Thursday, December 15, 2005

Retro Emulation

Is your office or basement full of old computers that you keep around just in case you "need" to use an old program or game that no longer runs on today's computers? Is your spouse threatening to throw you out if you don't get rid of all those old boxes in the attic or garage that contain your prized collection of old computers? Or maybe you just can't throw anything out and need a reason to sell all that stuff on eBay but still want to keep that favorite old software.

Well, you are not alone. Emulation software is the solution to your problems and is better than ever. For years, fans of early personal computers and video game technology have been faithfully creating emulation software that very accurately simulates real hardware. In this photo (click photo for larger view) I am running an Apple 1, Apple II, Sinclair ZX81, Atari 800, PC DOS, and a DEC PDP-11 running RSTS/E, all on my OS X MAC (I could have opened another shell and included UNIX on this list). These are running on the following emulators, in order; Pom 1 (Apple 1), OSX II (Apple II), NO$ZX8 running in DOSBox (Sinclair ZX81), Atari800MacX (Atari 800), DOSBox (PC DOS), and Simh running RSTS/E (DEC PDP-11).

These are just a few of the shareware or open source emulators that are out there, and a quick search on Google will turn up hundreds. You can also find many archives of old software (including on bittorrent) so that you may not have to go through the effort of converting your existing floppy disk based software to pc based emulator disk images. Now all you need to do is decide what to do with all that extra space around the house after you sell all that old equipment on eBay!


  1. Hail Will!,
    I'm not sure why I have many old computers in my attic. It may be just to cement my place in time, to
    say "I was there" at the time these machines were vital. I repaired these machines, loved them,
    cherished them, took them in when they were ill and made them better. I couldn't sell them on eBay,
    it would be like selling my children. Nostalgic twaddle I hear you cry, but it's more than nostalgia
    or sentimentality. I'm sentimental in that I still have my first fake I.D. and my first soiled
    prophylactic, but these things are nothing compared to my MAC 128, my ZX spectrums my Apple ][ et all...
    My spouse would never dream of complaining to my face, there is zero choice whom would be shown the door.

    I can't cuddle an emulator...

  2. Well Andy, you've caught me at my game here... I too have every machine I ever owned still ;) Emulators are just another excuse to play with those old faithful systems more conveniently (like at work).

    The bit about spouse's in my case is true...

  3. Will, I couldn't find your email address, so I hope this comment reaches you promptly. Just found your blog tonight; great job!

    I'm the editor of Computer Collector, a free e-newsletter published each week. I added your blog link to the newsletter menu page and would be happy to see a link back. :)

    Please contact me at -- I'd like to ask you some questions.

    - Evan Koblentz