back to article Google chap bakes Amiga emulator into Chrome

A Google chap named Christian Stefansen has created an Amiga 500 emulator that runs inside the Alphabet subsidiary's Chrome browser. “The emulator code is based on the Open Source Universal Amiga Emulator which is about 400k lines of C code,” Stefansen says. He didn't cook up the code out of altruism: Google offers “Native …

  1. James 51 Silver badge

    If there was a website selling digital copies of Amiga games to run on UAE I'd snap a lot of them up. GOG have the DOS version of a few but the graphics and sound are usually poorer on those versions.

    1. John 110

      Have a look

      1. James 51 Silver badge

        Re: Have a look

        When I get home from work

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward


      All you need!!!

  2. frank ly Silver badge

    "The emulator ships with other apps, too."

    If it shipped with Frontier Elite, I'd get it. Ahhh, I remember it well.

    1. Danny 14 Silver badge

      Re: "The emulator ships with other apps, too."

      Frontier, many hours wasted using the "hyperspace glitch" to get to the far side of the galaxy. If only the internet was around back then to stop me wasting my time on searching for elusive far out settlements....

      Deuteros and Millenium 2.2 were other good timewasters.

      1. Halfmad


        Oh god how I loved Deuteros, I got a hooky copy from the Barras in Glasgow and played it constantly, no manual so took a long time to figure out what the hell was going on but for me it's one of the classic games, I was completely drawn into the resource management + story side.

        Aesthetically pleasing and with a nice sound track from what I remember

        1. AbelSoul

          Re: hooky copy from the Barras

          And here was me thinking I was the only poster here with such a sordid past.

          I spent many a Saturday afternoon down there, rifling through mostly public domain floppies but, aye, I too occasionally succumbed to the lure of the hooky copy... Flashback springs to mind.

          1. pollyanna

            Re: hooky copy from the Barras

            The Barras could be pretty hit and miss. Many 'purchases' included free extra virus code and it was a bit hair raising - especially in the weeks following a Police raid as there would be various 'WANTED' posters around the stalls showing police officers faces (taken from covert cameras the vendors had hidden round the site and which captured the raid in progress) and offering 50 or 100 quid for details of their home address. I opted out at that point and decided I preferred to go without or purchase at more upmarket establishments.

        2. Rob

          Re: Deuteros..

          ... one of my favourites too, I still have it in it's original box along with many others (I also still have my Amiga A1200, just have to get a copy of the last version of Workbench to get it up and running again).

          1. Nick Ryan Silver badge

            Re: Deuteros..

            Same here, I loved the game.

            However the biggest disappointment was the consistent crash at the end of the game when you completed it on the hard(est) game mode. Unfortunately like many games it involved learning the AI and countering it using and abusing it's actions and responses.

      2. stucs201

        Re: "hyperspace glitch"

        I always like to think of that one as being wormholes rather than an bug.

  3. Jack of Shadows Silver badge

    But it also offers the chance to enable floppy disk emulators and load one's own disks. We're sure, however, that some of you remember exactly where they stashed their 3.5in floppies and the Amiga drivers that boosted the disks' capacity beyond the native 880 kilobytes.

    No need here as I saved those floppy disk images to hard disk ages ago. I also hold in trust CDs of files from several Amiga forums as well. Lastly, you can occasionally find software released from copyright. Even so, my greatest challenge here is simply bit rot.

    As for the emulator? Graphics are on par for native on TV, not even a candle to my24 bit Retina card even on my 1080 let alone a MultiSync but that's seriously high end for the period.

  4. Dan 55 Silver badge

    Can't run the emulator at the moment

    But Workbench 2.0 was snappier (as they say) than Workbench 1.3. Any slow-to-respondness is the fault of the emulator rather than the emulated. Google needs to add a bit more Na to the Cl.

    Also, copyright?

    1. Danny 14 Silver badge

      Re: Can't run the emulator at the moment

      I was wondering this. Do you have to source your own bios? That was the usual sticking point of the emulators.

    2. Terry Barnes

      Re: Can't run the emulator at the moment

      It is possible to buy a licence for the two copyrighted items in question - the Kickstart ROM and the Workbench OS. Packages like Amiga Forever come with licensed copies of all the files needed to run the emulations.

  5. DrXym Silver badge


    I assume the guy just ran UAE through the compiler toolchain that produces NaCl or PNaCl plugins for chrome and threw it out there. Pretty much any piece of C or C++ could receive the same treatment. The analog for other browsers would be to compile the code into LLVM bitcode and convert it to asm.js (a subset of JS that browsers like Firefox can special-case) with Emscripten.

    Also, UAE might be free but the kickstart 1.3 roms and AmigaDOS / Workbench images are not free. So I wonder how long this thing lasts before its taken down. Distributions such as AmigaForever (which also uses UAE) have to license their copies of AmigaDOS.

    1. AIBailey

      Re: So?

      Text taken directly from the bottom of the link :

      The Amiga ROM, OS, and First Demos files are provided under license by Cloanto.

      So from that point of view, they're legal.

    2. tzawadzki

      Re: So?

      Kickstart 1.3 is not free, but many games and apps can be started with kickstart replacement from AROS. Downloadable from (amiga-m68k-boot), successfully implementent on JavaScript emulator on

  6. Awil Onmearse

    "Anyone will appreciate just how far we've come since the days of the Amiga, thanks to the inclusion of the famous "Juggler" app depicted below."

    Basically not very far at all, then.

    Still simply mangling numbers, just much faster, but simultaneously much less efficiently.

  7. Matthew 17

    A mear shadow of the Beast!

    The original Amiga was really quite special, it's a pity Commodore wasn't able to really take it far, I saved my paper-round money to buy a 500, probably the last time I got truly giddy from owning a computer.

    1. Terry Barnes

      Re: A mear shadow of the Beast!

      The clever tricks that made it so amazing at the time were also the things that made it hard to keep up as technology progressed. Remember the general rule of computing that anything that requires specialist hardware today can be done cheaper and better in software on commodity boxes in 18 months.

      Anyway, there was lots of dependence on timing in terms of how the co-processors interacted and the special modes for copper that allowed memory access without CPU involvement. It wasn't possible to vastly increase the speed of those interactions (in a Moore's law context) without breaking backwards compatibility. Also, in our networked, security-conscious world, there was no memory management.

    2. Stephen McLaughlin

      Re: A mear shadow of the Beast!

      Absolutely. Raised on C64/128s, the Amiga 500 was my first "real" computer. It was really ahead of its time. Sadly the subsequent Amiga versions weren't anywhere as nearly successful. It's amazing how Amiga's popularity rose and fell so quickly. Around 1989 it looked like Amiga was really taking off and had a promising future and just a few years later it was gone.

      1. Terry Barnes

        Re: A mear shadow of the Beast!

        It was only really popular in the UK, Germany and Scandinavia. As many other manufacturers learned, you need a much bigger market to survive, certainly if you want to compete with PC makers and their wafer thin margins. Financially the C64 was a much bigger success for CBM. Most US IT folk I work with have never heard of the Amiga.

        It's market got pinched - the gamers went to consoles, the home computer folk bought PCs. Money for R&D dried up, the owners decided to milk their cow until it fell over.

        1. Michael Strorm

          Re: A mear shadow of the Beast!

          "It's market got pinched - the gamers went to consoles, the home computer folk bought PCs."

          Yeah, that's *exactly* how I remember it.

          I bought my Amiga at the tail-end of 1991, at which point it still seemed like *the* machine to own, but in hindsight it was probably just passing its peak as the Mega Drive was up and coming fast and the PC was gaining ground at the high end.

          I remember that a year or so later (early 1993), it had become subtly clear that the Amiga was no longer *the* format for pirated games at school, and the focus those was shifting to the PC. Doom- one of the defining games of its era, and the one that *made* the FPS genre- coming out on the PC at the end of 1993 effectively made clear that the Amiga's reign was over, with it now playing wannabe catchup with the PCs and the consoles.

          The CD32 enjoyed some success as a low-end cash cow (being basically a cut-down A1200 with CD drive and planar chip, it probably didn't need much development cost or huge sales numbers) but would have been killed off quite quickly by the PlayStation even if C= hadn't gone bankrupt a year before that came out in Europe.

  8. rcoombe


    Having a middle-aged crisis seeing a computer system that I grew up with (not even my first computer!) is now being described as ancient. (Beer is obviously the only solution.)

  9. Nick L

    Why's this news? Check the dates...

    I really don't get why this is news. It was release almost exactly 2 years ago in December 2013... what is slightly strange is the lack of attribution to the P-UAE team, notably Gnostic, who did a hell of a lot of work to take WinUAE and get it working on other systems and of course to Toni Wilen, the absolute driving force behind WinUAE. (Disclosure: I made some very, very simple and limited changes to PUAE to better compile on OSX)

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Why did I do it....????

    I used to work at Commodore on some 'skunk' work stuff that never saw the light of day. I had some of the early build machines and prototype stuff in my loft for bloody years and then threw the lot away during the late 90's (including my beloved RKM's)

    Oh digital deity forgive me and have mercy on my poor 68000 soul....

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Why did I do it....????

      A down vote just because we don't forgive you (or ourselves for similar crimes)

  11. Lobrau

    Question is.....

    ....can I play Walker on it?

  12. Buzzword

    Ahh, Amiga

    A decent windowing system which booted up in less than a minute from floppy disk; in seconds from hard disk. It has taken the best part of three decades to get back to that state of affairs, and even then only thanks to SSDs.

    1. PassiveSmoking

      Re: Ahh, Amiga

      And pre-emptive multitasking in 1985 as well, something most consumer grade Operating Systems didn't have until 2000 (Windows XP and OSX)

      1. Michael Strorm

        Re: Ahh, Amiga

        "And pre-emptive multitasking in 1985 as well, something most consumer grade Operating Systems didn't have until 2000 (Windows XP and OSX)"

        To be fair, Windows 95- while based upon MS-DOS- had pre-emptive multitasking, the first consumer version of Windows to do so, in 1995. That was still ten years after the Amiga 1000, though.

        Even the non-consumer Windows NT, the first Windows to have pre-emptive multitasking at all, came out in 1993, the better part of a decade after the Amiga.

        Windows 3.0 and 3.1- the first really successful versions- only came out in the early 1990s and still had crappy co-operative multitasking that (for example) locked up the whole computer when you tried to telnet into a remote BBS that wasn't responding for whatever reason. You had to wait until the connection timed out and the telnet client decided to "co-operate" again. Nice.

        (Cue the "ah, but pre-emptive multitasking was useless without memory protection" crowd. Yeah, it was far from perfect, but it was still miles better than stupid, hacky kludges like TSR under MS-DOS. The fact that they bothered with those shows that even with single-tasking DOS users there obviously *was* a need to run other programs at the same time, even if only for basic disc formatting, and other simple uses.)

        1. Kristian Walsh Silver badge

          Re: Ahh, Amiga

          Pre-emptive multitasking can work just fine without memory protection. Provided every other application and process doesn't vomit over your memory. Sadly, this was never true in my year-long experience of owning an Amiga. I traded it back in against an Atari 520STE: not as clever, no multitasking, and the games were nowhere near as good, but at least it didn't crash unless I made it crash (ah, the joys of 68k assembly!)

          This isn't really Amiga's fault though - there was simply no hardware to deal with the inevitable instability that comes from multitasking. I seem to remember that the 68000's companion MMU was a bit of an afterthought, so nobody used it, and in any case the 68000 itself had no way to properly recover from a bus error, so even with protection, a process reading from an out-of-address-space location could still hose your system. (68010 allowed the system to restart after memory fails)

          Ah, the old days...

          1. Michael Strorm

            Atari STe... what was *that* all about?

            You're saying that the Amiga sometimes crashed when you chose to run other applications at the same time, whereas the ST didn't crash because you didn't have the choice to run two applications at once anyway? Hmm...

            (I've mentioned on more than one occasion that most of the benefits of \Amiga OS didn't rely significantly- AFAICT- on the custom hardware, which brings up the under-considered possibility that the ST- with the same 68000 CPU (clocked marginally faster) would probably have been quite capable of running it with little change).

            Anyway, I was the other way around to you- I traded my Atari 520STFM in for an Amiga after a year of owning *that*, and I never regretted the decision.

            From what I knew (and have heard since), the STE was a sort of half-baked attempt to improve the base ST spec. It increased the palette from 512 to 4096 colours, but still only allowed 16 on-screen (which was the main limiting factor in the first place). It had sampled sound- great in theory, but apparently it only allowed a limited range of sample playback rates- crap if you want to play music, since you then need multiple samples to get a full octave.

            What were they trying to achieve with the STE anyway? It *would* have been an effective way of (slightly) countering the threat from the falling price of the Amiga if it had replaced the SFTM at the same price (#), but it didn't- they charged more for it and kept selling the former. (##)

            This probably explains why the STE's extra facilities didn't get much support. Who would pay more for the STE since most people who were prepared to do that would have gone for the Amiga anyway?

            The fact that the STFM remained as the base model meant that more of them- and less STEs- would have been sold, increasing the tendency to write to the base spec, and decreasing any reason for supporting the STE (which in turn made it less worthwhile to spend the extra on the STE instead of the STFM; typical vicious circle).

            Had the STE replaced the STFM, enough of them would eventually have got into circulation by default that it might have been worth developers' time to support the enhanced features.

            As it stood, why pay more for an STE if the extra features weren't supported, when the Amiga was already out there (###)? And why support the STE if most of the STs being sold were STFMs?

            (#) My suspicion is that this was the original intent, and Atari got greedy and/or messed it up, similar to the debacle with the Amiga 600 (which should have been the cheap Amiga 300 but was positioned as the replacement for the Amiga 500 at the same price; this, interestingly was around the time that the Amiga was in turn being threatened by the Mega Drive and PC at either end. The true successor- the Amiga 1200- came out a few months later, so why bother?)

            (##) They did do this eventually, but by mid-1991 it was already too late. I could easily have replaced my SFTM with an STE instead of an Amiga, but I certainly didn't want to.

            (##) Particularly as it was around this point that the Amiga's decreasing cheapness- and increasing userbase- meant games aimed at it took advantage of its technical superiority, unlike the early 16-bit era where most had been little different to the ST versions.

            1. AIBailey

              Re: Atari STe... what was *that* all about?

              I've mentioned on more than one occasion that most of the benefits of \Amiga OS didn't rely significantly- AFAICT- on the custom hardware

              Yes and no TBH.

              I feel that the custom hardware added much to the additional flexibility of the Amiga OS, rather than being an essential part of it. The ability to read and write ST and PC formatted floppy disks as well as Amiga formatted ones was due to the fact that the floppy encoding was handled by the CPU and custom chips, rather than an off the shelf FDD controller. Other more obscure and exotic formats could also be added easily.

              Also the ability to drag several full screen applications down the screen (including Workbench) and have another running behind in a different colour depth or resolution on screen at the same time, wouldn't be possible without the Copper.

              It (the STe) had sampled sound- great in theory, but apparently it only allowed a limited range of sample playback rates- crap if you want to play music, since you then need multiple samples to get a full octave.

              Some of the sample playback rates went well above anything the Amiga could produce - up to 50Khz. However, as you say, the sample rates were fixed, so if playing back .mod files you had to use the CPU to interpolate samples to alter their pitch to the playback rate (rather than have multiple samples). Only 2 channels as well, so you required further CPU intervention to mix additional channels. Having a proper audio DAC made sample playback easier and clearer than the STfm with less CPU time. So capable of playing back better music than the equivalent Amiga in theory, but requiring significantly more CPU power to do so.

    2. tin 2

      Re: Ahh, Amiga

      I actually don't think we've caught back up quite yet. My PC takes about as long to display all the BIOS crap as my Amiga took to boot back in '95. Now phones hundreds of times more powerful take multiple times longer to boot. Makes you wonder where these people are learning their lessons from....

      1. Ian Emery Silver badge

        Re: Ahh, Amiga

        I would swear on my mothers virtue that my A500+ with 20MB SideKick HDD is still FASTER at most tasks than a modern PC.

        Bloatware, decades of poor coding, and Eye candy being the big issues.

        When was the last time you modd'ed your PCs motherboard, and replaced the soldered on memory chips with something faster??

        (Ha, the joys of 1MB Video RAM, and 70uS RAM instead of the 110uS RAM fitted as standard).

  13. Anonymous Coward

    Amiga: sweet machines 20-30 years ago. Wish I'd had one but at least I got to use a few, including a Video Toaster. All sadly replaced by flaky unusable crap.

    ...including NaCl: "Google ActiveX"

  14. Old Handle

    Cool but...

    can it run Crysis Nethack?

  15. Boonie

    I still have my PPC powered A4000T w/Video Toaster, an A2000, and an A500. Amusing that tight integration of hardware and software was considered it's downfall while modern PCs are doing the same thing now.

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Very cool..

    For comparison, is there an ActiveX or Flash version of the Emulator? 'Cause I like the other "Native" clients too.

  17. tzawadzki

    There is JavaScript version either

    It's relatively old emulator, has few years. NaCl is limited to Chrome and just few platforms but works with fine performance alteratively to emulator writed in JavaScript (look at that requires really fast PC.

  18. RLWatkins

    C / C++ sandbox?

    They run it "Native Client... a C / C++ sandbox"? That's odd, AmigaDOS was written in B. Hmmm... Yes, the UAE emulates the hardware, and they run AmigaDOS on that. Slow, I imagine. Still, it was a damn' nice computer, running what amounts to Win95 in 1987. Too bad Commodore America got SCO'd. Wonder what it'd be like on modern hardware.

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