I think we should discuss whether emulation is on-topic, and in particular these three cases are substantially different and probably deserve different treatments:

  • Usage or recommendations of emulation software (e.g. "how do I do X on MESS?" or "Is there a clock-accurate emulator for Y?")

  • Retro-knowledge related to the implementation of emulators ("How many sound chips did Z have?", "What did the Q instruction do on the 6502?")

  • Questions about implementing emulators ("How can I make my Y emulator clock-accurate?")

5 Answers 5


Usage of emulation software should only be on-topic to the extent that it's related to retrocomputing.

For example, "I can't get SimCity to play sound in DosBox" is on-topic because it has a corresponding non-emulated question: "I can't get SimCity to play sound on my IBM-compatible". However, "I can't get DosBox to play sound on Windows 10" is off-topic, because it's about Windows 10, not about DosBox as a "hardware" platform.

  • 1
    The first sentence could be a little bolder, imo, but agree.
    – cat
    Commented Apr 19, 2016 at 23:11
  • I like this answer. Emulation definitely fits in with the broader theme of the site in some ways: For example, I do all my Atari development in an emulator and then test on hardware.
    – Matt Lacey Mod
    Commented Apr 20, 2016 at 0:35
  • 5
    The one part of the question this doesn't address is emulator recommendations. Should we take the "no software recommendations" stance of SO/SU? Or given that the pool of emulation software is somewhat limited, can we assume that there will be a limited number of "correct" answers? I'm leaning towards the latter.
    – felixphew
    Commented Apr 20, 2016 at 1:28
  • @felixphew good point. I'm inclined to accept good Q&A that talks about the one or two choices someone would have when emulating particualr equipment.
    – user12
    Commented Apr 20, 2016 at 16:51
  • 4
    I agree with this; discussion about what goes on inside the emulator -- or perhaps about the implementation of emulators -- is totally on-topic. Discussion about how emulators interact with the host operating system, not so much (unless perhaps it's directly related to something happening inside the emulator, but that's a tricky gray area, perhaps). I know that as an emulator developer myself, I'll look forward to any discussion that comes up! Commented Apr 20, 2016 at 20:36
  • @felixphew - Agree - there is a software recommendations part of stackexchange, but for such a niche piece of software, expertise might be better here.
    – nsandersen
    Commented Apr 21, 2016 at 6:55
  • Emulation also matters in communicating with real hardware, for example running Netatalk in a virtual environment in order to setup an AppleTalk network for older Macs and the IIgs. Commented May 3, 2016 at 19:28

The implementation of a platform shouldn't matter. After all, there's little to no difference between a real Amiga 500 and some FPGA implementation, and a software implementation shouldn't be treated any differently. Viewed in that light, questions about the use of an emulator is also on-topic if it's about the emulator itself.

For example:

  • I had this exotic real hardware configuration, and I want to recreate it with simh, but I can't figure out how to configure this or that detail.

  • Is there a way in VICE to profile a running assembly language program?

  • I want to play these old VIC-20 games I wrote but don't own the BASIC ROM. Is there an open source implementation of the KERNAL and Commodore BASIC 2.0 I can use instead?

  • How can I import labels into the VICE debugger?

  • Questions about CC65

  • Questions about the Minimig


Emulation should be considered on-topic.

Of all the places on StackExchange, the Retrocomputing site is the one where retrocomputer and retrogaming emulation experts and enthusiasts would be most likely to be watching.

Over at the Retrocomputing proposal at Area 51, our problem is that our questions per day is way too low (3.7 per day as of this writing, and it needs to be above 10). We should not be driving questions away that are plausibly related to retrocomputing.

Maybe some are afraid of a future where every other question is along the lines of "How can I get my emulator to run my favorite game?" or worse, "How can I run my favorite emulator on Linux?", but you can ignore those (by tag, hopefully) if you don't care about them, and the asking of those questions might keep this site alive.

  • 4
    Why does our questions-per-day number need to be above 10? That sounds like a stupid management metric, up there with "lines of code per day = productivity".
    – dave
    Commented Dec 24, 2020 at 0:35
  • 1
    As far as the people at Area 51 are concerned, 10 is a concession. They really like to see 15 questions per day. Your comparison with a lines-of-code metric is apt, but I can understand them having some metric. Otherwise there would be thousands of StackExchange subdomains, one for each micro-topic, with little activity on most and a great potential for personal fiefdoms and spam.
    – StephenK
    Commented Dec 24, 2020 at 2:23
  • 1
    If you look at the scoreboard, retrocomputing is 'exellent' In all metrics except questions per day. I think that is not mere coincidence.
    – dave
    Commented Dec 24, 2020 at 3:04

There are different classes of questions: Those who want to use old software on old hardware. Those who want to use new software on old hardware. Those who want to use old software on new hardware.

The latter group will require some emulation layer.

Questions regarding running software written for a (retro) computer on another (modern) computer should generally be on topic, just as questions regarding writing or running modern software on older hardware are on topic.

  • Completely agreed. Commented Dec 4, 2022 at 16:52

Almost always, yes.

The rare exceptions would include:

  • where the emulated system is one that is known to be an unsupported configuration by the emulator's developer, such as running Windows 9x under DOSBox. The DOSBox-X fork, however, exists to emulate Windows 9x as a supported configuration, so the distinction must be clear.

  • where the question is mostly or entirely about the non-retro part of the emulator. For instance, a question about installing the VICE emulator under Debian would be off-topic, because it's an issue of Debian policy that they can't include the (non-free) ROM images with the binary package, and nothing about the emulated system itself.

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