Here are a few tips on using Stella, the Atari 2600 emulator you need to install on your computer in order to play a few of the required games this semester.
- First you need to get Stella (it’s open-source and free). You can find Stella for Windows, Macs, or Linux operating systems from the project’s download page.
- Once the file is downloaded, open the installer just like you would to install any other program.
- Accept all the default settings.
- Once Stella is installed, you’ll need a game “ROM” — this is essentially a tiny piece of software code that mirrors the code on the original game cartridge. There are plenty of places online to find ROMs. Atari Age is the premier Atari site, and in addition to scans of the original packaging and instruction manuals of different games, you can find many ROMs there. Go to individual game pages and look for the “Download ROM” icon (it looks like a white Pac Man in a blue circle). Experiment with different games, but definitely try to download and play the following classic Atari games: Combat, Pac-Man, Air-Sea Battle, Yar’s Revenge, Asteroids, Demon Attack, Space Invaders, and Frogger
- The ROMs at Atariage are often compressed as .zip files to speed up downloading (even though they are already extremely small files). Once the game is downloaded, you’ll have to “unzip” the file to extract the .bin file inside. This .bin file is the actual ROM. Most Macs and PCs can uncompress the games without any problem. Remember where you’ve placed the unzipped .bin file that is the game ROM, and you’re ready to load it up in Stella.
- Run Stella. When you first open the program you’ll see a DOS-like directory. Navigate through here to find where you saved the various .bin files you’ve downloaded.
- You might have to experiment with the different controls and functions keys. In general, press F2 to begin the game.