[stella] dev systems

Subject: [stella] dev systems
From: "Glenn Saunders" <cybpunks@xxxxxxxxxxx>
Date: Mon, 09 Apr 2001 13:04:01 -0700

What kind of development systems did the original
Atari programmers use around the time of 1979 to 1982? Does anyone have any info on this?

The original 2600 breadboard was interfaced to a Jolt system which had a tape drive. Originally they keyed in the games byte by byte and hand-assembled them, but that was maddening. They then cross-assembled on a timesharing system (probably a minicomputer like a PDP-11, they used TI terminals) and saved to tape and sneakernetted it to the breadboard system.

I think they continued to cross-assemble for some time. It was probably faster than it could have been on an Apple II or Atari 800 once those machines were available, albeit less convenient. I know Video Chess's AI was developed using Fortran, believe it or not. At some point under Warners they bought a pretty expensive mini/mainframe system. I read about this in the old in-house newsletters. I don't know if it was used for development or just accounting and stuff.

I do know that 20th Century Fox used a device that hooked up the Atari 800 to the 2600, and games were written with the regular Assembler Editor cartridge. Other 3rd parties probably used the Atari 8-bit also. The Starpath games were developed on an Apple II with a cassette interface to talk to the Supercharger.

Imagic wrote graphical editor tools for the Atari 800 to assist in their 2600 development.

Once they got the code into the 2600, they all started using VCRs and logic analyzers like the HP 1611A to debug their kernels in the golden years.

In the later years, under the Tramiels, there was an Atari ST-based 2600 development system that was like an in-circuit-emulator of some kind.

One thing is for certain, most of the games had to be programmed very meticuously and checked over in the brain because of the long turnaround times between a change in the code and seeing the game run on the VCS. Lazy trial and error was just not going to work, unlike today where you can assemble and run changed code in seconds in an emulator or a Supercharged 2600.

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