Let me state the goal again: take the MESS project, which is a massive open-sourced effort to emulate every possible computer system and console that exists, and make it run in a window in a browser. In doing so, allow anyone with a web browser of reasonable power the ability to experience, in great convenience, many of the aspects of any previously made software in human history. This is a very lofty goal.
Some of this has been discussed before, but if this is the first time you’re hearing of it, let me quickly go over it.
- A month or two ago, we got a public-domain colecovision cart to render using this setup. But no keypresses. Now we have keypresses.
The running joke for me was “WHERE ARE MY SMURFS”. The acid test for me, the proof this was possible, was a window running a playable copy of Smurfs: Rescue in Gargamel’s Castle, which was truly a terrible game but one I played over at my friend Paul’s house in 1982. As the team tirelessly ran through the dozens and dozens of tweaks, on the addition of features to Emscripten and the makefile mods to MESS, “WHERE ARE MY SMURFS”.
And now the smurfs have come:
Oh, make no mistake: It’s slow as molasses. (Running at 12% speed on my browser on a pretty high-powered machine) It has no sound (we’re working on it). And the keys can sometimes be grabbed away by other processes and materials. (Key bindings are a bitch, and still being hacked away at.) But it works. Multiple people took me aside to “help” me by explaining how it was entirely impossible this could ever happen. But it happened. It works.
It even lets you use the internal menu of the MESS program: here it is letting you know about the CPU and the video output:
We did some tests with multiple Colecovision cartridges – it plays most. (Not all, of course, depending on how well MESS emulates anything and a bunch of other factors.) So right now it can do about 100 cartridges. It’s proof of concept.
But now we’re expanding out.
Next we’re going after the Magnavox Odyssey², specifically to be able to run K.C. Munchkin, a historically important console game pulled in the early salvos of the “look and feel” wars started by Atari. We’re also trying for the Apple II.
So how can you help?
- We need testers. I didn’t want to drag people in until we started having something for them to see – and now we do. We need people to run through items as we add them, to find weirdness and missing items and the rest.
- We need you to improve MESS. My dream is that this project will ensure, once and for all, that any work you throw into the MESS emulator will have instant, worldwide effect, as improvements on emulation will show up in browser windows everywhere. It’s not some obscure thing – I want these to end up being general purpose computer utilities that people use to portray older computers in windows, and your work will be very prominent. Read up on them and join them.
Please come to #jsmess on EFnet or e-mail me. Get involved. If you were on the wall wondering if the thing could ever even work, it does. It works. Now help us make it work well.
Categorised as: computer history
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