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  1. Computer Skills
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How to Set Up and Use Emulators to Play Classic Games of Yesteryear


I grew up playing video game classics like Chuckie Egg and Elite but as technology evolved, so did gaming and these family favourites were eventually replaced with titles boasting photorealistic graphics and high fidelity soundtracks, never to be played again. Until now, that is.

In this tutorial, I'll show you what an emulator is, how to install one and I'll consider popular emulators that mimic home computers such as the BBC Microcomputer System, Commodore 64 and Sinclair ZX Spectrum.

Emulators Explained

An emulator is essentially an application that mimics the function of another computer system on a Mac. With an emulator, you can run many types of software, almost regardless of age or the platform for which it was originally developed.

Chuckie Egg played on Commodore 64 emulator Frodo.
The legality of video game emulation is somewhat of a grey area. Some people are of the opinion that if you have previously owned a console-specific game, then you are well within your legal right to download and play that title whenever and however you wish. After all, the developer is no longer generating a revenue from the game and you did once spent your hard-earned cash on a physical copy. 
Nintendo, on the other hand, begs to differ and states that emulators are “the greatest threat, to date, to the intellectual property rights of video game developers”

Whatever your opinion, there is no denying that video game emulation is hefty dose of nostalgic fun and it seems a shame to leave what was once considered great technology sitting on the shelf, untouched.

Emulation vs. the Real Thing

While nothing can replace the real thing, emulation is without a doubt the closest experience you will encounter without actually playing the console itself. In fact, emulation also boasts a number of additional benefits that the original console perhaps did not include.

  • Many emulators feature video game saving capabilities and you can now save your progress wherever you are in the game without having to reach a certain checkpoint.
  • You no longer need to waste time searching through your entire video game collection for a particular title. Instead, you can simply enter the name of the game into the Finder and your Mac will do the hard work for you.
  • Gone are the days where you had to be sat side-by-side with your competitor when playing a multiplayer game. Now, you can play against people the world over via the Internet!

Installing an Emulator

For the purpose of this tutorial, I have chosen to install a BBC Micro emulator called Horizon. Horizon is slightly trickier to install than your average emulator, purely because the application requires a copy of the original BBC Micro Model B ROMs to run.

Download Horizon and the BBC Micro Model B ROMs. Please note, however, that you may only download the BBC Micro Model B ROMs if you currently own a BBC Micro due to copyright law.

BBC Micro folder.

Create a new folder within the Applications folder entitled BBC Micro. Copy the Horizon application, along with folders ROMs and Software, from the original Horizon download folder into the newly created BBC Micro folder.

!BeebIt ROMs folder.

Open the !BeebIt folder containing the three BBC Micro Model B ROMs (BASIC200, DFS120 and OS120) and then copy and paste the files BASIC200 and OS120 from the !BeebIt ROMs folder to the BBC Micro ROMs folder.

BBC Micro ROMs folder.

Change the filename of BASIC200 to BASIC and OS120 to OSROM.

Launch Horizon.

Click the Horizon application located in the BBC Micro folder to launch.

Wait! There's More...

There are many more emulators available to download in addition to Horizon, each one typically including features that the original console lacked. 

Manic Miner played on Commodore 64 emulator Frodo.
Frodo for Mac, a Commodore 64 emulator. Frodo is a reliable, multi-platform program with the ability to save your gaming progress wherever you are in the game.
Jetpac played on ZX Spectrum emulator Fuse.

Fuse for Mac is a ZX Spectrum emulator that is periodically updated by the developer to deliver an authentic retro gaming experience. Like Frodo, Fuse has the ability to save your progress and can also record video game footage, too. Please note, however, that Fuse requires Mac OS X 10.8 or above to run.

Horizon, Frodo and Fuse are just three of many out there and I'd wager that there is an emulator for almost every video game console or home computer ever created—it's just a matter of finding them!

Installing a ROM

Once you have installed your chosen emulator, you are ready to delve into the world of ROMs. A ROM is a file containing data from a read-only memory chip which, in this case, is video game data.

I use DopeROMs for my ROM fix, but there are many other websites dedicated to retro gaming, too, such as The Old Computer, CoolROM and Emuparadise.

Elite played on ZX Spectrum emulator Fuse.

To install a ROM, visit a website of your choice from the list above and enter the title of the video game you would like to download and play. Alternatively, click the name of a console to browse a list of ROMs available for download. I have chosen Elite, a game originally developed for the BBC Micro, although later published on a variety of platforms, including the Commodore 64, Nintendo Entertainment System and ZX Spectrum.

With Frodo and Fuse, you simply have to double-click the ROM file to launch and the game will automatically load in the emulator you have chosen. With Horizon, however, you must first drag and drop the ROM into the Software folder located inside BBC Micro, and then enter CHAIN"[ROM filename]" within the application, exactly as you would on an actual BBC Micro.


In this tutorial I have explained what an emulator is, shown you how to install one and introduced you to popular emulators such as Horizon, Frodo and Fuse. If you found this tutorial helpful or if you have a question, feel free to ask it below. Happy gaming!

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