Note: This article has been written by Calico Cat, an
independent contributor to EmuViews.
|Emulations Online History - January 17, '99 by Calico Cat
One of the first rules of current-day Emulation culture is: there are no rules, and things change faster than the technology we use. It's easy to get caught up in the rush of endless innovation and possibility; every few months seems an eternity, when we look back at the number of games rescued from cobwebs and decay, not to mention the newer ones brought to our desktops and laptops with near-perfect graphics and sound. It's almost impossible not to become a little jaded by the spectacle of it all.. another hundred games in MAME, a sea of FTPs and web servers with almost every game ever made, it seems. Anyone who's been "on the scene" for even a year can't help but feel like an old-timer, when the numbers of emu-fans swell by the thousands every week and our shared passion becomes a media darling.. or devil, depending on the reporting. When we put down the Sidewinders and stop clicking keys for a moment to reflect, the past can seem very far behind us -- indeed, many of our ranks weren't even aware of things like "emulators" or "ROMs" a year ago, or much beyond that. Yet, there is a legacy of our shared past still only a few clicks away, waiting to teach us where Emulation has come from, and give hints where it might be leading. :)
The Internet (especially the Web) is a mess of continual change, with many thousands of new sites going up each week, but the "old" ones don't always go away -- this is a tour of some of the better (or lesser) known ones, chosen from old bookmark/favorite lists.. (Each of these sites are still available online, as of this writing).
An excellent general-purpose emulation site of the time, this page covered the whole spectrum -- arcade, home consoles, computers, ROMs and images, simulators -- in a plain, easy-to-read sprawl of links and information. Following these links can *still* be a learning experience, as many of these other pages are still available, too.. want a hands-on education on the history of computers themselves? Follow the links in the Others section on pre-'70s computer simulators. Curious about the *very* early days of Playstation and NeoGeo emulation? The "Not Yet" section has some early efforts you've probably never heard about, and the beginnings of what is out there now. Wondering what sorts of rumors passed around in the earlier days, or just want a refresher course? Have a blast, here.. this site hasn't been updated in quite awhile, but it's still a lot of fun to poke around.
Equal parts museum and archive, this page was a real trailblazer in the online retrogaming scene, having been around since March 1994; you can peruse the timeline and see what systems came out when, read the FAQs and access archives of documentation and even game images/ROMs. Newer systems are usually referred to off-site links, as this page hasn't been updated in quite awhile, but the content here on older game systems is impressive, and easy to navigate. This page was frequented by many of emulation's early online explorers, and is still worth wandering through today.
A nice example of earlier homebrew emulation pages, EZ didn't last too long, but gave good, straightforward (linked) coverage to many of the popular emulated systems of the day: Apple & Commodore computers, Nintendo and Sega consoles, and had an onsite section of ROMs for those who couldn't wait to get started. Many pages like this came and went like teenage phases, but this one seems like it could've been something special.
This was one of the major hubs of arcade emulation activity in days gone by, and is still a blast to poke around with today. If you've ever wanted to experience (or re-live) the earlier days of emulation thrills, this is the place: a long, regularly-updated page of still-downloadable arcade emus in their earlier incarnations, with at least a couple of usable links to the ROMs you'll need for all of them. There are a few still-current sites with these gems in their latest versions, like Dave's Classics, but this is a genuine one-click timewarp into Emulation's golden days, with all the fun intact -- try out MAME 0.10 (!) or the many other youthful efforts of many of today's top emulations programmers, and feel the excitement of a bygone era of innocence and discovery that wasn't so long ago.
Before davesclassics.com and many other sites we've come to take for granted, Dave's C-64 page was a mainstay of the online emulation scene, a sister site with the earlier locations of his Classics page. It's still there, and all the old links work fine -- indeed, he's kept the emulators section updated over the past 2 1/2 years since it's been "updated". :) Heat.net banners aside, this is a neat look at the original format/style of his better-known page, and a great place to check out the sometimes-underrated Commodore emulation scene, albeit without the scope of the huge FTP servers like Arnold's.
One of the sites that used to turn up most frequently when searching for "emulation" sites in the major search engines, and a damn fine one at that -- Moose did a nice job of documenting the major emulators and ROM sites, as well as pointing out the importance of classics preservation over "warez" and piracy-minded practices. He didn't keep anything on-site, but his links were always updated, though they've obviously been left to rest for some time now. He even had all the relevant mirrors for the ftp.tant ROM archive there, which still has at least one working mirror. (Oops - I'm not sure if there are any remaining mirrors, now; Brian Peek's site seems to be down. There may be others I'm not aware of - one site that DOES still work is at Emulation Town Square's Arcade File Library ..this has the ROMs nicely laid out by emulator name, though you'll notice they are not updated to current versions; this is okay, however, if you're interested in trying out the earlier emulators.)
This wasn't a mainstream emulation site by any means, like the many pages aimed at end-users; this was one of the emu-programmers' major resources for source code, and still has much available on-site for the intrepid emu author to peruse. This site was the Canadian mirror for the dct.com/~mhalse main repository; both of these mirros still work, though the Dutch Emul8 mirror has been down for some time. This page was kept at a previous site until moved to these mirrors (and updated) in May 1998, and still provides a neat behind-the-scenes look at how the wizardry of emulation programming is done, while demonstrating the kind of cooperation and respect that made our community thrive. As always, the past has much to teach us today. :)
There are many more "old" emulation pages left on the Web; chances are, many of you have links just like these, sitting in old favorites or bookmark folders. Many of them are still worth a visit, and always will be - to re-capture the glories of Emulation's online evolution, or to enjoy these early accomplishments for the first time. As we witness the increasing perfection of most projects, facing an uncertain legal future and the infighting that our current expansion brings, it's nice to take a few steps back, and relax a little.. it's still about the games, and our shared desire to keep them alive forever with the friends we make along the way.
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