What Is Emulation?

 
WHAT IS EMULATION?
Emulation is the process of imitating the functions of a particular device on another device that is entirely different. The word "emulation" literally means the act of imitating something or someone. In the case of hardware & software, those who are interested in emulation are really interested in forcing computers to act as different devices (for example, old video game systems like NES) so that the imitated device's software can be used on that computer. In plain English, emulation is the art of tricking a computer into thinking that it is an extremely different device, like a Commodore 64, an NES, a Palm Pilot, a roulette wheel or any other device imaginable!.
HOW IS EMULATION DONE?
Most of the time, it's simply done through the use of special software programs called "emulators" or "emulator programs." In some rare cases, emulation may also involve the addition of external hardware connections to make the whole process work (this hardware ranges from home-made adapters to proprietary electronics modules). But most of the time, all that's needed is the emulator..
WHAT'S THE POINT OF EMULATION? ARE THERE ANY BENEFITS?
The whole idea of emulation comes DIRECTLY from the needs of software developers to troubleshoot programs (like video games) BEFORE they hit the market & WITHOUT the need to actually buy & own the device their programs are meant to run on. In short, programmers use emulators to cut costs. It saves programmers the cost of buying an expensive "test" video game console. It also saves them both time & money in actually building & selling programs, instead of releasing a program that's riddled with bugs & errors & having to recall it from the shelves for rework..
WHAT ABOUT THE BENEFITS FOR AVERAGE COMPUTER USERS?
Well, emulators are used differently by average computer users. Most emulators accessible to average computer users tend to emulate video game consoles for the sole purpose of having fun "like back in the good old days." Most of these emulators are created as free or open-source software & are typically used by gamers who miss the fun they used to have with old video game systems from their childhood. There is another benefit to emulation for the average computer user; emulation allows the user to use programs & applications that are otherwise completely incompatible with the machine or operating system they're using. For example, if a MacOS X user needs to use a particular program that can ONLY run in Windows, the user would have to use an emulator program that tricks the MacOS X computer into thinking it's a Windows computer. That way, any incompatible Windows program can be used on the MacOS X computer! The last benefit is for electronics hobbyists, engineers or anyone who's interested in hardware modification or creating home-made video games for a particular system; many of the emulators accessible to average computer users have decent program-debugging functionality, allowing hobby-programmers to actually test their home-made games like professionals!.
I'M INTERESTED IN EMULATING A SPECIFIC HARDWARE SYSTEM. HOW IS THIS DONE?
First of all, find an emulator program that can run on the particular machine in use. For Windows users, try these programs:
VICE (a program that can emulate Commodore 64 computers). Get it here.
Nestopia (a program that can emulate NES consoles). Get it here.
ZSNES (a program that can emulate Super NES consoles). Get it here.
Gens (a program that can emulate Sega Genesis consoles). Get it here.
Project 64 (a program that can emulate N64 consoles). Get it here.
Virtual PC (a program that can emulate an IBM-compatible PC that runs any Microsoft-made environment). Get it here.
Virtual TI (a program that can emulate Texas Instruments calculators). Get it here.
These programs are also available in the Downloads page. Then, make or buy a device that can copy data from cartridges or old floppy disks & copy the games onto the computer. This website has instructions on making an adapter to copy Commodore 64 games stored on floppy disks & making a device for copying NES cartridges; just click on the link in the bottom of this page to return to the main homepage & select the needed tutorial. Lastly, run the emulator program & open the copied games the same way as opening text files in Windows' Notepad.
THESE GAMES ARE AVAILABLE FOR DOWNLOAD ON THE INTERNET! WHY GO THROUGH ALL THIS TROUBLE?
Because it's illegal to have copies of games without actually possessing the original cartridges, disks & consoles. The act of making these copied games available on the internet violates the copyright laws of most (if not, all) countries, as does the possession of these copies without the original systems, cartridges & disks. The best way to avoid troubles with the law is to NOT download any copied games from the internet & to NOT distribute these copies in any way.
SO DOES THAT MAKE EMULATION AT HOME ILLEGAL?
No! It's only illegal to sell & give copied games, & it's illegal to possess copies of games without owning the actual devices; but it's NOT illegal to make a copy of a game for backup purposes, providing that the original game also comes with the original system it was meant for. Also, emulation alone is NOT illegal since they were originally made for the legitimate reason of running backup copies of games.
ARE THERE ANY MORE WORDS I NEED TO KNOW?
Yes. The words "ROM" & "image." Usually, when any game is copied onto a computer, it is saved as a read-only file which is a complete mirror-image of the original data in the disk or cartridge. Since the copied game is read-only, it is called a ROM. Since the copied game is an exact mirror-image replica of the original media, it is called an image.
ARE THERE ANY EMULATORS THAT RUN IN AN INTERNET BROWSER?
Yes. As a matter of fact, this website has three online emulators; one that plays a limited collection of NES games, another that emulates a Commodore 64 with no software collection & another that emulates an IBM-compatible PC that runs FreeDOS. Click here to play around on any one of these emulators. For a more complete collection of NES games that are playable online, visit www.virtualnes.com, a great website created by a truly ingenious teenager (Jamie Sanders). There is also another website that looks very promising; www.i-console.com (created by KryptonWare Solutions' I-Console Team, with the goal of emulating multiple video game consoles under a single Java applet).
 
 
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