In summer of 1997, Stefan Drissen have contacted me to let me know he is working on a Sam Coupé MOD player. He contacted me, because I made one little MOD player for Sam Coupé in year 1994. Stefan was really frustrated, when I told him that my MOD player took only 1h50min of work. By the way I told to Stefan that I wanted to make a Sam emulator for PC AT. I asked him for an other existing emulator and he told me about Allan J.Skillman and his SimCoupé. I couldn't believe it, when I find out that SimCoupé is a new version of the program I though is a Linux emulator for Sam.
Also, the new SimCoupé homepage is much faster (or it's still the same, and lines are now faster). So I downloaded it, tested it, and fell in love with it. And now I'm going to find out all problematic points of SimCoupé and help Allan to make SimCoupé 100% perfect.
Last three years I've spent doing music-related software. So I decided to make a Sam music emulator too. When I at first get the sound, I was really very happy, and I kept to work on it. Now you can hear my emulator inside the SimCoupé. The work isn't still finished, the current published version is numbered 0.10, and the latest done version is 0.20. Also, I've made the special player, which works on different principles and make even better sound. I think the best results we'll get from UltraSound TSR player/driver, as soon as I'll make it. I have SB16 and GUS PnP at home, so I can work around with them.
Allan J.Skillman - the author:
Allan lives probably somewhere in Britain and speaks English. As well as I know him, I can say he is a typical old british lord, living in an old (and worth :) castle somewhere in counryside of England. Some months ago, he wanted to buy a Sam Coupé - the famous computer that everybody wants to have. He went to a computer shop, but there were only Pentium II's and some Pentium Pro's with 64MB RAM and an EIDE hard drive. He was so frustrated, so he returned home, turned on his DEC Alpha 500MHz with 512MB RAM and two 4.6GB SCSI-3 hard drives, and started to work. He started to work on his Sam Coupé emulator. At first he used Pico wordprocessor to edit the C++ sources. But they started to become more and more complex, so he decided that he needs something simplier.
So he deleted all C++ sources, quited Pico and started to type his new Ansi C sources into VI editor. And he was successfull! Incredible! Now he belongs to the most famous british people (living, in spite of lady Diana) as well as sir McCartney, sir Sinclair, the preminister or Mr.Parkinson living in a village near New Hampshire.
SimCoupé - a quite disinterested review:
I've tested the DOS version 0.74 of SimCoupé. It's because I don't like Linux and other Unix based systems. I know Unix well - of course - we have some fast Alphas at our University, but I prefer classic "the only democratic system" DOS, ehm, Windows XP.
|Processor:||Z80 CPU emulator was made by Ian Collier. It seems to work properly, but there might be some hidden bugs, because some software (especially by E.S.I.) doesn't work and sometimes probably causes the crash (not a magazine!) of whole PC-computer. In version 0.74 are these problems removed, they were caused by the x86 assembler inline code. Now the emulator is slower, but it seems to be free of bugs.|
|Memory:||It is paged as on real Sam. The support of additional 4 megabytes is also present, but I couldn't test it, because I don't know what program really uses it. Maybe MasterDos? It seems that memory emulation could be faster, I'm not sure, but it really seems that Allan uses only 4 pointers, instead of 8 ones. Btw. you can very simply detect SimCoupé, because it mirrors ROM into non-existing high memory. It should use the additional 2x16KB memory for handling of non-existing memory, instead of simply assuming all non-existing memory to ROM-page 0. It is very simple: one 16KB block for writing and the another for reading. Why? This way you don't have to test if you are accessing ROM or not existing memory on each byte. Just use 8 pointers and 2x16KB dead zone. (Allan! Do you hear me?)|
|Timing:||Real Sam Coupé interrupts at 50Hz (PAL-synchronized). SimCoupé now has 50Hz timing too. But I can't test it, because the whole emulator is slower then it used to be (too slow on my computer). Some simple programs are still fast enough, and they seems to run faster then they should. Do the SimCoupé timing work properly?|
|Keyboard:||The keyboard routines have been rewritten, so it seems to work properly now. There is also "Spectrum" keyboard mode, but it isn't much useful. Whole keyboard driver is critically slow. But who cares? The whole SimCoupé is very slow.|
|Mouse:||It seems that mouse works properly. It's now "on" as default and works also in SimCoupé's menu. But the file menu is still weird, I HATE IT! Btw.Try to play Batz'n'Balls - it's great on mouse.|
|Disk drive:||Magnificent! Some details are still wrong (sorry, I forgot what ones), but it really emulates disk drive at I/O level. This implies all disk operations work properly. Really nice. But the real Sam floppy disks aren't supported - why they aren't? SimCoupé can read/write only DSK (as DiSK image) files. I told to Allan that he should use SAD format instead. Also the support of real disks should be added, as well as compression support. Why compression? Because my 150 Sam disks take more than 120MB of hard drive space, so they should be compressed. Also, the current disk driver is drasticly slow, because it opens a disk image file every time the sector is read. Uaahhh!!!|
|Joysticks:||Not supported at all. Very bad. Why not to support joystick using PC-mouse? I think it's a good idea, because in this way you can play every game using PC-mouse. Also, the real analog joystick should be supported as well as classic digital Sam-joystick (connected via printerport, for example). I am going to design an easy-to-build interface to connect digital Sam-joystick to a printer port. I hope it will work.|
|Light pen:||I really had got a light pen connected to my Sam. Now it's broken, but I still can imagine what it should do. So why not to support light pen using PC-mouse? It could be interesting...|
Really good work, because the change-on-line effects work. Great! But it seems there are still some bugs, because it crashes everytime I run some program with hi-quality graphics by E.S.I. Maybe a problem of a CPU. Don't know. Also, the mode 640x480 is TOO slow, the mode 640x240 should be used instead. In addition, the mode 320x240 could be used instead of 320x200. Maybe not, because it would make the screen a bit smaller. Do we want a small screen? Not! :)|
In some programs (e.g. Impatience), the screen isn't updated at all. Why doesn't it? Hmmm.....
|Sound:||SimCoupé 0.74 is the first version with SAA1099 soundchip support. It uses my SAA1099 TSR Emulator and my SAA sound drivers. This means that you can get sound in DOS version only. I'm NOT going to port the sound emulator to other op.systems. It could work in Windows, if your Windows sound drivers support sound in DOS-box. For example my SB16 drivers disables FM synthesizer in DOS-box, so I can't get any sound in Windows. Currently supported drivers: OPL2 (AdLib mono), OPL3 (SBPro/16 stereo - the only published), GUS driver planned. These three drivers should cover all known soundcards. The most usable is probably OPL3 driver, which works on all stereo soundcards (except UltraSound).|
|Overall review:||SimCoupé version 0.70/0.74 for DOS is a very well made program. In spite of thousands bugs, it's still one of the best emulators I've ever seen. I remember only two emulators that seem to be better than SimCoupé. The first one is the incredible emulator of MacIntosh for MS-DOS. I can't describe it, because I still don't understand how is it possible - so nice, so fast. And the second one is the famous emulator of ZX Spectrum and it's clones. It's called simply Z80 (what about copyrights?) and emulates everything including digital sound, Microdrive and multicolor effects in the border of the screen. And SimCoupé? Its alpha version 0.74 takes the third place. And why not to make it even better? Sources are available to everybody, so each of you can advance it to something wonderful...|
Final note: There are many unexpected bugs in version 0.74. It isn't possible to change disks on the fly, etc. Sometimes it crashes totally, so you have to reset your computer.
If you have any comments, questions or queries, mail to the author of this page.