a bit of writer's block, I thought I would take
a little rest just after Christmas. Just my
luck, no sooner had January arrived, than news
of an ST emulator rumoured to be available for
Pocket PC by February. I checked the web only
to find no substance to the rumour and only
snippets of information in the forums. But soon
they had a web site, simple but informative
and together with their own forum the rumour
quickly became reality. Now I have got excited
before about emulators, but the thought of using
a real Atari ST in the palm of the hand was
unbelievable. Emulating old 8-bits is a tricky
business, and getting even these relatively
simple machines to run smoothly is a real task
on a cut-down PC device like a Pocket PC. So
to emulate a 16-bit machine like the ST is a
mean task to undertake.
The authors have
taken "CastawayPC" which I believe
was written in C for multiple platforms, and
have done a superb job of porting this to the
Pocket PC platform. Keeping it simple, and by
following the progress of the forum, the authors
have optimized code, module by module until
they had a working emulator that was both stable
and would run at true ST speeds. CastCE's primary
function is to play the thousands of ST games
that people own and allows you to take them
with you on the move. After this initial "wow"
factor I have taken a closer look at the emulator
and have found it to be pretty rock solid, terrific
for games, but also for other tasks such as
designing GIFs, writing music, or using your
favourite ST word processor.
Before I show
you around CastCE, I will assume that you have
some knowledge of emulators already and are
quite comfortable with downloading files from
the internet and installing to a device such
as a Pocket PC. The web site has device-specific
downloads so take a good look at their use before
trying them on your Pocket PC. By the way, for
the benefit of those who may own a newer Pocket
PC than mine, the ARM-specific download works
perfectly fine on my friend's Pocket Loox with
the new Intel processor, so don't be put off
thinking that you must use an iPaq.
This is what
you get when you reset the emulator. Yes, you
have to reset it to make it go! Makes sense
when you think about it, one button does two
jobs. This virtual ST emulates most of what
you would need from an ST, but without the MIDI
support. You can use TOS 1.0 through to 1.4
and KaosTOS. Both low and medium resolutions
are available so most games will run just fine.
There is no facility for the high resolution
mode, but quite honestly it would look like
nothing on a device so small anyway, maybe they
could include it in a later version and scroll
the screen? The really cool thing about
this emulator is the virtual pointing device. Early
on, many people complained that the arrow was
erratic and slow to move around the screen.
You don't use it in this way, it is a true point
and click device like a touch screen. It is
very natural to set up the function buttons
as the mouse buttons and use the stylus as the
mouse by touching folders and menus and double-clicking
is a simple task to map the
joystick and mouse to the iPaq
a virtual disk in CastCE.
At the moment
CastCE does not use folders on the Pocket PC,
it will only recognise virtual disks. This is
not a problem if you already use an emulator
like STeem on your PC/Mac. There are also several
ways of configuring CastCE for better performance.
One quick fix is to turn off sampled sounds.
You can also alter the frame skip, this skips
frames where it can, I left it on "auto"
and have had no slow-downs, but it is there
if you need it. There are other functions for
getting around copy protection problems on virtual
ST disks, but I won't go into that here! Let's
take a look at some screen-shots for you to
drool over, like the other screen-shots, all
bar one have the virtual keyboard visible, this
is because they looked untidy with it present.
this screen-shot the virtual
keyboard is clearly visible.
But as I
stated earlier, CastCE is not confined to just
playing games, no, it can also be used as a
serious alternative desktop to the PC one on
the Pocket PC. I have been using Audio Sculpture
on my iPaq and although I am new to making MOD
files, I found it to be great fun, and forgot
it was an emulator. Great fun!
I took my iPaq
to my local amateur radio club in Milton Keynes
where we sat and played International Karate,
people actually thought it was software for
Pocket PC, they could not believe it was a portable
Atari ST. Here are some shots of 1st Word
and Prism Paint for ST, running in CastCE.
CastCE is a welcome part of my emulation collection,
well set out, pretty easy to install and
rock solid to use. For more information
and downloads, see the web site below.