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.
(C) - Combination or "combo" emulator
An emulator that has both hardware
and software components. The software component is usually the
actual emulator, while the hardware component provides key parts of the
original system required for popular emulation. This offers the most
flexibility in terms of design, but is generally frowned upon by emulation
purists as not offering "true" emulation. Combo emulators are by
far the most prevalent form of the technology, including many examples
not documented here.
(F) - Firmware emulator
An emulator that is contained entirely
within hardware. This usually involves one or more emulators
embedded in ROM that reconfigure the system into behaving like another
completely different system. By far the fastest form of the technology,
it is also the most specialized and requires a high degree of systems knowledge
in order to implement properly. Firmware emulators are usually limited
to situations where back-compatability with an older system is a major
(S) - Software emulator
An emulator that is contained entirely
within software. In other words, the only hardware components
involved are those of the host system, which the emulator then reconfigures
as needed for its own purposes. Purists consider this to be "true"
emulation in that no part of the original system is required. It
is also the slowest form of the technology for the same reason. The
chief advantages to a "true" emulator are twofold - it can be easily changed
or updated as need requires, and it can be easily ported across different
The NextGen Wave (1999 - present)
1998 (April - December)
1999 (up to September)
By the end of April, some six weeks after
the start of their campaign, the IDSA has brought about the total shutdown
of the fifteen most popular "ROM sitez" on the Internet. Many others
close doors of their own accord, fearful of IDSA action, while still far
more relocate their operations overseas in countries whose intellectual
property laws are only laxly enforced at best.
Cosimo de Michelle's open source WinNES
(S) 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.
(S), a arcade videogame emulator for the game of the same name, earns the
notable distinction of being the first NeoGeo
In May, Anders Nilsson and Janne Korpola release
the first version of NeoRage
(S), the first popular NeoGeo videogame system 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.
(NOTE: SNK has been rather
quiet about NeoGeo emulation except for one notable incident - giving permission
for its use during a well-known anime convention in the summer of 1999,
provided that no "ROMs" were distributed at that convention.)
NESticle by Bloodlust Software becomes
first videogame emulator to offer network play support.
It is added to
Callus shortly thereafter.
emulation arises from a series of videogame magazine reviews
of the "next-generation" PSEmu Pro (S) and Psyke (S) PlayStation
emulators in comparison to the actual hardware. It is quickly seized
upon by the emuscene, and is now used to describe all emulators that deal
with hardware capable of sophisticated 3D polygonal graphics.
(NOTE: Some emulation historians
also include NeoGeo emulation in the NextGen wave for a variety of reasons,
but most see it as the last great achievement of the Golden Age of Emulation)
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 in many ways. Copies are included with Red Hat
Linux and other retail packages of Linus Torvald's revolutionary operating
system. It also forms the core of Cloanto's licensed Amiga
Forever software bundle, thus making it the
first BIOS-dependent emulator to be legally distributed with its requisite
Jason Meehan releases VGen
v0.14 (S), 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.
Game Station (S), the first commercial PlayStation emulator,
for Macintosh computers. It sells like crazy, and is also proudly
featured at several Apple trade shows. This draws the ire of PSX
manufacturer Sony, and they immediately file a lawsuit in an effort to
have it removed from the market.
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. Many
commentators of the day see UltraHLE as the emulator that actually
kicked off the NextGen wave (1999 - present).
Many vendors begins copy-protecting their
videogames once again, thus reversing a decade-long trend against use of
the technology. Many reasons are given, but the rapid rise of software
piracy via the Internet and strenghtened legal protections against violating
copy-protection schemes (considered to fall under the term "computer security
systems" per the DMCA) are the two usually cited. It should be noted
that some vendors had actually resumed the practice a year or two earlier,
along with a handful that never stopped.
In February, 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.
is the first time that a freeware videogame emulator receives any kind
of "official" sanction (however indirect) by the vendor of the original
David Herpolsheimer and Randy Linden release
a sophisticated PSX emulator and the
first commercially vended videogame emulator for IBM compatible computers
to be advertised as such. Sony immediately files a lawsuit to stop
it, and a "cracked" bootleg appears on the Internet only five days after
the commercial copy-protected version hits the stores. In spite of
this and varirous other bootleg versions, bleem! sales remain surprisingly
strong - proving that emulation remains a viable force in the personal
computer market regardless of intended (or emulated) plaform.
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 the primary delivery system
for its console videogames.
(NOTE: Cartridges are still
being employed for hand-held videogames as of this date, although they
go by a variety of different names. It has also been argued that
the memory cards employed by many NextGen arcade and home videogame consoles
constitute a form of cartridge.)
In April, Sony succeeds in getting a court
injunction against Connectix, thus preventing additional copies or updates
of Virtual Game Station from reaching the market until the following
ASCII Software of
Japan becomes the first vendor to threaten legal action over an unauthorized
"ROM" translation patch (KanjiHack's English patch for the SNES/SFC
release RPG Tool Super Dante 2)
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).
(S) becomes the first open-source, cross-platform G/MD emulator.
It becomes to Sega G/MD emulation what SNES9X has become to SNES/SFC
(NOTE: As of October 1999,
DGen was widely regarded as the most capable G/MD emulator available,
even though it still couldn't quite match KGen's performance at
Concerned by his growing knowledge of the
legal morass into which the emuscene has descended, G3 author Sam
Pettus writes 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 in-depth study of the emuscene, is beter
known on the Internet as the EmuFAQ.
He eventually completes it in October. It is a controversial work,
to say the least, and debate about its contents and conclusions continues
Sony releases a new model of the PlayStation
that does not have the I/O port of the original design. Sony claims
the redesign was done as a cost-cutting measure, but this does not wash
with the tens of thousands of Game Shark, Game Enhancer, and other such
legal add-on PSX accessories who now have no place to attach their devices.
A strong underground market quickly develops for older-model PlayStations,
and sales of the newly designed units suffers as a result.
Capcom releases the original MegaMan (RockMan)
arcade games for the PlayStation. It is
the first confirmed commercial release that appears to employ "ROMs" in
some form, as dumps of the original arcade ROMs for the included
titles are subsequently identified on the CD-ROM.
The emulation scene revisits history yet again
when Sony is denied its third and final injunction to force the bleem!
PlayStation emulator off the market. The
v. Bleem LLC legal battle is held to have done for videogame emulation
what the A-Max precedent did for personal computer emulation
ten years earlier.
(NOTE: The actual civil trial
for Sony v. Bleem LLC is scheduled for April 2000)
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 the year, due to the unit's usage of nearly identical hardware
and operating system components found in high-end, 3D accellerator-equipped
IBM compatible personal computers. Further fuel to the fire is added
by news that Taiwanese and Hong Kong hackers have successfully broken its
initial software copy-protection scheme.
(NOTE: Rumors of a working
Dreamcast emulator abound through the end of the year, but nothing concrete
materializes. Other rumors have it that the emucoders are deliberately
holding back so as not to infringe upon Sega's narrow four-month window
of profitability as the lone 128-bit system on the market. Nevertheless,
emulation of the system's custom GD-ROM drive and its operations is successfully
achieved by the following month.)
RealityMan resumes work on UltraHLE,
much to the irritation of Nintendo and the delight of N64 emufans everywhere.
In October, Sony formally unveils the 128-bit
PlayStation 2 home videogame console.
It is the first home videogame console to use
the DVD-ROM storage format. Actual release is delayed
until the following year for a number of internal reasons.
. . .
and the saga continues . . .
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The History of Emulation by
Sam Pettus, copyright © 1999 Zophar's Domain, all rights reserved.
Want to learn more?
Want to contribute? Do you have an emulation history story to tell,
or want to know more about one? Then watch in the coming months for
the Scribe's next project ...
A "Year 2000" Zophar's Domain
(besides, we gotta have
somthing to do during Y2K, right? *grin*)