, Thomas Richter, Radek Sterba, Robert Golias and me) started updating the last available v0.8.0 source code independently. Later we all got in touch and started working together. I also contacted the original Atari800 author, David Firth, who basically agreed with me maintaining the source code and putting out source and binary releases.

The 3.1.0 version from 2014-08 is the latest available via brew on OSX and still works with High Sierra (OSX 10.13.4). There has been recent commits (Jan 2018) on the Github repo, but no new releases yet.

This post will show you how to install atari800 for OSX, create a custom config and a small bash script to start atari800 from the command line. We will use AtariWriter with the 80 column option, as well as emulating the XEP 80 Column device for the Atari 8bit.


Installation is the easiest part of this. Just use brew to install atari 800:

$ brew install atari800

$ brew info atari800
atari800: stable 3.1.0 (bottled), HEAD
Atari 8-bit machine emulator
/usr/local/Cellar/atari800/3.1.0 (11 files, 725.7KB) *
  Poured from bottle on 2018-03-29 at 21:03:43
==> Dependencies
Required: sdl ✔, libpng ✔
==> Options
	Install HEAD version

Now man pages are available:

$ man atari800

       atari800 - emulator of Atari 8-bit computers and the 5200 console

       atari800 [option]... [file]...

       atari800  emulates the Atari 8-bit computer systems including the 400, 800, 1200XL, 600XL, 800XL, 65XE, 130XE, 800XE and the XE Game Sys-
       tem, and also the Atari 5200 SuperSystem console.

For this demo create a new dir to hold the files we’ll need:

  • 800.cfg
  • xep80_u12.rom
  • AtariWriter_80.atr


The file should look like below. It’s just calling the atari800 program with some options specified.

The files required for this can be found here.

if [ -z "$*" ]; then echo "You must supply the name of the ATR or disk file to start the atari";exit 1; fi

atari800 \
    -config atari-80.cfg \
    -xlxe_rom ATARIXL.ROM \
    -xl \
    -ntsc \
    -mouse off \
    -ntsc-artif none \
    -sound \
    -vsync \
    -horiz-area full \
    -vert-area full \
    -ntsc-filter-preset svideo \
    -80column \
    -xep80 \

To create a fresh config file just run the file once and when atari800 can’t find the config it will create one:

$ ./ AtariWriter_80.atr 
User config file 'atari800-80.cfg' not found.
Trying system wide config file: /etc/atari800.cfg
No configuration file found, will create fresh one from scratch:
Writing config file: atari800-80.cfg
Couldn't load XEP80 charset image: 

Now edit the new config file atari800-80.cfg and go to line number 73:


change it to:


save the file.

Now you can run that command again and AtariWriter should start in 80 columns.

Screen Shot 2018 04 17 at 9 52 16 PM

Making Blank ATR disks

To do this use the option in the atari800 management screen. When atari800 is running hit F1 and then select Disk Management. Then choose to create a blank ATR image. It’s SingleSided.

Screen Shot 2018 04 02 at 6 23 37 PM

Leave a Reply