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Emulation Enters my Life

Baron Von Jerkface


I've tried to live a spare life. A life whereby, if I have mp3s, I don't need physical media. If I have emulation and a collection of roms, I don't need a console. Those things took up too much space in my small abode. And yet, I started collecting records, but told myself that they would only be those that were significant in some way - either first pressings or colored vinyl. I've pretty much been able to keep to this rule and have only filled up two "cubes" of one of those Ikea Kallax shelving units. 


I discovered emulation about 12 years ago. At the time, I lived in a shared house where my mother-in-law and her mother lived on the first floor, and my sister-in-law, her husband, and their four kids lived in the upstairs, of a large prohibition-era house. My wife and I lived in an inlaw apartment attached to the garage. My brother-in-law, who is two years younger than I am and who has no memory of the Golden Age of Arcade Games, built a MAME cabinet in our garage. I really have no idea why, because he has never shown any interest in retro arcade games, but my, oh my, did that cabinet become my most favorite toy. So many evenings, after getting our young son to sleep, I'd steal away to the garage to explore the arcade versions of games I only played on the Atari VCS. For the first time ever, I played arcade versions of Zaxxon, Asteroids, Berserk, Q-Berk, Pengo, Burger Time... but could not play Tempest, Tron, or Discs of Tron due to lack of a spinner control.


Shortly thereafter, my brother-in-law's family moved into their own house, taking his cabinet with him. I began to learn how to work MAME and finally got it installed on our computer along with some of my favorite roms. After building out my own shoddy control panel which included a hacked mouse spinner, and HAPP trackball, I explored emulating some of my other games. At this point, Stella entered my life. 


It wasn't good enough to play Atari games on a keyboard, so I bought a knock-off joystick and a cable that converted Atari to usb so that Stella became a much more authentic experience. I really wanted to play paddle games and mouse input wasn't good enough, so I discovered Stelladaptor and paired that with a $5 pair of paddles ordered from the internet.


In the meantime, I got a Vision-Daptor and eventually bought two Intellivision II controllers off ebay so that I could play Intellivision games through the Nostalgia emulator. 


These two console emulators kept me going for some time until I decided that I really needed to play Star Raiders again. I ordered a second Stelladaptor that had support for the touch pad and got a good deal on an untested touchpad that works just fine and that gave me about minutes of actual enjoyment. Star Raiders on the VCS really isn't that great. I prefer Starmaster, tbh....


Eventually, I purchased usb controllers that look and feel like the controllers for Sega Genesis, NES, SNES, N64, and Playstation. That led me to collecting emulators for each of these systems and playing these games with differing levels of nostalgia, considering that I never owned Nintendo consoles until the Wii. I think I'm greedy, as I decided I wanted to properly emulate the 5200 and 7800, so I bought some rebuilt joysticks from Best Electronics along with the 5200-daptor. The 7800 Proline controller works with the Stella-daptor II, so I just needed to unplug my Touch Pad.


My current emulation station rig is an old Dell computer I took from my parents when they claimed viruses killed it. I have Maximus Arcade as a frontend running Mame32 (which I love because of the support for the highscore.dat), Visual Pinball, emulators for Gameboy/Advance/Color, Lynx, GameGear/Sega Master System/Genesis/32X, Vectrex, 7800, 5200, SNES/NES/N64, Playstation, and of course, Stella and Nostalgia. 


I use an external 1TB harddrive that stays plugged in to hold all roms, emulators, and screenshots. 


Also plugged in, I have a XArcade Tankstick, TurboTwist Spinner, steering wheel, and usb footpedal to play MAME games that require those elements. I've got a usb flightstick that I bought from Goodwill for .99 that I use to play Tron and Mach III. I just got a Aimtrak usb lightgun to use to play the uber fun Exidy shooters (Clay Pigeon, Crackshot, Cheyenne, Crossbow) and other gun games... it also works in conjunction with the NES and one of my SMS emulators so I can use it for Duck Hunt and Safari Hunt.


My computer only recognizes two "daptors" at a time, so I have a switchable USB hub into which is plugged my Atari joystick usb cable, paddles, 5200 controller, 7800 controller, and Intellivision controllers. I can switch these out without having to unplug them, which was the whole point of getting this particular hub. 


And yet, I still felt empty, especially while playing my favorite VCS games on this rig. Now that some company is about to release a super-powered "VCS" I thought about going that way. Instead, I bought a raspberry pi and a VCS shaped case and a usb replica CX40 joystick. The feel on the joystick sucks and I can't use my paddles, so I went the full monty and decided to breakdown and buy a VCS.


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Posted (edited)

It's a good thing to collect for or have one or two favorite systems. And then emulate the rest. In my case it's the Apple II and PC. Having those I don't need any other physical setups.


Edited by Keatah
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For myself, I keep several 2600's (heavy/light sixer, Vader, Jr.) and 7800's around, as well as a Commodore 128D.  The rest is in emulation.  I had to sell off all my Amiga and Atari computer stuff; it was taking up too much space and definitely too much of my time.

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