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Writing is perhaps the greatest of human inventions, binding together people who never knew each other, citizens of distant epochs. Books break the shackles of time.
Carl Sagan [who's that?]
Julian Fietkau My name is Julian Fietkau, welcome to my website!

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Using DOSBox and emscripten to put old games onto the web

2015-08-28 22:36:30

Back in January of this year, the Internet Archive published their interactive DOS game library, allowing anyone to play old games that used to run on MS-DOS machines right in their browser, without the need for any plug-in or external software. This was very inspiring to me and reminded me of the time when I took my first steps in the world of programming using Turbo Pascal and compiling for DOS. Naturally, I made games in it.

I made a mental note to check out the underlying technology, but in January I was knee-deep in the process of finishing my master's thesis (followed by a move and a new job), so the "DOS in my browser" thing went somewhere near the bottom of my priority list.

In early June I dedicated a weekend to finally figuring that stuff out, which culminated in me adding a playable version of Revelation Mentis to my website. The way I first learned programming was by taking existing source code (typically little games) and tinkering with it, first changing values, then single instructions, then larger blocks of code. RM is notable in my personal history for being the first game (as well as the first non-trivial program) that I created on my own and completely from scratch, so it seemed like a good candidate for something to put on my website for posterity.

As I found out, many talented developers have made this process comparatively smooth – smoother than I had expected, anyway. Still, it's not a "drag and drop" kind of solution, you still need some coding chops to put all the pieces together. I'd like to walk you through what I did, just in case you're interested in doing something similar or you're curious about how it works.