New software for old machines
That particular computer passion known as retrocomputing requires to use ancient hardware components unable to support the most recent programs, but this doesn’t mean fans have to feel obliged to exclusively run software dating back to 10, 15 or even 20 years ago. On the contrary: the “scene” of the new releases designed to keep the retro hardware alive with recently produced code provides non-stop announcements - some of them stealing the spotlight, for a bit at least, next to the latest version of Windows 10 or Google Chrome.
High-profile projects developed to run on classic hardware clearly include FreeDOS, a command line-based operating system “alternative” to Microsoft’s own DOS which in these last months saw the release of a new version: predated by two release candidates, FreeDOS 1.2 is an incremental update that keeps the simplicity of DOS without forgetting novel features like a new installer, an easier way to connect to a network (including the graphics-based browser Dillo) and new tools available in the Utility section.
The new FreeDOS includes some open source games at last, a choice that according to the project creator Jim Hall is perfectly in line with the gaming vocation of the operating system besides compatibility with old software and embedded development. Users employ FreeDOS mostly to run games, Hall says, even though compatibility with classic titles for MS-DOS isn’t exactly fail-proof. FreeDOS will continue to be DOS, Hall promises, and the community response has been very positive thus far with 100,000 downloads of the new release at the end of January.
Games aside, the arrival of FreeDOS 1.2 is a good opportunity to test some new command-line software which was recently updated like those reported by the always excellent list of Interesting DOS programs (QuickView Pro v2.61, DOSMid 0.9.1, NewBasic v00.97.83 and others), or to deep dive into a “treasure hunt” in the old programs archive of Free Software for DOS - a site that brags about being on-line (”in one form or another”) since the far away 1994.
Moving from the command line to GUI-based retrocomputing, a recently talked-about game is Heart Of The Alien Redux for Amiga: the new indie production recreates the engine of the game with the same name, sequel to the cinematic platformer Another World/Out of This World, and carries an experience seemingly faithful to the original one (for Sega CD) over the Commodore machine where classic platformers were routine during the early Nineties. Running Heart Of The Alien Redux requires a copy of the game’s original CD and a real Amiga system - maybe an A1200.
The last notable retro-news coming out these days is about RetroArch, a frontend for managing emulation engines in Libretro format: the Borg of emulation is being ported to Windows 2000 and Windows 98, a feat courtesy of “bparker” that according to the developers brings the backwards compatibility idea to the extreme. The chance to run a complex and advanced software like RetroArch on Windows 98 is the best evidence of the fact that old computing machines still have something to say, if someone takes the time to keep turning them on.
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