Obscure emulators for obscure devices

If emulating the PC-88 and the Vectrex sounds like a mainstream vulgarity to your ears, this article is perfect for you. In the mid-2000s, as the PSP scene was obsessing over the latest nightly builds of Daedalus, some crafty coders were creating emulators nobody asked for.

The Dreamcast’s VMU


While VirtuaMUnstaz VMS looks more like a demoscene production, it is in fact a fully functional emulator - if not necessarily a practical one. There’s no selection menu, but you can just rename your VMU game to scroll.vms to watch the magic unfold on screen. Though you’ll probably need a magnifying lens to see anything.

Infocom Z-machine


What better system to play text-based adventure games on than a handheld with no touch screen and no official external keyboards? That’s probably what Norman B. Lancaster thought as he ported Frotz to PSP. Another such emulator exists, but requires the use of an infrared keyboard.

Tomy Tutor


Ever heard of the Tomy Pyuta (or Tutor)? Don’t feel bad if you haven’t, Japanese folks who grew up in the early 80s probably don’t know it either. Just like Mattel and its Intellivision, Tomy Corporation was another toy-maker who tried its hand at video game manufacturing. Things didn’t go so well for Tomy, as they only manage to sell just over a hundred thousand such devices - compared to over a million for the Intellivision.

I managed to find some roms for InfoPyuta, but as it turns out, the emulator is a port of a Windows project that was abandoned in 2001. It will only play some test roms - how disappointing.

HP calculator


Calculator apps for PSP are a dime a dozen, but they usually focus solely on getting the numbers right. This one is different: PSPX48 by Ludovic Jacomme aims to replicate the entire experience of the original Hewlett-Packard calculator, interface and all.



Smarcyclem marks the peak of emulation-coding hipsterishness on this list.

This isn’t a case of wanting to emulate a forgotten home computer from the 1970s, or a gaming console that bombed in its home market. Fisher-Price’s Smart Cycle was not - no matter how you look at it - a console, a home computer, or even a calculator. It’s a toy that happens to have a chip. And it wasn’t retro either - it was on game-store shelves at about the time this emulator was created.

Sadly, I couldn’t find any roms to test it with. Are there any ROM dumps for this toy?

Watara you supposed to be?


Akop Karapetyan’s Potator PSP is a more traditional kind of emulator. The oddity of it comes from the system it emulates - the Watara Supervision.

While most handhelds of the 90s tried to compete against the Game Boy by offering better graphics or color, the Supervision tried to undercut it by being cheaper. The outcome is a bunch of games that look like they should run on a Nokia 3310.

And now you can play them all on PSP. Enjoy.