All Work and No Play Makes Mack a Dull Boy…

All Work and No Play Makes Mack a Dull Boy…

I admit it, I’m a child of the 80s. My love of technology came from those jumbled days, and I spent many happy hours playing with what was then cutting edge tech.

Of course the cutting edge of tech to a kid in the 1980s was Nintendo, Sega, Commador, and Apple. I had a Sega Master System (SMS), my brother had a Nintendo Entertainment System (NES). So allot of my childhood was spent in his room.

Now that I’m grown, I still plays games as a form of personal entertainment. I can remember being told as a kid, that playing Mario 16 hours a day would rot my brain, but I guess they were wrong.. oh well, I still love you Mom. Of Course, my current game playing is not the 2/3 of my day it was when I was 11.

Gaming today is a rich involved experience, and a multi-billion industry. However, while I have played and loved current games, my heart is still warmed by 8bit Mario and Zelda. So come with me to the world of Emulation…

Emulation is a fairly strait forward concept. Not all computers or computing systems run on the same hardware architecture. So if you have a bit of software from one hardware architecture that you want to run on a another type of hardware architecture you basically have to options. One, you can rewrite that software and this can be time consuming. Two, you get an “emulator” that mimics hardware architecture A on hardware architecture B’s platform. This way you can take software written for hardware architecture A, place it in the Emulator on hardware architecture B, and the software thinks it’s running on hardware architecture A.

The downside to Emulation is that it takes a good deal of system resource to run. So for a hardware architecture A Emulator to run will on hardware architecture B, hardware architecture B has to be significantly faster than hardware architecture A. Confused? Don;t worry, it will be clear in a second.

Now the NES from 1985 was a hardware architecture platform. Computers today are another type of hardware architecture which is a thousand times faster than the NES. So rather than rewiring software (i.e. Games) produced for the NES to run on todays computer hardware, it’s much easier to run those Games through an Emulator. So today on your PC or Mac is it quite possible (and very easy) to play games from a wide variety of old Console Game Systems, AND Coin Operated Arcade Machines.

Now Emulators are a wide and diverse thing. So while just about every Game Console can be emulated on a PC, likewise many old gaming hardware architectures can be emulated on current hardware architectures such the PSP, Xbox, Playstaion 2, and my current favorite, the Nintendo DS.

The Nintendo DS is quite a remarkable device. For about $100 you can get a two screen, touch screen, duel ARM processor, mini-computer with WIFI. The device is also VERY hackable. For an additional $40 you can get a Ninjapass game cart which takes a simple, widely available, Mico-SD card. On this Mico-SD card you can load software which allows you to do MANY things.

One of these things that you can do is load backup copies of your favorite DS games onto a the SD card. So, rather than carry around 10 or 15 game carts, you can “backup” all your games to a single SD card, and still have TONS of space left on the SD card.

Another thing you can do with this setup is run “Homebrew” software. These are programs writen by indeviuduales, for the DS. Think of it as freeware, or open-source, for the DS, just like there is freeware and open-source software for PCs and Macs.

Some of these homebrew programs are Emulators that allow games from older systems to be played on the DS. So right now on my DS I have my entire collection of NES games, SMS Games, some games from my old Super NES games, Gameboy, and even some old favorites like Zork.

In the end, my DS is a nice distraction when I’m stuck on a plane or waiting around. The fact that for a brief moment I can recapture some of my childhood is also kind of nice.  If anyone in interested in doing the same, contact me, and I help you get started.