Last Updated on June 3, 2022
Emulation is the practice of using a program (called an emulator) on a PC to mimic the behaviour of a home computer or a video game console, in order to play (usually retro) games on a computer.
Home computers were a class of microcomputers that entered the market in 1977 and became common during the 1980s. They were marketed to consumers as affordable and accessible computers that, for the first time, were intended for the use of a single non-technical user.
Back in the 1980s, home computers came to the forefront of teenagers’ minds. Specifically, the Amiga, ZX Spectrum, and Atari ST were extremely popular. They were hugely popular home computers targeted heavily towards games, but they also ran other types of software.
The Amiga is a family of personal computers introduced by Commodore in 1985. The original model is one of a number of computers with 16 or 32-bit processors, 256 KB or more of RAM, mouse-based GUIs, and significantly improved graphics and audio compared to previous 8-bit systems.
The Amiga differs from its contemporaries through the inclusion of custom hardware to accelerate graphics and sound, including sprites and a blitter, and a pre-emptive multitasking operating system called AmigaOS. When it came to graphics and sound capabilities the Atari ST was inferior to Amiga, but it was more affordable and its CPU was slightly faster.
Amiga emulation software is legal. However, a copy of a Kickstart ROM from a real Amiga is required for legal use, which remains protected under copyright laws.
There are some commercial packages which provide licensed versions of Kickstart ROMS for all Amiga models. It’s also possible to use software to extract the ROM from your own Amiga.
Alternatively, you can use AROS Research Operating System (AROS – pronounced “AR-OS”). This is a free and open source multimedia centric implementation of the AmigaOS 3.1 APIs. It offers an almost “feature complete” implementation of AmigaOS. The FS-UAE emulator includes the AROS ROM.
Recommended Open Source Emulator
Our recommended open source emulator for the Amiga range of home computers is FS-UAE. It comes with an easy-to-use graphical configuration program. FS-UAE will automatically use the replacement AROS ROM if it cannot find a Kickstart ROM.
One of the unique features of FS-UAE is support for cross-platform online play. You can play Amiga games against (or with) friends over the internet. FS-UAE also offers built in WHDLoad support. This allows Amiga games to be run from a hard drive rather than floppies, even games that were never originally designed to be installed to hard drive. It has integration with the OpenRetro database too.
If you’re running an ARM-based board (such as the Raspberry Pi, ASUS Tinkerboard etc), we recommend Amiberry. The code is based on WinUAE but it’s optimized intensively for lower-powered boards. It also offers WHDLoad support, RetroArch mapping, and custom events.
The Amiga was very popular for gaming. There are several sites that host legal Amiga downloads. And there’s a large range of games and software available in the public domain.
The Amiga was also popular in areas such as desktop video, video production, and show control. The Amiga was capable of performing advanced animation and video authoring at professional level.
The Amiga’s audio hardware supporting four PCM-sample-based sound channels (two for the left speaker and two for the right) with 8-bit resolution for each channel and a 6-bit volume control per channel made it popular for music tracker software.
The processor and ability to access megabytes of memory enabled the development of 3D rendering packages, including Aladdin4D, TurboSilver, Sculpt3D, LightWave 3D, Imagine, and Traces, a predecessor to Blender.
It also inspired a vast demo scene of underground coders and artists, many still creating work today.
|Amiga||Family of personal computers introduced by Commodore in 1985|
|Amstrad CPC||Combined the computer, keyboard and data storage in a single unit|
|Atari ST||A popular line of personal computers from Atari Corporation|
|BBC Micro||Series of computers designed and built by Acorn|
|Commodore 64||Hugely popular home computer|
|Dragon||Built around the Motorola MC6809E processor running at 0.89 MHz|
|MSX||A popular range particularly in Japan|
|Oric||The underrated Oric-1 and Oric Atmos|
|QL||Based on a Motorola 68008 CPU clocked at 7.5 MHz with 128KB of RAM|
|TRS-80||Very early mass-produced and mass-marketed retail home computers|
|VIC-20||8-bit home computer that was released in 1980/1|
|ZX81||Low-cost introduction to home computing notorious for its RAM pack wobble|
|ZX Spectrum||One of the biggest selling home computers|
|Read our complete collection of recommended free and open source software. Our curated compilation covers all categories of software.
The software collection forms part of our series of informative articles for Linux enthusiasts. There are hundreds of in-depth reviews, open source alternatives to proprietary software from large corporations like Google, Microsoft, Apple, Adobe, IBM, Cisco, Oracle, and Autodesk.
There are also fun things to try, hardware, free programming books and tutorials, and much more.