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Poof of concept
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Any modern personal computer has enough horsepower to
thoroughly emulate any classic video-game system.
However, all those different classic systems have different
controller devices, none of which are very similar to
common computer peripherals (like keyboards and mice).
I therefore suggest
that someone make classic game
controllers with a modern touch --each type would plug
into a computer's USB port, get whatever minimal power
they need from that port, and convert their control-signals
into standard USB-protocol signals. The classic console-
game getting emulated on the computer would have a
patch to interact with the USB port, and get exactly the
control-signals, for the game, that it expects to receive.
Naturally, if you want to play a different game from a
different game console, you run a different emulator and
plug a different controller into the computer's USB port.
Yes, I know that it is easy for a computer to connect to a
lot of those ports simultaneously, but think of the clutter,
all those different game-controllers on your desk. You can
only use one of them at a time! So, really, usually only
one needs to be plugged in at a time. Certainly no more
than four, if you and three friends are playing a 4-player
game (pretty sure no classic game console ever had more
than 4 controllers connected at once).
||A difficult one to emulate are the controllers used for the 1980's BBC Computer - this computer had analogue inputs which fed A/D converters which would output a continuously variable number which the programmer could interpret in their code in any way they wanted. Controlling games with true analogue joysticks was so good.
||These have existed for over a decade, both as newly-made controllers with USB ports, and as adapters to give old controllers USB interfaces.
||I had no idea that the British Broadcasting Corporation took
their gaming so seriously.
||They've been obsessed by it for years ... so much so that now they live in their own little virtual world.
||// pretty sure no classic game console ever had more than
4 controllers connected at once //
||The PS2 had a "multi-tap" that let you connect more
controllers, though I think it only had two ports built in. I
feel like there was something similar for the GameCube,
though, which had four ports built in.