In the early 1970's, video arcade games gained commercial success for the first time. The American public was introduced to Pong, Tank, and other interactive video games which populated amusement parks, bars, and arcades. The games were successful enough to create interest for home versions, so in 1975 Atari released Home Pong and it was a smash hit. Other companies such as Magnavox and Coleco followed suit and released their own dedicated console games. Then in 1976, Fairchild Camera and Instrument introduced the Channel F system, the first cartridge based home video game system. The industry recognized that cartridge systems were the future of video gaming, and began development in that direction. In January 1977, RCA released the Studio II, another cartridge based system, although it only projected in black and white and seemed to be focused on educational titles. Then, in October 1977, Atari released the Atari VCS (Video Computer System) with an initial offering of nine games. This system, later renamed the Atari 2600, took the industry by storm and dominated the marketplace for years to come.
Because of oversupply, the Christmas season of 1977 was very rough on the video game industry, and the Atari 2600 was the only system that managed to emerge unscathed. Atari enjoyed strong sales in 1978 and a fantastic holiday season, as Atari released more games such as Outlaw, Spacewar, and Breakout. Internally however, Atari was at odds. Nolan Bushnell, the inventor of pong and founder of Atari, wound up leaving the company and purchased Pizza Time Theater, which later became the successful Chuck E. Cheese! In 1979 Atari continued their trend and released 12 more games which met with continued success. However, Atari was now facing some stiffer competition from the Mattel Intellivision and the Magnavox Odyssey2.
Atari needed a mega-hit in 1980 in order to squash the competition, and they found it in the home version of a game from Japan called Space Invaders. It was so popular that people were buying the Atari 2600 just so they could play Space Invaders at home. Following that, Atari released Adventure, which was the first video game to contain an Easter Egg - placing an object in a certain area revealed the programmer's name, Warren Robinett. 1980 was important for another reason - the creation of the first ever third party software producer, Activision. The company was formed by four Atari employees who were unsatisfied with the working conditions at the company. They released four games initially: Dragster, Fishing Derby, Checkers and Boxing. The games were very well received by the public, and revealed that the Atari 2600 was capable of better games than Atari themselves had been producing. Atari tried to prevent Activision from selling games, but they failed and Activision grossed $70 million that year.
By 1981, the video game industry was basically a horse race between the 2600 and the Intellivision. While the Intellivision was technologically superior in some respects, the 2600 continued to lead in sales. Atari released the home version of Asteroids, which was a huge success. Inspired by the success of Activision, another software development group called Imagic was formed. They would not release any games until 1982 however. Another company, Games by Apollo, was formed in Texas and released several games that year.
Coleco entered the market in 1982 with the release of the graphically superior Colecovision. To combat this new system, Atari produced the 5200, a technologically comparable system. The 2600 dropped $100 in price in order to remain competitive. Then a company called Arcadia released a peripheral called the Supercharger which played games in an audio cassette medium. This allowed for multiple loads and expanded the 2600's capabilities.
Atari released Pac-Man and E.T. that year, two incredibly hyped games which were critical flops. Although Pac-Man sold many copies, it was considered to be a poor translation of the arcade hit. However, there were many fantastic games produced for the 2600 during this period, and it was still selling strong.
Ever since the inception of Activision, Atari had been fighting to keep third parties from producing cartridges which they felt were stealing profits from them. Finally the issue was settled when Atari agreed to allow third party manufacturing in exchange for a royalty. Suddenly software companies began popping up all over, and 1982 saw releases from companies like Venturevision, Spectravision, Telesys, CBS, 20th Century Fox, US Games, M Network, Tigervision, Data Age, Imagic and Coleco. There was even a company that released a line of X-Rated games for the 2600 called Mystique. The year was financially successful for Atari, however there seemed to be a glut of software. Although there were many quality titles still produced, there was an increasing number of rushed games as manufacturers attempted to cash in on the craze.
More companies jumped on the band wagon in 1983. Zimag, Ultravision, Amiga, and others were also producing games and peripherals. It seemed as if there was just too much product to meet the demand, and as it turned out there was. By the end of the year, companies began folding. US Games, Data Age, Games by Apollo, Telesys and others all closed their doors from poor sales. A video game crash was occurring, and all companies were taking it on the chin.
1984 was a much more subdued year for the Atari 2600, and the price of the system had now dropped to $40-$50. Many were saying that the video game industry was dead. However, Atari surprised everyone by announcing the release of the 7800, and also promising more 2600 games with improved graphics and sound. Unfortunately, neither of these things happened in 1984 because Atari sold their home video game division to Jack Tramiel who believed that home computers would replace video game systems. No further mention of the 2600 or 7800 was made that year, and it appeared that they might be dead.
1985 was another very quiet year for Atari and video games in general, and only a few games were released for the 2600. Activision produced Cosmic Commuter and Ghostbusters, but with little fanfare or marketing, these games did not sell well. However, because of the huge game library and cheap price, Atari still sold over a million 2600 consoles in 1985.
There were very few plans for home video game systems by any company in 1986, since the market appeared to be dead. Then, to most people's surprise, Nintendo brought the NES to America and it was a smash hit, proving that video games still had a place in the US. Atari decided that maybe it would be a good idea to release the 7800 units it had in storage, and produce some more 2600 games. The 7800 was released with only 3 games initially available, although it was compatible with the 2600 library. They also redesigned the 2600 as the 2600 Jr., a machine with the same abilities, but a new look and marketing campaign. It was sold for less than $50.
Video games were once again selling phenomenally in 1987. Atari released several new titles, including Jr. Pac-Man, and also licensed a number of games from other companies such as Donkey Kong and Q*Bert. These new titles sold for $10-$15. Interestingly, a number of titles began appearing again from third part companies such as Epyx, Froggo, and Exus. It seemed that the 2600 was not dead yet!
In 1988, Atari rehired Nolan Bushnell and announced a number of new titles, including Secret Quest, a game written by Mr. Bushnell himself. Atari continued to manufacture these games even until 1989. However, it was apparent that the 2600, after its introduction over a decade ago, was finally at the end of its run. Although it was still produced and marketed outside of the US, the Atari 2600 finished its run in America. No other console has had such a long history or sold as many systems in the U.S.
Today, the 2600 still has a large number of fans who remember the countless games played over the years, and the years to come. There are even games being produced by hobbyists, some of them quite professionally, being released on newly burnt cartridges with labels and manuals. And the recent trend in retrogaming has brought many more video game fans to rediscover the 2600, and it continues to live on 22 years after its release!
Stella is a freely distributed multi-platform Atari 2600 VCS emulator; originally developed for Linux by Bradford W. Mott, it is now maintained by Stephen Anthony. Stella allows you to enjoy all of your favorite 2600 games once again by emulating the 2600's hardware with software. Stella is written in C++, which allows it to be ported to other operating systems and architectures. Since its original release Stella has been ported to AcornOS, AmigaOS, DOS, FreeBSD, Linux, MacOS, OpenStep, OS/2, Unix, and Windows, as well as consoles such as Sega Dreamcast, GP2X, Nintendo DS and Playstation Portable (among others).
The following sections outline the basic system requirements for running Stella under various operating systems.
General (required for all versions of Stella)
- SDL version 2.0.3 or greater, latest version highly recommended
- 15/16 bit color minimum; 24/32 bit color graphics card highly recommended
- Enough RAM for the OS + 256MB RAM for the emulation; 512MB+ highly recommended
- Joysticks or gamepads are highly recommended
- Mouse or Stelladaptor/2600-daptor with real paddles required for paddle emulation
- Some ROM images (see AtariAge for more information)
The Linux version of Stella is designed to work on a Linux Workstation with the following:
- Linux Kernel 3.x
- i386 or x86_64 class machine, with 32 or 64-bit distribution
- OpenGL capable video card
- Other architectures (MIPS, PPC, PPC64, etc.) have been confirmed to work, but aren't as well tested as i386/x86_64
- GNU g++ v/5 or Clang v/3.5 (with C++14 support) and the make utility are required for compiling the Stella source code
The Mac version of Stella is designed to work on an Apple Macintosh with the following:
- macOS 10.7 or above
- 64-bit Intel processor
- OpenGL capable video card
- Xcode 8.0 is required to compile the Stella source code
The Windows version of Stella is designed to work on Windows XP_SP3(*)/Vista/7/8/10 with the following:
- Direct3D or OpenGL capable video card
- 64-bit port has been tested on Windows Vista and above only
- Visual C++ 2017 Community is required to compile the Stella source code
- (*) Note: Support for Windows XP is problematic on some systems, and will probably be discontinued in a future release
Stella is extremely portable, and in its lifetime has been ported to almost every platform where the SDL library exists. It is 32/64-bit and endian clean in Linux/Unix, macOS and Windows. The Stella Team is interested in hearing about any problems you may encounter with diverse operating systems and CPU types.
Stella is distributed in both source and binary form. In general, you should always download and install the appropriate binary version. Compiling from source is only recommended for developers, or if the binary version doesn't work for some reason. Once you have a Stella distribution you should follow the instructions for your operating system given below.
- Binary DEB (stella-release-1_arch.deb)
- Install the binary DEB with the following command:dpkg -i stella-release-1_arch.deb
- Binary RPM (stella-release-1.arch.rpm)
- Install the binary RPM with the following command:rpm -Uvh stella-release-1.arch.rpm
- Building and installing from source code
- See the developers build instructions at the Stella Development Page.
- Binary DMG file (Stella-release-macos.dmg)
- Double-click the disk image, open the 'Stella' folder, then copy the Stella.app package to your 'Applications' folder.
- Building and installing from source code
- See the developers build instructions at the Stella Development Page.
- Binary EXE installer (stella-release-arch.exe)
- Double-click on the installer and follow the onscreen instructions
- Binary ZIP file (stella-release-windows.zip)
- Unzip the binary ZIP file using Winzip or Total Commander
- Copy the contents of either 32-bit or 64-bit directory somewhere on your system
- Building and installing from source code
- See the developers build instructions at the Stella Development Page.
Most games for the Atari 2600 came on cartridges. A cartridge usually consists of a single Read Only Memory (ROM) chip which contains the data and code for the game. Plugging a cartridge into the Atari 2600 allows the 2600's microprocessor to access the program stored on the cartridge.
In a similar way you must "plug" a copy of a cartridge into Stella when you want to play it. Having a ROM image/BIN file of the cartridge allows you to do this. A ROM image is a file, which contains the actual data and code read from the cartridge. There are several ways to obtain a ROM image of a cartridge:
- Search around the internet and find ROM images to download (websites such as AtariAge and AtariMania/RomHunter may be useful). Many homebrewers make their ROMs available too.
- You can purchase the Atari 2600 Action Packs by Activision and use their ROM images
- If you're handy with a soldering iron then you can design and build a device that plugs into a PC and read the data from the cartridge
WARNING: It may be illegal to use ROM images of games that you do not actually own since these games may still be copyrighted.
Supercharger games were not stored on cartridges instead they were stored on cassette tapes. The Supercharger, which plugged into the Atari 2600's cartridge slot, loaded games into its 6K of Random Access Memory (RAM) using a standard audio cassette player. The Supercharger also supported multi-loading, which allowed games to be broken into several segments and loaded at different times. This was useful for large games which had distinct parts such as role playing games.
Most of the available Supercharger ROM images are stored in 8448 bytes files. However, ROM images of multi-load games are sometimes stored in a set of 8448 byte files. The names of these files have a two character sequence number in them which indicates what load they are. The sequence starts with zero, skips a few numbers and then increments by one.
Stella supports multi-load games, however, the set of ROM images must be combined into a single ROM image file. For example to create a multi-load ROM image file for Survival Island you would do the following under Unix:% cat survivl0.bin survivl6.bin survivl7.bin > survivl.binor to create it under DOS you would:% copy /b survivl0.bin+survivl6.bin+survivl7.bin survivl.bin
Once you have the multi-load ROM image file, survivl.bin in this case, you can play the game using it.
Supported File formats
Stella supports ROMs ending with extensions .a26, .bin, .rom, .gz, and .zip. For the last two compressed formats (GZIP and ZIP, respectively), Stella will automatically decompress the archive, and use the first ROM image it finds in it (ie, the first one ending in a valid extension). If a ZIP archive contains many such files, Stella will display a virtual filesystem of the contents of the archive.
Other extensions are also possible, namely to force a specific bankswitch scheme. Normally, the bankswitching scheme for a ROM is determined automatically, or manually by setting a ROM property, and you never have to do anything yourself. However, it is also possible to force the bankswitch type to use by adding a special filename extension. These extensions are listed in the ROM properties section under Cartridge.Type -> File Extension.
Note: These extensions are the same as those used by the Harmony Cart and Unocart and are not case-sensitive, so you can name your files and have them work across all applications. Again, to be clear, this is only necessary when you want to override the default bankswitching scheme for a ROM. This will not normally be necessary.
Playing a Game
Once Stella is installed and you have some ROM images you're almost ready to start playing.
Stella contains an integrated GUI for all ports. Commandline support is also available for those who want to use it.
If you start Stella and do not specify a ROM image, it will start in 'ROM Launcher' mode:
If this is your first time starting Stella, you may have to navigate to your ROMs. The path of the first ROM you play automatically defines the default ROM path. You can change it later in the Configure Paths dialog.
At this point, you may want to set the locations for snapshots and other external paths. This is described in more detail in Advanced Configuration - Snapshot Settings and Advanced Configuration - Configure Paths. These settings are optional, and can be left at the defaults if you won't be using snapshots in the ROM launcher.
you can start emulation by selecting a ROM and pressing 'Enter' or clicking 'Select', or double-clicking a ROM. Note that some games require you to 'Reset' the console before you start playing. In this case, you need to hit the virtual reset switch, which by default is the F2 key. Also, some games may require that you press the joystick fire button to begin, which by default is the Left Control or Space key(s), or button 0 on your joystick. If a game uses a more complex controller, see Getting Started - Keyboard Layout for more information. To exit a game and re-enter the ROM launcher, press the 'Escape' key.
Using the 'Search' textbox in the upper-right of the ROM launcher, the listing can be narrowed down, showing only the ROMs that match the pattern you enter.
While playing a game, normally one would use the keyboard shortcuts for controlling the 'virtual' switches in Stella (ie, the commands associated with the function keys as described in Getting Started - Keyboard Layout). However, another alternative is available. Pressing the '\' key toggles a command menu dialog as follows:
This dialog contains a set of buttons that represent the same functionality as the function keys. You may find this useful if you cannot remember all the function key events, or you wish to use Stella without a keyboard (ie, in a standalone gaming system).
The Atari 2600 console controls and controllers are mapped to the computer's keyboard as shown in the following tables. However, most of these events can be remapped to other keys on your keyboard or buttons on your joystick (see Advanced Configuration - Event Remapping). The tables below show the default settings.
Note: All key names are based on the US QWERTY keyboard layout.. If you use a different layout some keys may differ. You can use the following layout image as reference where to find the US keys on your keyboard.
Console Controls (can be remapped)
Function Key (Standard) Key (macOS) Exit emulator Control + q Cmd + q Exit game mode/enter launcher mode Escape Escape Enter/exit options mode Tab/Escape Tab/Escape Enter/exit command mode Backslash (\) Backslash (\) Enter/exit debugger Backquote (`) Backquote (`) Select Game F1 F1 Reset Game F2 F2 Color TV F3 F3 Black/White TV F4 F4 Left Player Difficulty A F5 F5 Left Player Difficulty B F6 F6 Right Player Difficulty A F7 F7 Right Player Difficulty B F8 F8 Save state to current slot F9 F9 Change current state slot F10 F10 Load state from current slot F11 F11 Save PNG snapshot F12 F12 Pause/resume emulation Pause
Joystick/BoosterGrip Controller (can be remapped)
Left Joystick (Joy0) Right Joystick (Joy1)
Function Key Joystick Up Up arrow Joystick Down Down arrow Joystick Left Left arrow Joystick Right Right arrow Fire Button Space Trigger Button 4 Booster Button 5
Function Key Joystick Up Y Joystick Down H Joystick Left G Joystick Right J Fire Button F Trigger Button 6 Booster Button 7
Paddle Controller digital emulation (can be remapped independently of joystick controller)
Left Paddles Right Paddles
Function Key Paddle 0 decrease Same as 'Joy0 Left' Paddle 0 increase Same as 'Joy0 Right' Paddle 0 Fire Same as 'Joy0 Fire' Paddle 1 decrease Same as 'Joy0 Up' Paddle 1 increase Same as 'Joy0 Down' Paddle 1 Fire Same as 'Joy0 Booster'
Function Key Paddle 2 decrease Same as 'Joy1 Left' Paddle 2 increase Same as 'Joy1 Right' Paddle 2 Fire Same as 'Joy1 Fire' Paddle 3 decrease Same as 'Joy1 Up' Paddle 3 increase Same as 'Joy1 Down' Paddle 3 Fire Same as 'Joy1 Booster'
Driving Controller (cannot be remapped, always associated with joystick controller)
Left Driving Right Driving
Function Key Left Direction Same as 'Joy0 Left' Right Direction Same as 'Joy0 Right' Fire Button Same as 'Joy0 Fire'
Function Key Left Direction Same as 'Joy1 Left' Right Direction Same as 'Joy1 Right' Fire Button Same as 'Joy1 Fire'
Sega Genesis Controller (cannot be remapped, always associated with joystick and booster-grip controllers)
Left Pad Right Pad
Function Key Pad Up Same as 'Joy0 Up' Pad Down Same as 'Joy0 Down' Pad Left Same as 'Joy0 Left' Pad Right Same as 'Joy0 Right' Button 'B' Same as 'Joy0 Fire' Button 'C' Same as 'Joy0 Booster'
Function Key Pad Up Same as 'Joy1 Up' Pad Down Same as 'Joy1 Down' Pad Left Same as 'Joy1 Left' Pad Right Same as 'Joy1 Right' Button 'B' Same as 'Joy1 Fire' Button 'C' Same as 'Joy1 Booster'
Keypad Controller (can be remapped)
Left Keypad Right Keypad
Pad Button Key 1 1 2 2 3 3 4 Q 5 W 6 E 7 A 8 S 9 D . Z 0 X # C
Pad Button Key 1 8 2 9 3 0 4 I 5 O 6 P 7 K 8 L 9 ; . , 0 . # /
CompuMate Controller (cannot be remapped)
CompuMate Key 0 - 9 0 - 9 A - Z A - Z Comma Comma Period Period Func Control (left or right) Shift Shift (left or right) Enter Return/Enter Space Space Func-Space Backspace + + or Shift-1 - - or Shift-2 * Shift-3 / / or Shift-4 = = or Shift-5 ? ? (Shift-/) or Shift-6 $ Shift-7 [ [ or Shift-8 ] ] or Shift-9 " " (Shift-') or Shift-0
TV effects (cannot be remapped, only active in TIA mode)
Function Key (Standard) Key (macOS) Disable TV effects Alt + 1 Cmd + 1 Select 'Composite' preset Alt + 2 Cmd + 2 Select 'S-video' preset Alt + 3 Cmd + 3 Select 'RGB' preset Alt + 4 Cmd + 4 Select 'Badly adjusted' preset Alt + 5 Cmd + 5 Select 'Custom' preset Alt + 6 Cmd + 6 Decrease scanline intensity Shift-Alt + 7 Shift-Cmd + 7 Increase scanline intensity Alt + 7 Cmd + 7 Disable scanline interpolation Shift-Alt + 8 Shift-Cmd + 8 Enable scanline interpolation Alt + 8 Cmd + 8 Select previous 'Custom' mode attribute (*) Shift-Alt + 9 Shift-Cmd + 9 Select next 'Custom' mode attribute (*) Alt + 9 Cmd + 9 Decrease 'Custom' selected attribute value (*) Shift-Alt + 0 Shift-Cmd + 0 Increase 'Custom' selected attribute value (*) Alt + 0 Cmd + 0 Items marked as (*) are only available in 'Custom' preset mode
Developer Keys in TIA mode (cannot be remapped)
Function Key (Standard) Key (macOS) Set "Display.YStart" to next larger value Alt + PageUp Cmd + PageUp Set "Display.YStart" to next smaller value Alt + PageDown Cmd + PageDown Set "Display.Height" to next larger value Control + PageUp Control + PageUp Set "Display.Height" to next smaller value Control + PageDown Control + PageDown Toggle frame stats (scanline count/FPS/BS type etc.) Alt + L Cmd + L Toggle TIA Player0 object Alt + z Cmd + z Toggle TIA Player1 object Alt + x Cmd + x Toggle TIA Missile0 object Alt + c Cmd + c Toggle TIA Missile1 object Alt + v Cmd + v Toggle TIA Ball object Alt + b Cmd + b Toggle TIA Playfield object Alt + n Cmd + n Toggle TIA Player0 collisions Shift-Alt + z Shift-Cmd + z Toggle TIA Player1 collisions Shift-Alt + x Shift-Cmd + x Toggle TIA Missile0 collisions Shift-Alt + c Shift-Cmd + c Toggle TIA Missile1 collisions Shift-Alt + v Shift-Cmd + v Toggle TIA Ball collisions Shift-Alt + b Shift-Cmd + b Toggle TIA Playfield collisions Shift-Alt + n Shift-Cmd + n Toggle TIA 'Fixed Debug Colors' mode Alt + Comma Cmd + Comma Toggle all TIA objects Alt + . Cmd + . Toggle all TIA collisions Shift-Alt + . Shift-Cmd + . Toggle TV 'jitter' effect Alt + j Cmd + j
Other Keys (cannot be remapped, except those marked with (*) )
Function Key (Standard) Key (macOS) Switch to next larger zoom level Alt + = Cmd + = Switch to next smaller zoom level Alt + - Cmd + - Toggle fullscreen/windowed mode Alt + Enter Cmd + Enter Decrease volume (*) Alt + [ Cmd + [ Increase volume (*) Alt + ] Cmd + ] Switch display format in increasing order (NTSC/PAL/SECAM etc.) Control + f Control + f Switch display format in decreasing order (NTSC/PAL/SECAM etc.) Shift-Control + f Shift-Control + f Switch mouse between controller emulation modes (see Game Properties - Controller) Control + 0 Control + 0 Toggle grab mouse Control + g Control + g Swap Stelladaptor/2600-daptor port ordering Control + 1 Control + 1 Reload current ROM (singlecart ROM, TIA mode)
Load next game in ROM (multicart ROM, TIA mode)
Control + r Control + r Reload ROM listing (ROM launcher mode) Control + r Control + r Emulate 'frying' effect (TIA mode) (*) Backspace Backspace Go to parent directory (UI mode) (*) Backspace Backspace Toggle 'phosphor' effect Alt + p Cmd + p Decrease 'phosphor' blend in phosphor mode Alt + i Cmd + i Increase 'phosphor' blend in phosphor mode Alt + o Cmd + o Switch palette (Standard/Z26/User) Control + p Control + p Toggle PAL color-loss effect Control + L Control + L Save continuous PNG snapshots (per interval defined in Snapshot Settings) Alt + s Cmd + s Save continuous PNG snapshots (every frame) Shift-Alt + s Shift-Cmd + s Toggle 'Time Machine' mode Alt + t Cmd + t Enter/Exit the Time Machine dialog t to enter, t/Escape/Space to exit t to enter, t/Escape/Space to exit Rewind by one state (enters the Time Machine dialog) Alt + Left arrow Cmd + Left arrow Rewind by 10 states (enters the Time Machine dialog) Shift-Alt + Left arrow Shift-Cmd + Left arrow Rewind all states (enters the Time Machine dialog) Alt + Down arrow Cmd + Down arrow Unwind by one state (enters the Time Machine dialog) Alt + Right arrow Cmd + Right arrow Unwind by 10 states (enters the Time Machine dialog) Shift-Alt + Right arrow Shift-Cmd + Right arrow Unwind all states (enters the Time Machine dialog) Alt + Up arrow Cmd + Up arrow
UI keys in Text Editing areas (cannot be remapped)
Key Editor Function Home Move cursor to beginning of line End Move cursor to end of line Delete Remove character to right of cursor Backspace Remove character to left of cursor Control-a Same function as 'Home' Control-e Same function as 'End' Control-d Same function as 'Delete' Control-k Remove all characters from cursor to end of line Control-u Remove all characters from cursor to beginning of line Control-w Remove entire word to left of cursor Control-Left Move cursor to beginning of word to the left Control-Right Move cursor to beginning of word to the right Control-c Copy entire line to clipboard (not complete) Control-v Paste clipboard contents (not complete)
Some Atari (virtual) controllers are simulated with more than one computer controller, and there are several special cases where controllers are active in certain modes only, as the table below shows. Items marked as (+ extra) indicate that the computer controller may not have enough buttons/axes etc. to fully emulate the device, so extra functionality must be mapped to other controllers.
Keyboard Joystick Mouse
Joystick ✓ ✓ ✓ ✕ ✓ Paddles ✓ ✓ ✓ ✓ ✓ Booster ✓ ✓ ✓ (+ extra) ✕ ✓ (+ extra) Genesis ✓ ✓ (+ extra) ✓ ✕ ✕ Keyboard ✓ ✓ (+ extra) ✕ ✕ ✓ (2600-daptor II) Driving ✓ ✓ ✓ ✕ ✓ Trackball/Mouse ✕ ✕ ✓ ✓ (axis ignored) ✓ CompuMate ✓ ✕ ✕ ✕ ✕ Mindlink ✕ ✕ ✓ ✓ (axis ignored) ✕ AtariVox N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A SaveKey N/A N/A N/A N/A N/A
A special feature of Stella is the 'Time Machine' mode. In this mode, Stella automatically creates savestates in regular, user-defined intervals. At any time, the user can interrupt the current emulation and navigate back and forth within the saved timeline. This can be done either by using the Time Machine hotkeys described in Hotkeys - Other Keys or by using the Time Machine dialog. This dialog is automatically entered when using one of the Time Machine hotkeys. The hotkeys continue to function within the dialog.
Time Machine dialog:
The dialog items are explained in the following two tables.
Top row (left to right)
|Current state||Shows the currently loaded state's number|
|'Timeline' slider||Shows the position of the current state in the recorded timeline. A state can be selected by dragging the slider with the mouse. To visualize state compression, small marks split the timeline into five, equally sized state number intervals.|
|Total states||Shows the total number of save states in the Time Machine|
Bottom row (left to right)
|Current time||Shows the time of the currently selected status, relative to the first one|
|'Start/Stop' button||Starts or stops the Time Machine|
|'Continue' button||Exits the dialog and continues emulation|
|'Rewind All' button||Navigates back to the begin of the timeline|
|'Rewind One' button||Navigates back by one state|
|'Unwind One' button||Navigates forward by one state|
|'Unwind All' button||Navigates forward to the end of the timeline|
|Navigation info||Informs about the interval of the user's last Time Machine navigation. The interval can vary if the timeline is compressed.|
|Total time||Shows the total time covered by the save states (aka 'Horizon')|
The 'Time Machine' mode can be configured by the user. For details see Developer Options - Time Machine tab.
The default options in Stella are meant to cater to as many situations as possible. As such, you may never need to change many of its options. However, Stella is very configurable, and if you want to change its behaviour in some way, there's likely a configuration option to do so. The remainder of this (lengthy) section details every configurable option.
In addition to the built in ROM launcher, Stella can also be used from the commandline (assuming your operating system has a commandline).
To run Stella from the commandline, use the following format:stella [options ...] ROM_FILENAME
Options ('0' or 'false' indicates false, '1' or 'true' indicates true, others are self-explanatory):
Argument Description -video <direct3d|opengl|opengles2|opengles|software> Use the given rendering backend (where applicable); default is the best available mode detected. -vsync <1|0> Synchronize screen updates to the vertical blank period. This can result in smoother updates, and eliminate tearing. -fullscreen <1|0> Enable fullscreen mode. -center <1|0> Centers game window (if possible). -palette <standard|z26|user> Set the palette to either normal Stella, the one used in the z26 emulator, or a user-defined palette. -speed <number> Control the emulation speed (as a percentage, 10 - 1000). -uimessages <1|0> Enable or disable display of message in the UI. Note that messages indicating serious errors override this setting, and are always shown. -sound <1|0> Enable or disable sound generation. -fragsize <number> Specify the sound fragment size to use. Linux/Mac seems to work with 512, Windows usually needs 1024. -freq <number> Set sound sample output frequency (11025, 22050, 31400, 44100, 48000) Default is 31400. Do not change unless you experience sound issues. -volume <number> Set the volume (0 - 100). -tia.zoom <zoom> Use the specified zoom level (integer) while in TIA/emulation mode. -tia.inter <1|0> Use interpolation for the TIA image (results in blending/smoothing of the image). -tia.aspectn <number>
Specify the amount (as a percentage) to scale the TIA image width in NTSC and PAL mode. Since many video modes do not use square pixels, you can reduce width until the pixels appear square. Allowable values are 80 - 120; I find 85 - 90 gives the most authentic look for NTSC, and 105 - 110 for PAL. -tia.fsfill <1|0> Stretch TIA image completely while in fullscreen mode (vs. an integral stretch which won't necessarily completely fill the screen). -tia.dbgcolors <roygbp> Assigns the colours (R)ed, (O)range, (Y)ellow, (G)reen, (B)lue and (P)urple to each graphical register P0/M0/P1/M1/PF/BL, respectively. Currently, these change be changed around to apply different colours to the respective register. -tv.filter <0 - 5> Blargg TV effects, 0 is disabled, next numbers in sequence represent presets for 'Composite', 'S-Video', 'RGB', 'Bad Adjust', and 'Custom' modes. -tv.phosphor <always|byrom> Determines how phosphor mode is enabled. If 'always', then the ROM properties entry is ignored, and phosphor mode is always turned on. Otherwise, the ROM properties determine whether phosphor mode is used for each ROM. -tv.phosblend <0 - 100> Enable phosphor blending level; 0 implies no mixing, and 100 is full mixing (not recommended). Note that this doesn't actually enable phosphor mode; that is done for each ROM in the ROM properties. Higher blend values will intensify the phosphor effect. Depending on your display and personal preferences, the optimal default for you may vary. Slow LCDs (especially for office use) may only need a low blend of around 30, while fast switching gamer LCDs may need about 70 to look similar to a CRT. -tv.scanlines <0 - 100> TV effects scanline intensity, where 0 means completely off. Note: No scanlines in 1x mode snapshots. -tv.scaninter <1|0> Blargg TV effects scanline interpolation, resulting in blending/smoothing of the scanlines. -tv.contrast <number> Blargg TV effects 'contrast' (only available in custom mode, range -1.0 to 1.0). -tv.brightness <number> Blargg TV effects 'brightness' (only available in custom mode, range -1.0 to 1.0). -tv.hue <number> Blargg TV effects 'hue' (only available in custom mode, range -1.0 to 1.0). -tv.saturation <number> Blargg TV effects 'saturation' (only available in custom mode, range -1.0 to 1.0). -tv.gamma <number> Blargg TV effects 'gamma' (only available in custom mode, range -1.0 to 1.0). -tv.sharpness <number> Blargg TV effects 'sharpness' (only available in custom mode, range -1.0 to 1.0). -tv.resolution <number> Blargg TV effects 'resolution' (only available in custom mode, range -1.0 to 1.0). -tv.artifacts <number> Blargg TV effects 'artifacts' (only available in custom mode, range -1.0 to 1.0). -tv.fringing <number> Blargg TV effects 'fringing' (only available in custom mode, range -1.0 to 1.0). -tv.bleed <number> Blargg TV effects 'bleed' (only available in custom mode, range -1.0 to 1.0). -cheat <code> Use the specified cheatcode (see Cheat section for description). -loglevel <0|1|2> Indicates level of logging to perform while the application is running. Zero completely disables logging (except for serious errors), while the remaining numbers show increasingly more detail. -logtoconsole <1|0> Indicates that logged output should be printed to the console/commandline as it's being collected. An internal log will still be kept, and the amount of logging is still controlled by 'loglevel'. -joydeadzone <number> Sets the joystick axis deadzone area for joysticks/gamepads. All values within the deadzone are treated as zero-axis values, while only those values outside are registered as valid input. Accepts a number from 0 - 29, and uses the formula 3200 + number * 1000. So the possible deadzone values range from 3200 to 32200. -joyallow4 <1|0> Allow all 4 directions on a joystick to be pressed simultaneously. -usemouse <always|analog|never> Use mouse as a controller as specified by ROM properties in specific case. Always and never are self-explanatory, analog means only for analog-type devices (paddles, trackball, etc.). -grabmouse <1|0> Locks the mouse cursor in the game window in emulation mode. -cursor <0|1|2|3> Set mouse cursor state in UI/emulation modes. -dsense <number> Sensitivity for emulation of paddles when using a digital device (ie, joystick digital axis or button, keyboard key, etc.). Valid range of values is from 1 to 20, with larger numbers causing faster movement. -msense <number> Sensitivity for emulation of paddles when using a mouse. Valid range of values is from 1 to 20, with larger numbers causing faster movement. -tsense <number> Sensitivity for emulation of trackball controllers when using a mouse. Valid range of values is from 1 to 20, with larger numbers causing faster movement. -saport <lr|rl> Determines how to enumerate the Stelladaptor/2600-daptor devices in the order they are found: 'lr' means first is left port, second is right port, 'rl' means the opposite. -ctrlcombo <1|0> Use control-x key combos. This is normally enabled, since the 'Quit' command is tied to 'Control-q'. However, there are times when a 2-player game is using either the 'f' or 'r' keys for movement, and pressing Control (for Fire) will perform an unwanted action associated with Control-r or Control-f. -autoslot <1|0> Automatically switch to the next available save state slot after saving a ROM state file. -fastscbios <1|0> Disable Supercharger BIOS progress loading bars. -threads <1|0> Enable multi-threaded video rendering (may not improve performance on all systems). -snapsavedir <path> The directory to save snapshot files to. -snaploaddir <path> The directory to load ROM info viewer snaposhot files from. -snapname <int|rom> When saving snapshots, use either the internal database name or the actual ROM filename. -sssingle <1|0> Generate single snapshot instead of many, overwriting any previous snapshots. -ss1x <1|0> Ignore any scaling applied to the TIA image, and save snapshot in unscaled (1x) mode. -ssinterval <number> Set the interval in seconds between taking snapshots in continuous snapshot mode (currently 1 - 10). -rominfo <rom> Display detailed information about the given ROM, and then exit Stella. -listrominfo Prints relevant contents of the Stella ROM database, one ROM per line, and then exit Stella. This can be used for external frontends. -exitlauncher <1|0> Always exit to ROM launcher when exiting a ROM (normally, an exit to launcher only happens when started with the launcher). -launcherres <WxH> Set the size of the ROM launcher. -launcherfont <small|medium|large> Set the size of the font in the ROM launcher. -launcherroms <1|0> Specifies whether to show ROMs only (the default) or all files in the ROM launcher. -romviewer <0|1|2> Hide ROM Info Viewer in ROM launcher mode (0), or use the given zoom level (1 or 2). -uipalette <standard|classic|light> Use the specified palette for UI elements. -listdelay <delay> Set the amount of time to wait between treating successive keypresses as a single word in list widgets (value can range from 300-1000). Use '0' to disable list-skipping completely, -mwheel <lines> Set the number of lines a mousewheel will scroll in the UI. -romdir <dir> Set the directory where the ROM launcher will start. -statedir <dir> Set the directory in which to access state files. -cheatfile <file> Set the full pathname of the cheatfile database. -palettefile <file> Set the full pathname of the user-defined palette file. -propsfile <file> Set the full pathname of the ROM properties file. -nvramdir <dir> Set the directory in which to access non-volatile (flash/EEPROM) files. -cfgdir <dir> Set the directory in which to access Distella config files. -avoxport <name> Set the name of the serial port where an AtariVox is connected. -maxres <WxH> Useful for developers, this sets the maximum size of window that can be created, allowing to simulate testing on 'smaller' systems. -help Prints a help message describing these options, and then exit Stella.
The following are useful to developers. Only use them if you know what you're doing! Note that in all cases, the values supplied to the arguments are not case sensitive.
Argument Description -dis.resolve <1|0> Try to differentiate between code vs. data sections in the disassembler. See the Debugger - ROM Disassembly Settings for more information. -dis.gfxformat <2|16> Sets the base to use for displaying GFX sections in the disassembler. -dis.showaddr <1|0> Shows/hides opcode addresses in the disassembler. -dis.relocate <1|0> Relocate calls out of address range in the disassembler. -dbg.res <WxH> Set the size of the debugger window. -dbg.fontsize <small|medium|large|> Set the font size in the debugger window. -dbg.fontstyle <0|1|2|3> How to use bold fonts in the debugger window. '0' means all normal font, '1' is bold labels only, '2' is bold non-labels only, '3' is all bold font. -dbg.ghostreadstrap <1|0> Debugger considers/ignores 'ghost' reads for trap addresses -dbg.uhex <0|1> Lower-/uppercase HEX display -break <address> Set a breakpoint at specified address. -debug Immediately jump to debugger mode when starting Stella. -holdjoy0 <U,D,L,R,F> Start the emulator with the left joystick direction/button held down (ie, use 'UF' for up and fire). After entering the emulation, you will have to press and release the direction again to release the event. -holdjoy1 <U,D,L,R,F> Start the emulator with the right joystick direction/button held down (ie, use 'UF' for up and fire). After entering the emulation, you will have to press and release the direction again to release the event. -holdselect Start the emulator with the Game Select switch held down. After entering the emulation, you will have to press and release 'Select' to release the event. -holdreset Start the emulator with the Game Reset switch held down. After entering the emulation, you will have to press and release 'Reset' to release the event. -bs <type> Set "Cartridge.Type" property. See the Game Properties section for valid types. -type <type> Same as using -bs. -channels <Mono|Stereo> Set "Cartridge.Sound" property. -ld <A|B> Set "Console.LeftDifficulty" property. -rd <A|B> Set "Console.RightDifficulty" property. -tv <Color|BW> Set "Console.TelevisionType" property. -sp <Yes|No> Set "Console.SwapPorts" property. -lc <type> Set "Controller.Left" property. See the Game Properties section for valid types. -rc <type> Set "Controller.Right" property. See the Game Properties section for valid types. -bc <type> Sets both "Controller.Left" and "Controller.Right" properties. See the Game Properties section for valid types. -cp <Yes|No> Set "Controller.SwapPaddles" property. -ma <Auto|XY> Set "Controller.MouseAxis" property. See the Game Properties section for valid types. -format <format> Set "Display.Format" property. See the Game Properties section for valid formats. -ystart <number> Set "Display.YStart" property (0 - 64). -height <number> Set "Display.Height" property (210 - 256). -pp <Yes|No> Set "Display.Phosphor" property. -ppblend <number> Set "Display.PPBlend" property, used for phosphor effect (0-100). Default is whatever is specified for tv.phosblend.
The following are available in two sets, one for players (prefixed by "plr.") and one for developers (prefixd by "dev."). Only use them if you know what you're doing! Note that in all cases, the values supplied to the arguments are not case sensitive.
Argument Description -dev.settings <1|0> Select developer (1) or player (0) set. -<plr.|dev.>stats <1|0> Overlay console info on the TIA image during emulation. -<plr.|dev.>console <2600|7800> Select console for B/W and Pause key handling and RAM initialization. -<plr.|dev.>bankrandom <1|0> On reset, randomize the startup bank (only for selected bankswitch types). -<plr.|dev.>ramrandom <1|0> On reset, either randomize all RAM content, or initialize with zero (console = 2600)/startup values (console = 7800) instead. -<plr.|dev.>cpurandom <S,A,X,Y,P> On reset, randomize the content of the specified CPU registers. -<plr.|dev.>tiadriven <1|0> Set unused TIA pins to be randomly driven high or low on a read/peek. If disabled, use the last databus value for those pins instead. -<plr.|dev.>rwportbreak <1|0> Since the 2600 has no dedicated R/W line, different addresses are used for RAM read or write access. If the code reads from such a write address, this causes an unwanted, semi-random write to that address. When this option is enabled, such reads interrupt emulation and the debugger is entered. -<plr.|dev.>thumb.trapfatal <1|0> When enabled, this allows the Thumb ARM emulation to throw an exception and enter the debugger on fatal errors. When disabled, such fatal errors are simply logged, and emulation continues. Do not use this unless you know exactly what you're doing, as it changes the behaviour as compared to real hardware. -<plr.|dev.>eepromaccess <1|0> When enabled, each read or write access to the AtariVox/SaveKey EEPROM is signalled by a message. -<plr.|dev.>tv.jitter <1|0> Enable TV jitter/roll effect, when there are too many or too few scanlines per frame. -<plr.|dev.>tv.jitter_recovery <1 - 20> When TV jitter/roll effect is enabled, determines how long to delay recovery time (recovery spread over multiple frames). -<plr.|dev.>colorloss <1|0> Enable/disable the PAL color-loss effect. -<plr.|dev.>debugcolors <1|0> Enable/disable the fixed debug colors. -<plr.|dev.>timemachine <1|0> Enables the Time Machine -<plr.|dev.>tm.size <20 - 1000> Defines the Time Machine buffer size. -<plr.|dev.>tm.uncompressed <0 - 1000> Defines the uncompressed Time Machine buffer size. Must be <= Time Machine buffer size. -<plr.|dev.>tm.interval <1f|3f|10f|30f|1s|3s|10s> Defines the interval between two save states. -<plr.|dev.>tm.horizon <3s|10s|30s|1m|3m|10m|30m|60m> Defines the horizon of the Time Machine.
All settings can be changed within the integrated Options UI while Stella is running (unless otherwise noted; some settings require an application restart). The Options menu can be accessed from the ROM launcher by clicking the Options button, or in-game by pressing the 'Tab' key.
Options Menu dialog:
Video Settings dialog:
Item Brief description For more information,
Renderer Use specified rendering mode -video TIA palette Palette for emulation mode -palette TIA zoom (Integral) zoom level for emulation mode -tia.zoom TIA interpolation Interpolation for TIA image -tia.inter NTSC aspect Width of TIA image in NTSC mode -tia.aspectn PAL aspect Width of TIA image in PAL mode -tia.aspectp Emul. speed Emulation speed -speed Fullscreen Self-explanatory -fullscreen Fullscreen fill Completely fill TIA image in fullscreen -tia.fsfill VSync Enable vertical synced updates -vsync Fast SuperCharger load Skip progress loading bars for SuperCharger ROMs -fastscbios Show UI messages Overlay UI messages onscreen -uimessages Center window Attempt to center application window -center Multi-threading Enable multi-threaded rendering -threads
Video Settings dialog (TV Effects):
Item Brief description For more information,
TV mode Disable TV effects, or select TV preset -tv.filter Adjustable sliders Set specific attribute in 'Custom' TV mode -tv.contrast, -tv.hue, etc. Phosphor for all ROMs Enable phosphor mode for all ROMs -tv.phosphor Blend (phosphor) Blend level to use in phosphor mode for all ROMs (needs to be manually adjusted for your particular hardware) -tv.phosblend Scanline intensity Sets scanline black-level intensity. Note: No scanlines in 1x mode snapshots. -tv.scanlines Scanline interpolation Smooth/blend scanlines into image -tv.scaninter Clone Composite Copy 'Composite' attributes to 'Custom' sliders Clone S-Video Copy 'S-Video' attributes to 'Custom' sliders Clone RGB Copy 'RGB' attributes to 'Custom' sliders Clone Bad adjust Copy 'Bad Adjust' attributes to 'Custom' sliders Revert Revert attribute sliders to saved 'Custom' settings
Audio Settings dialog:
Item Brief description For more information,
Enable audio Self-explanatory -audio.enabled Volume Self-explanatory -audio.volume Mode Select an audio preset or choose 'custom' for manual configuration -audio.preset Fragment size The number of samples in a single fragment processed by the audio driver. Smaller values mean less latency, but may lead to dropouts (depending on OS and hardware). -audio.fragment_size Sample rate Output samples per second. Higher values reduce artifacts from resampling and decrease latency, but may lead to dropouts (depending on OS and hardware). -audio.sample_rate Resampling quality Chooses the algorithm used for resampling (= converting TIA output to the target sample rate). 'High' and 'ultra' use a high-quality Lanczos filter but require slightly more CPU, while 'low' may lead to audible screeching artifacts in some games (notably Quadrun). -audio.resampling_quality Headroom Number of frames to buffer before playback starts. Higher values increase latency, but reduce the potential for dropouts. -audio.headroom Buffer size Maximum size of the audio buffer. Higher values increase maximum latency, but reduce the potential for dropouts -audio.buffer_size
IMPORTANT: In order to maintain a stable stream of audio data, emulation speed must be synchronized with the audio hardware. Buffering happens in multiple places (OS = fragment size, Stella = headroom and buffer size) and improves the tolerance to speed fluctuations, but introduces latency which manifests as a lag between audio and video.
Too aggressive settings for your combination of hardware and software (high sample rate, low fragment size, low headroom, low buffer size) may lead to audio dropouts whose effect may range from isolated popping artifacts to garbled audio. You can check the system log for related messages. If you get recurring messages about audio overruns and underruns (isolates underruns / overruns are normal and a consequence of host system activity), you might have to adjust your settings.
Input Settings dialog:
This dialog is described in further detail in Advanced Configuration - Event Remapping.
User Interface Settings dialog (2 tabs):
Item Brief description For more information,
Theme Theme to use for UI elements (see examples) -uipalette List input delay Maximum delay between keypresses in list-widgets before a search string resets. -listdelay Mouse wheel scroll Number of lines a mouse scroll will move in list-widgets -mscroll
This tab is described in further detail in Advanced Configuration - ROM Launcher.
Snapshot Settings dialog:
Item Brief description For more information,
Save path Specifies where to save snapshots -snapsavedir Continuous snapshot interval Interval (in seconds) between snapshots -ssinterval Use actual ROM name Use the actual ROM filename instead of the internal database name. -snapname Overwrite existing files Whether to overwrite old snapshots -sssingle Ignore scaling (1x mode) Save snapshot in 1x mode without scaling -ss1x
Configure Paths dialog:
Item Brief description For more information,
ROM path Specifies location of ROM files
(only enabled in ROM launcher mode)
-romdir Cheat file Specifies location of cheatfile database -cheatfile Palette file Specifies location of user palette -palettefile Properties file Specifies location of external stella.pro database -propsfile State path Specifies location of state files -statedir NVRAM path Specifies location of NVRAM (flash/EEPROM) files -nvramdir
Developer Settings dialog:
This tab is described in further detail in Advanced Configuration - Developer Options/Integrated Debugger.
Game Properties dialog:
This dialog allows you to change all ROM properties as described in Advanced Configuration - Game Properties.
Audit ROMs dialog:
This dialog is described in further detail in Advanced Configuration - ROM Audit Mode.
Almost every event in Stella can be remapped to another key on the keyboard or to buttons on up to eight joysticks/gamepads (see Getting Started - Keyboard Layout for those events which can/cannot be remapped).
Note that there are currently two separate event modes in Stella; emulation mode and user-interface (UI) mode. Each mode has separate mappings, so (for example) while in emulation mode, the left arrow could mean 'joystick 0 left', while in UI mode it could mean 'move cursor left'. Emulation mode occurs whenever you're actually playing a game. UI mode occurs whenever a user interface is present (ROM launcher, debugger, settings menu, etc.). Because of these different modes, there are two separate mapping areas.
To remap an event:
- Enter Options Menu and click the Input Settings button.
- If you wish to remap emulation events, click the 'Emul. Events' tab. Otherwise, click the 'UI Events' tab for user interface events.
- Select event you want to remap and click the 'Map' button.
- Press a key or a joystick button, and that key/button will be bound to the selected event. If nothing seems to happen, either Stella can't see the input device, or the selected event doesn't support being remapped to the input device.
- Cancel a remap in progress by clicking 'Cancel', erase a mapping by clicking 'Erase', or reset to default mapping by clicking 'Reset'
- Reset to default all mappings by clicking 'Defaults'.
The following screenshots illustrate the event remapping process:
There is also a 'Combo' button in the 'Emul. Events' tab, accessible when a Combo event has been selected from the list of events on the left. Clicking 'Combo' will show a dialog similar to the following:
In this dialog, you can assign various events to the selected combo event. Note that this simply assigns multiple events to the combo; you still need to map the combo event itself to some action, as described in the 'remap an event' section above.
Device and port settings can be configured under the 'Devices & Ports' tab, shown below:
Item Brief description For more information,
Use mouse as ... Allow the mouse to emulate various controllers -usemouse Mouse cursor visibility Show/hide cursor depending on current state -cursor Joystick deadzone size Deadzone area for axes on joysticks/gamepads -joydeadzone Digital paddle sensitivity Sensitivity used when emulating a paddle using a digital device -dsense Mouse paddle sensitivity Sensitivity used when emulating a paddle using a mouse -msense Trackball sensitivity Sensitivity used when emulating a trackball device using a mouse -tsense Allow all 4 directions ... Allow all 4 joystick directions to be pressed simultaneously -joyallow4 Grab mouse ... Keep mouse in window in emulation mode
(only when used as controller)
Note: The sensitivity may greatly vary when the mouse is not grabbed.
-grabmouse Use control key combos Enable using Control key in keyboard actions -ctrlcombo Swap Stelladaptor ports Swap the order of the detected Stelladaptors/2600-daptors (see Advanced Configuration - Stelladaptor/2600-daptor Support) -saport Joystick database Show all joysticks that Stella knows about, with the option to remove them Erase EEPROM Erase the whole AtariVox/SaveKey flash memory AVox serial port Described in further detail in Advanced Configuration - AtariVox/SaveKey Support -avoxport
Several options are configurable in the ROM launcher. The size of the launcher and fonts, as well as the 'ROM Info Viewer' can be changed in UI Settings - Launcher dialog, as shown below:
Most of the options are self-explanatory, except for the 'ROM Info viewer', which is described below.
ROM Info Viewer
Stella supports viewing snapshots and ROM properties of the currently selected ROM in the ROM launcher. Support is automatic, as long as your snapshot directory contains snapshots in the appropriate format. An archive of updated snapshots will be available on the Stella webpage. This archive may be updated periodically as new ROMs are found, and also for each new release of Stella. Note that the snapshots can be any size generated by Stella; they will be resized accordingly.
Currently, there are several restrictions for this feature:
- The ROM Info Viewer can be shown in 1x or 2x mode only.
- To view snapshots in 1x mode, the ROM launcher window must be sized at least 640x480. If the launcher isn't large enough, the functionality will be disabled.
- To view snapshots in 2x mode, the ROM launcher window must be sized at least 1000x760. If the launcher isn't large enough, an attempt will be made to use 1x mode.
The following snapshots illustrate the various font sizes and rom info zoom levels:
ROM Info Viewer in 1x mode, UI sized 800x480, small launcher font:
ROM Info Viewer in 1x mode, UI sized 1000x760, medium launcher font:
ROM Info Viewer in 2x mode, UI sized 1280x900, large launcher font:
The text box in the upper right corner can be used to narrow down the results in the ROM listing. When this box is empty, all files are shown (subject to the restrictions from the filtering option, explained below). Typing characters here will show only those files that match that pattern. For example, typing 'Activision' will show only files that contain the word 'Activision' in their name. This is very useful for quickly finding a group of related ROMs. Note that the search is not case sensitive, so you don't need to worry about capital or lower-case letters.
ROM Launcher Context Menu
The ROM launcher also contains a context menu, selected by clicking the right mouse button anywhere in the current window. This context menu contains the following items:
Power-on options: Selecting this option shows a dialog whereby ROM properties can be temporarily overridden, and joystick/console buttons can be temporarily held down. Selecting options from this dialog will cause all ROMs launched after that to use those properties you specify. Clicking Defaults will disable its functionality, and use ROM properties as defined by the ROM itself. The dialog is as follows (see Advanced Configuration - Game Properties for more information concerning ROM properties):
Item For more information,
Bankswitch type -bs TV type -tv Left difficulty -ld Right difficulty -rd Startup mode -debug Left joy items -holdjoy0 Right joy items -holdjoy1 Console: Select -holdselect Console: Reset -holdreset
- Show only ROM files: Selecting this reloads the current listing, showing only files that have a valid ROM extension.
- Show all files: Selecting this reloads the current listing, showing all files (with no restriction on file name).
- Reload listing: Selecting this performs a reload of the current listing. It is an alternative to pressing the Control-r key combo.
Stella has the ability to rename all your ROMs according to the name specified in the properties database. This is useful if you've downloaded ROMs in DOS 8.3 naming format, and wish the filenames to be more descriptive, or the current filenames are too large to see in the launcher.
This feature is accessible from Options => Audit ROMs, and is only available while in ROM launcher mode. The dialog box for this feature is as follows:
Simply select the ROM path with the 'Audit path' button, and click the 'Audit' button. The ROMs will then be renamed according to their internal properties. When the operation is complete, the number of ROMs that were renamed (as well as ones that weren't) will be shown.
There are several items to take note of:
- THIS OPERATION CANNOT BE UNDONE. I cannot stress this enough; if you aren't completely sure you want to rename your ROMs, don't use this function. There is no undo feature, and one won't be added.
- Only filenames that Stella considers to be valid ROMs will be considered. Currently, this means files with extensions described in "Supported File formats". Files which don't have these extensions will be ignored.
- If a valid ROM doesn't have a properties entry, it will be ignored.
Stella supports real Atari 2600 joysticks, paddles, driving controllers and trackballs (CX22/CX80 'Trak-Ball', Atari and Amiga mouse) using the Stelladaptor and 2600-daptor devices.
Stella can use up to two adaptors; any extra ones are ignored. Stelladaptor devices will be automatically detected and configured. The actual controllers can be plugged/unplugged while the emulator is running, although you will need to restart the game currently being emulated.
The detection and configuration is as follows:
- The first device found will act as the left game port on a real Atari. Depending on the device, Stella will detect it as either the left joystick, paddles 0 & 1, the left driving controller, left keypad, etc.
- The second device found will act as the right game port on a real Atari. Depending on the device, Stella will detect it as either the right joystick, paddles 2 & 3, the right driving controller, right keypad, etc.
- Any other devices will be ignored.
- The assignment ordering of Stelladaptor/2600-daptor to port can be redefined with 'saport' (see description in Using the Command Line) and dynamically with the 'Control-1' key combo.
Stella supports a real AtariVox device for the speech/SpeakJet portion of the controller. You will need a real AtariVox device as well as some means of connecting it to your computer (some sort of serial port/USB adaptor). There should be drivers for your serial convertor, which allow your particular operating system to 'see' the device (configuring this is outside the scope of this document). Once your operating system properly detects the AtariVox, you will need to tell Stella which serial port it is connected to. This is done by using the '-avoxport' commandline argument, or by setting it in the UI under the 'Devices & Ports' tab in Advanced Configuration - Input Devices.
Note that you must use the entire name of the port as specified by your operating system. For example, in Windows this would be COM1, COM2, etc.; Linux and macOS tend to use names similar to '/dev/xxxxxx'. For now, only Linux/UNIX, macOS, and Windows are supported.
Support for the EEPROM portion of the AtariVox and SaveKey is currently emulated. That is, a file will be created on your computer simulating the EEPROM; the actual EEPROM hardware itself will not be accessed or modified. This is very useful in the testing stages of creating a new game, since writing to a real EEPROM many times will eventually wear it out.
The location of the EEPROM files are configurable through the '-nvramdir' commandline argument and within the application itself (see Advanced Configuration - Configure Paths). If the path for these files hasn't been set, the default location will depend on the version of Stella, as follows:
Macintosh ~/Library/Application Support/Stella/nvram/atarivox_eeprom.dat
(if a file named 'basedir.txt' exists in the application directory containing the full pathname for _BASEDIR_)
Note that these EEPROM files will be created when necessary, and initialized as a real EEPROM would be (containing all $FF). The files can be manually deleted, which is very useful in testing cases where a ROM is accessing the EEPROM for the first time. You can also reset the EEPROM to a clean state.
Several developer related options can be configured in the 'Developer Settings' dialog. Two sets ('Player settings', 'Developer settings') allow easy adjustment of all settings for different use cases (playing or developing games) at once.
Developer Settings dialog (Emulator)
Item Brief description For more information,
Player/Developer settings Selects the active settings set -dev.settings Console info overlay Overlay console info on the TIA image during emulation. -plr.stats
Console Select the console type, this affects Color/B&W/Pause key emulation and zero-page RAM initialization -plr.console
Random startup bank Randomize the startup bank (only for selected bankswitch types) -plr.bankrandom
Randomize zero-page ... When loading a ROM, randomize all RAM content instead of initializing with all zeroes (for 'Console' = 'Atari 2600' only) -plr.ramrandom
Randomize CPU When loading a ROM, randomize the content of the specified CPU registers -plr.cpurandom
Drive unused TIA pins ... Unused TIA pins are read random instead of the last databus values -plr.tiadriven
Break on reads from ... A read from a write port interrupts emulation and the debugger is entered. -plr.rwportbreak
Fatal ARM emulation ... Thumb ARM emulation throws an exception and enters the debugger on fatal errors -plr.thumb.trapfatal
Display AtariVox... Display a message when the AtariVox/SaveKey EEPROM is read or written -plr.eepromaccess
Developer Settings dialog (Video):
Item Brief description For more information,
Jitter/roll effect Emulate screen roll with inconsistent scanline count -plr.tv.jitter
(Jitter/roll) Recovery Determines recovery time for screen rolling -plr.tv.jitter_recovery
PAL color-loss Use PAL color-loss effect -plr.colorloss
Debug colors Use fixed debug colors -plr.debugcolors
Set color for specific object in 'Debug Colors' mode (PF0, PF1 and PF2 have a slightly different luminance)
Disabled in ROM launcher mode
Developer Settings dialog (Time Machine)
Item Brief description For more information,
Time Machine When the Time Machine is enabled, Stella will automatically buffer save states in the interval described below. The user can then navigate back and forth within the recorded timeline. Note: This buffer is identical with the one described in Debugger - Global Buttons. It is independent from the save states manually created with F9. -plr.timemachine
Buffer size Defines the Time Machine buffer size. The larger the buffer, the less save states have to be compressed to reach the horizon. -plr.tm.size
Uncompressed size (*) Defines the uncompressed Time Machine buffer size. States within this area will not be compressed and keep their initial interval. -plr.tm.uncompressed
Interval Defines the interval between two save states when they are created. -plr.tm.interval
Horizon Defines the horizon of the Time Machine. A large horizon allows going back further in time. To reach the horizon, save states will be compressed (*). This means that more and more intermediate states will be removed and the interval between save states becomes larger the further they are back in time.
(*) Compression only works if 'Uncompressed size' is smaller than 'Buffer size'.
Developer Settings dialog (Debugger)
Item Brief description For more information,
Font size Self-explanatory -dbg.fontsize Font style Self-explanatory -dbg.fontstyle Debugger width/height Self-explanatory -dbg.res Trap on 'ghost' reads Defines whether the debugger should consider CPU 'ghost' reads for trap addresses. -dbg.ghostreadstrap
Many more options are available for ROM developers, which are described in different sections of this manual, as follows:
- Developer key-combo shortcuts, used to change TIA state dynamically (ie, while the emulation is still running). See Keyboard Layout - Developer Keys in TIA mode for more information.
- Commandline options influencing emulation state. See Using the Command Line - Developer Commands for more information.
- Viewing TIA/console information overlaid on the TIA image. This option can be enabled from the commandline or using the Alt-L key combo, and is extremely useful for viewing the current scanline count and associated frames per second, bankswitch and display formats, etc. The following shows an example of this information:
The three lines of output describe the following:
- Number of scanlines in current frame, associated framerate, and resulting display format. Note that the framerate shown is the internal, virtual framerate (it's calculated from the number of scanlines). If the '*' character is present, it means the display format was auto-detected as shown. For the given example, the format was auto-detected as 'NTSC'.
- Effective emulation speed displayed as frames per second and user defined emulation speed displayed as percentage relative to normal speed.
- Cartridge information. If the '*' character is present, it means the bankswitch format was auto-detected as shown. The item in round brackets indicates ROM size. For the given example, the bankswitch type was auto-detected as 4K, and the file size was 4K (4096 bytes).
Finally, Stella contains an extensive, built-in debugger. Have a look at this page for integrated debugger documentation.
Stella will remember when you change a setting either at the command line or while the emulation is running, and use the settings the next time you start the emulator. The settings are saved in a text file which can be edited outside of Stella. This file can contain your default options, and eliminates the need to specify them on the command line. Any options specified on the command line will override those in the settings file.
The syntax for the settings file is very straightforward. Any line starting with a ';' character is considered a comment and is ignored. Other lines must be of the form: command = value, where command is the same as that specified on the command line (without the '-' character), and value is dependent on the command.
For example, the following table illustrates how command line and settings entries are similar:
Command Line Settings File -video opengl video = opengl -volume 75 volume = 75 -center 1 center = 1 (or center = true)
The settings file has a special name/location depending on which version of Stella you use, which is currently not configurable:
Linux/Unix $HOME/.config/stella/stellarc Macintosh Not applicable; settings are saved in ~/Library/Preferences/Stella-emu.plist Windows %APPDATA%\Stella\stella.ini OR
_BASEDIR_\stella.ini (if a file named 'basedir.txt' exists in the application directory containing the full pathname for _BASEDIR_)
Stella contains support for Bob Colbert's Cheetah cheat codes, as well as an extended Stella-specific type of cheat code that works on bankswitched ROMs.
To add/remove/edit a cheat code, enter the 'Cheat Code' dialog:
Currently, there are three types of cheatcodes available, all of which must be entered in hexadecimal format:
Per-frame RAM cheats:
Evaluated each frame, and apply to RAM only. Format as follows:4-digit code: c041 c0 = address 41 = data
- Cheetah codes, which are explained in detail on Bob Colbert's web page, along with a list of codes for various games. Cheetah codes don't support bankswitched ROMs, so they only work for 2K or 4K ROMs. Format as follows:6-digit (cheetah) code: aaaddc aaa = address - $f000 dd = data c = count - 1
- Stella extended cheats are similar to Cheetah codes, except that they can be 7 or 8 digits long, with the extra digits used for the bank number:7-digit (stella) code: baaaddc b = bank (0 to $f) aaa = address - $f000 dd = data c = count - 1 8-digit (stella) code: bbaaaddc bb = bank (0 to $ff) aaa = address - $f000 dd = data c = count - 1
There's also the concept of one shot codes. These codes work exactly the same as above, except they aren't saved. They are evaluated once and immediately discarded.
Here are a few cheat codes we've found:Pitfall (standard Cheetah codes): 5b0ea1 - infinite lives 723ea1 - infinite time aa5??0 - set starting level, ?? = 01 to ff (d0 is kinda neat) Battlezone (Stella extended codes): 1236ea1 - infinite lives Ms Pac-Man (Stella extended codes): 108fea1 - infinite lives
The name of the cheat database file is configurable through the '-cheatfile' commandline argument and within the application itself (see Advanced Configuration - Configure Paths). If the path for this file hasn't been set, the default filename will depend on the version of Stella, as follows:
Linux/Unix $HOME/.config/stella/stella.cht Macintosh ~/Library/Application Support/Stella/stella.cht Windows %APPDATA%\Stella\stella.cht OR
_BASEDIR_\stella.cht (if a file named 'basedir.txt' exists in the application directory containing the full pathname for _BASEDIR_)
Stella will require a restart for changes to this file to take effect.
Stella maintains a log of its operations when the program first starts up, and while it is running. In older releases, this information was only viewable from the commandline. However, the current release allows you to see this information from within the UI. This can be selected from the main Options menu, where it is labelled "System Logs". Clicking on the button will show a window similar to the following:
Item For more information,
Log level -loglevel Print to console -logtoconsole
The log levels are self-explanatory (None, Basic, Verbose). The "Print to console" option emulates the behaviour of older versions of Stella, whereby the logged output is also shown on the commandline from which Stella was launched (if it was launched in that fashion). Finally, the current contents of the system log can be saved to your home directory by clicking the "Save log to disk" button.
Stella uses game properties to specify the "best" emulator settings for a game. As of version 2.2 of Stella, a default database of properties are built-in, but you may modify these through the use of a stella.pro file or within the corresponding Game Properties dialogs. This file will contain all properties modified by the user. So this means that when you upgrade Stella, your personal properties settings are preserved.
A property file consists of some number of blocks. Each block in the file contains the properties for a single game. For example the general format of a property file is:
; Comments "Cartridge.MD5" "Value" "Property" "Value" "" ; Comments "Cartridge.MD5" "Value" "Property" "Value" "" . . . ; Comments "Cartridge.MD5" "Value" "Property" "Value" ""
Every block in the property file must have a unique value for the Cartridge.MD5 property.
Each block in a property file consists of a set of properties for a single game. Stella supports the properties described below:
Cartridge.MD5: Indicates the MD5 checksum of the ROM image as a string of hexadecimal digits. Stella uses this property while attempting to match a game with its block of properties. If the value of the property matches the MD5 checksum of the ROM image then Stella uses that block of properties for the game. You can use the GNU md5sum program, which is included with most Linux distributions, to calculate the MD5 checksum of a ROM image. Cartridge.Manufacturer: Indicates the game's manufacturer. Cartridge.ModelNo: Indicates the manufacturer's model number for the game. Cartridge.Name: Indicates the actual name of the game. When you save snapshots, load/save state files, or use the ROM Audit Mode functionality, this is the name that will be used for the respective file(s). Cartridge.Note: Contains any special notes about playing the game. Cartridge.Rarity: Indicates how rare a cartridge is, based on the scale described on AtariAge. Cartridge.Sound: Indicates if the game should use 1 or 2 channels for sound output. All original Atari 2600 machines supported 1 channel only, but some homebrew games have been written to take advantage of stereo sound mods. The value must be Mono or Stereo. Cartridge.StartBank: Indicates which bank to use for reading the reset vector. Cartridge.Type: Indicates the bank-switching type for the game. The value of this property must be either Auto or one of the following (for more information about bank-switching see Kevin Horton's 2600 bankswitching document or the documentation in each cartridges source code file). Types marked as (¹) do not currently have reliable auto-detection, those marked as (²) are not fully supported in the debugger:
Type Description File Extension
(to force type)
0840 8K ECONObanking .084 2IN1 ¹ 4-32K Multicart (2 games) .2N1 4IN1 ¹ 8-32K Multicart (4 games) .4N1 8IN1 ¹ 16-64K Multicart (8 games) .8N1 16IN1 ¹ 32-128K Multicart (16 games) .16N 32IN1 ¹ 64-128K Multicart (32 games) .32N 64IN1 ¹ 64/128K Multicart .64N 128IN1 ¹ 256/512K Multicart .128 2K 64-2048 byte Atari .2K 3E 32K Tigervision .3E 3E+ 3E+ (TJ modified DASH) .3EP 3F 512K Tigervision .3F 4A50 ² 64K 4A50 + ram .4A5 4K 4K Atari .4K 4KSC CPUWIZ 4K + ram .4KS AR Supercharger .AR BF CPUWIZ 256K .BF BFSC CPUWIZ 256K + ram .BFS BUS Experimental .BUS CDF Chris, Darrell, Fred .CDF CM ¹ Spectravideo CompuMate .CM CTY ² CDW - Chetiry .CTY CV Commavid extra ram .CV CV+ Extended Commavid extra ram .CVP DASH Boulder Dash 2 .DAS DF CPUWIZ 128K .DF DFSC CPUWIZ 128K + ram .DFS DPC Pitfall II .DPC DPC+ Enhanced DPC .DPP E0 8K Parker Bros .E0 E7 16K M-network .E7 E78K 8K M-network .E78 EF 64K Homestar Runner .EF EFSC 64K Homestar Runner + ram .EFS F0 Dynacom Megaboy .F0 F4 32K Atari .F4 F4SC 32K Atari + ram .F4S F6 16K Atari .F6 F6SC 16K Atari + ram .F6S F8 8K Atari .F8 F8SC 8K Atari + ram .F8S FA CBS RAM Plus .FA FA2 CBS RAM Plus 24/28K .FA2 FE 8K Decathlon .FE MDM Menu Driven Megacart .MDM SB 128-256k SUPERbanking .SB UA 8K UA Ltd. .UA WD Wickstead Design .WD X07 ¹ 64K AtariAge .X07
Console.TelevisionType: Indicates the default television setting for the game. The value must be Color or BW. Console.LeftDifficulty: Indicates the default difficulty setting for the left player. The value must be A or B. Console.RightDifficulty: Indicates the default difficulty setting for the right player. The value must be A or B.
Indicates what type of controller the left and right player uses. The value must be one of the following types:
Type Description Joystick Atari's famous black joystick that was originally included with the system. BoosterGrip A controller add-in that plugs directly into the joystick port and provides a pass-through for the joystick. In doing so, it provides the two independent buttons. Paddles Standard paddle controllers for use with games such as Breakout and Warlords. One pair of controller per connector (allows for 4-player Warlords). Paddles_IAxis Same as Paddles, except the axes are inverted. Paddles_IDir Same as Paddles, except the direction of movement is inverted. Paddles_IAxDr Same as Paddles, except both the axes and direction of movement is inverted. Driving Looks like a paddle, but allows 360' movement. Only one unit per connector, unlike paddles which were sold in pairs. Keyboard Also known as the Star Raiders controller, functionally identical to the Kid's Controller and Keyboard Controller. Game included an overlay with commands, for use with Star Raiders. AmigaMouse Commodore Amiga computer mouse. AtariMouse Atari ST computer mouse. Trakball Standard Atari 2600 CX22/CX80 'Trak-Ball' controller. AtariVox A SpeakJet based unlimited-vocabulary speech/sound synthesizer with 32K EEPROM. SaveKey A 32K EEPROM for saving high scores, etc. (the EEPROM portion of an AtariVox). Genesis Sega Genesis controller, which can be used similar to a BoosterGrip, giving an extra button. CompuMate Spectravideo CompuMate (if either left or right is set, CompuMate is used for both). Mindlink Mindlink controller. Console.SwapPorts: Indicates that the left and right ports should be swapped internally. This is used for ROMs like 'Raiders of the Lost Ark' where the Player 0 joystick is plugged into the right joystick port. The value must be Yes or No. Controller.SwapPaddles: Indicates that the left and right paddles in a particular port should be swapped. This is used for ROMs like 'Demons to Diamonds' where the default paddle is paddle 1, not paddle 0. Other ROMs such as 'Tac-Scan' default to paddle 3, which can be set using both 'Controller.SwapPaddles' and 'Console.SwapPorts'. The value must be Yes or No. Controller.MouseAxis: Indicates how the mouse should emulate virtual controllers. In 'Auto' mode, the system decides how to best use the mouse. Otherwise, XY indicates how to use the X/Y axis (ie, 02 is paddle0/paddle2). Currently, the mouse X-axis and left button are tied together, as are the Y-axis and right button. The value must be Auto or XY, as follows:
An optional second parameter (default of 100) indicates how much of the paddle range that the mouse should emulate.
Id Controller 0 Paddle 0 1 Paddle 1 2 Paddle 2 3 Paddle 3 4 Driving 0 5 Driving 1 6 MindLink 0 7 MindLink 1
Display.Format: Indicates the television format the game was designed for. The value must be Auto, NTSC, PAL, SECAM, NTSC50, PAL60 or SECAM60. Display.YStart: Indicates the scan-line to start displaying at. The value must be n such that 0 <= n <= 64. Setting n to zero will enable ystart autodetection, which should work fine for the vast majority of ROMs. Display.Height: Indicates the number of scan-lines to display. The value must be n such that 210 <= n <= 256. Display.Phosphor: Indicates whether the phosphor effect should be emulated or not. The value must be Yes or No. Display.PPBlend: Indicates the amount of blending which will occur while using the phosphor effect. The value must be n such that 0 <= n <= 100. The default value is whatever is specified for tv.phosblend.
The name of the properties file is configurable through the '-propsfile' commandline argument and within the application itself (see Advanced Configuration - Configure Paths). If the path for this file hasn't been set, the default filename will depend on the version of Stella, as follows:
Linux/Unix $HOME/.config/stella/stella.pro Macintosh ~/Library/Application Support/Stella/stella.pro Windows %APPDATA%\Stella\stella.pro OR
_BASEDIR_\stella.pro (if a file named 'basedir.txt' exists in the application directory containing the full pathname for _BASEDIR_)
Stella will require a restart for changes to this file to take effect.
An Atari 2600 palette consists of 128 colours, which are different for the three major television standards (NTSC, PAL, SECAM). Stella supports two built-in palettes and one user-defined palette for each format. These are set using the '-palette' option, and are described as follows:
standard The default palette from Stella 1.4 onwards. z26 The palette from the z26 emulator. user An external palette file, supplied by the user.
A user-defined palette has certain restrictions, further described as follows:
- The palette file must be at least 792 bytes long. Colours are stored in 24-bit RGB, with the first byte for red, the second for green, the third for blue, for a total of 3 bytes per colour.
- The first 384 bytes of the file (128 * 3) will be used for the NTSC palette. The next 384 bytes (128 * 3) will be for the PAL palette. The next 24 bytes (8 * 3) will be for the SECAM palette, which consists of eight distinct colours. Any extra data in the file will be ignored.
- The PAL colour-loss effect is calculated within Stella. You do not need to specify those colours in the palette file.
The name of the palette file is configurable through the '-palettefile' commandline argument and within the application itself (see Advanced Configuration - Configure Paths). If the path for this file hasn't been set, the default filename will depend on the version of Stella, as follows:
Linux/Unix $HOME/.config/stella/stella.pal Macintosh ~/Library/Application Support/Stella/stella.pal Windows %APPDATA%\Stella\stella.pal OR
_BASEDIR_\stella.pal (if a file named 'basedir.txt' exists in the application directory containing the full pathname for _BASEDIR_)
Note that to actually use the external palette, the palette file must exist and be valid, and the palette option should be set to user (in Video Settings dialog). The current ROM will have to be reloaded for changes to this file to take effect.
Bradford W. Mott started developing Stella during the fall of 1995, and Stephen Anthony has maintained the project since around 2004. Over the years, a number of people from around the world have contributed to the project. Some people have provided technical help while others have offered suggestions and praise. The Stella Team is grateful for all the help and support it has received over the years. A (likely incomplete) list of the people who have played a part in bringing Stella to you is available on the main Stella webpage Credits List. If we've missed someone, please let us know.
Version 2, June 1991
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