By Richard Heller


Do you long for the “Olden Days” of going to the video arcade? Would you like to travel back about 20 years to the era of “Bubble Bobble” and “Defender”? No, you don’t have to find a time machine; all you have to do is download a computer program called an “emulator,” and you can play most of the arcade, ColecoVision and Atari games right on your home computer.

The arcade games are run using a program named MAME (Multi Arcade Machine Emulator). This program, along with other emulation programs, is available for download from www.happypuppies.com. The site also has the ROM images necessary to enable you to play Donkey Kong, Centipede, Joust, and a lot of the other arcade games. These ROM images are actual copies of the programs that were used in game machines, so the graphics and game play are as close to the originals as possible. Many of the companies that produced these games have released the programs to the public for non-profit use. The companies that have not done this have been lenient about enforcing their copyrights, though there still is somewhat of a legal issue in playing these games.

In order to run the games, you run the emulator program that turns your computer into the arcade machine. After the emulator program is running, you can select which “classic” game you want to play. There are hundreds of titles available, including “Donkey Kong”, “PacMan”, and “Joust”, along with lesser-known titles. The graphics, music and gameplay look just like they did years ago when you dropped your quarter into the machine.

There are also emulators that allow you to play ColecoVision, Atari 2600 and Intellivision games. The ColecoVision games still look and play pretty good after all these years, but the Atari games look pretty primitive by today’s standards.

In playing these games, you discover that even though the graphics on today’s games are much better, the actual game subject matter is about the same. Back then, you were flying planes shooting down the enemy, going through mazes, and jumping over objects, all in 16-color glory and mono sound. In today’s games, you are flying planes shooting down the enemy, going through mazes, and jumping over objects, except now you are doing it with photo-realistic images and stereo sound.

The emulators either let you use the keyboard to control movement, or they will allow you to hook up a joystick or a trackball. The emulators will run in Windows, or DOS versions are available. The Windows versions do not really “run” as a Windows program; they run in a DOS session, so they do not make changes to Windows itself.

By downloading the emulator program and the ROM images that go with them, you can let your kids see what you wasted your money on when you were young. They will find it hard to believe that what they are seeing was some of the most advanced computer technology and graphics of its day. And who knows, maybe you can finally win at “PacMan.”

Richard Heller is an independent computer specialist who specializes in repairs, installation, upgrades, technical support, Internet sharing, data recovery and diagnostics. If you have any computer or service-related questions, please send them to The Rock River Times or e-mail technorh@mindspring.com.

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