Low End Mac

Mac Emulation with Basilisk II

by Alan Zisman (c) 2002
First published in Low End Mac,  May 8, 2002: Mac2Windows column

My review of Basilisk II, an open source Mac emulator for PCs (and other platforms) was posted on May 1st. I got a lot of feedback and have learned a lot from the people who responded to it.

Some things to note:

Christian Bauer, keeper of the Basilisk II flame, points out "from your article one could get the impression that B2 works with Mac Plus ROMs, but it doesn't (it requires ROMs from a 32-bit clean '030/'040 Mac or from a Mac Classic)." Fans of the Mac Plus shouldn't despair, however (more on that in a bit).

And Ian Raymond had a different clarification. He points out that Lauri Petersen, who ported Basilisk II to the Windows platform "is a him, not a her." You can read his interview with Lauri. Among other things, it talks about reasons why there are no PowerPC emulators currently available.

Graeme Bennett, of MacBuyersGuide/PCBuyersGuide notes that readers may be interested in his Basilisk II software compatibility list. Note, however, that this is unofficial: it lists the applications that Graeme has tried out, so if the application you're interested in isn't listed, it's worth a try in any case; several applications that I'm running successfully under emulation aren't on that list.

Reader William Dawson found the performance of my emulated Mac impressive but wondered what sort of PC I was running it on. The results I reported were achieved on a Compaq notebook with a Pentium III/750 processor and a relatively unimpressive Trident video card.

Several people were interested in emulating a Mac on a Mac. Why, you may wonder? For the people writing, it's to be able to run software that won't work on more modern hardware and operating systems.

Nigel Pearson has one solution; he ported Basilisk II to run under OS X.

That won't necessarily help the reader only known as "M." (Named after James Bond's superior, perhaps?) M wrote, "What I'd really like and could really use, because I have old software I wish to run, is that Connectix would 'get with the program' and produce Virtual Mac for the Mac. I really need something like Virtual Mac with Mac OS 6.0.8."

It may be possible to install Mac OS 6.0.8 on Basilisk, but I don't know if M is running OS X, letting him use Nigel Pearson's port. Instead, he may want to check out vMac, a project to emulate a Mac Plus. As with Basilisk II, vMac requires a Mac ROM (either physically in a Gemulator ROM board or as a ROM image file) -- in this case, the ROMs from a 1987-era Mac Plus.

While originally designed to run on PCs (versions for Windows, DOS, Unix/Linux, NeXT, OS/2), Richard Bannister has gotten vMac to work on a Mac! A carbonized application, it will run under OS X or under earlier Mac OS versions with CarbonLib 1.2 or later.

Peter Johnson has taken it perhaps the final step. As illustrated, he has vMac up and running inside Virtual PC 4.0 on his FireWire PowerBook running OS 9.2.2. An emulator running within an emulator. His comment: "Largely useless, but amusing."

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Alan Zisman is a Vancouver educator, writer, and computer specialist. He can be reached at E-mail Alan