Mac OS 8 emulator lets you relive the past for the first time

JC Torres - Jul 30, 2020, 6:58 am CDT
Mac OS 8 emulator lets you relive the past for the first time

When people talk about Macs or Mac OS, they’re most likely referring to what was previously and perhaps lovingly called “OS X”. That “X” is, of course, the Roman numeral that notes that this is the 10th incarnation of Apple’s desktop operating system. Few of today’s Mac users have probably used Macintoshes before that, let alone older versions of their favorite operating system. Whether you’re discovering it for the first time or planning a nostalgia trip, a new macintosh.js project now lets you run the 90s era Mac OS 8, even without owning a 90s era Macintosh.

Slack developer Felix Rieseberg has shown off his programming chops at using Electron, the Javascript application framework that Slack itself uses to build its popular communication tool. Javascript itself has been used to power and build all sorts of experiments, including some that make no sense other than as bragging rights or, of course, entertainment.

macintosh.js probably falls somewhere in between. Under the hood, it emulates a Macintosh Quadra 900 from 1991, a computer that ran on a Motorola CPU back when Motorola was actually an industry giant. It was one of the two last Motorola-based computers before Apple switched to the PowerPC. That makes Apple Silicon the company’s third transition to a new computer architecture (Motorola CISC to PowerPC RISC, PowerPC RISC to x86, x86 to ARM).

The journey down memory lane doesn’t end at the hardware, of course. The emulator is fully functional, allowing you to run some old Mac OS 8 software and games, some of which are even pre-installed (legally, hopefully). You can try your hand at installing other disk images if you have some but those are not guaranteed to work. Connecting to today’s Web on a 90s machine is also practically unusable.

macintosh.js is currently available on GitHub for everyone to see the code. It supports running on Windows, Linux, and, of course, Macs. It’s mostly a toy, of course, and will not be performant enough to be used for anything beyond that. Amusingly, Rieseberg also apologizes for even making the thing.

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