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Raspberry Pi 400 as Atari 2600 development machine


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Since yesterday I'm using a $70 Raspberry Pi 400 as my primary development machine and I'm amazed with the performance of this little "computer in a keyboard" Linux machine.

All my favourite Atari 2600 development tools (i.e. Visual Studio Code, DASM and Stella) are available for Raspberry Pi, so the switch from my Windows laptop was pretty smooth. Even cross-compiling in C for the ARM7 microcontroller inside the Harmony/Melody card is supported.


Some tips:

  • Install the latest 64-bit version of Raspberry Pi OS Bullseye, as the performance is much better than the standard 32-bit OS. This will also allow you to install other toolchains that support AArch64/ARM64, like the ARM7 gcc cross-compiler. 
    Get the latest (still beta) 64-bit Raspberry Pi OS image here; be sure to download the most recent one, which is based on Debian Bullseye.
  • The Raspberry Pi 400 can be overclocked to 2GHz easily without any risk.
  • Use Preferences -> "Recommended Software" to install Visual Studio Code.
  • Use Preferences -> "Add / Remove Software" to install DASM and Stella emulator.


I like the Raspberry Pi 400 because it reminds me of the days when "the keyboard WAS the computer" - think Commodore 64, ZX Spectrum, Atari 800XL, Amiga, etc.

Just connect it to an HDMI monitor/TV and you're set to go.


Note that there is also a Raspberry Pi 400 kit for $100, which comes complete with a 16GB micro SD card, USB mouse, USB-C power-supply, beginners guide and micro HDMI cable. IMO that's a good deal if you don't already have these things. Haha, that almost sounds like I'm affiliated with Raspberry Pi, which I'm not; I just wanted to share my experience with the Atari 2600 developer community.


Here is a picture of my setup. Yes, that keyboard IS the computer ?

The 3 cables connected to my Raspberry Pi 400 are for HDMI, power and USB speakers (as my monitor doesn't has speakers built in). I'm using a wireless vertical ergonomic mouse, connected via Bluetooth.



Edited by Dionoid
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More than overclocking the system gets sped up when using an NVMe SSD via USB 3.0 as storage. But that an extra cable on the back.


Also you can find a more up to date Stella at http://deb.svol.li/bullseye/pool/main/s/stella/ . It's compiled the same way the official Raspberry Pi OS is, which is available at https://stella-emu.github.io/downloads.html, just using the 64 bit toolchain. Debian Sid (unstable) also has the current 6.6 version available, but that has the notification of a new version disabled.

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1 hour ago, Dionoid said:

Cool. Could I add your server to my local /etc/apt/sources.list ?

Well you can, but then I could own your machine by adding a custom systemd with a backdoord integrated, or something like that. Not that I want to do this, but it's a risk you have to be aware of. ;-)

Once this is out, you just can download http://deb.svol.li/repoadd.sh and run it. It takes distro name as a parameter, so it's "bullseye" for the 64bit version and "raspbian-bullseye" for the 32bit once, since I need to compile for ARMv6 architecture, a custom name was required.

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