Atari 8-bit Emulators

Over the last few years, the emulation scene has exploded. Today's fast personal computers are capable of emulating just about any computer hardware built in the '80s. There are presently around half a dozen Atari 8-bit emulators, two of which run native on Macs. With these emulators, you can run most of your old Atari software and games. For example, I have used Rainbow to display my old Atari graphics files, and then used the screen snapshot feature on the Mac to convert them all to Mac PICT files. This is much simpler than trying to convert the Atari files directly (believe me, I've tried).


Written by Chris Lam of Birmingham, England, Rainbow was the first Atari 8-bit emulator for the Mac. Capable of emulating the 400/800, 800xl, 130xe, and 5200 game system. Performance and compatibility are excellent. Sound is very close to the real thing. Supports OSS SuperCarts. Many options for frame rate, speed, screen size, etc. Emulates both joysticks and paddles. Can import or export files from mounted disk images. Can be run on a 68040-based Mac, but a PowerPC-based Mac is recommended for best performance. The free demo version has some features disabled (sound and writing to disk images). There is also a Windows95/NT version. US$20 shareware. Upgrades free to registered users. (Screenshot)


Written by Mike and Joe Fenton, WACKE (which stands for "Weightless Atari Computer Keepsake Emulator") is a newcomer to Atari emulation on the Mac. It's still a work in progress, but shows a lot of promise. The interface, which is very un-Mac-like--no menus, windows, mouse cursor, etc.--is rudimentary but usable. I have not used it a lot yet, but the emulation appears to be quite solid and performance is faster than with Rainbow. It includes a utility for extracting individual files from ATR disk images. A clever feature then allows individual files to be loaded using the C: device. Unlike Rainbow, it does not support the 5200. PowerMac only. The free demo version has some features disabled (full-screen mode). US$5 shareware. Upgrades free to registered users. (Screenshot)

Running PC Emulators on a Mac

It may be heresy, but it's true. Using a PC emulator such as VirtualPC, SoftPC or RealPC, you can see what all the fuss is about. I have tested a few of them (Rainbow95, XL-it!, and Atari800) and they do work, but I'd recommend something faster than the 7500/100 that I use. For example, running Rainbow on my 7500/100 matches or exceeds the speed of the real thing; running Rainbow95 in VirtualPC is about as fast as running the Mac version on my PowerBook Duo (33mhz 68030). On a fast PPC Mac--say 200mhz 604 or better--these emulators should run acceptably fast.

John Stiles' (Link removed: Site no longer exists. Old URL points to malware site.)

There are dozens of other emulators that run on a Mac. One of my favorite web sites, is the definitive resource. Everything from EDSAC to modern arcade games, from the Apple I to the latest Pentium--if it exists and runs on a Mac, you'll find it here.

Mac/Atari Fusion: Atari 8-bit Resources for Mac Users Copyright 2001 Mark Simonson.