. .
. The History of Emulation
and its relationship to computer and videogame history
Updated 10/24/99
. . . .
. Author: The Scribe


I want to thank the many, many people who have made this document possible - providing source material, making suggestions, offering corrections, etc.   I wish I had room to give credit where credit is due, but you know who you are.  Thanks again ... thank you very much.

This document is very much a work in progress.  It is still far from complete on the emulation side of things and probably too long by half on both background data and concurrent events, but this is the way that you have demanded it to read.  My apologies for any errors that may still remain.

As always, your comments are welcome.

Abbreviation key
  • (C) - Combination or "combo" emulator
    • An emulator that has both hardware and software components.  The software component is usually the actual emulator, while the hardware component provides key parts of the original system required for popular emulation.  This offers the most flexibility in terms of design, but is generally frowned upon by emulation purists as not offering "true" emulation.  Combo emulators are by far the most prevalent form of the technology, including many examples not documented here.
  • (F) - Firmware emulator
    • An emulator that is contained entirely within hardware.  This usually involves one or more emulators embedded in ROM that reconfigure the system into behaving like another completely different system.  By far the fastest form of the technology, it is also the most specialized and requires a high degree of systems knowledge in order to implement properly.  Firmware emulators are usually limited to situations where back-compatibility with an older system is a major concern.
  • (S) - Software emulator
    • An emulator that is contained entirely within software.  In other words, the only hardware components involved are those of the host system, which the emulator then reconfigures as needed for its own purposes.  Purists consider this to be "true" emulation in that no part of the original system is required.  It is also the slowest form of the technology for the same reason.  The chief advantages to a "true" emulator are twofold - it can be easily changed or updated as need requires, and it can be easily ported across different platforms.

Thus Spake Zarathustra:  The Dawn of Emulation (1962 - 1988)
The history of emulation on personal computers is almost as old as the system concept itself, and was present right from the start as an in-house concept by IBM.  That would soon change, however, with the desire to standardize the many different kinds of computers and operating systems being offered by many different vendors.

The period called the Dawn of Emulation is held to have begun in 1962 with the introduction of the 7070 Emulator for the IBM System/360 series of mainframe computers, which was the very first emulator of any kind.  It is held to have ended in 1988 with the introduction of the A-Max Macintosh emulator for Amiga personal computers near the end of that year.

  • Steve Russell develops the first arcade videogame, SpaceWar, on the PDP-1 located at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).  It becomes an instant hit, with copies soon flying all over the ARPANet (precursor to the Internet).  The game is inspired by the writings of E.E. "Doc" Smith, author of the Lensman novels.  The "price" of the first arcade videogame is US$120,000 - reflecting the cost of the computer system required to run it.
  • Two uncredited MIT students accidentally create the first joysticks in an attempt to replace the worn-out switches (from constant SpaceWar play) on their PDP-1 console.
  • SIMSCRIPT by the Rand Corporation and GPSS by IBM are the industry's first general-purpose simulation languages.  They are designed to allow programmers to simulate real-world situations and systems entirely via software.  They also represent the first recognizable move towards emulation as we define it today.
  • IBM sponsors a series of computer simulations at its facility in La Grande, France, in order to test compatibility issues with its New Product Line (NPL) of computer systems, then in development.  The dismal test results for a pure-software solution cause them to re-evaluate their approach.  Larry Moss, an IBM engineer, working in conjunction with Stuart G. Tucker at IBM's Poughkeepsie (NJ) facility, offers an alternative using a combination of hardware and software to solve the problem.  Moss used the term emulator to describe the proposal, which he felt aptly described its operations. It is the first time that the word and the concepts that underlie it are applied to a computer system project of any kind, and Larry Moss is generally credited with being "the father of emulation."   Not everyone agrees with his approach, however, and authority is also granted for work on a pure-hardware solution championed by John Haanstra.   It results in the IBM 1410S, which is often credited as IBM's first real cross-platform computer.

  • (NOTE:  All three forms of emulation arose from the System/360 back-compatibility project - the "true" approach in the La Grande simulations, the "combo" approach in the Moss proposal, and the firmware approach in the Haanstra project)
  • IBM announces the System 360, the first "family" of compatible computers.  It is also the first computer system based entirely on integrated circuits.  One of the chief points in its advertising campaign is that it will be back-compatible with older IBM mainframes.
  • BASIC (Beginner's All-purpose Symbolic Instruction Code) is created by Tom Kurtz and John Keremy of Dartmouth College.  It remains to this day the most popular introductory programming language yet devised, no doubt due in large part to its use of logical, conversational English terms for its command set.
  • Rosen Enterprises merges with Nihon Goraku Bussan.  The resulting company is named Sega Enterprises, Ltd (Sega is an acronym for SErvice GAmes).  They import amusement arcade game for two years before developing their own.
  • 1965
    • The IBM System/360 line is officially released in June.  Along with it comes the very first emulator.  The 7070 Emulator by Larry Moss (C) permits the use of programs written for the older IBM 7070 to successfully work with a high-end System/360, and it proves to be quite popular with IBM customers.

    • (NOTE:  Some System/360s equipped with the 7070 Emulator were still doing their job as late as the 1970s before their eventual replacement).
    • Sega releases its first arcade game, Periscope.  It is an old-fashioned electronic shooting gallery game (no monitor, just sensors, lights, and mechanically driven targets).  It proves immensely successful, inspiring Sega to release a number of similar titles over the next few years.
  • Gordon Moore and Robert Noyce found the Integrated Electronics Corporation.  The name would be shortened several years later to Intel Corporation.
  • 1969
  • The Internet as we know it today begins operations as the historic first transmission between Stanford University and the University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA) manages to crashes the fledgling network.  Only two characters, L and O, make it across the historic link before the Internet's suffers its very first communications failure (but by no means its last).
  • 1971
    • The very first EPROM and the very first floppy disks (8 1/2") are released.
    • John Blankenbaker devises the first personal computer.  Not surprisingly, he names it the Kenbak I (after himself).
    • Under the prodding of company vice president Bill Benders, Magnavox president Gerry Martin licenses the Home TV Games project from Saunders and develops it as a consumer product under the name Odyssey.  Along with the license comes ownership of creator Ralph Bauer's patent on the basic concept of the videogame.
    • Copyright protection for prototypes is established in the Franklin v. Franklin legal dispute.
    • Julian Reitman predicts in his book Computer Simulation Applications that the days of "true" emulation (which he refers to under the notion of programmed computer simulations) are not far off due to rapidly advancing computer technology.  He also speculates on the possibility of "game simulations" along the same lines.

    • (NOTE:  This book was reprinted in 1981, by which time the first personal computer emulator had already appeared).
    • Nolan Bushnell develops a simplified hard-wired version of the popular minicomputer videogame SpaceWar and tries to generate interest in vending it commercially.  He eventually finds a vendor in Nutting Associates, who produce some 1,500 units of Computer Space in a futuristic-looking cabinet.  It does not do well in the markets, with the constant complaint being that the game is too complicated (but is forever immortalized in the Charlton Heston sci-fi feature film Soylent Green).  Rebuffed, he decides to release a simpler game the next time around.
    • Magnavox releases the Odyssey home entertainment system, the very first home videogame console, for US$100.  It is also the first videogame console to be shipped with multiple games, which consist of plug-in hardware boards that were the forerunners of videogame cartridges.  They sell over 100,000 units in its first year of release thanks in part to a pitch by celebrity spokesman Frank Sinatra, but do poorly thereafter.
    • Al Alcorn is contracted by Atari to develop a tennis videogame along the lines of the one made by Magnavox.  Alcorn subsequently writes Pong, Atari's first videogame.  The instructions were simple and have since passed into legend, consisting of only one line:  AVOID MISSING BALL FOR HIGH SCORE.
    • The first prototype Pong machine is installed at a bar named Andy Capps in Sunnyvale, CA.  It quits working the first day, due to the fact that so many quarters had been fed into the machine that the coin feeder mechanism had jammed.
    • The first commercially vended Pong machine is sold on 29 November.
    • Gary Kildall, founder of Digital Research, develops the CP/M operating system for personal computer systems.
    • France sees its first "native" minicomputer system, the MICRAL by R2E.  It also sees its first "native" programming language, PROLOG by Alain Comerauer, which would eventually go on to find its niche in the artificial intelligence field.
    • IBM releases the IBM 3340 hard drive, code named Winchester during its development.  It proves to be extremely popular and represents a quantum leap forward in mass storage technology.

    • (NOTE:  This is why the term "Winchester" is often used in older computer books to describe hard drive technology)
    • Bob Metcalfe invents Ethernet technology.
    • The Altair 8800, designed by Ed Roberts and Bill Yates, is released in kit form.  It is the first commercially vended personal computer.  It is named after a fictional planet mentioned in an episode of the original Star Trek television series ("Amok Time").
    • Atari releases its second arcade videogame, Tank, by Scott Bristow, using the public relations ploy of a supposed competitor (Kee Games) that is actually a wholly owned subsidiary in disguise.  The ploy is to avoid a legal complication dating back to the early days of pinball games where distributors could demand exclusive rights to a subcontractor's products.  It is the first videogame to use code burned into ROM, as opposed to the hard-wiring employed in previous efforts.  Atari later "merges" with Kee Games, and Joe Keenan is named president of Atari.
    • Atari releases the industry's first violent videogameShark Jaws is inspired by the smash hit Steven Spielberg cinematic thriller Jaws.  The objectionable scene is that of a stick figure player being eaten alive by a digtal rendition of a great white shark.
    • The Kewanee Oil v. Bicron legal dispute over confidental trade secrets is resolved in a landmark ruling rendered by the U.S. Supreme Court.  Among other things, it establishes that public domain processes cannot be patented and that trade secrets cannot be protected by law.  This would be the case that would define the limits that a vendor could place on users of its products for over two decades.
    • Bill Gates and Paul Allen found what would become the Microsoft Corporation (originally spelled Micro-Soft).  Their first job is developing Altair 8800 software for MITS, and their first product is Microsoft BASIC for the Altair 8800.
    • Atari demonstrates Home Pong at a consumer toy show.  The unit was designed by Harold Lee, Al Alcorn, and Bob Brown.  It is the first public demonstration of an Atari videogame console designed for home use, but vendors are gun-shy due to the perceived failure of the Odyssey.  Eventually, Atari attracts the attention of Tom Quinn, a buyer for a certain catalog sales company named Sears.  They eventually secure an exclusive contract with Sears to vend 150,000 units of the console - far more than they have the capacity to build.  Sears releases Home Pong later that year under its Telegames label (US$100).  It is an instant hit, the best-selling item of the 1975 Sears Wish Book Christmas catalog, and other vendors quickly rush to cash in on the "new" home videogame market.
    • Steve Wozinak and Steve Jobs introduce the Apple I personal computer.  Subsequently, they found the Apple Computer Corporation on 1 April 1976.  The choice of April Fool's Day is a deliberate one on their part.  The first Apple I computers are made available to the public in kit form (US$666.66).
    • Ex-Intel marketing wizard Mike Markkula pays a visit to Steve Job's garage, where Steve Wozinak is hard at work designing a new personal computer for Apple.  He offers to join the fledgling operation.
    • As part of his contractual obligations to his employer, Steve Wozinak demonstrates the prototype Apple II to company executives at Hewlett-Packard.  They decline to exercise their "work for hire" rights to his project.  Steve Jobs approaches his employer, Atari, with the same idea, but is flatly rejected.  He subsequently quits his job to devote his efforts to the new machine, but "helps himself" to some in-house Atari hardware before leaving that eventually winds up in the Apple II prototypes.
    • The term microsoft is filed with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) as a registered trademark of the Microsoft Corporation.
    • AMD and Intel sign their first technology cross-licensing agreement, by which AMD is allowed to legally use Intel microcode to produce working clones of Intel's current crop of processors.
    • Fairchild introduces the Channel F.  It is a multigame system like the Odyssey, but does this via plug-in videogame cartridges, making it the first videogame system to use that particular delivery system for its programs.  The games are hideous, even by the day's standards - or to quote one videogame wag, "primitive beyond current conceptions of the word."
    • Arcade videogame newcomer Exidy releases Death Race, inspired by the Roger Corman sci-fi flick Death Race 2000.  During gameplay, players are awarded points for running over people (sound familiar, all of you Carmageddon fans?).  It sparks the first nationwide protest against violent content in videogames, and is eventually pulled off the market as a result.
    • Atari begins work on Project Stella - a second-generation home videogame console desgined to handle multiple games of different kinds.   It is in direct response to the Fairchild Channel F.
    • Magnavox sues a number of videogame companies, including Atari, for patent infringement - based on Ralph Baer's original videogame patent.  The other vendors are eventually forced into fairly pricey settlements with Magnavox.
    • The first West Coast Computer Faire is held in the Brooks Civics Auditorium in San Francisco, CA.  Some 12,750 people attend the event.  Among the classic personal computers that made their official debut there were the Radio Shack TRS-80 and the Commodore PET.  Also present is MITS with its Altair 8800, but it is the Apple II personal computer that steals the show, being the first personal computer with a color graphics display (US$1300).  Both the Apple II and its parent company, Apple, attract the attention of Microsoft founder Bill Gates.
    • Datapoint introduces ARCNET, the first practical implication of the local area network.
    • Vector Graphic Inc. releases the first three-dimensional graphics processing system.   That early product, the Vector Graphic I system, is the direct ancestor of today's polygonal 3D video processing systems.
    • Midway Games releases Gunfight by Taito of Japan, the first imported arcade videogame and the first arcade videogame to use a microprocessor instead of hard-wiring.
    • Larry Rosenthal develops Speed Freak, the first arcade driving game based on a vector graphics engine.  It is an astounding piece of work given the hardware of its day, but only 700 units are produced and it soon fades into oblivion due to the unreliable design of its steering wheel.
    • Atari releases the Video Computer System (VCS) home videogame console in October (US$200), later redesignated as the Atari 2600.  It ships with two games (Pong and Tank), with seven others available.  All titles for the system are in videogame cartridge format, and all of its announced programs are simplified ports of popular Atari arcade games.
    • Hand-held electronic games, such as those marketed by Mattel and Coleco, cut deep into Atari's anticipated profits for the Christmas shopping season.  They survive thanks to an infusion of funds from Warner, but emerge from the holiday rush deep in debt.  First-year Atari 2600 sales are unimpressive as a result.  Tension begins to grow between Atari 's Nolan Bushnel and Warner president Steve Ross.
    • Ward Christianson and Randy Seuss set up the first electronic bulletin board system (BBS) in the United States - a precursor of things to come.  Christianson and Seuss' Computerized Bulletin Board System goes online in Chicago, IL.
    • Nolan Bushnell arranges to be fired from Atari, as his differences with Warner have grown too great to resolve.  His replacement is Ray "The Czar" Kassar, hired earlier that year by Warner and with whom Bushnell does not get along.  Kassar immediately implements deep cuts into R&D and shifts Atari's focus from quality to quantity.  Changes are immediately evident, with tightened company security, emphasis on worker discipline and performance, amd growing discontent among company employees.  Many quit in disgust or protest.
    • Atari launches its home computer division, which is deliberately kept separate from its videogame division.
    • Texas Instruments introduces its Speak-and-Spell line of educational toys, the first mass-market product with digital speech synthesis.
    • Taito of Japan creates and releases the now-legendary arcade shooter Space Invaders.  It goes on to become the most successful game of the year.
    • A little-known Japanese company named Nintendo releases its first arcade videogame, Computer Othello.  The only thing notable about it is that it sets a long-running price standard for Jaapnese arcade gameplay (one ¥100 coin per play).
    • Cinematronics rings a revamped version of SpaceWar to the arcades.  It becomes a monster hit for them - so much that hardcore aficionados are willing to pay high prices for the original machines once they are pulled from the arcades.
    • Apple begins work on a revolutionary new personal computer, code-named Lisa after the daughter of company co-founder Steve Jobs.
    • The Source, one of the earliest nationwide telecommunications services offered to the public, goes online.
    • The ADA programming laugage, named in honor of Lady Ada Byron, Countess of Lovelace, the world's first computer programer, is developed in France by a CII-Honeywell Bull team directed by Jean Ichbiah.  It is remembered for the efforts by the U.S. Department of Defense to implement it as a standard language for all of its programs.
    • CompuServe begins its long history as the oldest continuously operated public telecommunications service in the form of MicroNET, a nationwide network of bulletin boards, databases, and on-line gaming forums.
    • Motorola releases the 16-bit MC68000 CPU, one of the most advanced CPUs of its day.  Its name is derived from the fact that it incorporates approximately 68,000 transistors in the actual chip mask.  This would the processor of choice for the next generation of computer systems and videogames to come (Mac, Amiga, Genesis, Super Nintendo,etc.) - the generation that would have the greatest influence in making the Golden Age of Emulation possible.
    • Atari releases Asteroids to the arcades, designed by the trio of Lyle Rains, Ed Rogg, and Howard Delman.  It is an instant hit, eventually dethroning Space Invaders in the arcades and becoming Atari's all-time best-selling title, with some 70,000+ units sold.    It proves so popular that production of Lunar Lander units is held up in order to manufacture more Asteroids consoles.
    • Sega releases its first in-house videogame, the driving simulation Monaco GP.
    • A group of top-notch Apple engineers and executives are given a full-blown demo of a new personal computer that Xerox is secretly developing at its Palo Alto research center.  The visit is tied to the recent purchase by Xerox of 100,000 Apple Computer shares for US$1 million.  The one thing that makes the biggest impression on the Apple team is the Xerox Star graphic user interface (GUI) for the prototype system, and on their return immediately set to work on developing a similar operating system for the Lisa prototype.  Back at Xerox, the company eventually decides not to market the system at that time due to lukewarm response to initial advertising.
    • Texas entepreneur and multimillionaire Ross Perot, founder or Electronic Data Systems (EDS), offers to buy Microsoft from Bill Gates, but walks away from the reputed asking price of US$50-60 million.
    • NEC of Japan releases the NEC PC 8001 personal computer system, the first for that country.
    • Namco designs its first-ever arcade videogame, the wildly popular Galaxian.  It is also the first color arcade videogame.
    • This year is held as the beginning of the Golden Age of Atari (1979-1983).Atari ends the year with consistently strong Atari 2600 sales, with both licensed arcade ports and original titles proving equally popular.  Nevertheless, perceiving them as a pack of "high-strung prima donnas," Ray Kassar fires almost the entire Atari engineering staff.
    • Computer Shopper publishes its very first issue.
    • At a strategy meeting in London, England, Commodore president Jack Traimel stuns his associates by announcing his intention to both build and market a personal computer for the American market that will sell for under US$300.
    • Microsoft announces its first hardware product, the Z80 SoftCard (C) for the Apple II (US$350).  It has an on-board Zilog Z80 CPU, which gives the Apple II full CP/M back-compatiblity.  It is sold bundled with its utilities, a legally licensed copy of CP/M, and a copy of Microsoft BASIC.  It is an instant hit, and turns out to be the first "system" emulator of any kind for a personal computer.  Tim Patterson of Seattle Computer developed the prototypes under contract to Microsoft, with Don Burdis of Microsoft taking over the project in its final preproduction stages.  25,000 units are sold in its first year of release.
    • Atari releases Adventure for the Atari 2600 by Warren Robinett - the videogame industry's first graphic-based RPG.  It is also the first videogame to include what is now called an "Easter egg," featuring a hidden room accessed by means of a special procedure in which the following is inscribed on the floor - PROGRAMMED BY WARREN ROBINETT.  It is the first time that an Atari programmer is given credit for a videogame (in this case, "gives himself" would be more accurate).
    • In a joint venture, Sony and Philips invent the compact disc (CD).  Sony also introduces the 3.5" floppy disk drive, which becomes a standard over the next few years.  Previous efforts by other vendors with 2.5" and 3 1/4" formats had failed to gain widespread acceptance.
    • IBM corporate management gives executive William Lowe the go-ahead on a little item called Project Chess.  It is also sometimes referenced within IBM as the Manhattan Project (a historical allusion) due to its importance.  Lowe immediately recruits 12 engineers and sets to work.  The goal of Project Chess is to build IBM's first mass-market personal computer system.  IBM opens negotiations with Microsoft about providing software for their new personal computer.  IBM contacts Gary Kildall and Digital Research about using CP/M-86 for their new personal computer.  Kildall is not interested for a variety of reasons - a mistake that he and fans of his operating system will later regret.
    • MicroNET merges with H&R Block. As part of the merger, it changes its name to CompuServe.
    • IBM meets with Bill Gates, Steve Ballmer, and other Microsoft executives in September  to formalize their plans concerning software support for the new IBM personal computer system.  In a discussion that has now become the stuff of computer legend, Gates manages to secure a contract to license an operating system to IBM for use with its new computer even though Microsoft doesn't have one in its possession.
    • In October, Paul Allen pays a visit to Tim Patterson of Seattle Computer and offers to buy his QDOS package (Quick and Dirty Operating System, a CP/M alternative) for Microsoft.  He refuses to divulge the exact reason, but comments that it is for a wealthy unnamed client.  A deal is soon reached whereby Microsoft buys DOS and all rights to it for under US$100,000 (several sources claim the exact price was US$53,000).  Patterson quickly agrees, because it is more money that he has yet made with his company.  Shortly thereafter, DOS in hand, the Microsoft executive trio of Gates, Allen, and Ballmer meet with IBM executives at their Boca Raton facility.  They propose that Microsoft be put in charge of all software development for the new system, and convert DOS for use with it.  The end result is MS-DOS (MicroSoft Disk Operating System).
    • Atari releases the vector-graphic arcade game Battlezone, by the trio of Howard Delman, Roger Hector, and Ed Rotberg.  It is the first videogame from Atari to feature a first-person viewpoint and becomes an instant hit.  In fact, it is so successful that the United States Army commissions a special version for use in training its tank crews, thereby making it the first arcade-inspired military combat computer simulator.
    • The U.S. federal government finally drops its antitrust lawsuit against IBM.
    • The world's first portable computer is released in the form of the CP/M-driven Osborne I.
    • IBM formally unveils the IBM PC (i.e. the IBM 5150 Personal Computer).  It commences production immediately with the first orders for the unit filled ahead of schedule, which is a first for the industry.  This is the personal computer that, for better or worse, has defined the personal computer market as we know it today.
    • Meanwhile, "across the pond," Acorn Computers Ltd. of Great Britian release the legendary BBC Minicomputer System.
    • Atari releases a port of Asteroids for the VCS.  It is the first videogame cartridge to employ the technique of bank-switching, thereby doubling its ROM address space.
    • Konami of Japan releases the videogame Scramble.  This would set the standard for all  side-scrolling shooters that followed, and many other videogames were either adapted or hacked to run on "Scramble hardware."
    • Sega Corporation makes its first impression on the videogame scene by relelasing Konami's Frogger to American arcades.
    • A federal judge for the U.S. 9th District rules in Tandy v. Personal Micro Computers that computer code embedded in silicon can be protected by copyright.  This decision would prove to have major ramifications for the entire computer industry, although it went largely unnoticed at the time.
    • The U.S. Supreme Court confirms the granting of the first software patent in the case of Diamond v. Diehr.
    • An Amercican dies of a heart attack while playing the arcade game Berzerk.  To date, he is the videogame industry's only confirmed fatality.
    • To avoid a shortage of titles for the coming year and increase profits, Atari requires all Atari 2600 distributors in October to commit to ordering games for all of 1982.  Subsequently, most vendors place huge orders.  Atari's action is regarded by many as the catalyst for "the great shakeout" to come in the videogame industry.
    • Commodore Business Machines, under the leadership of Jack Traimel, unveils the prototype for the legendary Commodore 64 personal computer (C64).  It would go on to make industry history as the most successful unique personal computer design to date, with well over 4 million units sold worldwide during its lifetime (1982 - 1991).  It would also go on to become the first unique PC design to break the US$1 billion mark in sales.
    • The newly-formed Compaq Computer Corporation backs the development of the Phoenix BIOS by Phoenix Technologies.  It is the key ingredient needed to produce a working clone of the IBM 5150 Personal Computer, and that appears in the form of the legendary Compaq Portable PC.  IBM subsequently sues, but the legitimacy of the Phoenix BIOS is upheld in court.  The IBM v. Compaq lawsuit establishes the bulletproof legality of the "clean-room" technique of reverse-enginnering. Compaq would go on to report the largest first-year sales figures in American computer industry history (once the Compaq Portable PC begins shipping in January 1983), with end-year revenues topping US$111 million.  The record would stand for the next five years, when it would be broken by hard drive manufacturer Conner Peripherals.

    • (NOTE:  The Compaq Portable PC set a trend for the company that has never stopped.  Compaq continues to maintain its excellent reputation for providing portable IBM PC compatible computers to the market as of this date.)
    • As part of its settlement with Activision over a legal dispute, Atari permits the development of third-party titles for the Atari 2600 in exchange for royalties.  Dozens of companies begin making Atari 2600 videogames, whereas many of the titles it develops in-house (Pac-Man, E.T., et. al.) stink by comparison.
    • Apple reveals to Microsoft executives the existence of prototypes for its next personal computer design.
    • Intel develops the i80286 16-bit CPU as the successor to its 8086/8088 line.  Key to its success is the inclusion of "8086 real mode" for back-compatibility with software designed for the older CPUs, making it the first known firmware emulator.
    • Xedec releases the Baby Blue CP/M emulator (C) for IBM PC comaptibles, a combination hardware/software product along the same lines as other CP/M emulators of its day.
    • Coleco releases an Atari 2600 adaptor for its ColecoVision home videogame console.  Atari promptly sues, but the case is thrown out on the grounds that Atari's videogame  technology is so generic as to be unpatentable.  This is the first recorded instance of cross-platform support among videogame consoles.  Coleco later "thanks" Atari by releasing the Gemini, a cheaper (and perfectly legal) clone of the Atari 2600.
    • Under pressure from sales of the ColecoVision, Atari releases the Atari 5200 videogame console (and formally renames the VCS to the Atari 2600 at this time).  It is nothing more than a keyboardless Atari 400 computer, but internal division rivalry within Atari causes the Atari 5200 to be initially incompatible with Atari 2600 videogames.
    • The Videogame Industry's "Great Shakeout" - Round 1
      • On 7 December (Pearl Harbor Day) at 2:41 pm EST, Atari CEO Ray Kassar sells 5,000 shares of Warner stock with a net worth of US$250,000 - pocketing a cool US$81,000 in the transaction.  At 3:04 pm EST, Warner announces that its fourth quarter profits will be lower than expected, and they blame Atari's backlog of unsold videogames and increased third-party competition as the culprits.  Stock analysts, who had been led to expect a 50% increase in the value of Warner stock, are enraged at the pokey 10% showing that day.
      • On 8 December, Warner stock drops 33% of its value in one day.  It closes the fourth quarter with a net profit loss of 56%.  Distributors begin cancelling orders for Atari products en masse.
      • On 9 December, Warner stock slips another 7% in value.
      • On 14 December, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) launches a formal investigation into alleged insider trading on the part of Atari CEO Ray Kassar and fellow executive Dennis Groth.  Warner's reputation continues to plummet as skittish Wall Street traders shy away from them and Atari, their sibling company.  Atari's end-year profits are lower than expected.  Rumors of a videogame industry crash begin to circulate.
    • Apple Computer unveils the Lisa, the world's first commercialy vended GUI-based personal computer.  It is a notable failure, but is commended by the personal computer industry for its revolutionary new operating system.  Apple 's Steve Jobs is quoted as saying, "We're prepared to live with Lisa for the next ten years."

    • (NOTE:  This comment by Steve Jobs proved to be an ironic one indeed.  Lisa technology served as the basis for Apple's next generation of personal computers - one whose last vestiges remain with us even today.)
    • Personal Computer Products releases the Appli-Card (C), a Z80-based CP/M emulator for Apple II Plus systems.
    • Commodore releases the SX64, the industry's first "color portable."  It is a self-contained luggable version of the C64 with a built-in 5" color video monitor and 5 1/4" floppy disk drive.
    • Apple Computer sues Franklin Computer for copyright infringement, with the latter having produced a working clone of the Apple II named the Franklin ACE 1000.  A district court refuses to grant Apple a preliminary injunction against Franklin.  Apple appeals the ruling.
    • Digital Equipment Corporation (DEC) releases AME86, a utility program that allows users of its Rainbow personal computer to run CP/M software while in IBM PC compatibility mode.  It should also be noted that the DEC Rainbow PC is widely regarded as the first multiplatform personal computer (i.e. desgined to support software for different systems).
    • Video Technology demonstrates the Laser 2001 videogame console at the Summer Consumer Electronics Show, the first videogame console intentionally designed to support videogames for multiple platforms.  At the same show, the Happy Home Computer Company of Taiwan demonstrates the MultiSystem, a computer designed to be both Apple II and IBM PC compatible.
    • Lotus 1-2-3 supplants VisiCalc as the preferred spreadsheet among personal computer users.
    • The illegality of dumping videogame cartridge ROMs is established in the case of Atari v. JS&A  Group.  The case would be subsequently applied in later court cases to arcade videogame ROMs as well.

    • (NOTE:  An exception was made for bonafide development purposes almost a decade later in Sega v. Accolade)
    • A Japanese company better known for its hanafuda card games and later with arcade games makes its first major move in the growing home videogame console market.  The company is Nintendo, and the product is the Famicom ("Family Computer").  It is first released in Japan as a personal computer system.  Included with the first initial offering of software are excellent ports of the Nintendo arcade games Donkey Kong and Mario Brothers.
    • Having seen Apple's Lisa and realizing the full implications of what its technology will bring to the industry, Bill Gates and his Microsoft team promptly begin designing a clone of the Lisa OS for use with IBM PC compatibles.  The working title used at a "smoke-and-mirrors" display during this year is Interface Manager, which is later redubbed Microsoft Windows.  Nobody is impressed, and nobody really cares at the time.  Undaunted, Microsoft continues its efforts at bringing a working GUI-driven OS to the IBM PC market.
    • In a landmark legal ruling that still thwarts the designs of many a proprietary-minded vendor, the U.S. Supreme Court rules in favor of Sony in the now-famous "Betamax case" brought by Universal Studios and Walt Disney over Sony's mass-marketing of the newly-available home videocassette recorder (VCR).  The verdict essentally states that both the sale and use of copying technology that has no demonstrable effect on a party claiming copyright infringement is not a violation of federal law.  It will be widely quoted (and used) in later  years to defend the duplication of copyrighted materials solely for personal use, including computer software.
    • Sony and Phillips, working together in a joint venture, develop CD-ROM technology for personal computers.
    • In an obscure Midwestern market, Apple Computer first runs the now-famous "1984" television commercial announcing the impending arrival of its new MC68000-based GUI-driven personal computer.  It does so for promotional reasons, so it can win awards in the coming calendar year (which will add a boost to its marketing plans for the new system).
    • The Videogame Industry's "Great Shakeout" - Round 2
      • Initial sales for the Atari 5200 are dismal.  Irritated by the lack of compatibility with their existing Atari 2600 carts, many videogame console owners refuse to buy the Atari 5200 and instead opt for the back-compatible ColecoVision.  Some consumers even go so far as to buy the Mattel Intellivision rather then purchase another Atari product.   Atari eventually relents and releases an appropriate adaptor later that year, but it is "too little, too late."
      • In March, Atari lays off 600 employees and moves its main manufacturing plants to Hong Kong and Taiwan.
      • In April, Atari closes its last U.S. videogame plant, located in El Paso, TX.  Fourteen trailer trucks full of Atari 2600 videogame cartridges are dumped in a landfill located at Alamorgodo, NM and sealed with concrete.  Atari claims that the games are defective, but industry wags counter-claim that they are all unsold carts.  Atari executives deny their claims to this day.
      • The Atari 2600 videogame market becomes oversaturated.  Tons of low-grade games are dumped on the market at unprofitable prices, thus preventing the development of truly unique and original releases.
      • On 7 July, Atari CEO Ray Kassar resigns over mounting allegations of insider trading activity.  The SEC eventually files formal charges against him.  Kassar elects to settle, relinquishing his profits without having to admit any wrongdoing.
      • By the end of the year Atari is losing money at a record-setting pace, with some reports claming the figure to be as high as US$2 million a day.
      Many computer historians consider this to be the most pivotal year in the industry to date.  This was the year that saw the arrival of the three most important and influental personal computers yet released, whose legacies still remain with us to this day. They are (in order of release) the Apple Macintosh, the IBM PC-AT, and the Commodore Amiga.  It was also a landmark year for the videogame industry as well, as Nintendo prepared to lead the way out of "the great shakeout" with a dramatically retooled version of the Famicon dubbed the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES).
    • Apple formally rolls out the Apple Macintosh, with the initial promo being the airing of the "1984" TV ad during the American "Super Bowl" football game in late January.  The system is a dramatically retooled Lisa - about half the size, twice as fast, and leading the way with its use of 3.5" floppy drives from its onset (a first for the industry).  The marketing slogan for the new machine is this:  "Never trust a computer you cannot lift."  It is an instant success, with over 70,000 units sold in the the first 100 days on the market, and Canon quickly moves to secure the Japanese distribution rights.
    • The C64 becomes the first personal computer to break the US$1 billion mark in sales.
    • IBM announces the release of the IBM PC-AT, the successor to the IBM PC (and its more popular variant, the PC-XT).  Unlike its predecessors, it is a pure 16-bit system built around Intel's i80286 CPU.  IBM also ships the forgettable IBM PCjr.
    • In the Apple v. Franklin court case, the U.S. 9th District Court of Appeals reverses the lower court ruling and grants Apple an injunction barring Franklin from continued production of the Franklin ACE 1000.  One of the reasons given is that Franklin had illegally included copyrighted microcode from the Apple II BIOS within its competing product.  As a result, the illegality of an unauthorized BIOS dump is established.
    • NEC, the Japanese electronics giant, manages to produce working clones of Intel's 8088 and 8086 processors.  Known as the NEC V20 and V30 CPUs, they quickly find their way inside many IBM PC clones.  Intel mounts a legal challenge, but fails to stop NEC's efforts.  This would foreshadow the events of the titanic Intel v. AMD struggle several years later.
    • Sydex releases 22NICE (C) in June, a multifunction CP/M emulator for IBM PC computers.  Although it will work by itself, optional hardware is offered to support all of the various CP/M disk formats.  Some emulation authorities consider this to be the first "true" computer system emulator for personal computers, due to the fact that it could function without the hardware.
    • At the Summer CES, a small startup company named Amiga Technologies attract the attention of everyone by displaying a working prototype for a revolutionary personal computer code-named Lorriane.  Atari attempts to buy out the company and its technology (at the direction of Traimel) but is bested by a superior offer from Commodore.  This system would be further refined and developed into the Commodore Amiga, the world's first multimedia computer system.

    • (NOTE:  It should also be noted that one of the Amiga's initial advertising points was IBM compatibility, which we now know was planned from the onset to be employed via emulation)
    • The Videogame Industry's "Great Shakeout" - Final Round
      • Practically all of the major and fringe players bail out of the videogame industry, having suffered major losses in the wake of the Atari fiasco.  Atari 2600 cartridges are dumped at "fire sale" prices.
      • Nintendo offers Atari the chance to distribute a retooled version of the Famicom in the now-cleared American videogame market.  The new unit is a dedicated videogame console that will eventually be dubbed the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES).  Atari declines, electing instead to stake their fortunes on their own project - the doomed Atari 7800 ProSystem.  Undaunted, Nintendo eventually decides to market the console itself.
      • Commodore fires company president Jack Traimel.  At the same time, rumors begin to circulate that Warner is looking to sell Atari, which is by now quite unprofitable.
      • Jack Traimel and his family buy two-thirds of Atari from Warner, comprising the home videogame and personal computer divisions, with Warner retaining ownership of the arcade division.  As one of his first actions with his new acquisition, Traimel fires over 1000 Atari employees, including replacement CEO James Morgan.  Traimel becomes the new CEO, and appoints his son Sam as Atari's new president.
      • Atari releases the ProSystem.  Few people take it seriously, as it is plagued by continual rumors that it is about to be discontinued.  The system is soon forgotten due to Nintendo's rise and the re-establishment of the home videogame industry.  Atari is eventually forced into bankruptcy several years later, a victim of its own greed.
    • As part of its Famicom-to-NES redesign, Nintendo devises the first anti-piracy system for a videogame console.  The patented technology, named 10NES and stored in a ROM within each licensed NES videogame cartridge, is specifically intended to prevent illegally duplicated carts and unlicensed third-party products from working with the NES.  It is also the first time that a home videogame console contains a patentable part.
    • Commodore unveils the Commodore 128 (C128) - the most powerful 8-bit personal computer ever built.  It has three modes of operation - C64 back-compatibility mode, C128 native mode, and CP/M compatibility mode - all of which are built into the system.  it also releases the C128D, a version of the C128 with a built-in disk drive.   It attempts to stop production of the C64 several times during the year, but is always forced to resume due to public demand.
    • Mimic Systems announces the Spartan (F), a large and costly accessory that transforms a C64 into the equivalent of an Apple IIe.  Sales are understandably sluggish due to its high price, which is somewhat less then a stripped-down Apple II.
    • Atari releases the Atari ST line of personal computers, initiated by Jack Traimel in response to the Amiga's potential.  One of its early  selling points is a "smoke-and-mirrors" display of a 520ST running IBM PC software under emulation.
    • Microsoft releases Microsoft Windows 1.0.  Nobody notices (except Apple's legal division), and nobody really cares, either.
    • Steve Jobs is abruptly dismissed from his position as Apple's CEO due to growing dissatisfaction with his behavior.  He is eventually forced to leave the company.  His replacement is John Sculley, former Pepsi CEO, who Jobs had hired several years earlier to help Apple with its Macintosh rollout.
    • In July, Commodore unveils the Amiga personal computer at a special roll-out promotion in New York City.  On hand is famous pop artist Andy Warhol to help promote the revolutionary new machine, demonstrating its graphics abilities by using it to render an impressionistic portrait of pop singer Deborah Harry.  The particular model shown that day is later designated the Amiga 1000.  Among its firsts for personal computing are the first true multitasking, multithreading GUI-based operating system (the original MacOS could not multithread its tasks), the first personal computer to offer high-end color graphics capabilities, and the first personal computer to incorporate on-board digital stereo sound synthesis - all of which are taken for granted in today's systems.  Among the many accessories announced for the system is the Amiga Transformer (C), an emulator that would provide the Amiga with full IBM PC compatibility. It is the Amiga's first emulator and the very first IBM PC emulator for any platform.

    • (NOTE:  At least one working prototype of the original Amiga Transformer is known to have been in existence at the start of the year, with design work actually beginning in 1984.  The hardware portion, known as the TrumpCard, was about the size of the original Amiga modem and plugged into the unit's starboard expansion port.  This is why the Amiga gets "first IBM PC emulator" credits, although the Atari product was first to make it to store shelves.)
    • Nintendo begins marketing the NES in the still-recovering American videogame market.  They are forced to create their own dealer network due to gun-shy vendors still smarting over "the great shakeout."  Among the first three games released for the NES rollout is the original Super Mario Brothers, a faithful port of the popular arcade videogame of the same name.

    • (NOTE:  Mario and friends have since become Nintendo's flagship franchise due to their immense popularity, and it all started with this game.  Proper support of this game is considered the initial hurdle with regards to NES emulation.)
    • Intel begins production of the 80386 CPU, the first 32-bit processor tailored for the IBM PC compatible market.  This finally gives the "Beemer" market the horsepower that it needs for a decent GUI-based OS, and Microsoft takes notice.
    • The NES quickly establishes its superiority in the American videogame market (US$250), outselling its closest competitor by a 10-to-1 margin.  What few Atari licensees remain defect to the new platform around this time.  Among the many excellent titles offered is The Legend of Zelda, the first installment in Nintendo's popular RPG frachise.
    • The illegality of unauthorized "ROM" modification is established in the Kramer v. Andrews legal dispute over the unauthorized duplication and modification of a video poker game.
    • Titan Technologies releases the Titan Plus IIe (F), which allows Apple III personal computers to use Apple IIe programs.
    • IBM releases the 3270 Emulator (C) for IBM PC/XT/AT systems, permitting these computers to fully emulate an IBM 3270 color mainframe terminal.

    • (NOTE:  3270 emulation involved an 80x25 16-color text display utilizing special connections and protocols.  It was to the IBM world what VT-100 emulation was to the VAX world.  It was highly desirable due to the widespread use of IBM mainframes in the corporate world, and the concept still enjoys widespread use)
    • Avant-Garde Systems releases PCDitto (S) for the Atari ST in direct response to the announcment of the Amiga Tramsformer.  It is the first IBM PC emulator on the market and is widely regarded as the first true emulator by today's exhaustive standards.
    • With the assistance of Insignia Solutions, Commodore releases the A1025 Transformer (S) IBM PC emulator for the Amiga in July.  It represents the software side of the Amiga Transformer project, recoded so it can function without the hardware side of the emulator.  The TrumpCard is also announced as a hardware upgrade, but is never released and later quietly abandoned.  Many see the sudden release of Transformer as a direct response to PCDitto.
    • Commodore demonstrates the PC Sidecar (C) for the Amiga in November at Comdex.  It is a second-generation version of the original Amiga Transformer project, with its Janus software program and a side-mounted expansion case containing what amounts to a souped-up TrumpCard with three PC-XT expansion slots.  It is not well received, but Commodore's experience with designing the Sidecar is also put to use in its up-and-coming Amiga desktop system.
    • Also at Comdex is MicroInterfaces, who are displaying the RunCP/M emulator (S?) for IBM PC compatible systems.
    • Commodore releases the Amiga 500 (A500) and Amiga 2000 (A2000).  The A500 is geared toward the home market, while the A2000 is geared towards power users and the business community.  Also notable is Commodore's decision to incorporate part of the PC Sidecar hardware into the system for use with a redesigned IBM PC emulator, thus making the A2000 the first personal computer designed with emulation in mind.
    • Copyrights concerning the screen presentation of a computer program are held to include both the arrangement and content of any text displays which assist, but are not necessary to, the operation of the program in question in the Digital vs. Softklone legal dispute.  This court case is important with regards to the legality of certain forms of "ROM" patching, such as the ever-popular translation patch.
    • IBM introduces its new PS/2 line of personal computers, the first to offer VGA (Video Graphics Array) and discarding the ISA bus in favor of IBM's proprietary MCA bus (MicroChannel Architecture).  VGA would go on to set a new graphics standard in the IBM PC compatible market.  MCA would be universally derided, competitively ignored (inspiring the EISA, VLB, and PCI buses), and eventually discarded - thus thwarting IBM's intentions of re-establishing a proprietary stranglehold on the IBM PC compatible industry.

    • (NOTE:  One of the running "insider" jokes of the day about IBM's new custom systems was this:  "IBM makes two kinds of computers, the PC and the PS/2.  The first is a Piece of Crap, and the second is a Piece of Shit, 2.")
    • Nintendo files suit against Blockbuster, charging the national video rental store chain with copyright infringement by renting Nintendo videogames to its customers without a license and unlawfully duplicating its videogame owner's manuals.  The case is eventually settled out of court, with Blockbuster retaining its rights to rent Nintendo games but denied the right to provide copied owner's manuals to its customers.  This reinforces the fact that unauthorized duplication of videogame manuals is a violation of copyright law.
    • Sega releases the Sega Master System (SMS) in the North American market under a special arrangement with toymaker Tonka.  It is never able to compete with the NES despite superior hardware, and this is largely blamed (in retrospect) on a smaller and inferior program base.
    • Borland introduces Quattro, a fast spreadsheat program for MS-DOS systems that includes a copy of the world-famous Lotus 1-2-3 "slash bar" menu.  It is put there for the sake of 1-2-3 users who are more familiar with that product than with Quattro commands.
    • Intel files suit against fellow chipmaker AMD, charging them with intellectually property infringement and breach of contract over the development of the Am386, a working clone of Intel's own i80386.  This is the opening salvo in the long and bitter Intel v. AMD legal dispute.
    • The possibility that an emulator could violate a product's intellectual property protections under patent law is established under the doctrine of equivalents in the case of Penwalt v. Durand-Weyland.
    • The C64 Emulator (S) is released in October by Readysoft for Commodore Amiga systems. It is the first Commodore 64 emulator and the second commercially vended emulator for that platform.
    • NEC releases the PC Engine home videogame console in Japan, better known to American users as the Turbo GraphX 16.
    • Spectrum Holobyte releases Tetris by Alexy Patnijov, a major innovation in computer puzzle games that proves to be wildly popular.  It is the first Russian videogame to strike it big in Western markets.
    • Intel releases the 80386SX CPU as a cheap alternative to the 80386DX.  It operates internally at 32 bits but employs a 16-bit external data path.  This allows motherboard maufacturers to use slightly modified 80286-centered planars with the new CPU, representing a significant savings in the cost of new motherbard design.
    • Steve Jobs unveils his newest project, the NeXT personal computer.  It is intended to be a showcase for the future of personal computing.  Although it is never accepted and the company eventually forced into bankruptcy due to lack of sales, its operating system (NeXTStep) survives and remains with us as of this date.  Typical of many opinion by industry pundits is that expressed by Microsoft's Bill Gates:  "Develop for it?  I'll piss on it."
    • GEOS 2.0, the last and most notable revision to the legendary 8-bit GUI for C64/128 computers, is released by Berkeley Systems.
    • In a pre-emptive strike, Atari sues Nintendo over the limits it places on third-party development of NES games.  About the same time, Atari engineers use a combination of hardware and software techniques to attempt disassembly of the NES lockout chip.  They succeed only after making a fraudlent request to the U.S. Copyright Office for the 10NES source code, and this coupled with their earlier research gives them the necessary knowledge to build their own unlicensed NES titles.  The new 10NES emulation technology is code-named Rabbit (F).
    • The IBM PC-AT's 16-bit expansion bus is formally adopted as an industry standard for IBM PC compatibles.  It is redesginated as the ISA (Industry Standard Architecture) expansion bus.
    • Sega releases the 16-bit Mega Drive (later spelled MegaDrive) home videogame console in Japan.  It would be released in the American market one year later as the Sega Genesis.  One of its notable features is back-compatibility with SMS cartridges, achieved by an external adaptor called the PowerBase Converter and internal SMS emulation capability via VDP mode 4 (F).  As such, the G/MD is the first videogame console to incorporate emulation into its design.
    • The legality of archiving copy-protected computer programs under the backup clause of copyright law is established in the Vault v. Quaid legal dispute.
    • Gadgets-by-Small releases Aladdin (C) for the Atari ST.  It is the industry's first Mac emulator, although its performance and lack of native Mac disk support leaves much to be desired.
    • Readysoft unveils A-Max (C) by Simon Douglas for the Amiga at the World of Commodore show in November. It is the Amiga's first Macintosh emulator and provides almost flawless performance, including the ability to handle native Mac discs in the Amiga's floppy drives.  In short, it transforms an Amiga into a near-perfect Mac clone.  Rumors of an impending lawsuit by Apple start almost immediately.
    • Another product that is announced by Readysoft is The A64 Package (S), which would go on to become the standard against which later C64 emulators for the Amiga were judged.
    • Also at the World of Commodore show that year, Commodore unveils the A2088 and A2286 Bridgeboards (C) for the A2000, using the system's integrated PC Sidecar hardware to provide full IBM PC compatibility (PC-XT with the A2088 and PC-AT with the A2086).  They go on to become some the best-selling Amiga peripherals ever made.
    • A number of pure-software CP/M emulators hit the scene for various systems.  Among the more notable is V2080 (S) by Michael Day, designed expressly for use with  NEC's V20 and V30 CPUs.
    • Apple files suit in U.S. federal district court against Microsoft, claiming that Microsoft Windows violates Apple's copyrights on the MacOS, with Hewlett-Packard's NewWave also challenged in the same suit almost as an afterthought.  This is the first salvo in the famous Apple v. Microsoft legal dispute over the basic concepts that underlie any GUI-based OS.
    to be continued  . . .

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    The History of Emulation by Sam Pettus, copyright © 1999 Zophar's Domain, all rights reserved.

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