I have provided a non-exhaustive list of helpful links for anyone that wants to play old video games, learn about computing history, or try retro computing as a hobby.
I have not included links to abandonware or ROM sites, because they are legally ambiguous and upset rights holders. It would certainly be unfortunate if you somehow found them all by yourself.
Whether you want to learn about old computing equipment that you have acquired, or figure out which retro video games you want to play, you will need to gather information from reputable sources.
- The Centre for Computing History is a museum and exhibition centre based in Cambridge, UK that allows visitors to try the old equipment on display themselves
- Hackaday posts cool new ideas for retro computing projects that you can try yourself
- Vintage Mac Museum is a website run by a collector living in Boston, USA that provides links to helpful information and resources about old Apple hardware
- Old-Computers.com is a quirky online museum that has been running since 1995, and can occasionally be a useful source for technical specifications
- The National Museum of Computing is based in Milton Keynes, UK. Not only is a day trip to Bletchley Park great fun, but you can also learn about the broader history of computing there
- Wayback Machine contains useful snapshots of old websites that no longer exist, but may still be relevant for your retro computing projects
- Wikipedia is a crowdsourced online encyclopedia that can be a good source for technical specifications and historical background information
I also encourage you to acquaint yourself with your local public library, because details you need may predate the invention of the World Wide Web. In addition, many instruction manuals, hobbyist magazines, sales materials, etc published before 2000 were never digitised, and are no longer in print.
You should only use these open source emulators with software programs and video games that you already own, or have owned at some point.
- Basilisk II emulates classic 68k Apple Macintosh computers
- DOSBox emulates an x86 IBM Personal Computer for MS-DOS games
- MAME emulates multiple arcade cabinets built over a number of decades
- PCem emulates a wide range of ’80s and ’90s PC hardware & clones
- PCSX2 emulates the Sony PlayStation 2 games console
- SheepShaver emulates classic PowerPC Apple Macintosh computers
- VisualBoyAdvance emulates the Nintendo Game Boy Advance games console
- Wine is an emulation layer that can run Windows applications on Linux and macOS
You can purchase DRM-free copies of old PC games, from online stores like GOG, that have already been patched for modern systems. You can also still download freeware and shareware games from non-profit hobbyist websites, such as DOSGames.com.
If you have an old computer running Windows 98/ME, you can run more modern Windows 2000/XP applications on it by using an open source emulation layer called KernelEx.
Here is a selection of my favourite YouTube channels for retro gaming and old-fashioned computing.
- Cannot Be Tamed reviews retro video games on her favourite consoles
- Cinemassacre creates funny videos about old video games and VHS rental movies
- Computer Clan reviews and recounts the history of old Apple hardware
- Grumpy Retro Gamers deliver hilarious sass about retro games, and unscrupulous eBay sellers
- Jan Beta repairs and refurbishes ’80s microcomputers and video game consoles
- Kim Justice reviews a wide variety of retro PC and console video games
- Lazy Game Reviews (LGR) creates a variety of content about old software, video games and computers
- MetalJesusRocks collects and reviews retro video games from the USA and Japan
- Nostalgia Nerd creates informative videos about niche old technology topics
- Octavius King reviews old video games with hilarious comedy sketches
- One Credit Classics demonstrates how to beat old video games without losing a single life
- PhilsComputerLab investigates how to play retro games on new hardware
- Pixelmusement reviews “shovelware” games from a compilation CD-ROM inside DOSBox
- Psivewri refurbishes old machines that he bought on eBay, usually with eucalyptus oil
- PushingUpRoses reviews Sierra text adventure games and old TV shows she loves
- Retro Recipes answers fun questions about microcomputers, usually with puns and dad jokes
- RMC – The Cave refurbishes severely damaged old computers for his “retro man cave”
- The 8-bit Guy repairs and “retro brights” old Apple, DOS & Commodore computers
- TheGebs24 collects and reviews retro video games from the United Kingdom with her wife
- Top Hat Gaming Man is a wrestler that recounts the history of his favourite video game consoles
If you prefer live streams, and are based in the United Kingdom, then I also enjoy these Twitch channels:
- Caddicarus plays remastered Sony PlayStation games
- NikkiandBunty usually drink gin and play retro video games together every Friday at 10pm
- RTGameCrowd plays video games like a pyschopath, with hilarious results
- Trista Bytes plays retro video games and chats about geeky computer stuff
If you would like to start your own streaming channel, see Open Broadcaster Software (OBS).
Just For Fun
This list provides links to various forms of online ridiculousness, and I hope you enjoy them.
- BlueMaxima’s Flashpoint downloads and runs classic Adobe Flash web games, videos & animations. Pick the “Infinity” bundle, unless you really want to download the full 700GB+ of archived content onto your computer
- Elizabeth Castro’s website accompaniment for the book she wrote about HTML4 around the turn of the millennium is still online
- For some ungodly reason, Felix Rieseberg built a Windows 95 emulator inside an Electron app
- The Geocities-izer is a website that tries its best to make other websites look like they were created on a defunct blogging platform from the ’90s
- The Hampster Dance has now been preserved for posterity. If the audio does not play automatically, scroll to the bottom of the page
- HTML5Zombo also provides a much-needed update for the second-best website on the Internet
- IE6 No More is one of the many websites that were published in 2009 to coax users away from Internet Explorer 6, after Microsoft had finally stopped supporting that web browser
- Internet Archive has made thousands of DOS games available for you to play in your favourite web browser while your boss isn’t looking
- Nathan’s Toasty Technology Page is a very entertaining personal blog that was lovingly created in the ’90s, presumably with Netscape Composer on Windows 95
- NationStates is an online nation simulation game that started in 2002, and it keeps getting banned on campus networks because you can legalise drugs and make public nudity compulsory
- SC2KRender can be used to render SimCity 2000 save files in 3D on modern Windows systems
- SDF Public Access UNIX System is an Aladdin’s cave of old networking technologies that you can still use today, and there is a well-established community doing so
- TenFourFox is a surprisingly up-to-date version of Mozilla Firefox for PowerPC versions of Mac OS X. You can also download Classilla for Mac OS 9
- Windows 96 is a browser-based parody operating system that has its own package manager, a custom Discord client, and an excellent selection of emulators
For those of you who may have missed it, Microsoft gave away the final releases for Expression Web and Money Plus as free downloads without license keys. I think most people reading this would be surprised to discover that both abandonware programs still pass muster, and run fine on Windows 10.