. .
. The History of Emulation
and its relationship to computer and videogame history
10 September 1999
.
. . . .
. Author: The Scribe

Foreward

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.



Birth Pains:  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?
1822
  • 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).
1833
  • 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.
1842
  • 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.
1855
  • Swedish engineers George and Edvard Scheutz build the first mechanical computing device to be directly influenced by Babbage's theories.
1890
  • 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.
1896
  • Herman Hollerith 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.
1903
  • 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.
1924
  • Herman Hollerith's company formally changes its name to International Business Machines at this time.
1928
  • Russian immigrant Vladimir Zworykin invents the cathode-ray tube - the major component used in all visual display devices for well over 150 years.
1931
  • 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).
1936
  • 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 any calculable function.
1939
  • 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).
1940
  • George Stibiz of Bell Labs designs and demonstrates the Complex Number Calculator, considered by several authorities as the first digital computer.
1941
  • Bell Laboratories creates the first video display terminal (VDT) as part of a series of remote processing experiments.
  • The first television broadcast in color is conducted.
  • 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.
1944
  • 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 contend otherwise).
  • 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.
1945
  • 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.
1946
  • 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.
1948
  • 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).
  • 1951
  • 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).
  • 1952
  • 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 ....
  • 1954
  • 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.
  • 1958
  • 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 the 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.
  • 1956
    • 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.
    1958
  • 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.
  • 1959
  • 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."
  • 1960
  • 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 in size.
  • 1961
  • 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 first multitasking computer.
  • 1962
  • 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 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.
  • 1964
  • 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 own.
  • 1965
  • 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.
  • 1966
    • 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.
    1968
  • 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 is conceived.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 1972
    • 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.
    1973
    • 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.
    1974
    • 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 Star Trek television series ("Court-Marital," "Journey to Babel").
    • 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 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 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.
    1975
    • 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.
    1976
    • 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 operation.
    • 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 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 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.
    1977
    • 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 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.
    1978
    • 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 SpaceWar 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 Jobs.
    1979
    • 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.
    • 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.


    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.

    1980
    • 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 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 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.  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 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 "true" military combat computer simulator.
    1981
    • 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 computer market.
    • 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.
    1982
    • 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 emulator.
    • 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 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.
    1983
    • 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 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 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 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.
    1984
      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, 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 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 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 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.
    1985
    • 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, 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.
    • 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 great shakeout."
    1986
    • 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 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.
    • 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.
    1987
    • 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.
    • 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.
    • 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.  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.
    • NEC releases the PC Engine home videogame console in Japan, better known to American users as the Turbo GraphX 16.
    1988
    • 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.
    • 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 legal dispute.
    • Readysoft unveils A-Max by Simon Douglas for the Amiga at the World of Commodore show in November. It 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 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.


    Salad Days:  The Golden Age of Emulation (1989 - 1998)

    Background data

    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. 

    1989
    • By January 1989, sales of the Amiga have exceeded 1 million units.  The actual 1 millionth Amiga ships in March.
    • A-Max becomes 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, UltraHLE users?).  Eventually, a public domain program is released to allow owners of legitimate copies to dump the Mac BIOS ROM inside their A-Max adaptors under the excuse that "it speeds up the program."
    • In March, a federal district judge rules that Microsoft 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. This ruling legalizes unauthorized third-party emulation of a proprietary vendor system.
    • 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.
    1990
    • 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 original hardware.
    • 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  of Microsoft. 
    • 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, Game 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 market.

    • 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-competitiveAn 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 one.
    • 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 (sound 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.
    1991
    • 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 directors.
    • 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 Microsoft Windows NT.
    • 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 come.
    • 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 off-guard.
    • 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."
    1992
    • The price of Microsoft stock on the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) reaches US$113 a share.  As a result, Bill Gates passes Wal-Mart's Sam Walton to become the richest man in the United States (a title he still enjoys as of this date).
    • Five years of arbitration ends in the Intel v. AMD dispute.  AMD is awarded full rights to produce and sell its Am386 line of CPUs.  It is also awarded US$15 million in damages (it had originally asked for US$2.2 billion).  The court battle continues, though, with both a federal district court and a parallel jury trial ruling that AMD does not have the right to use proprietary Intel code in its products even though that code was licensed for earlier products (the Am286 CPU and Am287 FPU).This ruling is important for the emuscene in that it confirms the restrictive nature of licensed proprietary microcode usage.  AMD will eventually wind up licensing the offending code from Intel the following year in order to avoid the lengthy reverse-engineering process and thus delay its products.  As a result, the Am38x line is the last to use proprietary Intel microcde, with all future AMD product based on either reverse-engineering or in-house designs.
    • The Sega v. Accolade lawsuit is settled out of court.  On appeal, the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals had ruled that Accolade was not guilty of trademark infringement by innocently invoking the Genesis TMSS with its unlicensed games; however, they were guility of copyright infringement by using unlicensed Sega microcode. This is the first of two landmark rulings that helped define the practice of lawful reverse-engineering as it is understood today.
    • The Nintendo v. Atari legal battle is decided in Nintendo's favor by the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals.  They find Atari's Rabbit emulation technology to be illegal in two regards - first, that it contains extraneous elements not necessary to properly duplicate the requred functions of Nintendo's 10NES; and second, that it unlawfully violated Nintendo's copyright on the actual 10NES code due to the way in which it was created.  This is the second of two landmark rulings that helped define the practice of lawful reverse-engineering as it is understood today.  It also darkened Nintendo's perception of emulation technology from this point forward and helped further refine the legal boundaries of emulation, as the court ruled that an emulator which either
      • "generates signals functionally indistinguishable" from the original product, or
      • contains "protectable expressions" duplicated from same that go beyond the emulator's "stated purpose"
      is potentially at fault for copyright infringement.  This is in keeping with the "doctrine of equivalents" test for patent infringement established by Penwalt v. Durand-Weyland.
    • Argonaut Software works up a prototype Game Boy emulator for the Amiga to see whether or not the concept is feasible.  This "pseudo-emulator" only works with one program, a custom version of Alexy Pajitnov's Tetris.  The test program is somehow leaked to the Amiga software pirates, where it is seen by many users (including this author and legendary emucoder Marat Fayzullin) over the next couple of years.  Its chief claim to fame is to let independent programmers know that videogame emulation is now feasible, and many "regular" and "pirate" programmers turn their talents to the task.
    • Microsoft ships Microsoft Windows 3.1 in May - arguably the most successful GUI-based OS of its day.  A minor update in October called Windows for Workgroups add networking support an a new disk-caching system supposedly "borrowed" from the next version of Windows (code-named Chicago).
    • In April, Federal District Judge Vaughn Walker rules in the Apple v. Microsoft dispute that the vast majority of the GUI elements at dispute were either covered by the old Apple-Microsoft development contract or were not copyrightable.  Apple asks Judge Vaughn  to reconsider his decision, but their request is rejected in an August hearing.  Apple then appeals the decision, but the appeal subsequently fails.  It is a major victory for Microsft and yet another landmark ruling for the computer industry, in that only limited, specific portions of an on-screen graphical display are copyrightable.
    • In June, Intel introduces the first incarnation of Peripheral Connect Interconnect (PCI) expansion bus architecture - the "cart slot" technology that is the standard for most modern desktop computer systems.  About the same time, the VESA consortium introduces the VESA Local Bus (VLB), a similar yet incompatible product designed around 486 CPUs.  VLB technology would eventually fall out of favor and disappear along with the demise of the 486.
    • A minor stir is caused by the appearance of AmIBM, the first ever "hoax emulator."  It fools many computer users into thinking that Amiga emulation has been accomplished on 386-equipped IBM PC clones.
    • Sega releases the Sega CD (aka Mega CD overseas) accessory for use with the Genesis (US$250).  It is the first Genesis accessory to give the console something of the power of the SNES/SFC (true sprite scaling and zooming).  Its potential is seriously hampered by Sega's reluctant access to development tools, with the result that many of its early titles are either interactive moves or ports of popular Genesis titles with a CD-quality soundtrack. 
    • Sony completes the prototype for the SNES PlayStation CD-ROM drive.  In a surprise move, Nintendo decides to drop the project for reasons that are never fully understood even today.  Angered by Nintendo's behavior, Sony uses its experience to develop an all-new 32-bit home videogame system from scratch, based around the CD-ROM delivery system that it originally developed for Nintendo.
    • The last old-style Amiga models, the A600 and A1200, are announced.  These are both AGA machines and the first to incorporate the AGA 2 specification.  By now it is public knowledge that Commodore's profit margins are shrinking, although Commodore refuses to discuss the issue. 
    • Lotus scores a major court victory against Borland in the Lotus v. Borland copyright dispute.  Borland is forced to remove all 1-2-3 support from its Quattro line of products.  Borland subsequently appeals both the ruling and the US$100 million in damages awarded to Lotus.
    • The MPC Level 2 standard is introduced - the first to require a 32-bit processor (the 16 MHz 80386SX).
    • Intel begins full-scale development of its next generation of CPUs, named "Pentium" instead of i80686 because the Intel v. AMD dispute has confirmed that numbers cannot be trademarked even if they are part of a product name.  The name is met with jeers by the personal computer industry, with AMD executives quipping that it is "better suited  for a brand of toothpaste."
    • The Personal Computer Industry's "Days of Darkness" -  Round 2
      • Compaq sets a trend by introducing its own line of low-priced consumer-oriented personal computers - sometimes  as much as 50% below the cost of a comparable comptetitor's product.  Unlike IBM's PS/1 line, Compaq's  products are cross-compatible with its other lines and just as powerful.  The industry takes note, and soon others begin following Compaq's lead.  It is a trend that remains with us to this day.
      • Wang Laboratories files for Chapter 11 bankruptcy.  Many Wang employees find themselves visiting their neighborhood charity soup kitchens shortly thereafter.
      • IBM reports its worst year in its long, history, with revenues of US$64.5 billion but ending up wiht a net loss of US$ 5 billion.  IBM chairman John Akers resigns.
      • Louis Gerstner is appointed as the new chairman of IBM.  He follows Compaq's price-slashing lead, and also begins work on a totally new line of personal computers, later known as the Ambra product line.


      (under development from this point forward)

    1993
    • Microsoft formally unveils Microsoft Windows NT.
    • 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 in disguise.
    • 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.
    1994
    • 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 card.
    • International Meta Systems files for a patent describing technology that will permit RISC processors to emulate instruction sets used by other processors.
    • The Emplant, a multifunction emulation board, is released for the Amiga.  It quickly falls from favor, with Mac emulation being the only option ever offered for it.
    • 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 is 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")
    1995
    • Apple offers a second, improved version of the Houdini board for PowerMac computers.
    • The Internet's second Amiga "hoax emulator," NXAmiga, 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.
    1996
    • Apple holds a public demonstration of MacOS running on a PowerPC-equipped IBM personal computer system.
    • Insignia Systems offers SoftPCPro and 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 comparable emulator.
    • 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) emulator.
    • 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.
    1997
    • 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; NESticle, 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.
    1998 (January - March)
    • Ian Bell, author of the classic videogame Elite, releases the NES version to the public domain.  The NES Elite is the first home videogame "ROM" to achieve inactive commercial status.
    • 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.
    • On 22 March 1998, the IDSA mounts an all-out attack against the emuscene's many "ROM" sites, threatening legal action for their apparent support of software piracy.  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.
      (more coming soon)


    Paradigm Shift:  The NextGen Wave (1999 - present)
    (under development)
    1998 (April - December)
    • 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.
    1999 (up to September)
    • 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.
    • UltraHLE, 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 NextGen 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 videogames.
    • 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 year.
    • 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.  The Sony v. Bleem LLC legal battle is held to have done for videogame emulation what the Apple v. Readysoft legal battle did for personal computer emulation ten years earlier.
    • 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 personal computers.
    . . .  and the saga continues  . . .

     
     
     


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    The History of Emulation by Sam Pettus (c) - 1999 Zophar's Domain, all rights reserved.

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