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.
Emulation Prehistory (1800 - 1979)
In order to make a personal computer
system or videogame emulator, you have to have something to emulate.
Well, how did these "wunnerful" technological concepts come about, anyway?
More importantly, how does emulation fit in with their rise?
British futurist Charles Babbage conceives
of a programmable, multifunction, multitaskable problem-solving machine
on a level above and beyond anything available in his day. He calls
it the difference engine, but the steam-and-gear
based technology of the time is just too crude to make it a reality.
Though he did not realize it, he had just conceived of a computer system
as we know it today. The result is that Babbage
is widely regarded as the inventor of the computer (the Babbage's
retail chain is named in his honor, and the device is the object of William
Gibson's what-if sci-fi novel The Difference Engine).
Charles Babbage refines his difference engine
into the analytical engine, another
theoretical construct that is designed to use punched cards for input.
It will serve (with surprisingly few changes) as the design concept for
the first generation of true computers.
Lady Ada Byron, nee the Countess of Lovelace
and daughter of poet Lord Byron, documents Babbage's efforts for history.
She also writes a series of letters demonstrating just how Babbage's devices
could be dedicated to different tasks. As a result, the
Countess of Lovelace is widely regarded as the
first computer programmer.
Swedish engineers George and Edvard Scheutz
build the first mechanical computing device to be directly influenced by
The 1890 U.S. Census is tabulated by a punch-card
mechanical computing device invented and patented by Herman Hollerith (application
made in 1884, issued 1889). It is the first recorded instance of
the commercial application of a computing device.
founds the company that we know today as International Business Machines
(IBM). Its original name is the Tabulating Machine Company,
and its first product is a mechanical sorting machine.
The legendary Yugoslavian engineer Nikola
Tesla invents and patents (among many other things)
the logic gate circuit, which proves
to be crucial to subsequent computer developent.
Herman Hollerith's company formally changes
its name to International Business Machines at this time.
Russian immigrant Vladimir Zworykin invents
the cathode-ray tube - the major component
used in all visual display devices for well over 150 years.
Nazi Germany gets its one and only credit
in the development of the computer industry when Konrad Zuse invents the
Z1, the very first calculator.
He would refine his design ten years later into the Z3, the first calculating
machine with automatic control of its functions (and the closest thing
that the Nazis ever had to a "real" computer).
While working at Princeton University in the
United States, British mathemetician Alan Turing "formalizes the notion
of calculableness and adapts the notion of algorithm to the computation
of functions." This becomes better known as the infamous Turing
test, and a Turing machine
(i.e. "true computer") is defined to be a device that is capable of computing
Iowa State College professor John Atanasoff
and graduate student Clifford Berry design the
world's first true computer, the ABC (Atanasoff-Berry Computer).
The actual working model is not finished until 1945 due to the intervention
of World War II. The honor was eventually granted to the ABC after
a lengthy and well-researched court battle in 1973 for right of "first
recognition" (i.e. an academic pissing contest).
George Stibiz of Bell Labs designs and demonstrates
the Complex Number Calculator, considered by several authorities as the
first digital computer.
Bell Laboratories creates the
first video display terminal (VDT) as part of a series of remote
The first television broadcast in color is
The British government commissions the building
and operation of Colossus, an early computer of the hard-wired variety
(same as the ABC). It is designed by Alan Turing and built by M.H.A.
Neuman at the University of Manchester. Its first task is to crack
the Enigma code system in use by Nazi Germany (remember, this was during
World War II). Some authorities still consider
Colossus to be the first "real" computer, as it was the first
operational machine to be used outside of academic purposes (unlike the
ABC). Unfortunatley, H.M. government kept its existence secret until
many years after hostilities had concluded, thereby dimishing its role
and all but negating its influence.
Howard Aiken of Harvard designs the ASCC Mark
I for IBM, which is generally credited as the first relay-based calculator.
A small but highly vocal handful of IBM advocates claim this to be IBM's
first computer (although most historians and computer experts
LT Grace Murray Hopper, USN begins a distingushed
career in the computing industry when she is detailed to IBM as the first
programmer for Aiken's Mark I.
Mathemetician John von Neuman first describes
the stored-program concept in a paper
written about the then-developing EDVAC. He is generally credited
as the first to conceive the notion.
The U.S. Department of Defense "officially"
completes work on ENIAC (Electronic Numerical
Integrator And Computer), another hard-wired computer located
at the University of Pennsylvania. Its first task was to compute
artillery firing tables for the United States Army. Some sources
have it working on an "informal" basis as early as mid-1945 (in the closing
stages of World War II), even though it was incomplete at that time.
It was considered to be the first true computer for many years (and you
will find it so described in older computer-related books) until the ABC
court battle and lack of public knowledge about the Colossus project.
The core unit measured 8' x 100' and weighed some 80 tons. Its top
speed was 5000 additions and 360 multiplications per second.
William Shockley, with the assistance of John
Bardeen and Walter Brattain, invents the transistor
while working under contract to Bell Labs. It was done without the
help of "captured alien technology" despite recent assertions, thank you
very much %P. It would go on to spark a major revolution in electromechanical
technology and eventually supplant vacuum tubes in system design.
Transistor-based technology is generally credited with making the so-called
Age of Information possible (1948 - present).
The Whirlwind Computer, designed by Jay Forrester
and Ken Olsen as the very first computer to operate
in real time, is installed at the Massachusetts Institute of
Technology (It is now located at the Boston Computer Museum, where it is
mantained in full operational condition as a working monument to the era).
Computer-based statistical surveys come into
being when the Sperry-Rand UNIVAC I is used to predict Dwight Eisenhower
as the winner of the American presidental race. The results are delivered
just one hour after the polls close, predicting a 7% margin of victory
The United States Department of Justice files
criminal and civil charges against IBM, contending violation of the Sherman
Anti-Trust Act in establishing an unlawful monopoly over the existing calculating
and emerging computing industries. United States v. IBM would
drag on in one form or another for three decades, representing a constant
drain on IBM's resources and preventing them from expanding as much as
they would like into rapidly developing technologies - such as one that
would begin to arise in the late 1970s ....
FORTRAN, the first
programming language, is invented by John Backus for IBM, with
the first FORTRAN program successfully executed by Harlan Herrick.
The name stands for FORmula TRANslator, and it is still being taught in
some educational institutions as an entry-level language for would-be programmers.
NEC of Japan builds the NEC-1101 and NEC-1102,
the first "native" computers (of any kind) for that country.
William Higinbotham and David Potter invent
very first videogame, Tennis for Two, at the Long Island
Research Center while working under contract to the U.S. federal government.
It is an early form of Pong played on an ocilloscope, done to amuse
visitors to their laboratory. They do not patent it for various reasons
(but if they had, and their employer had exercised "work for hire" rights,
then ... hmmmm!)
The Perceptron Mark I by Frank Rosenblatt
is the first computer to use a VDT for output.
The resulting subcomponent would eventually become known as a "video monitor"
(describing its function - to monitor system operations).
The Control Data CDC 1604 by Seymour Cray
becomes the first fully transistorized computer
upon its completion. It represents a major milestone in system design
and sounds the death knell for vacuum tube technology.
David Rosen, a Korean War veteran who had
moved to Japan, recognizes the growth of leisure income in the Japanese
marketplace. He founds Rosen Enterprises, a company dedicated to
the amusement industry.
The next major breakthrough in computer component
design occurs when Jack Kilby of Texas Instruments invents the integrated
circuit (IC), consisting of an array of minituarized transistors
and other components integrated together within a common housing (sound
familar?). He applies for a patent the following year.
The COBOL programming language, long the favorite
of mainframe and minicomputer industrial programmers, is defined by the
CODASYL conference. It is directly derived from a concept language
called FlowMatic, invented by CMDR Grace Murray Hopper, USN - with the
result that Grace Hopper is frequently referred to as "the mother of COBOL."
Benjamin Curley develops the PDP-1 (Programmed
Data Processor) for Digital Equipment Corporation (DEC). It is the
world's first minicomputer, as opposed to the mainframes of
the day, and represents a major step forward in computer design and reduction
IBM's fully transistorzed Stretch computer,
the first to use 8-bit bytes and 64-bit data paths, is delivered to the
Los Alamos Nuclear Weapons Laboratory in New Mexico, U.S. It remains
operational until 1971. It is frequently credited with being the
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, and copies fly all over the ARPANet (precursor to the Internet).
The game is inspired by the writings of E.E. "Doc" Smith, author of the
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 announces the System 360, the first "family"
of compatible computers. It is also the
first computer system based entirely on integrated circuits.
The first units begin shipment in 1965.
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
The very first emulator
is coded for the IBM System 360 minicomputer. It is a mainframe VDT
emulator, also known as a terminal emulator.
Terminal emulation remains to this day the most ubiquitous form of emulation
technology, as there is a constant need to interface computers of different
types and with different communications and interaction protocols.
Sega releases its first arcade game, Periscope.
It is an old-fashined 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.
The Internet as we know it today is conceived.
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.
for prototypes is established in the Franklin v. Franklin
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
Green). Rebuffed, he decides to release a simpler game the next
Magnavox releases the
Odyssey home entertainment system, the
very first home videogame console, for US$100. It is also
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
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.
Gary Kildall, founder of Digital Research,
develops the CP/M operating system for perosnal comptuer 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.
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 a couple of episodes of the original
Trek television series ("Court-Marital," "Journey to Babel").
Atari releases its second arcade videogame,
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
videogame - Shark Jaws, 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
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
Wish Book Christmas catalog, and other vendors quickly rush to cash
in on the "new" home videogame market.
An open letter by Bill Gates condemning software
piracy is published by David Bunnell.
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
As part of his contractural 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
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 on 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 intduces 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 programst are simplified ports of popular Atari
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
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 Kassar, aka "The Czar," 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 rekeases 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
to the arcades. It becomes a monster hit for them - so much that
hardcore afficiandos 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
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. Departement of Defense to
implement it as a standard language for all of its programs.
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
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
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
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.
Thus Spake Zarathustra:
The Dawn of Emulation (1980 - 1988)
The history of emulation on personal
computers is almost as old as the system concept itself, and was present
right from the start with the ubiqutous terminal emulator. That would
soon change, however, with the desire to standardize the many different
kinds of computers and operating systems being offered. Curiously
enough, the one company that can rightly claim to be the major driving
force behind today's desktop environment also gave birth to emulation technology
in the form we know it today.
The period called the Dawn of Emulation
is held to have begun in 1980 with the introduction of the Z80 Softcard
for Apple II personal computers, which was the very first hardware product
offered by the then-fledgling Microsoft Corporation. It is held to
have ended in 1988 with the introduction of the A-Max Macintosh
emulator for Amiga personal computers in November, resulting in a lawsuit
that was immediately filed shortly thereafter by an incensed Apple in an
effort to stop it.
Computer Shopper publishes its very
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 for the Apple II.
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 for US$349. 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
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
IBM corporate management gives executive William
Lowe the go-ahead on a little item called Project Chess. He 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
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
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 "true" 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 shaped the overall direction and
flow of and still serves as the de facto standard for the personal
Meanwhile, "across the pond," Acorn Computers
Ltd. of Great Britian release the legendary BBC Minicomputer
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
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, the
key ingredient needed to produce a working clone of the IBM 5150 Personal
Computer in the form of its Compaq Portable PC.
IBM subsequently sues, but the legitimacy of the Phoenix BIOS is upheld
in court. This 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.
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-compatability with software designed for the
older CPUs, making it the first known firmware
Xedec releases the Baby
Blue CP/M emulator 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
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 perosnal 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."
Ironically, Lisa technology will serve as the basis for Apple's next generation
of personal computers.
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 100. A district court refuses
to grant Apple a preliminary injunction against Franklin. Apple appeals
Digital Equipment Corporation (DEC) releases
a utility program that allows users of its Rainbow personal computer to
run CP/M software while in IBM PC compatability mode. It should 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 de facto standard of computer spreadsheet software.
The illegality of
dumping videogame cartridges (by the average user) is established
in the case of Atari v. JS&A Group.
A Japanese company better known for its hanafuda
card games and lately with arcade videogames 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
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
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.
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, with Nintendo
leading 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 dring 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
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 100. 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.
At the Summer CES, a small startup company
named Amiga Technologies attractcts 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.
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
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
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-compatability mode,
C128 native mode, and CP/M compatability mode - all of which are built
into the system. it also releases the C128D, aversion 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,
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.
Microsoft releases Microsoft Windows 1.0.
Nobody notices (except Apple's legal division), and nobody really cares,
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.
Commodore unveils the Amiga personal computer
at a special roll-out promotion in New York City. On hand is singer
Cindy Lauper and famous pop artist Andy Warhol to help promote the revolutionary
new machine. 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 incoroporate
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 PC Sidecar, a
hardware accessory that gives the Amiga full IBM PC-XT compatability. It
is the Amiga's first emulator, but by no means its last.
Sydex releases 22NICE,
considered by some authorities as the first true personal computer emulator.
Others discount it because of its reliance on CP/M, which was widely licensed
in its day for a variety of CPUs and platforms, thus weakening its claim
to the title.
Nintendo begins markieting 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
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 superority
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
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.
Commodore demonstrates the PC Sidecar at this
year's Comdex trade show. Also there is MicroInterfaces, who are
displaying the RunCP/M emulator
for IBM PC compatible systems.
Avant-Garde Systems releases PCDitto
for the Atari ST in direct response to the release of Commodore's PC Sidecar
fo the Amiga. It is the first IBM PC emulator
for any platform and is widely regarded as the
first true emulator by today's standards. It runs entirely
via software using native sytem resources as opposed to requiring some
type of hardware accessory for operation.
Commodore releases the PC
Transformer, a software-based IBM PC emulator developed
in direct response to the Atari ST's PCDitto.
Death of RADM Grace Murray Hopper, USN, ret.
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
The A64 Package
is released by Readysoft for Commodore Amiga systems. It
is the first C64 emulator and the second commercially vended
emulator for that platform.
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. 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
Borland introduces Quattro, a fast
spreadsheat program for MS-DOS systems that includes a copy of the world-famous
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
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.
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
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
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.
The legality of archiving
copy-protected computer programs under the backup clause of copyright law
is established in the
Vault v. Quaid
Readysoft unveils A-Max
by Simon Douglas for the Amiga at the World of Commodore show in November.
is the industry's first Macintosh emulator and the
first emulator for a proprietary vendor platform. Previous
efforts involved proprietary systems that were either licensed or not protected
unter intellectual property laws. Apple almost immediately files
suit, claiming a broad range of intellectual property violations.
Also at the World of Commodore show that year,
Commodore unveils the A2088 and A2286 Bridgeboards
for the A2000, using the system's integrated PC Sidecar hardware to provide
full IBM PC compatability (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
by Michael Day, designed expressly for use with NEC's V20 and V30
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.
The Golden Age of Emulation (1989 - 1998)
The years 1989 -1998 will be forever
known to the emuscene as the Golden Age of Emulation.
This is due to many events that happened during this decade: the
legalization of emulation in the A-Max dispute, the heyday of the
Amiga (the best personal computer of its day and the preferred choice for
power users, emuhackers, and software pirates alike), the rise of videogame
emulation (the most popular and most notorious subgenre of the field),
and the rise of the Internet (which would take the emuscene to new heights).
The Golden Age of Emulation is held to
have officially began on 1 January 1989. Emulator folklore holds
that it was in January 1989 that "the hacked A-Max," the first emulator
to require a BIOS dump, began its spread among the software pirates.
It is held to have ended on 22 March 1998, the date that the IDSA began
is crackdown on unauthorized Internet "ROM" sites in what the emuscene
commonly refers to as "the great sweep."
In retrospect, it seems ironic in retrospect
that this widely hailed period in emulation history both began and ended
on a note of software piracy.
By January 1989, sales of the Amiga have exceeded
1 million units. The actual 1 millionth Amiga ships in March.
the first emulator to work with a BIOS dump when a team of hackers
figure out a way to dump the required Mac BIOS code from the actual ROMs
and make it work with Readysoft's emulator. The hacked A-Max
spreads like wildfire among Amiga software pirates as the year progresses,
along with a surprisingly large and varied assortment of bootleg Mac software
"for demonstration purposes only" to prove its operability (sound familiar,
users?). Eventually, a public domain program is released to allow
owners of legitimate copies to dump the Mac BIOS ROM inside their
adaptors under the excuse that "it speeds up the program."
In March, a federal district judge rules that
Windows is not covered under a 1985 software development agreement
between Apple and Microsoft. This allows the Apple v. Microsoft
dispute to proceed to trial.
Intel releases the first of its 80486
CPUs (the 25 MHz i486). AMD promptly sets about cloning
it, as it is little more than a 386 CPU and 387 FPU integrated on the same
mask with 8K of L1 cache (16 K in later, faster versions) This is
the first processor for IBM PC compatibles that is powerful enough to make
videogame emulation a practical reality.
In July, Commodore discontinues production
of the C128 and C128D in favor of the Amiga line. The C64 remains
in limited production due to popular demand.
Creative Labs introduces the SoundBlaster
8-bit sound card for IBM PC compatibles. Although it is not the first
such sound card, it proves so popular that SoundBlaster
compatible becomes the standard by which all other PC sound
cards are judged.
The first self-contained, battery-powered,
fully functional portable computer (i.e. "notebook") arrives in the form
of Compaq's LTE line.
Two 16-bit videogame consoles are released
in North American to challenge the superiority of the NES - the Turbo GrafX
16 (aka NEC PC Engine) and the Sega Genesis (aka Sega MegaDrive).
Both are well loved by their users, but it is the Genesis that proves the
more popular. It eventually dethrones the NES as the console preferred
by home users, thus making Sega the third major player to enter the North
American home videogame console market.
The Atari Lynx (US$180)
becomes the industry's first true handheld videogame console.
It is the first to include its own screen (an earlier Atari product did
not) and the first with a color screen. It is not enough to save
the financially ailing Atari.
Nintendo releases the first incarnation of
the Game Boy (US$149), the longest-lived handheld
videogame console to date.
A popular practice among emulator programmers
at this time is the FPU emulator, designed
for systems equipped with 32-bit processors. Real FPUs are still
out of the reach (pricewise) for many users, hence the rise of FPU emulators.
The most popular one among cash-strapped AutoCAD Release 10 users
is 87EM, a shareware 8087 FPU
emulator for IBM PC compatibles by Ron Kimball.
The Apple v. Readysoft
lawsuit is decided in favor of Readysoft, with the court dismissing Apple's
claims of intellectual property violation and lost market share as unfounded.
The first NeXT computer is shipped, along
with the NeXTStep 1.0 OS.
Commodore announces the Amiga 2500 in November.
It is the first Amiga with a Motorola 680x0 class processor (25 MHz MC68030)
and is quickly accepted by the Amiga community. It will serve as
the basis for the next generation of Amiga systems.
As part of the long Apple v. Microsoft
struggle, Xerox files a US$150 million copyright lawsuit against Apple
in December, claiming that the MacOS infringes on proprietary elements
of its Xerox Star GUI.
This year is forever regarded as one of dark
infamy by many computer users of the day due to Operation
Sun Devil, a nationwide "sting" against all forms of perceived
illegal computer-related activity. It sweeps across the entire
United States over the course of the year. Sun Devil is sponsored
by the U.S. Secret Service, working in conjunction with the Federal Bureau
of Investigation (FBI) and local law enforcement officials. Their
first target is "The Well," a popular BBS that gained government attention
due to the appearance of several hackers and phreakers (slang for "phone
hackers") bragging about their exploits. Like any other government
operation, it also accidentally shuts down several perfectly legitimate
operations, such as Steve Jackson Games (who was only guilty of writing
an old-style RPG based on the computer industry). Although
not all of the arrests and seizures of evidence end in convictions, it
is enough to dampen the activites of the so-called "computer underground"
for some time. Sun Devil is the source for the current "bad blood"
between the computer sub-culture and law enforcement officials - not to
mention the ire poured by users upon anyone who even dare to accuse them
of doing something illegal with their machines.
Dismal sales of the NeXT "cube" cause the
company to redesign the machine. Backers of Steve Jobs and the NeXT
begin to sense impending failure.
As part of the continuing Apple v. Microsoft
saga, U.S. Federal District Court Judge Vaughn Walker throws out five of
Xerox's six claims in its lawsuit against Apple over the MacOS.
Microsoft Windows 3.0 the first "robust"
version, ships in May. Around the same time,
Duo Computers releases the Duo
FC, incorporating a PC-AT clone and an NES within the same unit.
Commodore releases the Amiga 3000 (US$4100,
including monitor). It is a more compact version of the A2500 sporting
a new case design, and is the first Amiga to use both the Advanced Graphics
Array (AGA) chipset and the Zorro III bus. This will serve as the
basis for the third and final generation of the legendary computer system's
Commodore releases the 64GS (C64 Games System)
in Europe - the very last version fo the venerable Commodore 64.
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) begins
an investigation against perceived monopolistic practices on the part
In Japan, Nintendo releases the successor
to the Famicom - the 16-bit Super Famicom.
It is derided by critics as overhyped and underpowered, but it takes the
Japanese home videogame market by storm.
Also debuing in Japan at this time is SNK's
24-bit NeoGeo system, available in
both home and arcade versions and featuring interchangeable games across
the two platforms. Its performance crushes that of its competitors,
but its hefty price tag crushes sales. It remains to this day the
longest-lived videogame system design still in production (a handheld version
based on the original hardware was released in September 1999).
Sega releases its own handheld videogame system,
Gear, derived directly from the old Sega Master System.
Again, it it superior to Nintendo's product in almost every aspect (including
a color LCD screen as opposed to the original Game Boy's black-and-white),
but the cheaper and better-supported Game Boy soon dominates the handheld
The Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals establishes
in the case of Lasercomb vs. Reynolds that software
EULAs cannot contain any clauses that might be deemed as anti-competitive.
An example of this would be barring a user from
the right to reverse-engineer the program - an issue that was
dealt with specifically in this case.
The first salvo in Lotus
v. Borland is fired when Lotus Development files a copyright
infringement lawsuit against Borland over its inclusion of the Lotus
1-2-3 "slash-bar menu" in Borland's Quattro.
Borland countersues in an effort to have the trial moved from Massachusetts
to the more competition-friendly 9th District federal courts in California.
In one of the landmark legal cases with
regards to the videogame industry, a federal appeals court rules in Galoob
v. Nintendo that any method used to "enhance"
the videogame experience is not illegal, and also ruled that software vendors
may not redefine the concept of market impact in order to bolster their
claims against such technology. The item in question is
the Galoob Game Genie, which allows
players to modify or cheat at their NES videogames. This is one of
the few setbacks that Nintendo has suffered in its legal history of dealing
with possible infringers of its intellectual property, but it is a major
Amstrad, working in conjunction with Sega,
releases Sega TeraDrive for MegaDrive
videogame developers. It is a stock 386SX computer that includes
a MegaDrive on a custom ISA card.
September sees the arrival of the product
that would cement the Amiga's name in the multimedia and video production
industry - the NewTek Video Toaster,
the first "video production studio on-a-card" for a personal computer.
NewTek promos advertise the fact that the Amiga is the only personal computer
(of its day - ed.) powerful enough to handle Toaster technology; in fact,
the Toaster was designed specifically with the Amiga in mind. Among
its many features is a powerful 3D rendering/animation package named Lightwave
familar, 3D graphcs gurus?). It should be noted that thousands of
Toaster-equpped Amigas are still used by video production companies around
the world as of this date, long after the demise of the system.
Arbitration is employed in an effort to resolve
the Intel v. AMD dispute. In the meantime, AMD continues to
plug away at cloning Intel's newest processors.
RDI announces the
availablilty of software-based Mac emulation for SPARC systems.
Macronix sues Nintendo, claiming that the
NES anti-piracy system prevents products from other vendors from working
on the console. (well, DUH!)
NeXT Corporation begins to fall apart, with
Texas entepreneur Ross Perot being the first to bail from its board of
Commodore jumps on the growing CD-ROM bandwagon
by developing and then releasing its own keyboardless system based on Amiga
technology. That system turns out to be the doomed and much-derided
CDTV, and Commodore takes a financial beating in its subsequent failure.
This lost market gamble is held by many to be the start of Commodore's
decline and fall.
Microsoft changes the name of OS/2 v3.0 to
It is around this time that Yuji Naka, a Japanese
videogame programmer better known as the creator of Sonic the Hedgehog,
begins work on a NES emulator for the Sega MegaDrive. This is widely
regarded as the first videogame emulator.
The ban on Internet advertising is lifted
in October - a decision that will be regretted by many in the years to
A consortium of vendors led by Microsoft announce
the first Multimedia Personal Computer (MPC) standard.
This standardizes the basic components of personal computers as we know
them today, with integrated multimedia-ready audiovisual capablities.
PC Task, the
first shareware IBM PC emulator for Amiga systems, is released
in crippleware form.
Insignia Solutions releases SoftPC,
the first IBM PC emulator for Mac systems.
The Intel v. AMD dispute finally erupts
into an open legal battle as the very first Am386 CPU, AMD's 100% compatible
Intel 80386 clone, is released to the public. Intel, dissatisfied
with the trend that arbitration is taking and upset at AMD's move, files
suit against their rival in federal district court. Intel charges
that the Am386 programmed logic array (PLA) uses proprietary Intel microcode
and therefore violates Intel's copyrights. It also charges AMD with
violation of the Landham Act by using the number "386" as part of the name
for its clone CPU, as that number is included in the trademarked name "i386"
(Intel's term for the 80386). In the meantime, Intel begins preliminary
work on the 64-bit successor to the 80486 CPU.
Under growing pressure from increased Genesis
sales (due to Yuji Naka's Sonic The Hedgehog), Nintendo brings the
Super Famicom to the North American market under the name Super
Nintendo (SNES). They had not intened to do so this soon,
but the unexpected popularity of the first Sonic game caught them
Nintendo enters into a joint agreement with
Sony to develop a CD-ROM drive for the Super Famicom, thus echoing moves
by its competitors NEC and Sega. The new accessory is given the working
title of PlayStation.
Atari begins releasing unlicensed NES games
using its Rabbit 10NES emulation technology, thus violating multiple
points of its licensing agreement with Nintendo. Nintendo files a
broadly based copyright infringement lawsuit against Atari in federal district
court. Atari countersues, claiming that Nintendo's charges are without
merit. This officially kicks off the Nintendo v. Atari court
battle, the first since the A-Max dispute
to deal (however indirectly) with the topic of emulation.
Accolade inadvertently misuses a Sega-registered
trademark in its next batch of unlicensed Genesis games by including a
small portion of some undocumented Sega microcode in its program headers.
Accolade developers theorize that it will be necessary for some new and
as-yet-undocumented feature of the console. In fact, it is "trap
code" along the lines of Nintendo's 10NES security system for the NES.
It is designed to activate the TradeMark Security System (TMSS) that Sega
has added to its newer Genesis consoles. Sega files suit against
Accolade, charging them with both copyright and trademark infringement
over violation of the TMSS and its code. Thus begins Sega
v. Accolade, which will prove to be one of the landmark cases
with regards to the practice of lawful reverse-engineering in general and
its use by the emuscene in partcular.
The Personal Computer Industry's "Days
of Darkness" - Round 1
The IBM PS/1 line (Personal System), intended
for low-end consumer use and massively hyped by retailers, is a dismal
failure. Many perceptive computer users see it as little more than
a next-generation IBM PCjr (which it is), and this attitude is the chief
reason for its unwelcome reception. IBM suffers its first decline
in revenue in 45 years.
At the same time, there is a slowdown across-the-board
in personal computer purchases, with all vendors taking a hit in their
projected profits to some degree. Cost of the newer, more powerful
systems is commonly cited as the main factor.
A major shakeup among PC dealers occurs due
to market oversatuation. ComputerLand buyes out Nynex, CompuCom buys
out Computer Factory, ValCom and Inacomp merge, JWP buys out BusinessLand,
and Intelligent Electronics acquires Bizmart.
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) launches
a formal antitrust investigation of Microsoft. The announcement,
although expected by some, still manages to shake the industry.
As part of its strategy to deal with the changing
tide of the personal computer market, IBM reorganizes, with many divisions
either gaining more autonomy or being spun off into wholly-owned subsidiaries.
Thousands of IBM employees and executives lose their jobs or are forced
into early retirement.
AT&T dissolves its personal computer operations,
sending thousands more computer systems specialists and former mid-level
management types to unemployment offices.
The IBM layoffs, coupled with shakeups at
other computer-related firms, increased federal taxes ("Read my lips -
no new taxes" - yeah, right!)and a general business downturn occuring about
the same time send the United States economy into deep recession.
Many busnesses layoff large numbers of employees at this time.
This author loses his high-paying computer
consulting job due to the forces at work during this time. It would
be two years before he would find steady employment again, but it would
be outside the industry. He devises the following joke to explain
his predicament, and it puts his local unemployment office manger in stitches:
"My company downsized, I got outplaced, and now I'm suffering negative
cash flow as a result of employment deficit disorder."
Microsoft formally unveils Microsoft Windows
Intel begins shipping the Pentium CPU.
The FTC ends its investigation of Microsoft
without action, but the Clinton-staffed Department of Justice picks up
the slack and launches its own investigation. Political wags note
in snide asides that Microsoft chairman Bill Gates will not support the
controversial American president, financial or otherwise.
John Sculley leaves the helm of Apple Computer
after a decade on the job.
The Plug-and-Play specification for perosnal
computer peripherals is first outlined by Microsoft.
Apple introduces the DOS
Compatible Card for MC680x0-powered Mac systems, providing full
IBM PC compatibility and utilizing a 486SX CPU.
Nintendo unveils its "improved cartridge slot"
for the NES, which is actually a redesigned anti-piracy security system
Christian Bauer releases Shapeshifter,
a shareware Mac emulator for Amiga computers. It is the emuscene's
first non-commercial emulator.
Commodore releases the third and final of
its Amiga PC Bridgeboards, the A2386SX.
Apple becomes the first personal computer
manufacturer to stake out a major presence in the Internet service market.
Apple discontinues the original DOS Compatible
Card in favor of the Houdini, a new
model with an on-board 486DX2 CPU designed expressly for use with its new
PowerMac line. The entire inventory of Houdini boards sells out within
a few months.
Reply Technologies licenses the original DOS
Compatible Card technology from Apple and uses it as the basis for its
own product, the DOS-on-Mac PC coprocessor
Systems files for a patent describing technology that will permit RISC
processors to emulate instruction sets used by other processors.
a multifunction emulation board, is released for the Amiga. It quickly
falls from favor, with Mac emulation being the only option ever offered
The Careless Gamer releases MegaDrive,
the very first emulator for Sega's popular 16-bit home videogame consoles
(G/MD). It only works with the first Sonic the Hedgehog game,
and not very well at that, either. Work is discontinued after the
programmer accidentally loses his source code.
The illegality of
distributing dumped copies of videogame ROMs via telecommunications techniques
established in the
Sega v. MAPHIA legal proceeding against a San
Francisco software pirate BBS network.
(NOTE: From this point on, videogame
ROM dumps regardless of origin will be referred to as "ROMs")
Apple offers a second, improved version of
the Houdini board for PowerMac computers.
The Internet's second Amiga "hoax emulator,"
makes the obligatory rounds on the Internet.
The emuscene begins to take shape as the
first dedicated Internet emulation sites are founded.
Marat Fayzullin comes into possession of several
Game Boy hacking and programming FAQs from those in the Amiga pirate community
who had been inspired by the Argonaut pseudo-emulator. He uses them,
along with other source material, to develop Virtual
Game Boy (VGB). It is the
first cross-platform Game Boy emulator and still considered
by many to be the best of its kind.
Apple holds a public demonstration of MacOS
running on a PowerPC-equipped IBM personal computer system.
Insignia Systems offers SoftPCPro
SoftWindows, both significantly
enhanced custom versions of its original SoftPC IBM PC emulator
for Mac systems. SoftPCPro is for all Macs, whereas SoftWindows
is designed with the PowerMac line in mind.
ARDI releases Executor,
a Mac emulator for both Unix and IBM PC compatible systems.
The Internet emuscene begins in earnest, with
a numbered of now-revered sites going online at this time. Among
those still with us as of this date are Archaic Ruins, Dave's Video Game
Classics, Emulation Zone, SYS2064, and Zophar's
Domain. Others that are now gone but not forgotten
include ROMlist, Insert Coin, Node99, SNESmerism, The Vault, and the original,
now-legendary Atmospherical Heights.
Neil Bradley releases EMU,
one of the very first arcade videogame emulators.
David Spice releases Sparcade,
the first multiplatform (home and arcade) videogame emulator.
Nicola Salmora releases a Pac-Man emulator.
Soon he begins adding support for the different arcade variations of Pac-Man,
and then support for arcade videogames that originally ran on similar hardware.
Others join him in his efforts, adding their own subroutines for their
favorite arcade platforms, and the program eventually evolves into M.A.M.E.
(Multiple Arcade Machine Emulator) - the emuscene's oldest, most versatile,
and most revered multisystem arcade videogame emulator.
It quickly becomes the de facto standard of arcade videogame fans,
supporting more titles and more different types of emulation than any other
James McKay releases Massage,
which sets a new standard for Sega Master System and Sega Game Gear emulation.
Ernesto Corvi releases Super
Virtual Wild Card, considered by the majority of the emuscene
as the first working Super Nintendo (SNES/SFC)
Gary Henderson and Jeremy Koot release SNES96,
one of the first emulators with open source code. This
would eventually evolve into SNES9X, the best cross-platform SNES/SFC
emulator yet developed.
Emulation comes full circle as a team of programmers
led by Bernard Schmidt release the first version of UAE
(Universal Amiga Emulator). It is quickly dubbed the
"Useless Amiga Emulator" due to the fact that the initial release will
not work with any Amiga software, but that will soon change.
1998 (January - March)
Chris George releases VSMC,
an improved SNES/SFC emulator for IBM PC compatibles. It is the
first videogame emulator to be offered as shareware when an
improved version is released in crippleware form. There is a wave
of protest against the move, and a "hacked" version of VSMC appears
some three months later that allows access to all of its features without
paying the requisite fees. George leaves the emuscene in disgust,
unhappy at being the first victim of a emulator
"hack" or "rip" sponsored by the Internet emuscene (but by no
means the last). Credit for the "liberated" VSMC is generally
assigned to a hacker known only as "Ice Wizard."
Harry Tuttle founds The Dump, one of the early
popular "ROM" sites. It originally starts out as a NES site, but
later changes gears and becomes better known for its vast collection of
G/MD, TG16/PCE, and NeoGeo "ROMs."
The Reservoir Gods release GodBoy,
one of the early Game Boy emulators.
Duddie and Rafu release the very first version
of PSEmu, the first PlayStation emulator.
While it does not as yet work with anything, it is a sign that the next
generation of videogame emulators is already on the way (the current incarnation
is called PSEmu Pro).
Bloodlust Software releases three remarkable
emulators for IBM PC compatibles within a few short months - Genecyst,
long the standard for G/MD emulation and still quite popular even today;
long the standard for NES emulation; and Callus,
a Capcom CPS-1 (Street Fighter 2, et. al.) arcade videogame emulator.
These emulators intitate a sudden flood of new "ROM" sites to support them.
Christian Schiller founds Eidolon's Inn, widely
regarded as the best of the Sega-oriented sites.
Lord ESNES and Ishmair release ESNES,
the first working freeware SNES/SFC emulator.
The first formal
protest by a vendor against the emuscene is filed when Zyrinx
Software threatens The Dump with a copyright infringement lawsuit over
the appearance of its G/MD game Zero Tolerance on the site.
The dump is pulled per Zyrinx's request, and the matter is dropped.
It is ironic to note that Zero Tolerance would eventually become
the G/MD library's first inactive commercial "ROM" about a year later.
Steve Snake, author of the popular arcade
videogame NBA Jam and a longtime G/MD fan, releases his KGen
G/MD emulator for IBM PC compatibles. In its last incarnation (KGen
98 v0.4, 1998), it is widely regarded as the best DOS-based G/MD emulator
ever made and surpasses Genecyst to become the de facto standard
by which all subsequent G/MD emulators are judged.
Eidolon releases the first version of his
Genesis Compatibility Chart (the title is later shortened to the Genesis
Chart), comparing the performances of KGen and Genecyst
with all of the G/MD "ROMs" in his possession. It would eventually
become one of the key FAQs of the Sega emuscene.
In the meantime, the software pirates have
been monitoring the growing Internet emuscene with considerable interest.
Dedicated "ROM" sites, which began appearing the year before, now begin
to pop up in earnest all over the Internet. It quickly becomes apparent
that the software pirate groups such as Vertigo
2099 are responsible for many of the "new ROMs" appearing on
the emuscene, including many for both arcade and home videogame systems
that have yet to be emulated. The intervention
by the software pirates along with the sudden explosive growth of "ROM
sites" at this time is generally held to be the event that brought about
the end of the Golden Age of Emulation (1989 - 1998).
Sony releases the NetYaroze,
a customized matte black PlayStation videogame console that can interface
to an IBM compatible computer. It is designed to assist programmers
in developing new PlayStation releases. It is notoriously unreliable,
and PlayStation developers soon develop a yearning for an alternate product.
Ian Bell, author of the classic videogame
releases the NES version to the public domain. The
NES Elite is the first home videogame "ROM" to achieve inactive
Steve Snake grants a rare interview to Paulo
Biezuner. Among other things, he says, "I don't believe [that] N64
emulation will be possible for many years, if ever." He was somewhat
more positive about the possibilities for a working PlayStation emulator.
(NOTE: The original for this
interview appears to have been lost. The comments above are provided
courtesy of Harry Tuttle and The Dump: Genesis news archives)
Sam Pettus begins work on the Genesis
Game Guide (G3). It will evolve over the next year-and-a-half
into the definitive guide to all titles produced for Sega G/MD/32X/CD systems.
Peter Hirschbirg releases his Vector
Dream arcade videogame emulator.
The campaign continues on throughout the
spring and summer, and eventually tapers off in the fall. Among the
casualties on the very first day of the IDSA's campaign are Atmospherical
Heights, The Dump: Genesis, and Knapper's MacMAME site. M.A.M.E.
itself comes under attack by the IDSA at this time, but somehow survives.
Among the emusite and "ROM site" casualties that stack up in the wake of
the IDSA campaign are such notables as EmuNews, The ROM Palace, the SNES
Cauldron, SNESmerism, and many others.
The NextGen Wave (1999 - present)
1998 (April - December)
1999 (up to September)
Cosimo de Michelle's open source WinNES
emulator makes its debut.
The unreleased sequel
to Q*Bert becomes the first inactive commercial arcade videogame
"ROM." It is donated by its author to the M.A.M.E.
team in time for the v0.33 release.
Anders Nilsson and Janne Korpola release the
first version of NeoRage, the
first popular NeoGeo arcade videogame emulator. As a result, those
with the resources begin dumping NeoGeo "ROMs" as fast as they can get
their hands on them, which only adds fuel to the IDSA campaign's fire.
NeoRage is yet another portent of things to come, as the NeoGeo
(the only 24-bit arcade videogame architecture in existence) is quite popular
and still in commercial production. As a result, many on the emuscene
sense a new generation of videogame emulators is looming on the horizon.
Callus v0.40 by Bloodlust Software
becomes the first videogame emulator to offer
network play support via the TCP/IP protocol.
UAE finally achieves stable Amiga support
with the v0.7x series of releases. It becomes the
first freeware computer system emulator to be bundled with a commercial
product, as copies are included with the many commercial packages
of Linux that are starting to appear on store shelves.
Jason Meehan releases VGen v0.14, the
first G/MD emulator to support a Sega CD BIOS image.
The Digital Millenium
Copyright Act (DMCA) is signed into law, which among other things
makes it a crime to bypass the embedded security systems of any device.
Many videogame vendors, including Sony and Nintendo, interpret this to
include the anti-piracy security systems of their dedicated consoles.
Connectix releases Virtual
Game Station, the first commercial PlayStation emulator.
It is designed to work with Macintosh computers.
Bleem LLC releases bleem!,
the first commercial PlayStation emulator for IBM PC compatibles.
It is also the first dedicated videogame emulator
(advertised as such) to be released for the IBM PC market.
Cloanto of Italy releases Amiga
Forever, a licensed commercial repackaging of UAE
with the requisite support and system software. It represents the
first time that a BIOS dump for a emulator that requires one (in this case,
the Amiga Kickstart ROM) is made available to the public in a legal fashion.
programmed by Episilon and RealityMan, becomes the first working N64 emulator.
It also earns the ire of Nintendo due to its required use of N64 "ROMs"
(which are springing up like crazy in its wake), prompting a second, smaller,
Nintendo-sponsored sweep of "ROM" sites. Emulators Unlimited is the
first site to offer
UltraHLE; it is also the first site to be shut
down by Nintendo (for a time). The Nintendo sweep continues on an
infrequent basis throughout the rest of the year. Most
emulation historians see UltraHLE as the emulator that actually
kicked off the NextGen wave (1999 - present).
Zach McKinney of Emulation HQ coins the term
emulation to describe his reaction to UltraHLE.
It is quickly seized upon by the emuscene, and is now used to describe
the generation of emulators that followed in UltraHLE's wake.
Nintendo confirms that its next-generation
home videogame console, the Dolphin, will use a custom DVD-ROM format.
They are the last videogame vendor to abandon
the use of plug-in cartridges as a delivery system for its console
In April, Sony succeeds in getting a court
injunction against Connectix, thus preventing additional copies or updates
of Virtual Game Station from reaching the market until the following
ASCII Software of
Japan becomes the first vendor to threaten legal action over an unauthorized
"ROM" translation patch (KanjiHack's English patch for the SNES/SFC
release RPG Tool Super Dante 2)
Sega releases the Sega
Smash Pack, providing eight classic G/MD games running under
a modified version of Steve Snake's KGen G/MD emulation engine.
It is the first time that a freeware videogame
emulator receives any kind of "official" sanction (however indirect) by
the vendor of the original product.
Sony files a lawsuit against Dave's Video
Game Classics and its Internet service provider (ISP) for providing a link
to an illegal PlayStation BIOS dump. The offending link is removed,
and Sony subsequently drops the suit. As a result, Dave's is forced
to find a new ISP.
Omar Cornut and Hiromitsu Shiya release MEKA,
widely regarded as the best DOS-based emulator to date for Sega 8-bit systems
(SG-1000, SC-3000, Master System, Game Gear).
Concerned by his growing knowledge of the
legal morass into which the emuscene has descended, Sam Pettus begins writing
a series of articles under the title Emulation: Right or Wrong?
in a concerted effort to sound out the legalities of emulation. This
document, the first serious study of its kind, is better known to the emuscene
as the EmuFAQ.
The emulation scene revisits history yet again
when Sony loses its fight to take the bleem! PlayStation emulator
off the market.
Sega releases the 128-bit Dreamcast home videogame
console, setting a new standard for such products. Curiously enough,
there is open talk that Dreamcast emulation is theoretically possible within
a year. This is due to the unit's usage of nearly identical
hardware and operating system components found in high-end, 3D accellerator-equipped
. . .
and the saga continues . . .
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The History of Emulation by
Sam Pettus (c) - 1999 Zophar's Domain, all rights reserved.