A slow Atari 2600 emulator is now inside Minecraft—and it’s pretty cool

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Enlarge / Video card data represented in this Minecraft-built emulator of the Atari 2600 console. (credit: Seth Bling)

The world’s first functioning machine emulation of a game console has arrived within Minecraft. However, it’s not exactly playable. The emulator renders Atari 2600 games at a refresh rate so slow, you can only see its games, including Donkey Kong and Space Invaders, animate by using a time-lapse camera.

What’s cool here, in spite of its unplayability, is how project creator Seth Bling exposes the system’s machinations in an easy-to-read way for programming newbies.

Atari 2600 machine emulation within Minecraft.

“The dirt is zeroes; the stones are ones,” Bling says as he pans over a giant Minecraft field on the ground of his creation. That field is dedicated to the Atari 2600’s RAM, and as Bling reminds us, while the 6502C processor could support up to 64KB of RAM (a size that’s visually represented), the Atari only addressed 128 bytes of it. The far end of the field is where 4KB cartridge ROM is dumped (whose zeroes and ones are also represented by Minecraft dirt and stones). The demo has a few sample cartridges floating in space; tapping a button on any of them loads that game’s data into the emulator’s data field.

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