ASCII by Jason Scott

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The Javascript MESS Plays Atari Today —

4821129260_fb6e3bc960_bThe Javascript MESS project (mentioned here and here and here and so on) continues its progress towards the goal of emulating dozens, later hundreds of computer platforms, in a browser-based fashion. And now, the Atari 800 joins the pack.

If you want to check it out, just go here and select one of the programs in the drop-down menu, and then hit space.

It makes some crazy bad noise in Firefox, but runs faster. And it definitely works in a bunch of situations, to various levels of “success”. We’re aware the keyboard mappings are crazy, that it is not 100% speed (more like 2/3rds speed as of this writing), and a host of other things. We’re going to rope around and go after some of the interface issues so it’ll be easier to do things like hit the START button (It’s F1 on most keyboards), and the joystick button, which is ALSO not working at this time (I know it’s somewhat important that the joystick button be working).

This is a huge jump and a personal delight, because with the addition of an Atari 800, we’re well into mainstream computing – the Atari 800 was one of the big ones in the computer wars. Introduced in 1979, this masterpiece of plastic and color was the introduction for many to the world of computing, building on Atari’s excellent name in gaming and entertainment. With four joystick ports, cartridge and later cassette/disk options, and a whole range of cool peripherals, this thing was serious business. Serious FUN business.

Unlike the other JSMESS implementations where the software library was under a thousand titles (and in most cases, under a couple hundred titles), the collection of Atari 800-compatible software I have goes past the 10,000 mark and I’m positive that’s nowhere near the amount of software out there – it’s just what I happen to have at this moment. So the problem was what to put into the drop-down menu for now.

I hit up some fellow Atarians, and the list has a bunch of canonical titles, including the 1980 Atari Dealer’s Demo, which ran on computers being sold at stores, and which I have a very happy memory of staring at through the window of a closed computer store at the age of 11. In fact, when I first heard it have music, it was years and years later because I only knew it as being through the window!

There’s memories aplenty in this software, along with lessons to be taught about working with limited resources, what it was like to play Star Raiders (a very early space game) and how the 1984 Pac-Man port for the 800 was a little masterpiece of design.


Just go here to try out the project, and remember to check out the main JSMESS project page to learn how to contribute or play with other platforms emulated so far.

Thanks to Vitorio for helping push through this latest platform, and to Alon Zakai for working with us intensely recently.


Categorised as: computer history

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One Comment

  1. iPadCary says:

    Have you played Atari todaaayyy?!