Like any enthusiast, I accumulated a bunch of old computers over time, most of them hand-me-downs. A Spectrum clone, buried at the bottom of a wardrobe; an 8086 in a dark corner; a 486, perched behind some boxes. All useless now even if I could set them up anywhere. Cool, in a living-museum sort of way. Kept them for the longest time hoping they could be brought back to life one day, only to be forced to throw them all out in the autumn of 2021. That hurt.
(I did make a few games for the ZX Spectrum; two of them were even published on tape by Bumfun Gaming. But those were cross-compiled and tested in emulators.)
As of 2019, the most retro machine I've been able to revive and make usable is an Asus Eee PC 701, which is happily running Puppy Linux 6.3.2 "Slacko". But hey, it's something! It even connects to wi-fi.
I also own a couple of vintage devices:
Both are confirmed to work fine as of 15 November 2021.
But to me it all started with a...
Looking back, I only had a Spectrum clone for a few short years, but it felt like an entire childhood. Of course the hardware is long gone, so something else has to take its place.
Emulators for less common platforms
There is no shortage of emulators for those using Windows or Android. But what about the rest of us?
- Fuse is very popular on Linux where it originated, and certainly does the job just fine. It also has been used as the basis for other emulators.
- JSSpeccy is a browser-based emulator built around the Fuse core. It’s slow, but you can use it to offer a preview of a game online.
- Warajevo is the premier Spectrum emulator for DOS, which is probably meaningless nowadays unless you’re also into that. But it’s a very technical emulator with lots of odd options and features, in case you need to do more than playing old games with it. Warajevo also has a moving story.
Yes, people still make games and stuff for the good old Speccy. There’s a variety of options for that, both on-board and for cross-development. I've used a couple myself:
- ZXBasic, a portable compiler with an excellent community and a number of useful extensions.
- BASin, an IDE for Sinclair Basic with integrated emulator and ability to export games. Sadly Windows-only, but works well in Wine.
As of March 2022, I haven't fired up either in years, which is too bad.
Links of interest
I've wasted the past week getting back into an older hobby of mine, namely retrocomputing (and -gaming).
So far I found:
- a BASIC compiler for the ZX Spectrum, a more convenient alternative to the z88dk cross-compiler. Not that I plan to do any development for the good old Speccy. (Insert shifty eyes here.)
- a modern, open source 8-bit console, roughly comparable to the Nintendo Entertainment System, except simpler and more powerful. In a genius move, they designed it to use the same controllers, which are plentiful due to a thriving NES clone market.
- a publisher selling new games for old machines, and I mean on casette tape, boxed and everything. What are you going to play them on? Why, an original micro, of course!
Then again, that's about all you can do with a Spectrum, whereas a Commodore 64 can accomodate modern hardware and a modern operating system, and actually serve web pages. Which doesn't cease to amaze me, pointless as it may be.
Why bother with these ancient, ridiculously underpowered machines? Aside from the nostalgia factor, I think any modern software developer has much to learn from the sheer variety and quality of available titles. Nowadays, we have millions of times more resources, yet all too often we don't know what to do with them. And there's too much waste in the world as it is.