Emulators are among my favorite tech-related items to play around with during my free time. Maybe it’s just me, but there is something cool about being able to run an alternate OS on your PC, especially when that alternate OS is something really off the wall. This article discusses five emulators old and new.

Note: This article is also available as an image gallery and a video hosted by TechRepublic columnist Tom Merritt.

1: DOSBox

I admit it… I am a child of the 80s and I still have an attic full of games for DOS. Every once in a while, it’s fun to break out some old classics, and the best emulator I have found for doing so is DOSBox (Figure A).

Figure A

One of the great things about DOSBox is that unlike many of the other DOS emulators, it supports sound. Some of the old DOS games required you to specify the IRQ, DMA, and base memory address of your sound card. DOSBox actually makes it possible to do that. The other thing I like about DOSBox is that you can use hot keys to do things like capture sound, record a video, take a screenshot, and change the emulator’s speed.

DOSBox is available as a free download.

2: Andy OS

Andy OS (Figure B) is an Android emulator you can use to run Android apps on a Windows PC. This emulator is based on Oracle VirtualBox. The Setup wizard will download and install VirtualBox if it is not already present on your system. In my case the setup process took a little while, but it was completely painless.

Figure B

3: Mocha

Mocha (Figure C) is a free online emulator of the old school Radio Shack Color Computer 2. I had to include this emulator on the list because I spent countless hours as a child learning how to program on a Color Computer 2. I had to adjust some Java security settings to make Mocha run, but once I did that the emulator worked flawlessly.

Figure C

There are two things I really like about this emulator. First, whoever built it really got it right. The emulator is a faithful recreation of the Color Computer 2 and its operating environment. The second thing I like about this emulator is that it’s linked to a ton of free software, a lot of which are games I used to play on my computer as a child.

4: Commodore 64 Emulator

Even though I grew up using a Color Computer, most of my friends had the ubiquitous Commodore 64. The best Commodore 64 emulator I have been able to find is CCS64 (Figure D).

Figure D

CCS64 is free and is designed to run on top of Windows. It does a really good job of re-creating the Commodore 64 OS and even emulates disk and tape drives. One of the coolest things about this emulator is that it supports multi-player game play over the internet.

5: iPadian

I debated long and hard about whether to include this one in this list. iPadian (Figure E) is an “iOS simulator for Windows.” You will notice that I used the word simulator and not emulator. That’s because there’s no such thing as a true iOS emulator. Apple allows only its own devices to run the iOS operating system, and only Apple devices can access the iOS app store. So this is a simulator, not an emulator. Even so, I decided to include it because my list includes an Android emulator… and I knew I would get emails from people asking me why I didn’t include an iOS emulator.

Figure E

iPadian re-creates the look and feel of an iOS environment, but it isn’t a true iOS environment. In fact, even the apps that are found in the free app store are mostly re-creations of popular apps rather than the real thing. The app store contains games such as Plants vs. Zombies 2, Clash of Clans, and Cut the Rope. However, there are nowhere near as many apps as you would find on a real iPad.

iPadian is probably best suited to those who want to try out some of the more popular iOS apps but who don’t have a physical iOS device. It’s limited, to say the least. But if you can accept those limitations, it’s not a bad program. You can download an ad-supported version of iPadian for free or you can purchase the no-ad version for $5.00.

Your turn

Do you have a favorite emulator you’d add to this list? Share your recommendations with fellow TechRepublic members.

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