DOS PC Emulator For Raspberry Pi Now Available With rpix86, Now At Version 0.04

Subject: General Tech | April 2, 2013 - 07:25 AM |
Tagged: x86 emulator, rpix86, Raspberry Pi, gaming, dos

The Raspberry Pi is proving to be a popular destination for all manner of interesting software projects and open source operating systems. The most-recent Pi project I've come across is a DOS PC emulator by Patrick Aalto called rpix86. A port of DSx86, which ran on the Nintendo DS handheld console, rpix86 is now up to version 0.04 and emulates a 90's X86 computer with enough hardware oomph to run classic PC games!

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Rpix86 is an emulator that runs from the console (not within the X GUI desktop environment) on the Raspberry Pi. It emulates the following X86 PC specs:

Component Details
Processor 80486 @ ~ 20 MHz (inc. protected mode. No virtual memory support)
Memory 640 Kb low memory, 4 MB EMS memory, 16 MB XMS memory
Graphics Super VGA @ 640 x 480 w/ 256 colors
Audio Sound Blaster 2.0 (+ AdLib-compatible FM sounds)
Input Devices US keyboard, analog joystick, 2 button mouse
Misc Roland MPU-401 MIDI Support via USB MIDI Dongle

Patrick Aalto added support for analog USB joysticks and foot pedals (4 buttons, 4 analog channels) as well as 80 x 50 text mode (required by some MIDI software and Little Big Adventure's setup program) to the recent 0.04 update. He also stripped out debug code, which cut the program size approximately in half.

The developer has stated on his blog that he is working on allowing rpix86 to be used from the terminal within X and adding support for intelligent MPU MIDI mode. A port to the Android operating system called ax86 is also in the works. You can grab the current version of the Raspberry Pi X86 emulator on the developer's website.

With this emulator, you can run most of the DOS games you grew up with (Wolf3D and Digger anyone?), which is definitely a worthy use for the $25 or $35 Raspberry Pi hardware! At the very least, it is an interesting alternative to running DOSBox, and much smaller and more power efficient than running an old X86 PC dedicated to running classic games. Getting those floppies to work with the Pi might be a bit of an issue though, assuming they are still readable (heh).

Read more about the Raspberry Pi computer at PC Perspective.

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Introduction, Hardware To Look For

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Every year the college I graduated from, Beloit College, publishes its not-that-famous “mindset list.” It’s a collection of one-liners, such as “Clint Eastwood is better known as a director than as Dirty Harry,” meant to humorously remind professors that the experiences of their generation are not the same as the generation about to show up in their classrooms.
 
I’ve sometimes felt a need for a similar reminder among gamers. Arcade classics like Pac-Man and DOS legends such as Prince Of Persia are often cited in conversations of old-school gaming, yet many gamers (including myself) never enjoyed the experience of playing these titles when they first hit store shelves. 
 
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I enjoyed a different generation of classics. My original copy of Interstate ’76 is nestled in a binder of old CDs. A boxed copy of Mechwarrior 2 sits on my book shelf. I have Baldur’s Gate, Sid Meier’s Alpha Centauri, Total Annihilation 2, Starcraft, SimCity 2000, The Elder Scrolls: Daggerfall and Age of Empires II, to name a few. These were my formative gaming experiences. Some have always been with me  – others, lost or destroyed, have been re-acquired from thrift stores for a few bucks each.
 
Yet I can’t play most of these games without buying them again (via a service like Good Old Games) or resorting to virtualization. The reliability of Window’s compatibility mode is spotty to say the least.
Even if a game does run on my Windows 7 PC, something is missing. The old controllers of yesterday usually don’t agree with – or can’t physically connect to – my modern desktop. The graphics, designed for the CRT era, often don’t translate well to a high-resolution LCD. Random bugs and errors can occur, stopping the games in their tracks.
 
I’ve finally decided that there is only one solution. If you want to run a game from the 1990s and enjoy them properly you should also have hardware that can play games from that era as originally intended. That means putting together a legacy gaming system.
 
This is something that I think anyone should be able to do without spending more than $150. But can you, and if so, is it worth your time?