Javascript Mess

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Revision as of 18:53, 12 September 2012 by Jscott (talk | contribs) (Posts by Jason Scott about the Project)
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This is the organizing page for the Javascript Mess Project, an effort to port the MAME and MESS emulators to Javascript. Manifesto and References will be at the bottom of the page, and actions at the top of the page. This entry is currently a work in progress, and more information is still being added.After writing the initial weblog entry and announcement for the project, a number of people have responded with interest. Feel free to use the discussion page of this wiki entry to add your thoughts and questions.

Javascript MESS currently runs Colecovision cartridges well

Actions (To Be Done)

  • Create Pre-loader javascript routine for the emulator. Right now, the window just fires off and goes and emulates. It should really have a window where you press a button and THEN it loads the run-time and shows a bar graph, and THEN executes.
  • Create cohesive Makefile for compiling for individual platforms. Currently there are hand-made Makefiles for creating the individual compiled javascript runtimes. They won't scale, and as we add more features, it'll be more difficult to get things done.
  • Add and test more platforms. Game consoles are rather easy but we should really be adding Atari 800, Commodore PET, ZX Spectrum, and other computer systems, for greatly increased supported software.

Actions (Completed)

  • Compile MESS with Emscripten Status: Done and it only took about a year! Thanks to all the folks who have worked on it up to this point. The Status on Emscripten issue tracker is currently completed, awaiting further needs from Emscripten to add features or fix issues.
  • Compile Multiple Platforms with MESS Status: Done - we have provably been able to make Javascript MESS emulate a Colecovision and Odyssey 2 game platform, and run cartridges in them. An attempt to do a Commodore PET 2001 has gotten it to somewhat boot but it freezes - more platforms should be added.


  • The goal is to provide a ubiquitous, flexible, comprehensive-as-possible emulator that will appear in as many browsers as possible without installing a plugin or runtime. While a number of emulation solutions exist that allow much of what is wanted, they nearly all require plugins and most are directed towards a single machine or small sets of machines.
  • Currently, the most flexible runtime is current versions of Javascript, a horribly named runtime that utilizes a Turing-complete programming language to provide all manner of applications, effects and trickery to the browsing public. All major browsers support Javascript, and the language also allows support for cleanly informing end-users what is going on if something goes wrong.
  • MESS and MAME were started over a decade ago to provide ubiquitous, universal emulation of arcade/gaming machines (MAME) and general computer hardware (MESS). While specific emulation implementations exist that do specific machines better than MAME/MESS, no other project has the comprehensiveness and modularity. Modifications are consistently coming in, and emulation breadth and quality increases over time. In the case of MAME, pages exist listing machines it does not emulate. [1]
  • The dream/goal is to provide access to computer software and artwork that would otherwise require the user to have the original hardware and software at hand to bring into existence. While nothing beats having vintage, well-maintained computer hardware to show what software "was", it requires advocacy and often physical presence to do so. Games like Pac-Man' or Super Mario have been re-done many times and provided in all manner of online and offline presentations... not so much examples of Wordperfect, Peachtree Accounting, or the Atari TOS. By providing this method of calling in software, historians and academics and the merely curious can get near-instantaneous access to the gist of these early programming works. As a side benefit, people with collections of old software will be more inclined to share or donate their piles of materials knowing that universal access will come shortly after.


  • A team of Google engineers launched a project to port MAME to their own plugin runtime, NaCL (Native Client, or pronounced "Salt"). The report is here. High level summary: They did it in 4 days of work, pulled out parts that were too intense or time-involved, but still could emulate 75% of the games. The diff was 1200 lines of code. The report is useful for understanding MAME's unique structure.

Posts by Jason Scott about the Project