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We’ve previously looked at how the Raspberry Pi can be used as a retro gaming system 7 Fantastic RetroPie Game Stations You Can Build This Weekend 7 Fantastic RetroPie Game Stations You Can Build This Weekend Miniaturisation is a wonderful thing: you can now play ROMs for virtually every retro gaming system ever on a Raspberry Pi computer the size of a NES cartridge. Read More , and as a substitute desktop PC for low-level office tasks Use Your Raspberry Pi Like a Desktop PC Use Your Raspberry Pi Like a Desktop PC There are so many amazing things that you can do with a Raspberry Pi, from running your own space program to building a media centre. Although ostensibly intended as a compact computer that can be... Read More – but did you also know that you can run several classic operating systems on the tiny computer?

If you’ve been involved in computing for twenty plus years, this may prove useful for looking at old data. Alternatively, you might fancy checking out some old games. The RetroPi collection of emulators are primarily from gaming systems, but ROMs for older desktop operating systems can also have their place.

After all, it’s quick and easy to switch between SD cards and ROMs on the Raspberry Pi, meaning that you might be running an old Apple one moment and a Commodore 64 the next!

Setting Up Your Pi

You won’t need any additional equipment, just the emulation ROM, your Raspberry Pi and a keyboard and mouse, with the Pi connected to your monitor via HDMI or composite.

muo-rpi-mediaready

Naturally you’ll also need your power supply and a blank SD card to run the OS. You may also connect your Ethernet cable or wireless USB dongle to access the device remotely via SSH or VNC, depending upon what additional utilities are included – which will of course save you from using the keyboard and mouse after the initial setup.

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Make sure you’re using a good quality Raspberry Pi power supply, as opposed to something that might be more suitable to charging a Kindle. The benefit of using the Raspberry Pi for an emulated system is that it can be left switched on without any considerable impact on your electricity bill. If you’re using the Pi to run a legacy operating system for the purposes of getting financial information, long-lost creative writing, etc., then you don’t want to find the system hanging when it needs to do some data processing. You can find a good power supply adapter for your Raspberry Pi on Amazon.

Preparing The Retro OS

In order to get the Raspberry Pi up and running with your chosen retro OS, you’ll need to check whether the emulator can be run within the Raspberry Pi’s default OS Raspbian Optimize The Power Of Your Raspberry Pi With Raspbian Optimize The Power Of Your Raspberry Pi With Raspbian As befits a man with too much tech on his hands, I’ve been playing with my Raspberry Pi recently, configuring the device so that it works to its fullest potential. It continues to run as... Read More , or whether it has its own ROM.

muo-rpi-multios-sdcards

For the former, all you should need to do is boot Raspbian and download the necessary software to your Pi, install and run.

If it’s the latter, then you’ll need to download the ROM on a desktop PC and write it to an SD card, insert it into your Raspberry Pi and switch the computer on to boot into the retro operating system.

Retro OSes You Can Use

Several retro operating systems are available for the Raspberry Pi.

FastDosBox (£1.35) is a Raspberry Pi-optimised release of DOSBox which can be used to run MS-DOS applications and games from 1983-1995 (and a little later). This essentially turns your Raspberry Pi into a computer from the 1990s!

Commodore Pi is a full Raspberry Pi operating system, essentially the Commodore 64 OS turned into a ROM for writing to an SD card. You can download it via www.commodorepi.co.nr, although it is a little slow. Here’s footage of the Commodore Pi project in action:

Macintosh Plus is a classic Apple Mac operating system from the 1980s, and the Mini vMac emulator can be easily installed on the Raspberry Pi to bring Macintosh Plus back to life again.

OpenMSX is an emulator for MSX, an 8-bit computer system that is largely forgotten, which is a shame as it was a powerful home computer produced by Microsoft in Japan and the birthplace of several game franchises such as Metal Gear. You can emulate the platform using OpenMSX [] which will run in Raspbian (or any other Linux OS for your Raspberry Pi).

Fuse ZX Spectrum emulator – the ZX Spectrum was a massively successful 8-bit computer in the UK and Europe during the 1980s and early 1990s, and the Fuse ZX Spectrum emulator is available to install on your Raspberry Pi now to relive the age of monochrome character gaming.

Finding ROMs For Your Emulators

As ever, we need to tell you that using ROMs of applications and games that you don’t own (and perhaps even those that you do) is a breach of copyright law in the majority of international territories

What this means is that you’ll need to have a moment with your conscience before deciding whether you’re comfortable running ROMs on your chosen retro operating system, emulated or otherwise.

There are various repositories online that provide game and software ROMs for all of the operating systems mentioned above, so check these out to see what’s available.

Other Retro Operating Systems For Raspberry Pi?

Now you probably already know that along with Raspbian and its variants, there are many other operating systems that you can install on the Raspberry Pi, such as Linux and RISC OS 7 Operating Systems You Can Run With Raspberry Pi 7 Operating Systems You Can Run With Raspberry Pi Who can argue with a $40 computer? Especially one that also forms a good base for electronics projects! I certainly can't. But the hardware alone is only one side of the story: you still need... Read More .

But what about other retro operating systems for the Raspberry Pi? Do you know of any that we omitted from this list? If so, tell us!

  1. Ron
    September 24, 2014 at 5:43 pm

    Oops! That should have been ZRP/M. Galloping senility . . . . .

  2. Ron
    September 24, 2014 at 5:20 pm

    While this may date me, I still have a number of CP/M (Digital Research) 8-bit programs. DOS was sort of modeled on it. I actually used an open source variant called ZP/M for use with a Z80 processor. Any chance?

  3. Matt
    September 24, 2014 at 3:36 am

    Technically he's correct, it should be "ROM image" or "firmware" not "ROM" as that would refer to the actual hardware however it's such a commonly accepted term these days that making the argument is puerile and pedantic.

    Anyway... what about AmigaDOS? If one of these things can emulate an old Amiga 500 I might finally have found a use for a Raspberry Pi in my life. :)

  4. Christian C
    September 23, 2014 at 8:05 pm

    " I do not think this word means what you think it does."

    No, it does. I'm loathe to get into semantics, or indeed entertain your notion of ignoring the core of the article to make a point, but the term ROM has many meanings which have developed over the years from the original which you helpfully included above. It is, for example, regularly used as the shortened form of ROM image.

    I agree that it appears too often in this article, however.

    :)

  5. Howard B
    September 23, 2014 at 7:50 pm

    "...download the ROM on a desktop PC and write it to an SD card..." ROM. You keep using that word. I do not think this word means what you think it does.
    A ROM is a Read-Only Memory, usually on an EPROM or Flash ROM chip. The files you will write to your Raspberry Pi's SD card are OS images, not true ROMs (unless you flip the write-protect switch on your SD card. :)

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