Re: [stella] Emulator detection

Subject: Re: [stella] Emulator detection
From: "Eric Ball" <ericball@xxxxxxxxxxxx>
Date: Mon, 4 Jul 2005 12:34:06 -0400
(Note: the license for Skeleton and Skeleton+ explicitly permit running the
code on an emulator, but I do understand the desire of some to discourage

Hmm..  to summarize:
1. Although it may be possible for code to detect an emulator and maybe even
RAM carts, it is equally possible for the emulators to be modified (by the
primary or underground developers) to mimic the "correct" behaviour.
2. Although emulators could be enhanced to recognize a "do not emulate"
code, this code could just as easily be removed.

Okay that's the world from the emulator POV, but the emulator is useless
without the binary.  The first task for a cart-only developer is to keep the
binary out of common distribution and make it known that they do not wish
the ROM image to be generally available.  This currently exists today for
some ROMs (I'm thinking Ebivision as an example).

Obviously someone could buy the cartridge then dump the ROM and release it
via the Internet anyway.  (Heck, I've gotten an email from a completist
collector wanting a development release of SpaceWar! 7800.  Some people are
never happy until they have one of everything.)  Okay, the challenge then is
to put something else in the cartridge which will prevent a simple ROM dump
from functioning.

I can see two possibilities; either a unique bankswitch device, or a
dedicated protection device.  The difference being the bankswitch device
affects how the ROM is accessed, while a protection device is accessed
directly.  Of course, just like bootlegs in the arcades, someone with enough
skill, knowledge, and desire could either reverse-engineer the device or
patch the ROM itself to bypass the requirements.  (Naturally such things
will make development more difficult.)

Unfortunately, I suspect it is impossible to make a cartridge (especially
for something as simple as the 2600) which cannot be duplicated and/or
emulated.  The best thing to do is to only make the cartridge available and
use a unique bankswitch device.  This should, at least, keep it out of the
mainstream.  (Since emulator developers hopefully won't support the

However, I am surprised by the number of people who have purchased Skeleton
and Skeleton+ even though the ROM images are freely available.  I sometimes
wonder if I would have gotten the same response if it was only available in
cartridge form.

Who wants to be the first to integrate an authentic Atari Slapstic into a
2600 cart?

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