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Xformer 2000
Online Documentation
Atari 8-bit Emulator For Windows
updated January 13 2003

Run your favorite Atari 8-bit games and BASIC programs on Windows!


The 1980's are back! PC Xformer runs your Atari 400/800, Atari 800XL, and Atari 130XE software on your PC. PC Xformer is optimized for today's 486 and Pentium computers and is available in two versions:

Xformer 2000 and Xformer Classic are completely free and can be downloaded here.

   Download the Xformer 2000 and PC Xformer

Both the DOS and Windows versions of Xformer support the mounting of Atari disk image files with the .ATR and .XFD file extensions. Users of ST Xformer can also mount their old .SD and .DD disk image files as both version of PC Xformer are based on the original ST Xformer which was released in 1987.

Using the optional Xformer Cable with Xformer Classic (on MS-DOS only) you can directly connect Atari 810, Atari 1050, XF551, Indus GT, and Rana disk drives to your PC to transfer Atari 8-bit files and disks to your PC. Xformer Classic and Xformer Cable are no longer supported. The DOS software and instructions for building the cable are provided as-is. We no longer manufacture or see the Xformer Cable.


Introducing XFORMER 2000

Xformer 2000 is the Atari 8-bit emulator for Windows, made by the same people that brought you the ST Xformer Atari 8-bit emulator for GEM, and the PC Xformer Atari 8-bit emulator for MS-DOS. Gone is the command line of the MS-DOS based PC Xformer. Now you simply click with the mouse to configure Xformer’s options. Turn sound on and off, turn joysticks on and off, change modes, even install Atari 8-bit disks all using the mouse. The settings can be saved at any time so that the next time you start Xformer, it is as you left it before.

Xformer 2000 has these improvements over the MS-DOS versions of PC Xformer and earlier Windows versions of Xformer:

The screen dumps below are actual Windows 95 screen dumps of Xformer 2000 and Xformer 98 running various Atari 8-bit games. Run Lode Runner, Star Raiders, Joust, Boulderdash, even M.U.L.E. on your PC. Download these and other games from various Internet sites, run them from our CD-ROM suite, or use your existing Atari disks using your home built Xformer Cable.

Lode Runner Star Raiders Joust screen shot Boulder Dash screen shot Atari BASIC screen shot XL/XE Audio Visual Test screen shot Swan Demo screen shot River Raid screen shot Centipede screen shot M.U.L.E. title screen  M.U.L.E. game play Visicalc screens shot

PC Xformer Features

Xformer Cable

Speed Benchmarks

Installing Xformer 2000

Using Xformer 2000


Xformer Features


PC Xformer allows you to run non-copy-protected Atari 400/800, 800XL, and 130XE software directly on your PC, in full 256 color graphics. Some copy protected disks can also be run when using the Xformer cable in MS-DOS.

Both DOS and Windows versions of PC Xformer have support for emulating:

In addition, Xformer 2000 gives these additional features on Windows 95, Windows 98, Windows NT, and Windows 2000:

PC Xformer is backward compatible with earlier versions of PC Xformer and ST Xformer and supports disk files created by the Xformer cable, SIO2PC cable, ST Xformer, and earlier versions of PC Xformer.

PC Xformer runs at full speed on a fast 386 or 486 processor. On Pentium based machines it runs incredibly fast. For compatibility with programs that run best at the normal 1.8 MHz speed of the Atari, PC Xformer has two speeds of operation: NORMAL (1.8 MHz mode) and TURBO (as fast as possible mode). All of the options, such as selecting normal or turbo speed, whether to run with Atari BASIC, whether to run in Atari 800 or XL/XE mode, etc. can all be set from the MS-DOS command line.

PC Xformer has a built-in 6502 debugger which allows you to examine and modify the Atari memory, disassemble 6502 code, and even single step 6502 code. For die hard hackers PC Xformer also supports the ability to customize the Atari OS and BASIC.


PC Xformer 8-bit Peripheral Cable


picture of the Xformer Cable and an 8-bit disk driveIn 1988 we designed a special cable to allow ST Xformer users to connect Atari 8-bit disk drives to their Atari ST computers. The same cable, with a minor modification can also be used on your PC for use with PC Xformer. Over the past 11 years thousands of Atari users have built the Xformer cable based on our design described here.

The cable, pictured here, plugs on one end into an Atari 8-bit disk drive such as an 810, 1050, Rana, Indus GT, or XF551, and on the other end plugs into your ST's or PC's printer port. Other Atari SIO devices, such as the color plotter and dot matrix printer are also supported, so go dig them up out of your closets!

We no longer manufacture the cables ourselves but you can make your own for about $5 in parts. All you need is a one half of a black Atari SIO cable (with the 13-pin connector on one end, bare wires on the other), a DB-25 male connector, and a 4.7K pull up resistor. Of course, a soldering iron and experience with soldering also helps.

The PC Xformer cable pinout is slightly different from the ST Xformer cable pinout. This was due to the fact that pin 1 on the Centronics port behaves differently on the ST and PC. For that we added a pull up resistor on pin 11. The modified cable is compatible with the ST, so one cable can work with both PC Xformer and ST Xformer.

DB-25 pin numbers are pretty standard. Data output pins are pins 2 through 9, and the printer busy pin is pin 11. Ground is pin 18. On the Atari side, I'm going by the pin numbers published in the Atari Technical Reference Manual. The pins are as follows:

pin 2 - clock out
pin 3 - data in
pin 4 - ground
pin 5 - data out
pin 7 - command
pin 10 - +5 volts

Ok, now the old ST Xformer cable pinout goes like this (Atari DB-13 pins on the left, DB-25 on the right):

pin 2 - clock out - pin 3
pin 3 - data in - pin 11
pin 4 - ground - pin 18
pin 5 - data out - pin 5
pin 7 - command - pin 7
pin 10 - +5 volts - pin 1

For the new PC Xformer cable, you move the +5V line from pin 1 on the DB-25 to any of the unused data output pins (2, 4, 6, 8 or 9). I chose pin 9 just to keep the spacing of the wires 2 pins apart. Then run the 4.7K pull up resistor from the data in pin (pin 11) to any of the unused data out pins. I chose pin 2 which gives you lots of room for the resistor. The new pinout is:

pin 2 - clock out - pin 3
pin 3 - data in - pin 11
pin 4 - ground - pin 18
pin 5 - data out - pin 5
pin 7 - command - pin 7
pin 10 - +5 volts - pin 9

Place the 4.7K pull up resistor between pins 2 and 11 on the DB-25. That's it! You now have a Xformer Cable.

Disclaimer! We do not provide technical support for cables which you build yourself. The cables were manufactured and sold by us directly between 1988 and 1996. In 1996 we stopped manufacturing the cables ourselves but the cables do continue to be made by some Atari dealers such as B & C and others. So if you need a cable and don't wish to risk building one yourself, order one from your favorite Atari dealer.

The instructions above have been verified to be accurate and hundreds of people have confirmed successfully building their own cables. If you are not familiar with electronics, with soldering irons, reading pinouts, reading the stripes on a resistor, etc. you should probably not attempt to build your own cable!


Speed Benchmarks


Ok, just how fast is PC Xformer? We belive it to be the fastest 6502 emulator available for your 486 or Pentium. We put a real 130XE computer side-by-side with a 486/66 computer and a Pentium P5-90 computer then ran some benchmarks in Atari BASIC. We found the 486/66 runs at least 4 times faster than the 130XE, while the 90 MHz Pentium runs at least 8 times faster, and sometimes faster!

Benchmark #1 is a simple FOR NEXT loop:

10 FOR X = 1 TO 10000:NEXT X

Atari 130XE: 22.5 seconds
66 Mhz 486: 4.6 seconds (5 times faster)
Pentium/90: 2.4 seconds (9 times faster)

Benchmark #2 is a screen scrolling benchmark:

10 FOR X = 1 TO 10000
20 ?X;
30 NEXT X

Atari 130XE: 109 seconds
66 Mhz 486: 29 seconds (4 times faster)
Pentium/90: 14 seconds (8 times faster)

And finally, Benchmark #3 is a graphical line sweep:

10 GRAPHICS 8
20 COLOR 1
30 FOR X = 0 TO 319
40 PLOT X,0
50 DRAWTO 159,159
60 NEXT X

Atari 130XE: 32 seconds
66 Mhz 486: 8 seconds (4 times faster)
Pentium/90: 4 seconds (8 times faster)

Now you can understand why for games we needed to supply a normal speed option!


Installing XFORMER

Before anything else, make sure that you have a computer capable of running Xformer 2000. You will need Windows 95, Windows 95 OSR2, Windows 98, Windows NT 4.0 with Service Pack 3, or Windows 2000. Your computer must have a 486 compatible, Pentium compatible, an AMD Athlon, or AMD K6 processor. If your computer is not capable of running Xformer 1000, but is capable of running MS-DOS, you can download the free PC Xformer Atari 8-bit emulator for MS-DOS.

The Xformer 2000 software comes in a single ZIP file called XF2000.ZIP. Extract it with PKZIP and you will find the following files:

The XFORMER8.EXE program can be stored anywhere on your hard disk, or placed directly on the Windows desktop as shows in the screen dumps below.

You should install the latest DirectX 9 (available online from http://www.microsoft.com/directx). DirectX allows you to switch Xformer 2000 (and other Windows games) to full screen mode for maximum video performance.

If you are already familiar with using Gemulator 2000, then Xformer 2000 will be a snap to use. We’ve kept many of the same keyboard assignments as in PC Xformer and Gemulator.

You can download additional Atari 8-bit games and demos by download the PC Xformer 3.8 emulator from our web site. All .XFD and .ATR files can be used with either Xformer 2000, Gemulator 2000, or PC Xformer.


If you are already running PC Xformer or Xformer Classic

Xformer Classic refers to the MS-DOS versions of PC Xformer (versions prior to version 4.0). If you currently have Xformer Classic installed, save XFORMER5.EXE to the same directory as your Xformer Classic program. You will need to set the paths to your disk images using the Disk Properties dialog box.

Shift+F5 no longer exits Xformer 2000. Instead, press Ctrl+F11 or right click the mouse to bring up the main menu from where you can then exit.

If you are already running Xformer 98

Simply extract XFORMER7.EXE into your existing Xformer 98 install directory and run it. Xformer 2000 will read your previous Xformer 98 settings.


Tips for getting fastest screen redraws

Xformer is is optimized for use with 256 color Windows video drivers. For best results, run Xformer in a 256 or 65536 color video mode. Do not run in a 16 color VGA video mode, as most VGA drivers and cards are not optimized for that mode.

Since Xformer is very graphics intensive, it is preferable to use a PCI or AGP video card. Avoid PCs with older 8-bit and 16-bit VGA cards.

On PCs that still show slow redraw speeds in a window, it is best to install DirectX and run Xformer 2000 in full screen mode rather than in a window.

The "Zoom mode" option may be slow on some older VGA cards or cards with unoptimized drivers. If screen updates seem very slow and jerky, turn off this option. For example, on the same Pentium II based computer we tested an ATI 3D RAGE PRO card vs. a Matrox Millenium II, both whcih are AGP cards, but the ATI card was significantly faster than the Millenium card when the Zoom mode was enabled. To test for this, type in the following Atari BASIC program:

10 FOR X = 1 TO 10000
20 ?X;
30 NEXT X

Run this in Turbo mode. Full screen DirectX this will take 5 to 10 seconds on a typical Pentium MMX and faster. Windowed 320x240 it will also take 5 to 10 seconds in an 8 bit plane video mode. Now turn on Zoom. If it still takes 10 to 15 seconds, you've got a fast video card such as an ATI. If it takes minutes, you've got a slow card. Get rid of it and buy a real video card.

Click the minimize box near the top right corner of the Xformer window to temporarily hide the Xformer window to the Windows task bar. This reduces the CPU consumption when Xformer is not in use.

An important tip: Use the Windows keystroke Alt+Enter to switch Xformer 2000 in and out of full screen mode. Do not use Alt+Tab or Ctrl+Esc to switch away from a full screen window as this does not work correctly with all video drivers. You will also find that the dialog boxes are too large to completely fit in the 320x240 screen, so you need to either switch to windowed mode first, or be running in 512x384 mode to see the dialog boxes completely.


Using XFORMER

When Xformer starts up you are presented with main dialog box with some menu items and a mode selector as shown below. The mode selector chooses between emulating Atari 800, Atari 800XL, and Atari 130XE computers. Simply choose the computer you want by clicking on the mode selector and then click Continue to boot up in that mode.

Xformer 98 main menu dialog screen shot

When running Xformer, you can at any time right click the mouse or press Ctrl+F11 (or click the Menu on your Windows keyboard) to bring up the main menu again. The main menu bar has these menu items:

Properties – this brings up the Properties dialog box shown below which allows you to turn on sound, turn on joystick support, toggle the BASIC cartridge on and off, assign ports, and control the display. In Full Screen mode, Xformer 2000 switches to either 320x240 or 512x384 mode using DirectX (depending on whether the Zoom option is on or off). Note that not all video cards support 320x240 DirectX mode and may even crash your PC, so always try Full Screen mode with Zoom mode off first, then try with Zoom mode on.

The Joystick and Sound options turn on the Windows joystick and sound support. On slower PCs this may use up a lot of CPU time. Use these options only if necessary.

The Cartridge options toggles Atari BASIC on and off. You can also press Shift+F10 to toggle BASIC on the fly.

Xformer 98 Properties dialog screen shot

Disk Properties – this brings up the Disk Properties dialog box, which allows you to assign .ATR and .XFD files to the Atari disk drives D1: through D9:. Unlike previous versions of Xformer, the disk image files may be located anywhere and need not be in the same directory as the Xformer 2000 program. You can also activate this dialog by pressing Shift+F11. Remember that any disk image you assign to drive D1: MUST BE BOOTABLE, such as a DOS 2.x or MyDOS boot disk. Those are provided in the XF2000.ZIP file download.

Display Options – this is a repeat of the Full Screen, Zoom, and Fast modes from the Properties dialog. There is also a Skip Startup item which will skip the main menu screen when Xformer 2000 is started.

Save Settings – this saves the current Properties and Disk Properties settings to your Windows directory.

Reboot Emulator – this reboots the Atari 8-bit. You can also use the Ctrl+F12 keyboard shortcut.

Next Mode – this cycles through the three modes (800, XL, XE). You can also use Alt+F12.

Next Monitor – this toggles between color TV and black and white TV mode. You can also use Shift+F12.


Keyboard Summary

The following keystrokes can be used while running Atari 8-bit software on Xformer 2000:


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