Legacy Computing vs. Emulation – a resurrection

You know that old dusty gray piece of junk you have in the basement behind that bike next to those yard tools and golf clubs? Yes that one, the one you bought in 1995 with the brand new Windows 95 Operating System installed, the Soundblaster card, and a whopping 32MB of RAM. You’ve been thinking of getting rid of it. After all, nobody has used it for several years, and that big screen you already pronounced dead several years ago. Why not just get rid of this one as well? It isn’t worth anything and selling it on craigslist or eBay is just a waste of time. Yes, do it now, get rid of it! Your wife will thank you for finally coming to your senses.

Here’s another thought, why not hook it up and see what you have on it? What was your last wallpaper, screensaver, or desktop setup? What documents did you work on in 1998 before this one got the label “that old one in the basement?” Or why not see if there still are some old family photos on it from that first digital camera you bought? Well, take a look. Maybe you’ll discover something fun – something magic? Maybe even… games? More specifically DOS games that you haven’t been able to play since due to the Windows NT environment’s lack of support?

Now you’re sitting there saying that DOS Box can do all that and much more. Why do we need an old piece of junk for this? That’s true, DOS Box can emulate a lot of software – but that’s beside the point. Why is there a sudden resurgence in the sales of the Nintendo Entertainment System and Sega Genesis? After all, there are plenty emulators out there. It is because it’s simply not authentic. This is not how you remember it being and therefore it becomes less fun. You don’t want to play Duke Nukem 3D on your UHD screen capable of blowing up four bluray movies in your face at once. This kind of software was optimized to run on a resolution lower than 640×480 – way lower than phone screens and even some calculators nowadays. Later games were of course optimized for higher resolution – but much of the feeling is lost when playing it with higher specifications than you were used to at the time.

This is why legacy computers are becoming a modern thing – a desktop or sometimes laptop computer set up as a kind of game console in peoples’ houses. The computers have no access to the internet and exist as a contained environment so to not get infected with the unpleasantries of the modern world. What type of system you want to run is kind of up to you and your memories. The DOS environment with its Windows 95 and 98 shells seem to be the most preferred as most of the older software will be compatible with these operating systems but no further.

They’re getting expensive, too. Soon you can pick up a brand new computer for the price you’ll have to pay for a retrofitted Pentium II or III computer. The sad thing is that many of us had those gray boxes in our basements and got rid of them because they were just outdated. Now though, they’re so outdated they’re in again. Modern computers are simply so new that it becomes a struggle to run older software on them. Much of this software isn’t really that old and many people drive cars that are older on a daily basis. Vintage computing is great fun, too – and besides – old CPUs are way too cool to be collecting dust.

So go down there and give your old gray box of metal a brush up – it deserves it.

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