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Emulation on MS Windows 3.1x ?

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First post, by Jo22

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Hello everyone!

I've recently seen some videos about ancient emulators on YouTube and was wondering how the emulation scene was in the 90s.
So I tracked down several old homepages and emulators.. On my journey trough Web 1.0 and archaic newsgroups
I've found prior versions of famous emulators, like Snes9x, ZSNES and Vice64.
All available for major OSes of that time, like AmigaOS, DOS, Win95, Solaris and even OS/2, RISC OS and BeOS.
All were there, except ports for good old (-well, old at least-) Win 3.x.

"So hey, where are they ?" I asked myself - Since some of todays popular emulation projects started out in the early to mid 90s,
according to archived web pages of that era.. And since, with WinG, there was already an early form of DirectDraw available.
"So wasn't Win3.1 suited well enough as a platform for emulators ?", I thought and continued my search across the old web.

Well, I've found evidences on some private homepages that there were indeed a few emulation projects written for 16-Bit Windows,
but most files are gone by now. What happened to those ? And why does nobody remember them ? Questions after questions.
- It's almost like they were lost in the mists of time..

In case you're interested, here's what I've found so far..

Ancient Emulators
YouTube play list of old emulators (mainly DOS)

Emulators for PCs (DOS/WIN)
FTP server, Pooldisk, CD2

NES Emulators
http://kubloid.tripod.com/nesemul.htm

Various consoles
http://www.emulationzone.org/consoles/
Very intersting page. Also has a lot of background information about consoles, utilities and
detailed emulator information. Last updated early 2000s.
Old pages:
http://www.emulationzone.org/consoles/sms/old/sms.htm
http://www.emulationzone.org/consoles/nes/old/Emuold.htm

-=Video Game Art Archive=-
archived

Emuviews - The Site for Views on Emulators
http://www.emuviews.com/
Reviews and interviews. Last updated early 2000s.

Books:
The Emulation User's Guide by Kenneth Stevens
ISBN-10: 1435753739 ISBN-13: 978-1435753730

Files:
Sorry, most links are dead, but Some files can be found on zophar.net or Dave's classics (archived)
I haven't included the archive names, yet, as they differed on every ftp server and web site I've seen.
Maybe you're still able to find them by their names and their version numbers..

// Ancient emulators for Windows 3.1 //
Altair v.09 + IMSAI 8080 v.01 (Altair)
Apple Win (Apple ][)
BeebEm (Acorn BBC)
CowChip v0.2 (CHIP-8)
Gemulator 95,96 (AtariST / TOS)
PasuFami(PasoFami)/PASWING v1.0,v2.x,v2.6b (Nintendo NES)
Famicom v0.13 (Nintendo NES)
iNES v0.4 (Nintendo NES)*
Emu48 (HP48)
VirtualMSX v1.1beta (MSX 1.0 standard)
fMSX v1.30 (MSX, Tokuyama's port)
fMSX v1.5u (MSX)
Win Z88 (Z88)
Z88dream (Z88)
VGB Virtual GameBoy v.03 (Gameboy)
PC64 v2.14 Windows (C64)
WinZ80 v4 (Sinclair Spectrum)
WSpecem W3.1 version (Sinclair Spectrum)
Turing Machine (simulates a turing machine)
Turing-Maschine (another version)

..

Somehow this is just a little bit bitter and sad. So many games have been preserved today, but not so much the early emulation projects.
Maybe it's just me, but I think keeping old emulators archived/preserved is much more worthwile by now.
Not because they are good (ha!), but because they were a part of "our" online society and gaming culture.
And I also think they and their authors deserve to be remembered of (*in whatever way. ;) )

What do you think / what is your opinion ? :)

- And did you use Win 3.x as an emulation platform at some point in the 90s ? Or rather DOS, Win9x, ..

-= Tiny Windows 3.1 Emulation Gallery =-

imsai_altair.jpg
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Altair v.09 + IMSAI 8080 v.01
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Fair use/fair dealing exception
appl2win.jpg
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appl2win.jpg
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Apple Win
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PC64Win v2.14, playing "Planet des Todes"
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Fair use/fair dealing exception
vmsx.jpg
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VirtualMSX v1.1beta
File license
Fair use/fair dealing exception
cowchip.jpg
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4065 views
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CowChip v0.2
File license
Fair use/fair dealing exception

PS: I hope I posted this in the right spot.. ^^;

(Note: This thread is about emulators only, be it Freeware/Shareware/PD; no links to binary images of any game cassettes are given. No ware-z.)

"Time, it seems, doesn't flow. For some it's fast, for some it's slow.
In what to one race is no time at all, another race can rise and fall..." - The Minstrel

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Reply 1 of 90, by BitWrangler

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Mostly they ran under DOS but some had windows support. You have to dig them out of (possibly mirrors or archives of) the "classic" ftp sites, example...
http://www.lanet.lv/simtel.net/msdos/emulate.html

Basement full of ancient PC stuff, starting to go through it. Most recently toyed with DOS era stuff 15 years ago, so memory might be rusty. So what's this BitWrangler guy's deal ??? >>> Taming the pile, specs to target?

Reply 2 of 90, by Stiletto

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In general, most emulator authors for the PC back then wanted blistering raw speed and direct hardware access, and felt that they could not achieve this under Windows. DOS development was far more common until Windows 95 came along, and many times not even until Windows XP came along. Speaking for MAME, the primary developed port only transitioned from DOS to Windows commandline with MAME 0.37b15 (May 24, 2001).
http://www.mamedev.org/history.html

And some of it is of course "scene", environment and inertia.

http://caesar.logiqx.com has a half-decent retrospective for the early arcade emulation scene, BTW. 😁
(In case you're not sure of the history there, MAME eventually ate everyone's lunch. As the classic joke goes, "We are the Borg, resistance is futile. You will be assimilated. We will add your biological and technological distinctiveness to our own." We'll probably do this for console and computer emulation too if given a long enough timeframe. 🤣 )

"I see a little silhouette-o of a man, Scaramouche, Scaramouche, will you
do the Fandango!" - Queen

Stiletto

Reply 3 of 90, by Zup

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Well, Windows was not an OS until NT and (maybe) 9x. Windows 3.x was only a DOS GUI like GEM, so it made sense not to support it.

I have traveled across the universe and through the years to find Her.
Sometimes going all the way is just a start...

I'm selling some stuff!

Reply 4 of 90, by Azarien

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Zup wrote:

Well, Windows was not an OS until NT and (maybe) 9x. Windows 3.x was only a DOS GUI

Windows 3.x looked like a GUI or app launcher in that you executed a program (win.com) and you could normally exit back to DOS.

But it had its own drivers and own applications incompatible with DOS, reducing DOS to the role of a bootloader and compatibility layer.
There was no technical reason why Microsoft couldn't sell DOS and Windows in one box with one installer, like they did with Windows 95.

Or alternatively, you can think of DOS + Windows as a weird hybrid OS that was sold in two boxes.

Reply 5 of 90, by dr_st

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Azarien wrote:

Windows 3.x looked like a GUI or app launcher in that you executed a program (win.com) and you could normally exit back to DOS.

There is an interesting question here - why could you exit Win 3.x back to DOS without a reboot, but you cannot similarly exit Win9x? Did Win9x go an extra step in unloading the DOS layer, that could not be undone without a reset, or was it just an arbitrary decision by the programmers?

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Reply 7 of 90, by Azarien

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dr_st wrote:
Azarien wrote:

Windows 3.x looked like a GUI or app launcher in that you executed a program (win.com) and you could normally exit back to DOS.

There is an interesting question here - why could you exit Win 3.x back to DOS without a reboot, but you cannot similarly exit Win9x? Did Win9x go an extra step in unloading the DOS layer, that could not be undone without a reset, or was it just an arbitrary decision by the programmers?

I think they wanted to hide the existence of DOS from casual user 😉

DOS is not being unloaded by Windows 95. It is simply not fully loaded - by default, win.com is automatically loaded instead of command.com, and there's no exit from that (except the "Restart the computer in MS-DOS mode" option, which I'll explain later).

However, you can change BootGUI=1 to 0 in msdos.sys. This way normal command.com prompt is loaded, and you can run windows by executing win.com, just like in 3.x.
The difference is that upon exiting Windows, you still see "It's now safe to turn off your computer." instead of DOS prompt. But that prompt is there!
You can start typing to see the message gets garbled. You can try to execute some program that would reset the screen to text mode and voila. Back to DOS again.
That works only if BootGUI=0 and you manually (or via autoexec.bat) executed win.com.

Then things changed when on newer machines instead of the message the computer physically turned off.

Regarding that "Restart the computer in MS-DOS mode" option. This efectively unloads Windows keeping only the win.com, and then runs command.com as a normal program.
When you exit that (typing exit), win.com reloads Windows, or if it isn't feasible at this point, reboots the machine.

Reply 8 of 90, by dr_st

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Azarien wrote:
However, you can change BootGUI=1 to 0 in msdos.sys. This way normal command.com prompt is loaded, and you can run windows by ex […]
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However, you can change BootGUI=1 to 0 in msdos.sys. This way normal command.com prompt is loaded, and you can run windows by executing win.com, just like in 3.x.
The difference is that upon exiting Windows, you still see "It's now safe to turn off your computer." instead of DOS prompt. But that prompt is there!
You can start typing to see the message gets garbled. You can try to execute some program that would reset the screen to text mode and voila. Back to DOS again.
That works only if BootGUI=0 and you manually (or via autoexec.bat) executed win.com.

Then things changed when on newer machines instead of the message the computer physically turned off.

Interesting. So on a non-ACPI system (that doesn't turn the PC off), if you select "shut down Windows" it just takes you back to the DOS prompt and hides it with an overlay? Does Logo=0 affect it in any way?

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Reply 9 of 90, by Zup

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dr_st wrote:

Interesting. So on a non-ACPI system (that doesn't turn the PC off), if you select "shut down Windows" it just takes you back to the DOS prompt and hides it with an overlay? Does Logo=0 affect it in any way?

No. It shows the "shut down the computer" screen and then locks the computer. The Logo=0 doesn't affect the process, it only avoid the initial logo screen.

The "shutting down windows" and "shut the computer" are necessary. While the "shutting down windows" screen is showing, the computer is closing any open file, writing down the disk caches (internal and external) and asking external devices to shut down. The second screen is showed to signal that everything is properly finished (if Windows can not power off the computer). Shutting down the computer before showing the last one can lead to data corruption, so those screens can't be disabled.

I have traveled across the universe and through the years to find Her.
Sometimes going all the way is just a start...

I'm selling some stuff!

Reply 10 of 90, by Azarien

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Zup wrote:
dr_st wrote:

Interesting. So on a non-ACPI system (that doesn't turn the PC off), if you select "shut down Windows" it just takes you back to the DOS prompt and hides it with an overlay? Does Logo=0 affect it in any way?

No. It shows the "shut down the computer" screen and then locks the computer. The Logo=0 doesn't affect the process, it only avoid the initial logo screen.

If BootGUI=0 then there's no lock. Instead, Windows exits to DOS but does not clear the screen, so you still see the message.

Reply 11 of 90, by Jo22

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Hi everyone,
Is there any interest still in emulators on Win16 platform in this new decade?
Or in other words, are some of you interested in actually using them on retro PCs? 😀

"Time, it seems, doesn't flow. For some it's fast, for some it's slow.
In what to one race is no time at all, another race can rise and fall..." - The Minstrel

//My video channel//

Reply 12 of 90, by psychz

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Count me in for testing and actual use, I'd love emulators which could run on Pentium/PIIs and Win16

Stojke wrote:

Its not like components found in trash after 20 years in rain dont still work flawlessly.

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Reply 13 of 90, by Zup

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Jo22 wrote on 2020-07-15, 03:12:

Hi everyone,
Is there any interest still in emulators on Win16 platform in this new decade?
Or in other words, are some of you interested in actually using them on retro PCs? 😀

As I said before, it was easier and had more sense to not support Win16. At 386/486 time, most emulators struggled to achieve 100% speed (without 100% accuracy) on that CPUs, and Windows could only make things slower. OTOH, some emulators (for microcontrollers) were more usable on Win16... but they didn't need to run at 100% speed.

Said that, I've been toying lately with some emulators (Spectrum emulator by Pedro Gimeno, Warajevo, Nesticle) that were meant to run on older computers... using DOSBox. So I emulated a DOS machine to run an emulator to run programs for ZX Spectrum 😉

psychz wrote on 2020-07-15, 09:56:

Count me in for testing and actual use, I'd love emulators which could run on Pentium/PIIs and Win16

Still talking about DOS: on 486 many Z80 / 6502 could be emulated at 100% speed and Pentium II are 16-bit friendly... anything based on 68000 could run happily. But remember that (at that era) the point was to get 100% speed, not 100% compatibility... most emulators weren't 100% accurate (= some CPU-expensive features weren't emulated like ULA "snow effect" on ZX Spectrum +2) and some games could not run.

I have traveled across the universe and through the years to find Her.
Sometimes going all the way is just a start...

I'm selling some stuff!

Reply 14 of 90, by Jo22

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Zup wrote on 2020-07-15, 10:11:

[As I said before, it was easier and had more sense to not support Win16. At 386/486 time, most emulators struggled to achieve 100% speed (without 100% accuracy) on that CPUs, and Windows could only make things slower. OTOH, some emulators (for microcontrollers) were more usable on Win16... but they didn't need to run at 100% speed.

So that's a no then ? I was asking, because I was thinking about making some of the Win16 emulators mentioned before available before they go the way of the dodo.
Since I have them in my backups still, but don't know how long they will be available on the internet (old FTP servers may vanish)..

"Time, it seems, doesn't flow. For some it's fast, for some it's slow.
In what to one race is no time at all, another race can rise and fall..." - The Minstrel

//My video channel//

Reply 16 of 90, by Jo22

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Okay then. I'll attach a stripped down compilation that contains free and shareware versions.
Without the runtimes (WinG, Win32s, VB Runtimes) and PD sample games that were originally included.

Have fun! 😀

PS: The complete set of files for PC64 can be found here.

Attachments

  • Filename
    win16emu4.zip
    File size
    3.86 MiB
    Downloads
    5 downloads
    File comment
    Emulators for Win16 and Win32s (v1)
    File license
    Fair use/fair dealing exception
  • Filename
    win16emu3.zip
    File size
    4.48 MiB
    Downloads
    5 downloads
    File comment
    Emulators for Win16 and Win32s (v2)
    File license
    Fair use/fair dealing exception
  • Filename
    win16emu2.zip
    File size
    4.36 MiB
    Downloads
    6 downloads
    File comment
    Emulators for Win16 and Win32s (v2)
    File license
    Fair use/fair dealing exception
  • Filename
    win16emu.zip
    File size
    4.88 MiB
    Downloads
    21 downloads
    File comment
    Emulators for Win16 and Win32s
    File license
    Fair use/fair dealing exception
Last edited by Jo22 on 2020-08-22, 06:40. Edited 5 times in total.

"Time, it seems, doesn't flow. For some it's fast, for some it's slow.
In what to one race is no time at all, another race can rise and fall..." - The Minstrel

//My video channel//

Reply 17 of 90, by Bruninho

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Where's that Apple IIe emulator for Win 3.x? I will definitely test it on my DOS/Win3.x virtual machine, I have an Apple IIe emulator for macOS, so I also happen to have a few stuff for that particular emulation, like some games and COBOL, FORTRAN, ProDOS...

I'm asking because I have a DOS/Win.3x VM on iPadOS, so it would be nice to have Apple IIe emulation within that VM on iPad also. My dad will go nuts

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Reply 18 of 90, by Zup

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Jo22 wrote on 2020-07-15, 13:33:

So that's a no then ? I was asking, because I was thinking about making some of the Win16 emulators mentioned before available before they go the way of the dodo.
Since I have them in my backups still, but don't know how long they will be available on the internet (old FTP servers may vanish)..

Sorry, I didn't mean they're not interesting or deserving to be archived... most earlier emulation stuff is interesting (even in their glitches) and in danger of being lost.

Making (good) actions games for Win16 was difficult because (although hardware abstraction avoids you to develop a suite of drivers for different sound/graphic cards), there were speed penalties everywhere. Games like Operation: Inner Space are the exceptions, not the rule.

Win16 emulators deserve to be archived, because they are scarce and a tribute to their author's programming abilities... but I wouldn't choose one of them to play any game of the era.

(BTW, I still have a couple of shareware CDs from that era... I can look into them for more Win16 emulators)

I have traveled across the universe and through the years to find Her.
Sometimes going all the way is just a start...

I'm selling some stuff!

Reply 19 of 90, by Jo22

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Woa, thank you very much for your kind words and your understanding! ^^
I was hoping that there's a little bit of interest here on the platform still, mainly because of curiosity and history.

Though the quality of these ancient emulators is -ahem- questionable, I totally agree. 😅
They are unlikely to be useful for everyday use these days, also.

Except maybe one or two of them (Apple2Win and PC64),
which can be used just fine to play some classic interactive fiction games (textadventures).

And since they are Windows applications, they theoretically can run in foreground, while some MID/MOD player runs in background.
Provided that they aren't interrupted due cooperative multitasking (MOD4WIN has a three timer modes to circumwent this issue).

Another reason for me is nostalgia, of course! ^^
In these stressful Corona days, there's nothing more relaxing than pretending to be somewhere else than in the usual places of your home.

So it's just fun to change/decorate a hobby corner (or room) in the free time.
To make it look like a Star Trek bridge/room, for example, by using LCARS24 on an old laptop.

Or by changing it to a 70s room/corner with a nice record player, an arm chair, a colourful B/W TV set and a tube radio with magic eye.
An 80s room/corner with a VCR or VHS player (without recording abilities), some posters, etc is also an option. Or a 90s room/corner.

For the latter, an old 386/486 PC running Windows 3.x might greatly adds to this atmosphere also.
(Imagine during idling, Mystify or Starfield start to appear; while the PC's fans are quitely humming happily).
- It would be especially cool if the owner has a matching PC from that era (say, a Amstrad Mega PC or Teradrive). 😉

So yeah, it's also abit because of the looks rather than function. 😅
I haven't really started yet tidying up my PC corner, but I have this picture in my head:

Say a nice little wooden table, with an old PC+CRT along with some magazines/comics/books lying around.
A MegaDrive console next to it, maybe. An MT-32, an old Hi-Fi set. Studio Headphones etc..

Zup wrote on 2020-07-16, 07:39:

Making (good) actions games for Win16 was difficult because (although hardware abstraction avoids you to develop a suite of drivers for different sound/graphic cards), there were speed penalties everywhere. Games like Operation: Inner Space are the exceptions, not the rule.

I know, that really was troublesome. 🙁 GDI had no collision detection, etc. which made game programming difficult.
Some games like MicroMan or Comet Busters tried to get over this limitations, but it was not easy.

When it comes to Windows 3.x games, I prefered RPG/strategie/round based games (EmPipe, GNU Chess), so maybe that's why I have played so many Windows 3.x games. 😊
Or simple action games, like luna lander games (Space Exploration Alpha, Lander 3, Graditor) or Star Trek type games (Stella, WinTrek, Warpath, Solar Vengeance).

Zup wrote on 2020-07-16, 07:39:

Win16 emulators deserve to be archived, because they are scarce and a tribute to their author's programming abilities... but I wouldn't choose one of them to play any game of the era.

(BTW, I still have a couple of shareware CDs from that era... I can look into them for more Win16 emulators)

I see, makes sense to me. I admit, I also rather collect these rather than "using" them.
It's a bit akin to my weird interest of trying to preserve old Windows software from the 1980s (mainly shareware for Win 2.x), hah.. 😅
In all honesty, I went to the local library not only once because of this (I went there many times; often old, geeky computer books have precious 5.25" disks inside still). 😊

So yes, I'd be really happy if you can find some more of them (please don't rush, take your time)! Thanks for your help! 😁
- Feel free to send me a PM anytime. Or post a link or attach one or more of them below a posting, if you like.

"Time, it seems, doesn't flow. For some it's fast, for some it's slow.
In what to one race is no time at all, another race can rise and fall..." - The Minstrel

//My video channel//