I recently asked a question on how to build an old version of the Game Boy SDK on a modern system: How can I build Gameboy Development Kit 2.1.5 on a modern Unix/Mac platform?

Yesterday, a user has commented that this is off-topic for Retrocomputing and two users have voted to close my question. Is this question off-topic for Retrocomputing? If it is, is there any way I could edit it to be on-topic?

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    Your question might be considered off-topic because it focuses a lot on the modern programs and compilers. This is just speculation.
    – wizzwizz4 Mod
    Commented Aug 19, 2016 at 9:28

2 Answers 2


To contrast with Raffzahn's answer (since you always need at least two points of view!) I think these questions should stay. Getting software running on modern operating systems is no different to getting a ZX Spectrum to run with a modern television; there's no point trying to preserve software if nobody can use it.

I would consider questions about configuring a development environment to compile legacy software to be on-topic.

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    Oh, there' a fine line: Configuring a legacy development system to do so is quite ok, but porting software is a way different issue. The problems aren't due or in relation to the old software, but about the new one. I think it's quite important to keep this diferentiation in mind. If a software is designed to run on like a 32 bit OS, porting it to a 64 bit one is not a task within some old environment, but the new one. On it's own it would men that any question about any software of any time is valid. I wouldn't considere that a good result.
    – Raffzahn
    Commented Sep 10, 2018 at 23:15
  • Would you consider the Netscape question off-topic, then? It's a brilliant question that resulted in the proper archival of some historically important tools, which is why I'm concerned about ruling such questions to be off-topic.
    – wizzwizz4 Mod
    Commented Sep 11, 2018 at 17:05
  • Hmm ... No, I would call it perfect on topic. He is using contemporary Software (Codewarrior 4 is about 1995) in an contemoprary environment (Classic MacOS). And while I do not so much fancy emulations, it doesn't matter, as it's abotu the environment. And the project itself is as well from that area (NS5 was like 1998 or so). So all parts are a perfect fit for RC (Not to mention that it's a great project - even thru it doesn't change the on/off-topicness). Now, the same quesstion about geting to compile NS5 under some modern IDE under and targeting Win10 would interesting but off topic.
    – Raffzahn
    Commented Sep 11, 2018 at 17:16
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    In fact, this question is a great hook to talk about backports, as NS5 is more recent than the tools (and target) used - altough not much. Let me write a seperate question for that.
    – Raffzahn
    Commented Sep 11, 2018 at 17:18
  • @Raffzahn Good point; I'd forgotten it was in SheepShaver; I only remembered the problems with a different version of the compiler. My stance is a little weaker than I thought, but still stands on its own.
    – wizzwizz4 Mod
    Commented Sep 11, 2018 at 17:25
  • see retrocomputing.meta.stackexchange.com/questions/638 for a follow up question (BTW, THE-BBS is frozen again)
    – Raffzahn
    Commented Sep 11, 2018 at 19:50
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    I think that, for example, cross-developing software (even with modern methods, tools and compilers) for old hardware should be on-topic. Developing new software for old hardware is a major part of retrocomputing in my book. Keeping old platforms alive, even with modern tooling, should be on-topic. Otherwise, we are limiting ourselves to keeping old hardware behind glass cases in a museum and rummaging about it. That is not what I consider to be retrocomputing.
    – tofro
    Commented Nov 3, 2018 at 9:57

As a general guideline, I would considere it as off-topic, since the issue in question is not about the old software, but due the new environment.

After all, it's the age old question about compatibility of new environments to old software . And (most of the time) the new is on fault, as the old could not imagine the future, or could it?

Even if the solution will be some changes in the old software, the whole issue is primary off topic for RC. In fact, I would considere this as some of the few on/off-topic issues with a hard definition.

Now, if doing the port results in issues about the old software, then these concrete issues with the old software may become a valid topic - as it's about understanding the old software. Not the behaviour of the new OS/CPU/etc.

  • I have posted a competing answer! It sort of agrees with the paragraph in yours underneath the <hr />, except it's a little broader.
    – wizzwizz4 Mod
    Commented Sep 10, 2018 at 22:23
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    The part below the ruler is only valid as an exception to the generic rule above - without it's nothing to agree.
    – Raffzahn
    Commented Sep 10, 2018 at 23:17
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    I have to disagree, at least in the case of retro consoles. Things like the gameboy (or NES or whatever) can't host their own development environment. One builds on another system and transfers the resultant binaries to the target in some way. The dev environment was ALWAYS detached from the target, and where you hosted the dev environment never mattered. It is, I think, in our community's interest to keep such tools alive, and therefore we should support folks who are trying to use them on modern systems. Commented Sep 28, 2018 at 16:29
  • @MichaelKohne Sure, but then again, souldn't you as well use the development tools as back tehn in an environment like back then? Modern development tools - as exist for old platforms can't realy be on topic, as their issues are modern as well. And it did matter what environment was used, as at least I had to buy several machines back then just to have the right development environment. So that's part of preserving the whole item, not just one tine part.
    – Raffzahn
    Commented Sep 28, 2018 at 20:50
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    @Raffzahn - I disagree primarily because I think it's fine to limit one's interest to a subset of retro things (such as a console), and not want to fool with old PCs (or emulation thereof). Certainly, of course, I give huge respect to those who cobble up an entire antique toolchain to do stuff, but I don't think it's reasonable to refuse to help those who don't want to go through all that. In other words: as long as the objective is something retro, I think the question is valid and on-topic. Commented Oct 1, 2018 at 12:10
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    @MichaelKohne I perfectly do understand the reasoning here, and I use as well not only modern hardware, but also many modern tools (dies Notepad count?) to handle old(ish) stuff. The fine line here is just that any question about these modern tools and their implications are off topic - unless they are specific retro related. Unlike you make it look, this is not about refusing help about retro isues, it's about keeping focussed. E.g. Emulator questions are good, Eclipse questions are not. There (many) are other SE sites about todays issues.
    – Raffzahn
    Commented Oct 1, 2018 at 12:20
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    I must, in fairness, also note that questions about programming tools ARE on-topic on stackoverflow.com. So it wouldn't be unreasonable of you to argue that things that are really 'new' tool questions might be candidates for moving to SO. Commented Oct 3, 2018 at 18:08
  • @MichaelKohne sounds like a good common ground here.
    – Raffzahn
    Commented Oct 3, 2018 at 18:48
  • I likewise think that it's really important to know how to build things in a modern environment. Often you have a chain of dependancies that you have to bootstrap somewhere and that means building something with a modern tool chain in order to build older and older stuff to get where you need to be.
    – Alan Cox
    Commented Oct 5, 2018 at 23:28
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    @AlanCox It's a gray area where sensible decisions are needd. Above question is a bit like why a Word 2.0 macro doesn't work in Word 2016 (is that a thing?) and if Word 2019 is a valid replacement. Not a question about the old stuff or its usage, but the new software. Isn't it? Or how would you regard a question about LLC file formats asked by someone who wants to use (today's) LLC infrastructure to produce F8 code?
    – Raffzahn
    Commented Oct 6, 2018 at 9:30

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