Monday, July 7, 2014

To Legacy or Not to Legacy

If your like me and you follow videogame news closely then you probably heard that Hyperkin, announced its plans to come out with a DOSBox-based PC game emulation system sometime in the near future. Now, I don't know if you have been following along with the epic of the Retron 5, but Hyperkin has been having a lot of issues with the system being behind schedule and getting the system into stores. The worst part is the Retron 5 is only an upgrade and modification of the existing Retron 4.

So what does that spell for those of us would be eagerly waiting Hyperkins possible PC game emulator bound to come out sometime in the future? To be honest considering there's very little news about the proposed system on Hyperkin's website I'm thinking this might be a 2 to 5 year project before we see it in stores. 

Even before Hyperkin announced this new system, I have been debating attaching some sort of PC to the television in my game room so that I could experience my old PC games along with all my other games on one television. The only problem has been making it actually come to fruition. 

If you don't know much about modern PC gaming or you just haven't been around PC gaming in a while I might need to explain a few things to you. First of all ever since Windows XP, DOS has pretty much been persona non grata on the Windows Operating platforms. From XP up Windows has for the most part been 64-bit, leaving behind its 16-bit DOS and Windows 3.1 roots. However a program called DOSBox was developed shortly after Windows XP came out to allow DOS to still be used on it and future systems. 

For the 2 Windows XP, 1 Windows Vista, 1 Windows 7, and 1 Windows 8 computers I have at home DOSBox is a viable answer. The only issue is that of these computers only one has and internal 3.5" disk drive, but it doesn't look like DOSBox can support a 3.5" drive anyway. So the retro feel of playing off a 3.5" or 5.25" is somewhat lost. 

Let's also mention Windows 95/98. If you have a lot of games from this era as I do DOSBox can support them but only if you configure and install Windows 95/98 into it. So good luck finding a copy of one of those. Don't get me wrong DOSBox and it's adaptability are great, but there are short comings. 

So then you have to ask yourself about a little something called a Legacy system. There are two types essentially; one is just buying and building up a pre-Windows XP computer, or two buying and downgrading a newer system to work with old tech.  

For the first option I looked around the house to see if I had anything to fit the bill. Sadly, about 4 years ago I got rid of a bunch of old desk tops and :-( games, I get a sick feeling thinking about it. The only thing left is a laptop my wife and I shared in college with a built in 3.5" but running Windows XP. Of course a major issue for this system, as there would be with early XP and systems before it is the lack of anything out but a VGA line. Of course to overcome that you have to spend $40+ on an adaptor which may or may not work. 

That raises a few questions about the old system concept. Anything before XP will lack RCA y/w/r or HDMI out, and an adaptor card may not be available to hook it to a TV. Not to mention you might not have wireless support for WiFi or a wireless keyboard/mouse set up. Plus USB access could be an issue as well.

Then comes the second option, buy and downgrade. Turns out it's not a bad idea but Windows 95/98 can only support so much since computers only had so much capability, and predicted capability at the time they where developed. For instance did you know Windows 95 can only support 2GB of hard drive space? A modern system can support all these things but anything before Windows XP acts as and anchor on its capabilities. 

The best way to go is to operate under Windows ME which can support the most due to it being the last of Windows 95's legacy and only predating Windows XP by about a year. 

At the moment though I have settled on copying old games off their 3.5" disks, and onto a flashdrive and porting them to my Windows 8 computer and placing them in C:\ directory used by DOSBox. The 8 has HDMI out and all the goodies. I know it's not very retro but it's something until Hyperkin ever comes out with their system. 

Are you operating a legacy system, old or new? Chime in and let the world hear about it!!!

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