Just a Thought - The Last Flight Of the Star Raider? (Part II)
by- July 1st, 2005
"Sierra Tango 6, hold station at vector 4-5 by 1-8-4 by 3-0-0-0. A supply drone is in route."
"Carly, honest, I got here as fast as I could."
I stared the station; a new paint job and you couldn't tell it had just been attacked. I was looking at the station, but I saw Carly's face in my mind's eye; full lips down turned, brown eyes, normally warm and invited, now narrowed to cold slits as inviting as a Rigellian Frost-head.
No one died or was injured in the attack. Well, that's not entirely true; Carly's cat, Mister Buttons, lost all 9 of its lives when a wall in Carly's quarters breached. She said the hole was only about 7 centimeters, and the cat must have been sitting near the breach when happened: Kitty through a straw! Yuk!
But she did find a few tufts of hair and a good size blood smear; more than enough to clone the fur ball.
The supply drone clamped onto my Raider and transferred fuel and supplies. Good thing cuz I was running low on kaf. Supplies are one thing, but what I wanted, what I needed was some human contact, preferably of the intimate kind, but Carly was feeling less than appreciative at the moment.
"Re-supply complete. You are clear to break orbit, Sierra Tango 6."
I could almost flick the icicles off her words.
"Oh, come-on, Carly! Let me dock! I've been stuck in this can for 3 weeks now."
"You let Mr. Buttons die," she said with the emotion of a rock. "You let him get sucked through a hole. You never liked my cat."
"But I saved your rear," I whined. "You'd think you'd be happy about that le..."
A klaxon sounded, and my HUD showed that Foxtrot Base was in eminent danger of attack.
Damn! So much for human contact.A new version Star Raiders won't likely appear on a Mac near you anytime soon, like I proposed in my previous column; Atari is currently riding the current wave of nostalgia, and is selling old school game consoles.
However, if you own an 800 and the Star Raiders ROM collecting dust in an attic you can enjoy sector hopping and Zylon blasting once again on an emulated Atari 800 running on your Mac.
Now tell me, how cool is that?
Emulation Is The Sincerest Form...
Nowadays most computers are powerful enough to emulate any of the old 8-bit and 16-bit systems of yesterday. In fact, many system have plenty of juice to emulate some of today's systems and still have horsepower left to run a few native tasks. All it takes is finding the right emulator.
When I went looking for an Atari emulator I found plenty, but the best one for emulating any of the 8-bit Atari systems on your Mac is called Atari800MacX (A8MX). They could have come up with a better name for it, but I suppose the name makes it hard not to know what it is, and what it does. And what it does is especially cool; this bad boy is so feature rich that you can do darn near anything you once could on an Atari 800, including using the cassette tape drive.
Download and install the app, then download and install the system ROM. Once you've done that be prepared to be impressed.
Are We There Yet?
Like any decent Mac app, A8MX is well laid out, and easy to use, but it help to know how to run an Atari: To run an application, you simply load in the ROM, cassette, or diskette, then reboot. The Atari's OS is very simplistic; if it finds media, it will load and run it. Remember that this was a computer design to be easy to use; there's nothing simpler then putting in media and hitting a button.
The system ROMs are available for several Atari systems, but I was only able to get the Atari OS/B working, which is fine for what we need.
The next problem is getting the Star Raiders game loaded. Remember that the Star Raiders ROM you have contains licensed software. To run Star Raiders, or any other Atari game on your emulator you must find a way to get the software embedded into ROM onto your Mac. Once you do, you'll be ready to rock-n-roll.
Have you seen this before?
Fire Up The Engines
With your software onboard, the emulation app ready, and the system ROMs installed, you are finally ready to fire up that puppy and go Zylon hunting.
The first thing to do is start the A8MX. The familiar Atari Notepad will appear in a window, and you'll notice a collection of media input devices (diskette drive, ROM slots, cassette drive) near the bottom of your screen. Depending on the format your software is in, you'll either load it from the ROM ports, or through a diskette drive.
Note that if your software has the suffix '.atr' than you can run it through a diskette drive. To run software through the diskette drive, simply click the 'On' button on one of the drives, then click 'Insert'. You will then be able to locate the software. Once the software you want to load is selected, click the 'Warm Start' button, which reboots the Atari 800. The software will load and, if all went well, you should see the familiar Star Raiders starfield. You can warm-start the game as often as needed; that's how Ataris operated.
It's all there!
Now would be a good time to set up the controls so that you can play. A8MX will let you use a USB joystick, if you have one, or you can use the keyboard to control your Raider. I suggest setting up a joystick; it can be a bit tedious, but you'll enjoy the game a lot more if you do. To set up the game controls, and all other aspects of the emulator, you go to the Preferences Panel.
That's it! A8MX makes running your old school Atari games a snap, and the interface is what you'd expect from any OS X application: It's functional but gets out of your way to let you play, and that, my friends, is the name of that game.
Happy hunting Star Raider!
I took one last look at Alpha Base, and Carly before punching the Warp Drive.
I've been in countless 'Defensive Actions' against the Zylons, and every time I warp into a sector I think it's my last hop. The Zylon aren't smart, but they are relentless, and luck can smile on the stupid; I could get hit with a lucky shot. The thought of dying in the cold blackness of space, alone, is not the kind of thing a guy should be thinking about before going into battle, but it is something that I can't help.
The idiot light for Foxtrot Base just turned red; they are surrounded. I need to move quickly, but instead of hitting the Warp Drive button, I hit the Comm switch.
"Carly, I...I'm sorry about Mr. Buttons. I did try to get here as fast as I could."
There was the space of 3 heartbeats, then Carly replied. "I know, Zeke, I know."
Two more heartbeats, then, softly, "You be careful, ya hear?"
"I hear ya, Carly."
She said a lot in those five words, and it gave me hope that I might touch some skin soon; my heart had already been touched.
Feeling like someone had just loaded me up with a fresh set of batteries, I punched the Warp Drive.
Zylons: Beware! I'm a man on a mission!
is a writer who currently lives in Orlando, FL. He's been a Mac fan since Atari Computers folded, but has worked with computers of nearly every type for 20 years.
Most Recent Columns From Just A Thought
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