Don't panic! this may be a review of a PC program, but as Colin Polonowski found out, it's still an important development for Atari users...

The PC has got quite a few Atari emulators these days including major releases such as Gemulator and MagiCPC. However, these programs aren't without their problems. The biggest obstacle that they have to overcome is incompatibility.

The Atari has so many different program types... TOS, GEM etc. Each one uses different parts of the 68000 chip. This means that any emulators have to reproduce the functions of this chip as software so that they can be interpreted by the Intel chip found in most PC's.

Even if this is reproduced exactly, there still tends to be problems when running many programs. The biggest field where this is a problem is games - very few work on an emulator due to the number of different systems they require.

PaCiFiST is the first emulator that can successfully run most Atari games. The program emulates so much of the Atari hardware that unless a game uses an extremely obscure piece of code it is likely to run. In fact, even STOS runs almost perfectly!

PaCiFiST uses a software copy of the TOS chips inside Atari computers. This is where things begin to get complicated. The rights to TOS are still owned by JTS Atari so it is effectively illegal to make copies of the operating system for use on other computers unless it is not being used on both systems simultaneously.

Another problem is with using games... they may run perfectly fine, but as PaCiFiST is unable to use the A drive of the PC, it means you'll have to copy the game onto the PC before running it. Most ST games use disk based copy protection so this can be very difficult, and you must also remember that it is illegal to make unauthorised copies of any software.

The current version of PaCiFiST only supports one megabyte of ram and support for sound is limited to owners of Soundblaster cards. You can run in any ST resolution i.e. Low, Medium and High and PaCiFiST supports the Mouse, Joystick, Parallel and Serial ports of your PC.

Even with the problems above, PaCiFiST still seems to be one of the most compatible emulators currently available. It is freeware and is being continuously developed and the best thing of all is that you can play Mole Mayhem on it!

Platforms:IBM PC Compatibles, 486 and above
Contact:Frederic Gidouin
9, Allee du Chevrefeuille
Where:Downloadable from the Internet:

Colin Polonowski


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