Retro Computing on the Raspberry Pi: Vintage Computers You Can Emulate

We’re gonna compute like it’s 1989.
Ash Ash (362)
30 minutes

Old school computing requires old school assets—but today we're creating our own Raspberry Pi retro PC experience! Don't know where to get started? That's perfect. We've gathered a list of all the best retro systems from the late 20th's century. From Commodore to Microsoft, there's something here for everyone.

Consider digging out a few peripheral devices before getting started. When setting up these systems, I always have a keyboard and mouse handy. To make things easier, I use a wireless keyboard with a touch-pad device. In addition, a USB joystick can really transform your retro gaming experience. Now let’s dig in!

Raspberry Pi 3 B+Raspberry Pi 3 B+ ×1
Wireless keyboard with touchpadWireless keyboard with touchpad ×1
Retro C64 USB joystickRetro C64 USB joystick ×1

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Raspberry Pi Commodore 64

If you're looking for an all-star retro PC, get your hands on the Commodore 64! This computer was beyond a must-have machine in the 80s, it was a Guinness World Record breaking machine. First released in 1982, the computer soared in popularity, making it the all time highest-selling single computer model. This bad boy sold over 10 million units alone. Want to see what the hubbub was all about? Here's how to emulate the Commodore 64 on the Raspberry Pi.

Commodore 64 Raspberry Pi emulation

The Commodore 64 is easily emulated with RetroPie using VICE. The VICE emulator supports a variety of C64 files—including .crt, .d64, .tap, and more! Setup is easy, just visit the Commodore 64 github page for details on setting up the emulator for RetroPie.

Raspberry Pi Apple II

This is one company that just keeps growing. For all I know, you're reading this on an iPhone. But back in 1977, Apple was hit the market with their new 8-bit home run—the Apple II home computer, often stylized as Apple ][ and written as Apple 2. The Apple II was one of the biggest contenders of the era. These computers were often found in homes, businesses, and even schools. There was an incredible amount of software available—from video games to educational programs. The machines were mass produced for over a decade until production ceased in November 1993.

Apple II Raspberry Pi emulation

Apple II programs can be run on RetroPie. The Linapple emulator has everything you need to setup this classic build. Visit the official Linapple github page for more information. Running Apple II software is as easy as dropping a file in a folder!

Raspberry Pi Amiga

This system was a computing staple through the late 80's and early 90's. The Amiga was released by Commodore in 1985—and the timing couldn't have been better. It proved more than capable when it came to video production and media software. And did we mention video games? The Amiga was a killer system when it came to gaming—the audio quality was unmatched at the time.

Amiga Raspberry Pi emulation

The Amiga can be emulated using a special build made just for the Raspberry Pi called Amibian. The Amibian OS can be flashed to an SD card and runs just like the old school Amiga software. Get your copy of Amibian here.

It's also worth looking into the Amiga Forever project, where you can buy an official Amiga license for other devices.

Raspberry Pi DOS

Picture this, it's 1981. The radio sounds like it had a baby with a synthesizer, meanwhile your hair has so much hairspray it could legally function as a helmet. You want to kill the time with a cool new video game, what do you do? Go to the arcade like some kind of quarter pusher? Of course not! You boot up your DOS machine—one of the biggest operating systems of the time. This retro PC was first released in 1981. It served as the precursor to the development of the Windows OS line.

DOS Raspberry Pi emulation

DOS programs can be emulated using RetroPie. The DOSBox emulator is perfect for running .com, .sh, .bat, and .exe files. You can also run them using Rpix86. For more about these setups, visit the RetroPie PC github page.

Raspberry Pi ZX Spectrum

The ZX Spectrum is another retro PC contender from the 1980's. This machine was first built by Sinclair Research, based out of the United Kingdom. The build was released in 1982 and proved to be worthy competition from across the pond. This system was well known for its 8-bit architecture and software capabilities. And did we mention games? In fact, the game from Netflix's hit film Bandersnatch was coded on a ZX Spectrum!

ZX Spectrum Raspberry Pi emulation

The ZX spectrum is one of the many consoles that can be emulated on RetroPie. Using one of three emulators—lr-fuse, FBZX, or Fuse—you can bring all of your ZX Spectrum dreams to reality.

Once the emulator is setup, drag and drop content to the ZX Spectrum rom folder. These emulators run numerous ZX Spectrum file extensions, like .sna, .szx, and more.

Raspberry Pi Amstrad CPC

One year before we met The Amiga, a company known as Amstrad released their own 8-bit home computer. This machine was called the Amstrad CPC. The company released new models in this series throughout the 80's before ending in 1990. When it comes to Amstrad CPC, you can expect plenty of pixels, data processing, and did we mention video games?!

Amstrad CPC Raspberry Pi emulation

Amstrad CPC programs can be emulated using RetroPie. If you're new to RetroPie, visit our guide on how to install and setup RetroPie.

You can run Amstrad CPC software using one of two emulators on RetroPie—CapriceRPI or lr-caprice32. I recommend visiting the github page for those two. One might be better suited to your project than the other depending on the software you want to run.

Raspberry Pi MSX

By 1983, Microsoft was ready to branch away from DOS. It was time for a new home computer standard—enter the MSX. The idea for the architecture was created by Kazuhiko Nishi, the vice President of Microsoft Japan. He not only came up with the idea, he helped market it himself. MSX was well known for its video games, supporting several high profile titles at the time.

MSX Raspberry Pi emulation

MSX software can be emulated on RetroPie using one of three emulators: lr-bluemsx, lr-fmsx, or OpenMSX. To get your hands on one of them, you'll need to set up RetroPie. For more information about emulating MSX on RetroPie, visit the MSX github page.

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