---------- ---------- PC Pro Realworld Computing: Paul Lynch - PDAs

Spectrum Emulator for Psion Series 5

Despite the relatively slow availability of new software titles, there is a very simple way of making sure that there is a lot of software available; I am surprised that Psion themselves haven't taken advantage of this. Software emulators are readily available in the public domain for many obsolete computers and games machines, and are widely ported to all sorts of target computers, which might imply that they are reasonably easy to write. You can easily find emulators for the Acorn BBC Computer for NeXT computers, for example.

Certainly it is not beyond reason that a emulator for MS-DOS could be written to run acceptably well on a Series 5; or even, if it were to come from Psion, an emulator for the Series 3 machines. One disadvantage of an emulator is that they often don't run very rapidly, but this is usually far outweighed by the much greater relatively speed of modern processor chips. The HP95LX (and models up to the HP200LX) have run DOS programs to their great advantage; it is easy to see how some freely or cheaply available DOS programs could benefit Psion Series 5 users. Similarly an EPOC/16 emulator (the operating system of the Series 3) would open up a wide range of familiar software to new users of the Series 5.

Since my last column, Palmtop BV have released their Spectrum emulator for the Psion Series 5, and have even released an upgrade to it. You can now run most Spectrum games on the S5, with full screen and sound. The release of this product highlights one of the most serious problems with emulators, which is that to use it, you have to locate and install illegal copies of the Spectrum ROMs and the games that you want to run. As you might imagine, this isn't very hard to do, and a simple web search will leave you amazed as to the number of obscure emulators and software images available.

Palmtop have based their emulator on one of the generic Z80 emulators, adapted to running Sinclair Spectrum programs. As a result, the Spectrum emulator has been released to the public domain. I can certainly claim more crashes and soft resets for my Series 5 from this than from any other program I have tried so far, but that is part and parcel of what you expect when emulating a different machine. Some games just wont load; and in particular it doesnt support games written for the later 128K Spectrum.

Crude graphics for the Series 5
Crude graphics for the Series 5

But A+ for nostalgia value
But A+ for nostalgia value

Spectrum games on the Series 5 are just as you might expect: slow, with crude graphics and sometimes clunky game play. But if you ever used the originals, nostalgia will kick in and it will all be part of the charm. New users will wonder what all the fuss is about.

The Spectrum emulator is a free download from Palmtop's web site.


Words and design by:
Paul Lynch
Last updated: September 12, 1997

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