WDStudios wrote on 2021-06-21, 07:12:
Unfortunately, emulation/virtualization is still horribly flawed. I tried playing Quake II, Far Cry, Doom 3, The Sims, and some other games in an XP virtual machine. Pretty much anything that wasn't based on the Quake III engine had severe problems.
Current virtual machine solutions (VMWare, Virtualbox, Virtual PC, etc) tend to focus more on having graphics that just barely work so they can run legacy non-gaming software. If later games are to be emulated, the solution would look something more like PCem, with emulations of actual sound and video cards (vs whatever a Virtualbox Graphics Adapter is supposed to be, and slightly crackly Virtualbox AC'97). PCem is still much too slow for things like Doom 3 or (imo) Quake II, but I imagine that will be remedied in time.
I would absolutely adore the product you describe, but I do not believe AMD would ever do it. There's just not enough market for it. For all the use cases but retro gaming, there are (arguably better) solutions already. For instance, I could see benefiting from something like this would be old industrial control equipment that still runs DOS, and that is already quite a well-served market by existing hardware, as well as a shrinking market as people try to get away from legacy crust. Things like that don't need the graphics and will be perfectly happy chunking along with a 486-based PC104 SBC with practically no graphics whatsoever for the next unforeseeable number of years.
Suppose AMD makes the chip you desire. Do they sell it on a board with an OS? They can't sell it with Linux since the 9800 is too old for drivers. They can't sell it with Windows 98, 2000, XP, Vista, 7, or 8 since Microsoft would never permit it. They can't sell it with Windows 10 since it would be unbelievably slow, as well as probably lacking drivers. They could maybe sell it with ArcaOS since it's OS/2 and as such would still fly on an Athlon 64, but Arca Noae would have to agree to that, which is a big question mark. They could load on FreeDOS but then how do you use the Radeon? There is no definitive outcome where AMD sells a product that you take out of a box and plug in and play retro games, and a plug and play retro PC game box would be the only reason they would ever do something like this. Why would AMD create a chip they can't ship with any operating system? If you had a couple hundred million dollars knocking around I'm sure you could pay them to make it for you since at that point they wouldn't care what your intentions with the chip are after you bought it from them for your x86 SBC manufacturing company, but I don't believe they would ever do it themselves.
If you really want to do this, you will need to do it yourself, probably in a huge beefy FPGA, and then maybe fabricate your own chips later if you can make it work, keeping in mind that FPGAs probably wouldn't be able to get remotely near 2GHz, and that even if you got to the "new chip" stage you'd probably be working with a fabrication process that's about the same size as the Athlon 64 and Radeon 9800 were fabricated on to begin with. All the patents on the instruction sets in the Athlon 64 should be expired, so you could implement a sufficiently compatible AMD64 x86 core. Then, you have to figure out how to license or otherwise create your own 3D graphics core for the FPGA, performant and compatible enough for your seeming target of Doom III. You would be setting records all around if you pulled it off. All the while though, you have to be careful not to unknowingly step on any patent toes and get sued, or even get sued by Intel for no actual reason since they can't enforce their expired x86 patents anymore but I'm sure they might try.