Stella makes it easy and fun to emulate classic Atari 2600 VCS games


When it comes to tapping into our fondness for old computing and gaming platforms, Stella has always been at the forefront. This cross-platform Atari 2600 VCS emulator first saw the public light of day back in 1996, and now -- 18 years later -- it may just have delivered it most significant update yet with the release of Stella 4.0.

Version 4, also available in 64-bit form, sees the emulator ported across to SDL2, which brings many new features and performance improvements.

Chief among these improvements is support for native hardware acceleration support on all three builds: Direct3D in Windows, and OpenGL on Mac and Linux. The transition to SDL2 also means it’s now possible to port Stella to iOS and Android platforms via OpenGLES.

Support for hardware acceleration is now mandatory, so users must ensure they’re using up-to-date drivers to support it; software rendering remains in place for now, but is no longer optimized and is no longer supported.

With hardware acceleration now a requirement, TIA TV effects have been extended to all video modes. Another notable improvement is that switching Stella to full-screen sees it use the current desktop resolution rather than resizing the desktop.

Users gain a more detailed view of a cartridge’s extended RAM via a new Debugger tab, while both AtariVox and SaveKey controllers gain the ability to complete erase the virtual EEPROM data in the debugger itself.

A new "savesnap" debugger prompt command has been added -- also accessible via the debugger’s TIA output area context menu. Selecting this saves the current TIA image as a PNG file.

A new "hidecursor" command line option has been implemented, allowing systems without a mouse to complete disable the cursor from view.

Version 4.0 is rounded off by updating the included PNG library to the latest stable version. Stella 4.0 (32-bit) and Stella 4.0 (64-bit) are both available now as a free, donationware downloads for Windows, Mac and Linux.

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