Google emulates 1980s-era Amiga computer in Chrome
Google's Portable Native Client technology gives a new Web-based lease on life for an old operating system and the games it could run.
The Amiga 500 lives again -- in Google's browser.
Google developer Christian Stefansen on Thursday resurrected a version of the venerable computer system from the 1980s in the form of a Web app that runs in Chrome. Forty-year-olds who want to relive their childhoods or younger people who want to see just how hard their elders had it can visit the Amiga 500 emulator for Chrome online, boot the machine, and play some games.
Chrome emulates the old operating system by a Chrome-specific version of the Open Source Universal Amiga Emulator. Stefansen brought its 400,000 lines of code, written in the C programming language originally, to the Portable Native Client (PNaCl) foundation built into Chrome.
The Native Client technology runs software written to run on a particular processor at close to the speeds that native software runs. The approach gives software more direct access to a computer's hardware , but it also adds security restrictions to prevent people from downloading malware from the Web that would take advantage of that power.
Native Client started with x86 chips, but Google has been expanding it with the PNaCl version. PNaCl is processor-independent, letting programmers run native code for the ARM chips in mobile devices -- and the old Motorola 68000 family that was at the heart of the Amiga 500.
Running C code on Native Client requires some modifications and therefore developer time.
"The original port to Native Client was done in four days," Stefansen said. "However, there was a lot of polishing afterwards, taking at least four times as long as the original port."